Club History

The rebuilding of Celtic
after the Second World War

The personal memories of Keith Wilkinson

Recent Club Honours

2008
Conf North Play Off finalists

2003
President's Cup Winners

2001
Unibond Champions
President's Cup Winners
Cheshire Senior Cup Winners

1999
Unibond League Cup Winners

1992
HFS Loan Champions
HFS Loan Challenge Cup Winners

1989
Lancashire Floodlit Cup Winners

Stalybridge Celtic's history has been the subject of many debates for the greater part of the century. Although an outfit calling itself 'Celtic' appears in the archives for 1906, this side seemingly only played friendlies on a ground at North-End. This seed of a club was probably the basis for the club we know today, which was formed in 1909 by Herber Rhodes, a local business man and philanthropist.

Mr Rhodes spent a chunk of his fortune on developing Bower Fold. He also played for the team and designed the strip (basing it on the colours used by his racehorses).

Celtic played for two seasons in the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur League, before turning professional and joining the Lancashire Combination become second division champion's at the first attempt. Due to some local bureaucracy, Celtic's ambition to join the Football League meant that they had to join the Southern League, and travel by train to every away match. Fortunately, finishing runners up (to Stoke) meant promotion.

There followed a short pause most people know as the First World War. In the aftermath (1920-21 to be exact) Celtic rejoined the Central League. At the end of the 1921 season, Celtic became one of the founder members of the Third Division (North).

Our first game in the third division was against Chesterfield, a home game that we won 6-0. However, winning this league was to prove too difficult, finishing 7th and 11th in the first two years. Lacking the support of local people, the funds were not available to press for a third campaign, forcing Celtic to voluntarily resign from the football league. Celtic rejoined the Cheshire County League (replacing the reserve squad) and stayed there for sixty years until the formation of the Bass NW Counties League. Peter Wragg took the helm and steered Celtic to Championship victory in 1980, eventually winning the Bass NW Championship in 1984 and 1987, and runners up in the NPL First division. During this time of league progress, there was a lot of work at Bower Fold, culminating in the ground gaining League grading.

Phil Wilson took over the reigns in 1989 when relegation threatened, eventually finishing second in the NPL. He followed this escaping act with promotion into the Conference in 1992. Our first season was a success, finishing 12th, but it was followed by disaster and relegation loomed again. Peter Wragg returned and saved the sinking ship by winning 9 of the last 12 games. Peter Wragg resigned at the start of the 1996/97 season, replaced by Brian Kettle, but it was not enough, and Celtic were relegated in 1998 back to the NPL after finishing bottom.

It was troubling times for the club, and there was a succession of managers including Stirling and Keelan before Phil Wilson came back. Phil Wilson was to prove an inspirational manager. Firstly in 1999 he brought us the League Cup, then, in 2001, we won the Cheshire Senior Cup (something we'd not won for nearly 50 years). Demolishing a strong Stockport County team 5-1 at Ewen Fields. In the same season, we went on to beat Blyth Spartans in the President's Cup, before going on to win the league title after an impressive victory against closest rivals Emley at their ground.

The title was won away at local side Droylsden thanks to an injury time Stuart Locke penalty. We finished up with over 100 points and scored nearly 100 goals. The foray into the Conference was short lived though. Phil Wilson joined Southport, taking several of the squad with him, and the assistant coach. With scant time before the start of the new season, Paul Futcher took over the reigns. With a series of disastrous runs, Celtic replaced Paul with Dave Miller. He almost, but not quite, kept us in the Conference before sensationally sacking nearly the entire team. Miller won the President's Cup at the first attempt, and we finished 4th in the NPL.

During this time, a new stand was built, upping the seated capacity to over 1200. With the formation of the Conference North in 2004/05, Celtic had to finish 2003/04 in 13th or higher - we only just did it. A sensational win at champions Hucknall Town saw us finish 13th. Our first season in the Conference North was almost our last, and with half the season gone, Miller was sacked and replaced by John Reed. John pulled off the great escape, clawing back an 18 point deficit to finish a place above the relegation zone, following it up by missing out on the play offs on the last day of the 2005/06 season. A poor couple of seasons saw John Reed replaced with Steve Burr, who took Celtic to the play off final at his first attempt in the 2007/08 season, losing by one goal to Barrow. Steve Burr's second season saw him come within a whisker of the play offs, and after a storming start to his third season in charge, he left to join Kidderminster in the Conference National, and was replaced first by Benny Phillips and then by Jim Harvey. With the finances at Celtic unable to allow them to compete with the top finances sides in the division, Celtic took the brave option of going full time with a youth set up to allow them to compete in a different way. After a good first season, finishing 6th just outside the play offs, Harvey's second full season was less successful, finishing midtable. A bad start to season13/14 saw Harvey replaced by former player Keith Briggs.

Keith continued the full time experiement, but resigned in December 2015 with Celtic looking doomed to relegation. Liam Watson came in and oversaw a turn around in Celtic's form that saw them safe on the last day of the season with a thrilling 4-4 draw with Gainsborough Trinity.

Celtic have made numerous appearances in the FA cup beyond the qualifying stages, starting in 1922, when we forced a replay from West Brom, at West Brom. Since then, there have been 12 other appearances. We have even been to the second round twice: 1993, when Carlisle beat us 3-1 at Brunton Park, and again in 1999, when Chester got the rub of the referee and beat us 2-1 at home.

Our best FA Trophy performance was in 2001, when we lost to Stevenage Borough.

Managers
Phil Wilson

Phil Wilson

1989-1993
1998-2001

Peter Wragg

Peter Wragg

1993-1996
2005-2005

Brian Kettle

Brian Kettle

1996-1997

Kevan Keelan

Kevan Keelan

1997-1998

Paul Futcher

Paul Futcher

2001-2002

Dave Miller

Dave Miller

2002-2005

John Reed

John Reed

2005-2007

Steve Burr

Steve Burr

2007-2009
2017-now

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

2009-2013

Keith Briggs

Keith Briggs

2013-2015

Liam Watson

Liam Watson

2015-2016

Paul Phillips

Paul Phillips

2016-2017

Steve Halford

Steve Halford

2016-2017

Old Photos
Bower Fold 1913

 

Bower Fold 1913

Courtesy of Dam Whittaker

1936 Squad

 

1936 Squad

R Andrews (asst trainer), G Patten (Director), J Leaver (manager), F Blinkhorn, G Walmsley, W Miller, W Webster (capt), J France, N Price, W Underwood (director), J Crabtreee (trainer) Front row: H Leech, J Murphy, A Orr, J Cheetham, F Jones, H Coleman, Major William Vernon (chairman)

1936 Squad

 

The Main Stand in 1973

Courtesy of Groundtastic Football Grounds Magazine.

Unibond League Cup winners 1999

 

Unibond League Cup winners 1999

Courtesy of Ant Melia of New Image

Unibond League Cup winners 1999

 

Treble winning season trophies

Pete Ward, Pete Dennerly and Phil Wilson

Unibond League Cup winners 1999

 

Treble Winners on an Open-top Bus

2001

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