The first reference to a football club in Stafford came via an enquiry to the Staffordshire Advertiser, in September 1876. The reply, published the following week, suggested that the club was already up and running but no firm facts are known. Much of the early history is recorded in a book, ‘The Cinderella Story’ written by former Chairman Paul Butters and published in 1972.
Whatever the date of formation, the name of Stafford Rangers soon became established on the local football scene. Playing mainly friendlies and cup games, Rangers reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup in 1884/85 and again the following season but they found success limited in those early years.
They moved to their present Marston Road venue in 1896, changing at the nearby Albion Pub and the ground became known as the Albion Ground.
Bizarrely, Rangers fielded two sides in two separate leagues in 1900/01 after they joined the Birmingham League but their resignation from the North Staffs and District League was rejected.
In 1904/05, Rangers enjoyed a memorable run in the FA Cup, reaching the Sixth Qualifying Round before losing out to 2nd Division Blackpool in a replay.
The club won its first League title, the Birmingham Combination in 1912/13, and were runners up on a couple of occasions but their first ‘Golden Era’ came in late 1920’s as they won the Birmingham League (1926/27), came runners up twice (1928/29 & 1929/30) and third twice. During this five year period, 542 league goals were scored with Eddie Cameron scoring more than 150 of them.
But the good times came to an abrupt end. The 1930’s proved a constant battle for survival both on and off the pitch. Player shortage forced Secretary RP Brown to play in one match (scoring the goal that earned their first away point of the season at the xxx attempt) and, in April 1935, only a successful appeal to pay creditors enabled them to continue.
After a break for the Second World War, Rangers resumed action in 1946/47 playing in the Birmingham Combination. A controversial move was made to the Cheshire League in 1952/53 but, apart from a Cheshire League Cup final appearance in 1954, the struggles continued. One other highlight came in 1958 when Rangers set a club record 11-0 victory over Dudley Town in the FA Cup. Les Box set an individual scoring record with 7 goals.
The 1960’s were also a time of struggle and once more the future of the club was in doubt. Only the generosity of Chairman Eric Morgan ensured their future as crowds dropped to around 200.
The appointment of Colin Hutchinson as manager in 1966 marked an upturn in the club’s fortunes, winning the Cheshire League Cup in 1968 and promotion to the Northern Premier League a year later.
The 1970’s brought in the second Golden Era. Manager Roy Chapman led the club to a historic treble of NPL title, FA Trophy (3-0 v Barnet) and the Staffs Senior Cup and Ray Williams broke Eddie Cameron’s goalscoring record with 48 goals.
In 1974/75 Rangers defeated Stockport, Halifax and Rotherham on their way to the 4th round of the FA Cup before going out to Peterborough in front of 31,160 at Stoke’s Victoria Ground. The 3rd round tie v Rotherham had attracted a record Marston Road gate of 8,536.
The Centenary was celebrated the following season but it was a year of near misses as Rangers came runners up in the NPL, the FA Trophy and the Staffs Senior Cup. The club also experienced European football, playing against Monza & Udinese in the Anglo Italian Tournament.
In 1979, Rangers won the FA Trophy for the second time beating Kettering 2-0, the match setting a record gate for the final (32,000).
Rangers struggled in the newly formed Alliance Premier League and were relegated back to the NPL in 1983. Manager Ron Reid led the club to a record 20 games unbeaten and the NPL title in 1985 and followed this with the Bob Lord Trophy the following season.
Rangers achieved their best ever Conference finish (6th) in 1988 but life was largely a fight against relegation, despite the likes of future internationals Stan Collymore (England) and Paul Devlin (Scotland) making their names at Rangers.
Dennis Booth matched the 6th place finish in1993 and also took the club to the 2nd Round of the FA Cup with victory over Lincoln City before he left for Bristol Rovers.
Relegated from the Conference in 1995, a second consecutive relegation followed as Rangers picked up just two points from their opening 19 games in the Southern Premier League.
Rangers bounced back in 1999/2000 as Ian Painter led the club to the Dr Marten’s League Western Division title, setting a new club record with 23 league games unbeaten in the process.
Another club record was broken as Kidsgrove Athletic were beaten 15-0 in the Staffs Senior Cup in 2001/02.
Phil Robinson replaced Painter as manager and the club finished Southern Premier runners up in his first year (2002/03) as well as winning the Staffs Senior Cup and taking the club to the 1st Round of the FA Cup for the first time in a decade.
