Stalybridge Celtic are the focus of today’s 21 in 21.
When do we play them?
Home: Saturday 5th January
Away: Saturday 18th August
Name: Stalybridge Celtic
Nickname: The Celts
Ground: Bower Fold
Manager: Simon Haworth
Home Kit: Blue & White
Away Kit: Green & White
2017-2018 – Northern Premier League – Premier Division – 22nd
The club’s formation is usually given as 1909. However, it may have been as early as 1906 when an amateur club with the same name was formed. There were players called Storrs and Manwood who played in the 1906 and 1909 teams, and a player called Rhodes who played in the amateur’s first game; a Herbert Rhodes was a significant benefactor of the ‘later’ Celtic.
The club played for two seasons in the Lancashire and Cheshire Amateur League, before turning professional and joining the Lancashire Combination becoming second division champions at the first attempt. They followed it up with a fourth place and runners up spot in the Central League. In an attempt to progress the club joined the Southern League. The club rejoined the Central League for the 1919–20 season and in 1921 became one of the founder members of the Football League’s Third Division North. However the club resigned after two seasons, as it was felt that it could not attract enough support to justify a League side – in spite of the fact that average attendance of 5,480 in 1922 was almost 2,000 more than neighbouring Rochdale, who played in the same Division.:172–178 The full Celtic story in the League is detailed in Manchester A Football History where Celtic are given the same level of analysis and research as the Manchester region’s other sides.
They joined the Cheshire County League remaining members for 60 years and winning the title only once in 1980. With the league’s merger with the Lancashire Combination in 1982, they became founder members of the North West Counties League, winning the title in 1984 and 1987, with the latter triumph resulting in them being promoted to the Northern Premier League (NPL). In 1992 the club won the league title and was promoted to the Football Conference, playing at that level for six seasons to 1998 before being relegated to the NPL again, after finishing bottom.
In 2000–01, the club had one of the best seasons in its history, achieving a treble of the Cheshire Senior Cup, the President’s Cup and the Northern Premier League Premier Division, thus being promoted back to the Football Conference (though they were relegated after only one season). When the conference added a second level for the 2004–5 season, the club became one of the founders of the new Conference North where they have remained to date. Until the end of 2006–07 season the manager was John Reed, who had extensive experience as a manager in English non-league football, including three successful seasons as manager of Harrogate Town. On 30 May 2007 Steve Burr was appointed as a manager.
The 2007–08 season was one of the best in recent times; after finishing 18th the previous year, a third-place finish in the league meant a promotion opportunity to the Conference National was presented via the play-offs. After reaching the final, Stalybridge were denied after a 1–0 defeat to Barrow.
The club continued in the Conference North for the three seasons; placing 6th in the 2008–09 season in which manager Steve Burr left for Kidderminster, 10th in the 2009/10 season and 10th again in the 2010/11 season.
In the 2011–12 season, they were a huge contender for a promotion place as late as February before a poor set of results saw their hopes slip away towards the end of the season, finishing sixth in total, just below the last playoff place.
In the 2012–13 season, after languishing near the relegation zone for most of the year, they finished 11th following a 9-game unbeaten run. Stalybridge also reached the final of the Cheshire Senior Cup, losing 2–1 to Chester F.C.
The 2013–14 season wasn’t a good one either, as Stalybridge finished 19th, narrowly avoiding relegation by 2 points. Jim Harvey was sacked in October 2013, being replaced by former player Keith Briggs. They secured Conference North football for another season with a 1–1 draw against Bradford Park Avenue in the penultimate game of the season.
The 2014–15 season was arguably the worst for a long time. Stalybridge struggled to keep their heads above water, which led to the resignation of Keith Briggs in March 2015. He was replaced by 3 time Conference North winning manager, Liam Watson. This brought a turn around in results, with Watson only losing 1 of his 7 games in charge, winning 4. Survival came down to the final game against Gainsborough, with Stalybridge needing to better Colwyn Bay’s and Brackley’s results. A pulsating match finished 4–4, and they survived on goal difference.