We lose a real legend
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of one of Stafford Rangers’ greatest players.
“Shack” as he was affectionately known, joined Rangers in time for the start of the 1970/71 season and became a pivotal player in the club’s success over the next decade.
An industrious midfielder who took no prisoners, Shack was the first signing made by his namesake manager Roy Chapman and soon became a permanent feature in the starting line up and popular with the Stafford fans.
He made his debut on 15 August 1970 in a 3-1 win at Morecambe. The full team that day was: Quigley, G Chadwick, Morgan, R Chapman, Windsor, Machin, Mottershead, SHACK, Williams, Bailey, Latham. Rangers ended the season as runners-up in the Northern Premier League.
The following season was the historic treble season that saw Rangers win the Northern Premier League, the Staffs Senior Cup and the FA Trophy. That April afternoon in 1972 was the first of three Wembley appearances for Chapman (1972, 1976 & 1979) – a record he shared with midfield team -mate Jim Sargeant.
Besides helping Rangers to those three FA Trophy finals and the NPL title in 1972, Shack was also involved in the record breaking FA Cup run that saw Rangers reach the 4th Round proper before going down 2-1 to Peterborough United in front of 31,160 at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground. On the way Rangers defeated Stockport County, Halifax Town and Rotherham United – Shack scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win in the Rotherham replay.
Shack came to the attention of Roy Chapman at the age of just 15 while playing for Port Vale against Lincoln City in May 1967.
He had arrived from the Northumberland town of Lynemouth after being scouted by the legendary Stanley Matthews as part of the youth policy installed at Vale Park by Matthews and Jackie Mudie. He made two more first team appearances in 1967/8 but his Vale career suffered after Gordon Lee was appointed manager in 1968 and he made only eight appearances in the following two years.
With perfect timing, Roy Chapman arrived at Marston Road in 1970 and remembered the meeting three years earlier and Shack was persuaded to join the club
In 1978, Stuart was awarded a testimonial. A strong West Bromwich Albion side – including Laurie Cunningham among six first teamers – came to Marston Road and were held to a 2-2 draw.
In 1984, he was awarded a rare second testimonial as a reward for his commitment and loyalty. This time it was Wolverhampton Wanderers who were the visitors. A near full strength Wolves won 2-0 in front of 1,288.
Ron Reid was manager of Rangers at the time and in the Testimonial programme Reid wrote “ As an opponent, he was always known to be a keen competitor, a hard tackling strong midfielder. All in all, he was a winner.”
During his time at Stafford, Shack tended to wear either the number 4 or 8 shirts but, despite not being the tallest of players, Shack was also known to wear the goalkeeper’s jersey in times of emergency. Reid recalled in his tribute a match between Rangers and Worksop “Stafford were leading 2-1 when Jim Arnold was injured in a collision with Bert Bowery. Jim had to go off only to be replaced by our hero. When Shack went in goal, he made the goals look even bigger, particularly when Big Bert blasted one from thirty yards which went in just above Shack’s head straight through his hands.”
A further testimonial match at the end of the 1983/84 season brought together many of the FA Trophy winning players from 1972 & 1979.
But that was to be a farewell for Shack. He failed to agree terms with Reid for the new season and, after more than 650 appearances and 60 goals for Stafford Rangers, he opted for a contract at fellow NPL side Macclesfield Town.
Rangers and Macclesfield went on to become rivals in a keenly fought battle for the league title. Skippering the side, it didn’t take Shack long to show that he still had something to offer as he scored the opener when the two clubs met at Moss Rose in August 1984. Another Rangers favourite – Steve Burr – scored the winner as the Silkmen won 2-1.
Shack skippers his new club to a double over the Rangers when Macclesfield also won the return in April 1985 and Rangers’ lead at the top was cut to one point.
Chapman was unable to add to the one NPL winners medal that he picked up in 1972 as Rangers held on for the title.
At the end of the season, Chapman moved on to become a player-coach at Rocester and helped to guide them to the Staffs FA Vase in 1986 and again in 1987 as well as back to back Staffs Senior League titles.
Shack’s qualities on the field resulted in him being a part of the first ever semi-professional England football team although, sadly, he never got to kick a ball for the national side. He was also honoured with being a member of the NPL representative side.
Long after his playing days were over, Shack became a frequent visitor to Marston Road, along with good friend and former team-mate, Roger Jones. Off the pitch, Shack continued to entertain just as he had done so often on the pitch.
Shack – you are and always will be a Rangers legend. Thanks for the memories.