The following season, Rangers finished 3rd and qualified for the newly formed Conference North.
After topping the table for much of the 2005/06 season, Rangers eventually finished runners up but won promotion back to the non league top flight thanks to a Play Off victory over Droylsden.
Rangers’ stay In the Conference Premier lasted just two seasons before they were relegated back to Conference North, but the cost of those two years lingered and once more the future of the club was in doubt.
The appointment of big name managers such as Steve Bull, Tim Flowers and Matt Elliott failed to improve fortunes and Rangers dropped to the third tier of the pyramid, returning to the NPL for 2011/12.
Greg Clowes then took charge in but two more disappointing years followed before a disastrous start to the 2013/14 season ended Clowes’ reign. Another big name appointment, Andy Mutch, was another failure and his replacement, Graham Heathcote, couldn’t turn results around.
Neil Kitching took the managerial reins for the start of the 2014/15 season following his move from Rushall Olympic and major changes were also made at Boardroom level.
However the season started badly with the untimely death of Secretary and Director Mike Hughes who had guided the club through difficult times.
Rangers narrowly missed out on the play-offs on goal difference but did win the Staffordshire Senior Cup beating Leek Town in the final at Vale Park. Also on a positive note gates were up by 25%.
The club was now moving forward with new Chairman John Bromley leading the way as he set about renovating the Social Club, which for many years has provided funding for the football section.
In 2015/16, Neil Kitching and his management staff Nick Amos and Martin Prentice led the ‘Boro to the Evo-Stik First Division South title, which went right to the wire with a draw away to Coalville Town. Gates were again up and the club had turned the corner both on and off the field of play.
Last season (2016/17) saw Rangers consolidate their position in the Evo-Stik Norther Premier League finishing in a creditable 13th position.
The season was marred by passing of the club’s patron Roly Tonge, who for many years had been instrumental in keeping the club afloat. A mention here also of the demise of President Leon Douglas and Director Cliff Went during past 18 months. These gentlemen were for many years the backbone of Stafford Rangers Football Club.
Hopes are high for the new season. The renovation of all the rooms in the Social Club is now complete. Rangers new lottery is providing a new revenue source and plans are well advanced for completion of the Shed End stand project.
Neil Kitching’s squad is now complete as the new season beckons and the football club is optimistic about it’s future.
STAFFORD RANGERS HONOURS
Birmingham Combination Champions: 1912/13
Birmingham League Champions: 1926/27
Northern Premier League Champions: 1971/72, 1984/85
Dr Martens Western Division Champions: 1999/2000
Evo-Stik League First Division South Champions: 2015/16
Birmingham League Runners-Up: 1928/29, 1929/30
Birmingham Wartime League Runners-Up: 1939/40
Cheshire County League Runners-Up: 1968/69
Northern Premier League Runners-Up: 1970/71, 1975/76
Dr Martens League Premier Division Runners-Up: 2002/03
Nationwide North Runners-Up: 2005/06
FA Trophy Winners:
1971/72 (3-0 v Barnet); 1978/79 (2-0 v Kettering)
FA Trophy Runners Up:
1975/76 (2-3 v Scarborough)
Staffordshire Senior Cup Winners:
1954/55, 1956/57, 1962/63, 1971/72, 1972/73, 1977/78, 1986/87, 1991/92, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2014/15
Leek Cup Joint Winners: 1899/1900
Wednesbury Charity Cup Winners: 1920/21
Walsall Senior Cup Winners 1921/22, 2012/13
Staffordshire Qualifying Cup Winners: 1928/29
Cheshire League Cup Winners: 1967/68
Midland Floodlight Cup Winners: 1969/70
Northern Premier League Shield Winners: 1985/86
Jim Thompson Shield Winners: 1986/87
FA Cup 4th Round: 1974/75
FA Cup 2nd Round: 1975/76, 1979/80, 1992/93, 2006/07
League clubs beaten in the FA Cup:
1974/75 1st Round v Stockport County
1974/75 2nd Round v Halifax Town
1974/75 3rd Round v Rotherham United
1992/93 1st Round v Lincoln City
All competitions: 15-0 v Kidsgrove Athletic 20/11/2001
FA Cup: 11-0 v Dudley Town 6/9/1958
League: 10-1 v Walsall Res (H), St Georges (A), Wellington Town (A) – all 1930-31
All competitions – 0-12 v Burton Town, 13/12/1930
Most goals in a game: 7 by Les Box v Dudley Town, FA Cup 6/9/1958