Stockport County Football Club is one of the oldest professional football clubs in the English Football League. The club was founded back in 1883 and has been based at Edgeley Park in Stockport ever since. Although Stockport County has a proud history, it hasn’t always been positive. From relegation to the lowest tier of English football in 2003, to exiting the FA Cup after being drawn against local rivals Manchester City on three separate occasions, the club has had its fair share of lows. However, there have also been many high points throughout its 125-year history, including five promotions from the sixth tier of English football to League One. This detailed article looks at the history of Stockport County Football Club from its foundation in 1883 through to recent seasons.
1883: The Foundation of Stockport County Football Club
Stockport County Football Club was founded in 1883, with the club originally playing their games at an athletics ground in Heaton Norris. However, they soon moved to a new location at a field in Reddish called the Athletic Ground. This ground would go on to become Stockport County’s home for the next 40 years. Initially, Stockport County played in the Manchester League, as well as the Combination, an affiliation of regional football leagues. They remained in the Combination until 1895 when they were one of 16 clubs that broke away from the Combination to form the Football League Second Division.
1989-2000: The Beginning of the End for Edgeley Park
Stockport County, who had been members of the Football League ever since their formation in the 1890s, played their last game at the Athletic Ground on 6 May 1989. This was the last game of the 1988-89 season, with Athletic being defeated by Blackpool 1-0. Stockport County finished the 1988-89 season in 16th position, which secured their Football League status for the following season. However, it was decided that the Athletic Ground would be demolished to make way for a new shopping centre. This meant that Stockport County looked for a new stadium, one which would meet Football League criteria.
2000-2003: The Darkest Period in Stockport County’s History
County were forced to play their home games at the Stockport Racing Track for the 1999-2000 season, a stadium which didn’t meet Football League criteria. County hoped that the following season would see the completion of a new stadium, Edgeley Park. However, the stadium was not completed in time for the 2000-2001 season, meaning that Stockport County were again forced to play their home games at the Stockport Racing Track. This meant that they were forced to play two home games at the same time, which resulted in a loss of revenue. However, the most significant loss was that of a football club, with County being placed into administration in February 2003. The administrators took control of the club and made a decision to sell their home stadium, Edgeley Park, to the Council, who had recently purchased the stadium from the administrators. They then leased the stadium back from the Council, which resulted in the club losing around £1 million in revenue every year.
2003: Stockport County is relegated to the Football Conference
The 2003 season was a disastrous one for Stockport County. They started the season well and were at the top of the table for much of the first half of the season. This was a stark contrast to the previous season when they had spent most of the season at the bottom of the table. However, their fortunes turned in the second half of the season, with County eventually finishing 17th in the table, resulting in relegation to the Football Conference. That relegation meant that Stockport County were the first ever Football League club to be relegated to the Football Conference, ending a proud history with the club.
2004 – 2011: A New Stadium and a New Dawn?
Stockport County left Edgeley Park and played their home games at Stockport Rugby Union Club’s Stockport Road ground for the 2004-05 season. However, they returned to Edgeley Park for the 2005-06 season. Despite the return to Edgeley Park, County’s fortunes did not improve, with the club finishing second from bottom in the 2005-06 season. This meant that County spent the next season in the Football Conference, with their relegation being confirmed on the final day of the season. This relegation was the final straw for many people, with the club’s supporters demanding change. This resulted in the club appointing a new manager, with former Manager Harry Newman being replaced by Jim Gough.
2012 – 2016: Back to Basics, Back to Square One
The appointment of Jim Gough did not improve the club’s fortunes. In fact, County’s performances were so poor that they were involved in a relegation battle from the very start of the season. This was very disappointing for a club that had won the Football League First Division just 16 years earlier. Gough was sacked in October 2013 and replaced by Mark Simpson, who was the club’s Head of Youth Development. However, the change in manager didn’t improve the club’s fortunes, with County finishing the 2013-14 season in 23rd position in the 24-team league. This meant that County were once again involved in a relegation battle from the very start of the season. This relegation battle was won and County finished the 2014-15 season in 21st position. However, this wasn’t enough for County, who decided to sack Mark Simpson in the summer of 2015.
2017 – Present Day: Rebuilding and Reinventing Yourself
The club looked to the future, with the appointment of Steve Evans being the first step in the club’s attempt at rebuilding and reinventing themselves. Evans, who had previously managed a number of clubs including Rotherham United, Crawley Town and most recently Mansfield Town, signed a 3-year contract with County. However, the club’s future was dealt a blow in the 2017-18 season. They were forced to play their home games at Macclesfield Town’s ground as their ground still wasn’t up to standard. They also had to contend with the fact that they were in administration. This was a stark contrast to the situation just a few years earlier when the club had been struggling to avoid relegation.
Stockport County Football Club has a proud history and has seen more than its fair share of highs and lows. The club has had to overcome numerous obstacles and has struggled to find its identity in recent seasons. However, there are now signs that the club is back on the right track and will once again be able to become the proud club it once was. When you consider the fantastic history of Stockport County, it’s easy to see why fans are so frustrated with their recent struggles. There have been many near misses and near misses from relegation, but now is the time for the club to shake off its past troubles and move forward.