A trip down memory lane by Michael Brierley

Stalybridge Celtic FC, together with its home of Bower Fold, was founded in 1909 by Herbert Rhodes.

The Celtic name does begin to appear in records from 1906 onwards but crucially appears to have never been affiliated into any league and seemingly played friendly matches only, hence why exact origins remain unclear and still a little sketchy even to this day.

Stalybridge, as a town, had seen football prior to this through Stalybridge Rovers, who date back to around the mid 1890’s. They played at Crookbottom Ground, located between Wakefield and North End Road, competing in the Football Combination, Lancashire League and Lancashire Combination, albeit enjoying limited success only, before appearing to disband sometime roughly during the 1907/1908 season.

Rovers had previously failed in an attempt to be elected to join the Football League and whether or not it was this setback that caused their demise, they merged with the earlier Celtic, or just plain disappeared altogether, isn’t really abundantly clear. It is, however, quite possible and indeed probable to suggest that it was both of these teams that were crucial seeds in the formation of what we all know and love today.

The one definitive is Herbert Rhodes who was a local businessman, benefactor and keen sportsman with interests in cricket and horse racing, as well as football. Rhodes had played for the earlier Celtic side and obviously feeling a need for competitive football, on an ambitious level, to return to the town had the vision to set about the formation of a new Club.

Stalybridge Celtic FC was founded in 1909.

Success and sustainability were central to this new team, whose ultimate goal was to compete in the Football League. It’s first task though was to find and develop a suitable area in which to stage matches with Bower Fold, located off Mottram Road, chosen. This was developed into a properly enclosed ground with pitch perimeter barriers erected, playing surface levelled and old wooden main stand put into place. Necessary upgrades apart, it remains relatively unchanged to this day.

Celtic applied to join the Lancashire & Cheshire League and were duly accepted. History was therefore made on 25th September 1909 when they played their first ever competitive game, a 1-1 home draw against Xaverian College. The team that day was Whyatt, Manwood, Crossland, Buckley, Saxon, Storrs, Thorneycroft, Harrop, Wood, Goldthorpe, Rhodes with the attendance reported to be several hundred people and gate receipts amounting to £7.

Stalybridge Celtic FC was now part of footballing history, with a goal to achieve success balanced with sustainability, both on and off the pitch, at all times.


Stalybridge Celtic FC was now part of footballing history, with a goal to achieve success balanced with sustainability, both on and off the pitch, at all times.

From initial formation, development was to become a fairly rapid affair and only served to heighten the great deal of ambition that had already begun to exist. The first season, in the Lancashire & Cheshire League, saw the runners up spot achieved, with the league title being won in the second, a first honour.

Whilst perhaps a fanciful notion initially, given relative resources, a desire to climb the footballing ladder and a coveted place in the Football League was the aim. The significant off field progress being made, coupled with the immediate impact and success already achieved on the pitch, only harboured this desire further culminating in a decision to turn professional, a decision seen as crucial to fulfil any ambitions.

The Lancashire Combination was subsequently joined and the Division Two title immediately won, followed by the runners up spot being gained the following season. Further proof of the desire to prove things on as big a stage as possible then came with a move to the Central League, regarded as one of the most senior non league competitions.

Having, once again, given a good account of themselves, an early attempt to join the Football League was made, although subsequently rejected on the grounds of there being no overall sustained record. Although originally considered to big a jump just a few short years ago, the foundations had indeed now been laid for such a forward thinking move, a fact not lost on the outside world.

Nevertheless, despite the setback, this remained the aim and the progress that had been made was testament to the level of ambition that existed. An application to join the Southern League, arguably the strongest competition outside the Football League, was therefore made and accepted, the Division Two runners up spot being achieved at the first attempt, despite a great deal of apparent significant travel problems.

The outbreak of war prevented any further progress from being made and a return to local roots was subsequently sought, with the Central League being rejoined once football resumed in earnest.

At this point, football globally then began to enjoy a boom period and with it the Football League opted to expand, creating a new Third Division, both North and South. At last and thanks in no small part to the earlier vision of Herbert Rhodes, the ultimate goal was realised.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, were voted into the Football League as founder members of the Third Division North.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, were voted into the Football League as founder members of the Third Division North.

With the goal of Herbert Rhodes having been realised, a renewed sense of enthusiasm and optimism began to exist around the place, as did high hopes of progressing even further up the footballing ladder. A lot of ambition, hard work and reportedly £25,000 had gone into making those initial dreams become a reality, which given that formation had only occurred a mere twelve years earlier then it really was quite a remarkable feat.

The first fixture saw a 6-0 home win against Chesterfield and was witnessed by around 6,000 people. The line up for that historic match, in what turned out to be a record league win, consisted of Lonsdale, Barton, Dennis, Carney, Tyler, Lockett, Dance, Thompson, Gee, Petrie, Benson and was surely the highlight of what was to be a successful opening season.

Although a solid, if unspectacular, affair, the first foray into league action was considered a more than respectable start, one in which it was possible to hold ones own against much bigger and better known opposition. Even so, there was still rather a touch of what might have been, had a more consistent set of results been able to be strung together.

An eventual seventh place finish marked the highest ever final league placing within the footballing pyramid and despite the regrets then undoubtedly a great basis had been made from which there was no reason to doubt that further progress could be made the following campaign.

The second season saw a best ever performance in the FA Cup, with a run to the equivalent of today’s third round. Victories over Nelson and Bristol Rovers earned an away tie against West Bromwich Albion, where a 0-0 draw in front of a biggest ever competitive attendance of 24,182 forced a replay. Although this was to result in a home 0-2 loss, it did produce a record attendance of 9,753 and gate receipts of £550.

Despite this obvious distraction, which did perhaps affect league performances and results somewhat, the final games of the campaign, a 4-3 home win against Halifax Town and 1-2 away defeat in the reverse fixture, ultimately marked what were to be the last ever matches played in the Football League after a mere two seasons.

Although the final finishing position of eleventh was once again considered a more than respectable outcome, what was perhaps of much greater significance was the off field financial problems being endured in order to compete.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, elected to voluntarily relinquish membership of the Football League.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, elected to voluntarily relinquish membership of the Football League.

The decision to resign in such a manner created a little bit of folklore in footballing trivia history by becoming the first and so far only ones to ever do so.

Whilst the watchword of those early years had been all about ambition and progression, there was always an attitude whereby it had to be made a sustainable and viable proposition, something that still rings true to this day.

It is open to conjecture as to whether it was the correct decision or not. As results had begun to tail off then so naturally did attendances, it deemed that even gates of 3,000, were just plain not enough to keep things on an even keel. Conversely, had things been stuck out for just a little bit longer then maybe the rough times would have subsided given that football, at the time, did not operate under a clear pyramid structure.

One of the major stumbling blocks came about with the suggestion that in order for things to remain in place, an immediate injection of cash, to the tune of £2,000, plus what was already a significant great deal of local support had to increase even further. A potential solution was the idea of becoming a limited company which, if a further £10,000 could be raised, would also see a relocation of the ground to somewhere closer to the town centre.

Clearly, given the current financial situation this was an impossible amount of money to find, reportedly only £500 was done so. Given that at its height it was projected that around one in every five people in the town were attending games, which given local unemployment and attraction of other teams in the area was pretty good going, maybe the writing was on the wall.

Whatever the answer, what was of far more importance though was that existence still remained and survival had been guaranteed. For a town of this size to have even managed to get themselves into such a position in the first place was something that all could be very proud of.

The Cheshire County League was joined and although vision and ambition were still prevalent to do the journey all over again, honours and high league placings were very hard to come by. Despite generations recalling with fondness the exploits of many teams and players from the time then only a first success in the Cheshire Senior Cup spanned many years.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, from humble beginnings to the ultimate goal, was set for a new era in its history.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, from humble beginnings to the ultimate goal, was set for a new era in its history.

The highly regarded Cheshire County League, joined following voluntarily resignation from the Football League, proved itself to be more than a tough nut to crack. Indeed, it was over fifty years later that the runners up spot was finally achieved, subsequently followed by the winning of the title.

Around this time, the development of non league football continued apace and there followed a total reorganisation of the game. A clear pyramid structure began to be formed, with automatic promotion and relegation becoming the norm. The Alliance Premier League, being the top tier in the new setup, was fed into from both the Northern Premier and Southern League.

This resulted in a whole host of sides being placed into different leagues they were historically associated with and was once more seen as an opportunity to progress. However, entry to the Northern Premier League, the second tier, was refused due to relevant ground grading criteria that was implemented at the time.

A place in the North West Counties League was allocated and further success on the field, with another two titles, saw eventual progression to the Northern Premier League First Division. The runners up spot meant promotion to the Northern Premier League and it was during this period that a great deal of hard work saw the necessary ground works undertaken, eventually culminating in league status criteria being awarded.

Stalybridge Celtic FC and Bower Fold first entered my life, the result of a friends invitation, for a home game against Frickley Athletic on 2nd March 1991.

The match itself was far from a classic, cynics may wonder why I ever came back, a dour 0-0 draw (Hughes, Bennett, Coathup, Dixon, Aspinall, Blackman, Brown, Armor, Diamond, McNally, Leicester) but undoubtedly all the other aspects of the day will always remain engrained in memory. Popular side, sleepers and cinders, old wooden main stand, railway carriage, admission £1.40 and programmes 50p, all part of this fans history.

That season saw a runners up finish in the Northern Premier League under Phil Wilson, the starting eleven being fairly typical of the time. Although a little short on fire power, the team had a reputation of being a tough side to break down, as well as having a great deal of work ethic, commitment and endeavour.

As one of the most consistent sides in the league, the runners up spot was well deserved and just reward for the effort being put in, both on and off the field.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, my history.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, my history.

The 1990/1991 season, under the guidance of Phil Wilson, was undoubtedly a successful one.

My first game saw a dour 0-0 home draw with Frickley Athletic (Hughes, Bennett, Coathup, Dixon, Aspinall, Blackman, Booth, Armor, Diamond, McNally, Leicester) but that was just the beginning of the story. It being a mantra of the campaign to be solid at the back and build foundations from there, 1-0 home wins being a common occurrence.

That season saw a second place finish in the league brought and a well deserved runners up spot. With success and sustainability being achieved both on and off the pitch, it was a great thing to be around at the time.

The first game of the 1991/1992 season saw a 0-0 home draw with Bishop Auckland, yet it was clear from the outset that this team was a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks to the goalscoring exploits of Camden, netting forty eight times in all competitions, points continued to be racked on the board and it was early December before a first league defeat was tasted, a 1-3 away loss at Gainsborough Trinity. However, even that reverse could not stop the juggernaut from marching on to its seemingly imperious end result.

The biggest win of the campaign came with a 7-0 home thrashing of Goole Town, Camden scoring four times. In the cups, the final qualifying round of the FA Cup was reached and perhaps surprisingly saw a 2-3 away reversal at Gretna, whilst a fine run in the FA Trophy saw a 0-1 defeat in the last sixteen away at Witton Albion and although the final of the Presidents Cup was reached, Morecambe prevailed with a 2-3 aggregate victory.

The only other league loss came in a 1-2 home reverse to Hyde United (Hughes, Bennett, Blackman, Dixon, Aspinall, Bauress, Brown, Edwards, Booth, Leicester) and whilst defeat against local rivals is never normally a cause for celebration, it was to be a joyous affair as results elsewhere meant the title was clinched with a mere two games to go.

This, in itself, was a surprising statistic as from the outset it had been a total domination of the league, one that never looked like being headed. Whilst the presence of the big man was missed on that occasion, it was thanks to him and indeed the contribution of each and every member of the squad that had made it a season to remember.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, promotion to the Football Conference secured, were now just one step away from that dream of a return to the Football League.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, promotion to the Football Conference secured, were now just one step away from that dream of a return to the Football League.

Elevation to the top tier of non league football brought with it many challenges, not least financially and logistically, as things were now on a grander scale than had been the recent norm. However, the level of progress and transformation seen was really quite remarkable, mirroring formative years.

The Northern Premier League Challenge Shield was won, a penalty shoot out victory against Marine, in the first game of the 1992/1993 season. The first Football Conference fixture being a 1-1 home draw against Bath City (Hughes, Bennett, Edmonds, Dixon, Aspinall, Filson, Brown, Edwards, Kirkham, Morgan, King)

The step up in class was adapted to very well indeed and a solid debut campaign at the higher level enjoyed. Despite some disappointing results along the way, a 0-6 home defeat by Northwich Victoria standing out, there were many excellent away wins and encouraging performances, including a 2-2 home draw with Wycombe Wanderers.

Given that consolidation had perhaps been the original aim when the season started, the eventual finishing place of twelfth, which for a few too many draws may well have been higher, was considered more than a success.

Hopes of building on this initial showing during the 1993/1994 season were quickly shattered as a nightmare start and poor run of results quickly saw things being marooned at the foot of the table, with little or no prospects for survival.

Despite all the doom and gloom in the league, an obvious distraction of the campaign came in the FA Cup, where the second round proper was reached. This long and glorious run, including an epic penalty shoot out win at Marine, eventually ended in a 1-3 defeat at Carlisle United (Hughes, Edmonds, Coathup, Dixon, Aspinall, Booth, Brown, Bunn, Shaughnessy, Kirkham, Bennett)

Results, however, remained poor and it was therefore perhaps inevitable that Phil Wilson was relieved of managerial duties to be replaced by Peter Wragg.

Even the most optimistic surely could not envisage a way out of the mire but the impact was more than immediate and nothing short of championship form was produced, a remarkable twenty eight out of the last thirty six points on offer taken, including a 5-0 home thrashing of Dagenham and Redbridge, unusually, on a Sunday.

The eventual season finishing position of fourteenth was nothing short of sensational, given where things had been just a few weeks earlier.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, now faced a challenge to build on these promising showings and progress even further up the leagues.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, now faced a challenge to build on these promising showings and progress even further up the leagues.

That, in itself, was no easy task as doubtless being still one of the smaller operators at that level of the game caused issues all of it own, yet as the ground was in the midst of being transformed then optimism that an on the field change in fortunes could also be achieved remained high.

The 1994/1995 season was a so, so, year on the pitch, given the traumas and ultimate triumph of the year before, whilst off the field work saw the construction of a stand behind the bottom goal.

Further evidence of the ambition that existed came in the record signing of Burke, who was to become a crowd favourite and he starred in what was perhaps the highlight of the campaign, a 3-3 home League Cup tie with Bromsgrove Rovers (Hughes, Edmonds, Coathup, Ogley, Patterson, Megson, Jackson, Bauress, Wheeler, Burke, Ryan) The match was covered by live television, a historic first, yet was also notable for a sensational ninety eighth minute equaliser from Coathup.

Although progress throughout the season was reasonable, with excellent home form up until Christmas, things began to tail off somewhat and it was not actually until the final day that survival was guaranteed, with an eighteenth place finish.

Although the 1995/1996 season was an all together more sedate affair, it was sadly marked by tragedy when Nicholls, following his one and only appearance in an away win at Dover Athletic, was tragically killed straight after the game in a motorbike accident.

A final day 6-1 thrashing of Kettering Town (Willetts, Megson, Coathup, Frain, O’Shaughnessy, Hall, Burke, Goodacre, Jones, Arnold, Challender) on their own patch, in a game long remembered for joyous scenes on the terraces complete with fans conga, was just reward for what was ultimately a very solid campaign.

The fourteenth place finish renewed hope that such form could be carried on into the following season, provided such displays could be continued and perhaps put to bed any notions that these were no longer mere minnows, now being more than able to hold their own with the best.

Much progress had been made, throughout all areas of the operation, yet again and with the demolition of the old wooden structure main stand, now replaced by a brand spanking new structure complete with office and hospitality facilities, this only helped to enhance things further.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, both on and off the field, were now ready to compete with the best that non league football had to offer.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, both on and off the field, were now ready to compete with the best that non league football had to offer.

Quite rightly being proud of what had been achieved behind the scenes, there was also an air of steel beginning to permeate with on pitch matters as well, at times becoming a difficult outfit to break down and beat.

The 1996/1997 season saw things get off to a rather shaky start and Peter Wragg subsequently resigned, to be replaced by Brian Kettle. Although the decision was perhaps seen as a little premature, it being taken after only a handful of matches and given earlier exploits, it was done, as always, with best intentions being first and foremost.

An initial impact was not immediate but in new record signing Arnold, following a previous successful loan spell in the relegation miracle campaign, came further proof of good times. The first round proper of the FA Cup was reached but two late goals saw a 1-3 away defeat to Chester City (Williams, Bates, Coathup, Hine, Boardman, Hall, Burke, Jones, Trott, Arnold, Charles)

Galvanised by some strong showings, the season ended with a more than comfortable mid table thirteenth place finish. Indeed, had a slightly more consistent set of results been achieved then the previous best showing may have even been bettered but nevertheless, it now certainly felt natural and comfortable to be competing at this level.

Whilst by no means were such laurels rested upon, the 1997/1998 season once more got off to a poor start and being marooned in the bottom three, Brian Kettle was relieved of duties and Mel Sterland handed the responsibility of ensuring safety.

There was to be no upturn in form or results and a first ever relegation was sadly confirmed towards the end of the campaign, following a 0-2 away defeat at Cheltenham Town (Cutler, Powell, Dove, Hall, Heath, Hine, Jones, Martin, Trundle, Burke, Dolby)

The end of the season saw a bottom of the pile finish and the end of what had undoubtedly been a glorious six year stay in the Football Conference, the top tier of non league football.

Although naturally a great deal of disappointment was felt with such an outcome that had been worked very hard at to both achieve and maintain, it had indeed been possible to compete and arguably punch above ones own weight for a great period of that time. However, the prospect of coming straight back up, as quickly as possible, was nonetheless an obviously enticing one.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, the challenge of a return to past glories was on.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, the challenge of a return to past glories was on.

The Football Conference had represented a golden era in history, with relegation and a return to the Northern Premier League, after six glorious years, coming as a major disappointment to all. It wasn’t that the place had been taken for granted, more so that having become established as a well known side in the footballing pyramid then it was a case of wanting more of the same.

The strategy of a quick return was formulated ahead of the 1998/1999 season, Kevan Keelan being the man tasked with the job of guidance back into the big time, the hope and optimism being that it would be achieved sooner rather than later.

However, following a very poor start to the campaign then Phil Wilson was once more installed into the hot seat, with an initial brief of not only steadying the ship but also building for the future. This was ultimately easily achieved in the end, with the team slowly being moulded into one akin to days of yore.

The final season finishing position of tenth represented progress and this was complimented by the winning of the Northern Premier League Cup, with a 2-1 victory over Guiseley (Statham, Ward, Scott, Ogley, Filson, Bauress, Burke, Parr, Jones, Marginson, Pickford) and once again provided positive belief for the future.

The 1999/2000 season opened with defeat against Altrincham in the Northern Premier League Challenge Shield but was to see a continuation of this progress.

Although results were solid, if a little unspectacular, a great FA Cup more than made up for it. Altrincham were beaten in the final qualifying round, after a replay, although an administrative error over an ineligible player meant that the game had to be replayed and victory achieved once more.

The first round proper saw Merthyr Tydfil beaten, again after a replay, bringing a second round date and ultimately 1-2 defeat to Chester City (Ingham, Ward, Scott, Ogley, Johnston, Bauress, Pickford, Parr, Steele, Jones, Williamson) That said, there was no disgrace in the result, the game saw the goal of the campaign from Scott and there was a bumper home gate, the likes of which had not been seen in years.

A further highlight came in the first game of the new millennium, a home win over Hyde United, setting up a final seventh place finish. It had indeed been a season to remember for all the right reasons, despite a few underlying financial worries being also to the fore.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, hoped for a great new era in a new millennium.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, hoped for a great new era in a new millennium.

The start of the new century provided an opportunity to look back on past success and ahead, with some optimism, as to what could be achieved in the future. The journey to this point, from early ambition and progress since formation, to having achieved Football League status and the many fantastic memories created for all who had this place in their hearts in between, had given something that all could be very proud of.

Without any shadow of a doubt, the 2000/2001 season was to become the best, certainly in recent times and in most peoples eyes surely the greatest in history, as all before were swept aside.

Right from the outset, it was quite clear that this was a force to be reckoned with but a combination of factors, with the pressures of cup commitments and postponements, created a fixture backlog and led to a subsequent feeling of always playing catch up, which perhaps, crucially, helped to ease the pressure somewhat.

Occupying one of the top few spots, all campaign long, results and points were at times easily racked on the board and a two horse race began to develop with Emley, who were defeated relatively early doors in a classic 4-2 home victory.

Faced with that second half major fixture pile up, whilst rivals had points in the bag, it seemed as if things were conspiring to fall just short but after a 2-0 away win at Bishop Auckland, at which the top of the table was reached, the race for the championship boiled down to a crunch clash away at Emley and a famous 3-2 victory secured, after a Cooke lob in the dying seconds (Ingham, Ward, Sullivan, Crookes, Filson, Bauress, Pickford, Parr, Scott, Jones, Locke)

The league title was clinched with a 1-0 victory away at Droylsden, again courtesy of a last gasp winner, this time thanks to Locke. When added to the earlier triumphs of a 5-1 demolition of Stockport County to win the Cheshire Senior Cup and victory over Blyth Spartans to lift the Presidents Cup, it meant a historic and unique treble.

It was a magnificent effort, where the commitment and endeavour of every player in the squad over the course of the season had come to the fore and was quite rightly lauded. The style of play was effective, results fully deserved and all were heroes.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, with their historic treble, had just achieved the best day ever in their history and in the process had managed to secure a thousand more precious memories.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, with their historic treble, had just achieved the best day ever in their history and in the process had managed to secure a thousand more precious memories.

A return to the Football Conference ahead of the 2001/2002 season was tempered by Phil Wilson opting to jump ship, perhaps realising the challenges ahead, in what was now a much stronger environment than it had been previously.

Paul Futcher was the new man at the helm, success coming in the cups. The Northern Premier League Challenge Shield was won, victory over Lancaster City and the first round of the FA Cup was reached, defeat by Chesterfield. There was also a best ever run in the FA Trophy, a loss to Stevenage Borough in the quarter finals (Fish, Murphy, Crookes, Woods, Futcher, Beesley, Williamson, Parr, Ayorinde, Peacock, Pickford)

With league survival the priority, Dave Miller came in as manager and yet there was to be no upturn, the overwhelming task highlighted by an embarrassing last day defeat at Margate. Relegation confirmed, an end to life in the big time.

The 2002/2003 season, one of consolidation, saw a fine win over Hyde United (Dootson, German, Caldecott, Davis, Pearce, Wharton, Bowman, Parr, Mayers, Eastwood, Potts) The final fourth place finish was more than acceptable but the highlight was undoubtedly the winning of the Presidents Cup, a two legged aggregate victory over Ashton United.

The 2003/2004 season saw the construction of a new all seater stand on the popular side and further first round appearance in the FA Cup, with defeat to Barnet (Dootson, German, Heald, Bowker, Pearce, Clegg, Bowman, Keeling, Mayers, Eastwood, Potts) A final eleventh place league finish seeing qualification for a new set up, following further reorganisation of the footballing pyramid.

With a clear standing gained amongst non leagues elite over the past decade, the newly formed Football Conference North for the 2004/2005 season brought a degree of familiarly and status quo in terms of league standings. This though was a new beginning, akin to days of old, in terms of competitiveness and only highlighting the need to take things to a new level.

With things not going well, Dave Miller was replaced, firstly by former saviour Peter Wragg and then John Reed, who alongside fan power, steadied the ship with relegation seemingly previously certain for a nineteenth place finish. The highlight though, was a first ever appearance in a national cup final, the Conference League Cup and heartbreaking last gasp defeat to Woking (Dootson, Bowker, Whealing, Keeling, Sykes, Atkins, Smith, Parr, Eastwood, Wilford, Wharton)

Stalybridge Celtic FC, home, through both good times and bad.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, home, through both good times and bad.

