Note: This weekly series will look for teams outside of the top flights of European football to find true underdog stories of clubs well below the radar. Clubs will be featured based on performance in the various tournaments that happen concurrently with the league seasons, or even strong runs in some of the leagues that dot the European football landscape. Chances are, these clubs will be years away from finding a home at the top flights of football – if they are ever able to get there – but it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve attention from time to time. If you happen upon a team that you think might qualify, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @GuruEbby or @SportMuseNet!
Stockport County F.C.
Nickname: The Hatters
Founded: 1883 (as Heaton Norris Rovers)
Location: Stockport, Greater Manchester, England
Team Colors: Blue & White
Ground: Edgeley Park
Current League: National League North (Tier 6)
Reason For Notice
Stockport County is one of at least four clubs from the National League (Tier 6) to win during the first round proper of the FA Cup this past weekend. The Hatters defeated League Two club Yeovil Town 3-1 on the road in Yeovil. Yeovil Town scored first, in the eighth minute, setting a tone that seemed to indicate they would win the match without issue. But Stockport didn’t give up and scored three consecutive goals, becoming the team to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Stockport County has a long and illustrious history in the Football League, including 26 total seasons in what is now known as the Championship. However, since being relegated to the National League (Premier Division) for the first time in 2011, they have struggled to return to the top tiers of English football languishing for the past five seasons in the National League North.
Prior to the 2010-11 season, the club found moderate success in the various divisions of the Football League, peaking with an 8th-place finish in the Championship during the 1997-1998 season. While playing in League Two during the 2006-07 season, the Hatters set a Football League record for winning nine consecutive matches without conceding a goal, a record that still stands. However, the streak was not enough to help the club find success in the league that season, finishing in 8th place and just missing the playoffs due to a poor point differential.
As mentioned previously, the club has struggled for much of this decade, but appear to have a plan in place to return to the Football League, hopefully by 2020. Last season, they finished in 5th place in the National League North, losing in the promotion playoffs, which was their best season since they were relegated to the National League North following their 21st place finish in the National League Premier during the 2012-13 season:
- 2013-14 – 14th place (50 points)
- 2014-15 – 11th place (57 points)
- 2015-16 – 9th place (59 points)
- 2016-17 – 8th place (73 points)
- 2017-18 – 5th place (69 points)
This season, they are currently in 10th place in the league, though due to their success in the FA Cup, they have played only 15 matches on the season, while most of the rest of the league has played 17. Their 23 points through those 15 points put them on pace to end the season with 71 points, which would be right in line with their success from prior seasons.
The second round of the FA Cup will begin on 1 December, but Stockport County won’t know who their opponent is until the replay between Tranmere Rovers (League Two) and Oxford City (National League South) is played on 20 November. Stockport does know, however, that they will playing the match on the road.
As for league play, Stockport will be hosting Brackley Town this weekend, a club that is currently four points ahead in league standings. They will also be traveling to face of against the Blyth Spartans next week, which will get them even closer to matching the rest of the league in matches played (though as long as matches keep getting postponed or rescheduled because of FA Cup matches, that might not happen until after they are eliminated from the competition). Blyth is currently in 17th place in the league, so Stockport should be able to come away with the three points, even on the road.
Update on Last Week’s Club
Last week, I profiled Serbian team Red Star Belgrade (for the second time) after they defeated Liverpool during Matchday 4 of Champions League play. They are a few weeks away from their next Champions League match, which will be against Napoli in Naples on 28 November. They close out group stage play on 11 December at home against Paris Saint-Germain, and are hoping for a win in at least one of the matches in an attempt to finish at least third to continue their play in European competition.
They remain undefeated in SuperLiga play, with 15 wins and one draw through 16 matches. This places them nine points ahead of second-place Radnički Niš, whom they will play on 24 November after the international break this week. They appear on their way to another league title, but there is still a lot of season left to play.
Until next time…