Adventures in Football #94: Edgeley Park (Stockport County)
October 7, 2023
STOCKPORT COUNTY vs. DONCASTER ROVERS (League 2)
This has taken me four days to get around to because the day after this match I got clobbered by Covid. I don’t recommend travelling from Stockport to Birmingham on a Sunday morning with a hangover and Covid. It was HARD.
Founded in 1883, Stockport have played at Edgeley Park since 1902. From 1905 to 2011 they were a football league team. They had their most successful run as a club back in the 1990s. Madchester in full rave, the area rich from sporting success, Stockport rose up the leagues from 1991. Promoted to the old division three. After three play-off failures, they eventually found themselves in the second tier of English football in 1997 after finishing second in division two. The same season Stockport made the semi-finals of the League Cup.
Amazingly, just 14 years later, the club was at a low ebb, relegated out of the football league. They even dropped down to tier six. Eventually, the comeback was on with promotion in 2019 from the National League North and in 2022 from the National League itself. Stockport were back in the league. Ahead of moneybags Wrexham. In their first season back in League 2, a resurgent Stockport made the play off final, only to lose to Carlisle. Given their entertaining playing style and success on the field over the past two years, they’ll be hoping for promotion this season.
Onto the day and you’ll have to forgive any Covid-brained lapses in memory. I normally write these fresh as I can but I’ve been asleep a lot. The train journey up to Stockport is on a packed train. I didn’t want to get there too early, but the delay resulted in cramped conditions. It was a fun enough journey with a group of Brentford fans (on their way to being done by Scott McTominay in stoppage time at Old Trafford) keeping the carriage entertained by bantering with everyone. The combination of them and a hen do was fairly entertaining.
On arriving in Stockport, I head into Bask, a local tavern that’s recently opened by the train station. I slap it into Google and it tells me I’ve arrived. I’ve literally walked out of the train station. It’s right there! I’m met by Big Chris Linay and Big Andy Ogden. They make them tall up north! I’m used to being considered fairly tall but I feel pretty short all day today. Linay has sprung for the tickets and organised most of this. He also gave me somewhere to sleep, avoiding the drunken late night train journey back to Birmingham.
We move on Ye Olde Vic, which is a more traditional boozer with pump clips all over the ceiling and tiny little stools. We’re joined by Golazo Dan before moving on to the ground itself. We have the chance to pop into the club shop and while I don’t like this year’s home kit (the red seems out of place), both away and third kits absolutely slap. I’m actually tempted to drop £45 on the third; a grey and gold number. Instead, I resist that urge and take photos with the Danny Bergara statue.
Bergara was a huge part of the Stockport success story. He took over in 1989 and marshalled their rise through the divisions, sadly not seeing it through to the conclusion, departing the club in 1995. This statue was erected in early 2023 to celebrate the life and career of Bergara, who also has a stand named after him.
We chill out in the fan park for a bit. It’s essentially half a car park with a bar in it but it’s a nice enough place to hang out pre-match. There’s a little stage with an interview and it’s busy. The street food smelled amazing. We get this cracking view of Edgeley Park’s Cheadle Stand. This is a big unit. The focal point of the ground.
We enter the ground and stylistically it reminds me of a smaller Craven Cottage. Does that make sense? It just feels the same. The ground doesn’t look very big from this angle because the bulk of the fans are in the Cheadle, as are we, and most of my photos came from that stand. The second most impressive stand is the Danny Bergara Stand, which is off to the left here. So, this is a shot of the ground at its least impressive. The family stand across from us here; housing a couple thousand, including 900 away fans at the far end. The other stand, at the far end, is the Railway End, which is still uncovered and seats around 1,600. It feels like a ground at various stages of development.
This is Stockport’s mascot; Vernon the Hatter. Vernon is a bear and was all over the place. I kept seeing him! He was out in the fanzone, he was roaming the stands, he was on the pitch. Solid performance from Vernon. I almost got him, in super close-up, looking straight down the camera and he got distracted at the last moment.
So, this is the Cheadle Stand, where we’re sat today. It’s a behemoth compared to the rest of the ground. You can see “the Scarf of my Father” on the back there. That’s one of the songs they sing at Stockport. The idea being that Stockport is in the blood and is passed on from generation to generation. I often think about this as my dad is a Wolves fan and has been for his whole life. What would have happened if Wolves were good when I was a kid? Would I have supported them? Carried the scarf from my dad’s generation? The year I choose a team (1982) Wolves got relegated and by the time I was super into football (1986), they’d been relegated to division four. You know what school kids are like. You can’t go supporting a shitty team. I was unpopular enough as it was.
This is our view today. It’s a great view for this end. It’s a shame most of Stockport’s best moments came at the other end. I blame Doncaster. A word on legroom…it’s not great.
All five of us, Our Geoff turned up late after doing some Saturday morning overtime, are tall and have long legs. We were in like sardines here. I was never uncomfortable but anyone leaning back on the chair in front and my knees are squashed. It’s very tight.
Finally, I managed to get in a shot of the Danny Bergara Stand. This one had planes flying over it all day long. We’re on the Manchester flight path and boy, those planes were low. It’s a tidy stand. I liked this one.
Anyway, game gets underway and you can see we had a great view of the action down this end. It wasn’t the best 45 minutes of football. Linay and Andy headed to the toilets at around 30:00 and didn’t come back until the second half. I did find them on the concourse. Andy had seen Tony O’Shea and was making starry eyes at him. That’s a darts player. The first half can be summed up by my notes; “goalkeeper kicks the ball straight out from a goal kick. Resultant throw in goes straight out”. Doncaster are playing aggressively destructive football to try and ensure they’re not obliterated by a better Stockport team.
The second half is an improvement. Stockport find a bit more room for their football and eventually grab a breakthrough thanks to Isaac Olaofe six minutes from the end. It’s harsh for Donny, who played a decent game, but the better team picked up three points. Stockport go second in the league with the win. They may run into more challenges like this before the season is over.
It was a little alarming that every child in the stand decided to go and stand behind the goal in the last ten minutes. There were a few fans in the front rows who couldn’t see anything because of this. By all means, do this at full time but be considerate.
Finally, thanks to Andy Ogden for this snap of the stand at full time. What a performance off the pitch it was from these lads. A constant wall of noise.
I’m sorry the details are a little sketchier than usual. Blame Covid for that. I was planning on detailing the night out in Stockport, but I don’t have notes to help me out. I did really like the Magnet. Let’s finish up with some scores for the season’s table.
Absolutely stunning. Some of the most consistently outstanding crowd support I’ve heard in England. The only comparison is Crystal Palace and Plymouth. