📝 New Season, New Team: Stockport County

Stockport celebrate promotion

With fixture release day less than a fortnight away, City fans will be eager to get planning their season – with new opponents, new stadiums and new cities to visit. We’re taking a look at the seven new teams who we will be facing in League One next season.

Next up is Stockport County, who beat hotly-tipped Wrexham to the League Two title last season and are once again expected to fair well in the third tier. They secured promotion with a 2-0 win over Morecambe on 13 April before being confirmed as champions three days later at Notts County with a 5-2 victory.

A Brief History

From stockportcounty.com/the-club/our-history

Established in 1883 as Heaton Norris Rovers, in 1890 the name was changed to Stockport County to reflect the town gaining County Borough status. After winning the Lancashire League in 1900, the County gained admittance to the Football League, drawing their first match 2-2 away to Leicester Fosse (now Leicester City).

After finishing in the bottom three in their first four seasons, County failed to gain re-election in 1904 and so spent a season in the Lancashire Combination; they won the League at the first time of asking and made an immediate return to the professional ranks. County would be proud Football League members for more than a century.

Having played in a variety of kit colours in the club’s early years, usually a variation on blue & white, County switched to white shirts and black shorts from the ’30s until the mid ’60s. Throughout this period they were often referred to as the Lilywhites.

The club stayed in the 4th Division doldrums until the turn of the 90s, when Uruguayan manager Danny Bergara turned the Hatters into regular top-of-the-table challengers.

Promotion came in 1991, and was followed by four visits to Wembley in two years – twice in playoff finals, twice in the Football League Trophy. Unfortunately County lost on each occasion.

Following Bergara’s departure in 1995, Dave Jones took charge and gave the club its most memorable season. In 1996/97, the Hatters won four games against Premiership opposition, including a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough in the League Cup semi-final – unfortunately, the tie was lost 2-1 on aggregate. 

Unfortunately, the Hatters couldn’t build on the success of 2006/07 – when they reached the play-offs -  and went in to administration before the final game of the season at Brighton. In 09/10 administration took its toll, and County finished on a new record low of 25 points and were relegated back to the bottom flight.

Stockport celebrate promotion

In the summer of 2010 the club was taken out of administration by a group of local business people, ensuring the club’s survival. However, fortunes took a downturn on the pitch and the Hatters finished bottom of League Two, meaning that they would compete outside the Football League for the first time since 1905.

In January 2020, the Club were taken over by local businessman Mark Stott, who upon buying the Club announced plans for an increased playing budget, a return to full-time football and new full-time training facilities alongside an ambition to return to the Championship in seven years.

In November 2021, the Club appointed former captain and former Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor as the club’s new first-team manager, after parting company with Simon Rusk following a difficult start to the new season. He went unbeaten in his first six games as County boss, including a famous 5-3 FA Cup First Round win against League One Bolton Wanderers at Edgeley Park.

Dave’s impact as County manager was almost instant as he led the Club on a run of 20 wins in 21 games in all competitions, twice setting a new club record of ten successive wins. In that time he led us from 10th to 1st in the National League table, and a 2-0 win over Halifax Town on the final day of the 2021/22 season saw us crowned champions, securing promotion back to the Football League for the first time in eleven years. 

County would go on to bounce back from the heartbreak of a play-off final in stunning fashion in 2023/24, with Challinor’s side securing the club’s first EFL league title in 57 years. County were crowned League Two Champions with two games to spare, finishing with a club record 92 points and winning 27 of our 46 league games. 

The Manager

Dave Challinor was appointed in November 2021 with the club 9th in the National League, and led the club to promotion by the end of that season. In his first season in League Two, he led the club to the play-off final but they were beaten 2-0 by Carlisle United. The following season though they would achieve promotion.

Stockport manager Dave Challinor

Challinor is a former player at Stockport and has also managed Colwyn Bay, AFC Fylde and Hartlepool United.

The Stadium

Stockport play at Edgeley Park which has been their home since 1902. Originally built as a rugby league stadium for Stockport RFC, they were defunct by 1903 and County moved in.

A 10,900 seater arena, it consists of four stands, the main being the Danny Bergara Stand, which houses the changing rooms, benches and executive suites. The Cheadle End is a large stand behind one goal and holds over 5,000, more than the other three sides collectively. One of the largest single stands outside the Premier League, it’s the home of the most vocal County fans. The Family Stand on one side holds 2,400 fans and is split between home and away supporters, with travelling fans accommodating one corner.

Panorama of Edgeley Park

The Railway End is an open seated stand at one end and is generally used to house the larger away followings, though it is sometimes used by home fans. The stadium scoreboard is behind this stand.

Head To Head Record

Exeter’s record with Stockport is identical, with 19 wins apiece with nine draws, though the two teams haven’t played each other since 2010 in League One.

The first ever meeting took place in 1959 in the old Division Four, with Stockport winning 1-0 at home.

Exeter v Stockport in 1971

Biggest Exeter City win: 4-0 (1971/72, 1986/87)

Biggest Stockport County win: 4-0 (1988/89, 1993/94)

Previous Fixture

The last match between the two took place on 20 February 2010, with County winning 1-0 at St James Park in League One.

Jemal Johnson’s strike was the difference, as Stockport won their first game since October -  the defeat putting the Grecians in the relegation zone.

Played for Both

Links between County and the Grecians are plentiful, and there are some to be found if we head into the archives. The current member of the squad who has played for County is Millenic Alli, who was on loan there in 2021-22.

Jayden Richardson spent time at Edgeley Park, while Alfie Pond, who left the Grecians for Wolves, later joined the then-League Two side on loan.

Alfie Pond on the ball, in Exeter City kit

Coyle had two spells with Stockport in the 70’s and 80’s and signed for the Grecians in 1989, though he only made one appearance in the title winning squad.

Tommy Edge, Billy Devlin, Joe Graham, Tom Craig, Jimmy Mitton and Tom Green are all historical names who have featured for both clubs.

Simply head over to grecianarchive.exeter.ac.uk, search ‘Stockport County’ and find some of the names to have played for both.

Did You Know?

Despite the River Mersey being associated with all things Liverpool, Edgeley Park is actually the closest league ground to the river itself. It runs just a few hundred metres behind the main stand.