Past glories at Edgeley Park - Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he spotlights Stockport County’s Edgeley Park
I remember the 1997-98 season for many reasons, and so too do Stockport County.
Ipswich Town have no game this weekend, due to international call-ups, so I thought it an opportune moment to recall one of Town's lesser-known opponents of yesteryear, a club who have been in the doldrums in recent times.
During the 1997-98 season, as well as reporting on Colchester United's successful promotion to the third tier, via the Wembley play-offs, I was also an occasional visitor to the Portman Road press box, when the fixtures allowed, as well as taking to the road.
Stockport County at home, on November 4, 1997, remains probably the lowest point of all my Portman Road lows (and there have been a few of those). It was a desperate, desperate evening.
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I remember it so well, not least for the cloud of depression that seemed to hang over Portman Road when Brett Angell, shaped out of the mould of the good old-fashioned centre-forward (6ft 4ins, a menace in the air), bullied Town's defence with two late goals (70 & 81 mins) in a 2-0 away win.
To lose at home was bad enough, but to lose at home to Stockport County! And via two close-range goals from Brett Angell, not the most mobile of strikers.
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It was unthinkable.
Actually, I do Stockport a big disservice, and I do apologise.
The Hatters, nicknamed after the town's former hat-making industry of the Victorian era, were in the middle of a stunning season.
They went on to finish eighth that term, in the First Division (second tier), their highest-ever finish, just two places outside the play-offs, albeit nine points adrift of sixth-placed Sheffield United.
County spent five seasons in the First Division, during the 1990s, their most successful era, although by 2011 they had been relegated out of the Football League - they are yet to return.
And as a footnote, that season worked out quite well for Town. Revenge was secured at Edgeley Park, the home of Stockport, in March, 1998, thanks to David Johnson's solitary goal in a 1-0 win.
And George Burley's men went on to make the play-offs, although they were knocked out at the semi-final stage by Charlton.
These days, neither Town or the Hatters are in the second tier. But whereas Paul Lambert's men might make a quickfire return to the Championship, Stockport are a million miles away.
They need another Brett Angell.
- Club: Stockport County
- Founded: 1883 (136 years ago), as Heaton Norris Rovers
- Name change: adopted name of Stockport County in 1890
- Ground: Edgeley Park (since 1902)
- Town's first visit: 1-1 draw on September 19, 1995
- Town's last visit: 1-0 win on April 15, 2000
- Town's overall record at Edgeley Park: P4 W3 D1 L0
Stockport County, and Edgeley Park, has obviously seen better days, but they appear to be on the up, like Town.
Their cause, during the 21st century, has certainly not been helped by a number of ownership changes, financial worries and subsequent relegations.
Those dream days of the 1990s, which also included an appearance in the League Cup semi-finals in 1996-97, where they lost to Middlesbrough (they beat Southampton 2-1 in a quarter-final replay at The Dell, with Brett Angell scoring the winner!), have long since gone.
They were relegated out of the Football League, along with Lincoln City, in 2011, and were then relegated from the National League in 2013, despite ironically having the biggest ground capacity in the division (10,852).
But they returned to non-league's top tier by being crowned National League North champions last season, and are currently squatting comfortably in mid-table in the National League.
The club were founded by members of the Wycliffe Congregational Church, in 1883, and this background in faith obviously worked, because they gained admission to the Football League in 1900, and competed continually in the League from 1905 through to 2011.
I have always loved my visits to Edgeley Park, which usually start with a walk around nearby Sykes Reservoir (popular with fishermen) before indulging in a meat pie in the old main stand (rebuilt in 1936 after a fire).