With the aim of progress still very much prevalent, the 2005/2006 season was one in which some on field progress was made, highlighted with a quite magnificent win over local rivals Hyde United on their own patch (Pettinger, Keeling, Barnard, Kilbane, Haran, Price, Garvey, Sykes, Ellington, Banim, Prince)

Although a defeat to Witton Albion in the final of the Cheshire Senior Cup did somewhat take a bit of gloss of matters, this was more than a solid effort and one in which, for parts of it, promotion seemed possible. A final day crunch clash eventually saw a seventh place finish, just missing out on a place in the play offs.

However, these were inconsistent times and the 2006/2007 season was one of a lacklustre nature, during which only a good run of results and vital win at Scarborough (Bishop, Black, Kay, Lever, Haran, Winn, Brodie, Sykes, Ellington, Barlow, Parr) helped maintain a position above the relegation parapet and saw a final placing of nineteenth.

That desire to provide on field success, which was perhaps greater than ever, to compliment what was now a fine surrounding infrastructure and highly regarded facilities behind the scenes, saw Steve Burr appointed as manager ahead of the 2007/2008 season and perhaps only highlighted just what a well run operation this now was.

A final third place finish saw a coveted place in the play offs achieved, in which Southport were beaten in two legged affair, following an epic penalty shoot out. Although Barrow prevailed in the final, played at Burton Albion (Pearson, Woolliscroft, Garner, Payne, Barwick, Sykes, Torpey, Winn, Hall, Ellington, Meechan) it had been a good year and surely represented the closest and best times since that historic treble achievement.

The 2008/2009 season was along similar lines, although was mixed with some poor results and thus meant a promotion challenge never really materialised. A win over Workington on the last day (Phillips, Battersby, Smart, Hardiker, Barwick, Sykes, Torpey, Briggs, Barlow, Ellington, Wilkinson) saw a sixth place finish and brought the curtain down on the first hundred years of football.

The centenary, one hundred years of football, had seen humble beginnings, ambition that saw Football League status achieved and then relinquished, to the journey to achieve it all again. During all this time though and of far greater importance was that the ultimate goal had been achieved, this place bringing much happiness to many people over the years and may it continue to do so.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, achieving success and sustainability, on and off the pitch, at all times.


Stalybridge Celtic FC, achieving success and sustainability, on and off the pitch, at all times.

The centenary, one hundred years of football, had seen humble beginnings, ambition that saw Football League status achieved and then relinquished, to the journey to achieve it all again. During all this time though and of far greater importance was that the ultimate goal had been achieved, this place bringing much happiness to many people over the years and may it continue to do so.

Today, sees us in the third tier of non league football, perhaps more a reflection on the changing nature of the game from a financial point of view. Whilst the name still holds sway, this is football now. In the previous thirty years, since my first visit and those idyllic days where all seemed well with the world, money now rules the roost and this hampers competitive ambitions, to the extent that one finds itself at what it may consider to be not a traditional natural level.

One hundred years of football gives the chance to reflect on managers, players, fellow fans, good times and glory years past. Whilst good times on the pitch may have been few and far between since, the hope remains that they are ahead in the future.

Whilst the ultimate goal is that balancing of success with sustainability, both on and off the pitch, history comes complete with tales that have not only stirred the soul but also provided many happy memories for years to come. Such heroes and legends, in terms of individuals and occasions, should always be celebrated.

It is solely thanks to the ambition, vision and dedication of Herbert Rhodes, who in creating a lasting legacy, together with a great deal of work put in by many individuals over countless number of years, has meant that what we have, know and love today exists.

Names such as Aspinall, Bauress, Bennett, Burke, Burr, Camden, Coathup, Cooke, Dennison, Dixon, Edwards, Hughes, Jones, Smith, Sullivan, Sykes, Wilson, Wragg and matches against Altrincham, Barrow, Carlisle, Chester, Dagenham, Droylsden, Emley, Frickley, Harrow, Hyde, Kettering, Marine, Southport, together with many more besides immediately come to mind, harking back to special games and days.

In all this, there will be personal favourites that are remembered most fondly. Whatever, all are part and parcel of what makes this such a special place to be over the years. Above all else though, it is those that have supported us throughout our history that perhaps deserve the most credit and considered true legends. Without them all, we wouldn’t be here today.

Stalybridge Celtic FC, Back The Bridge.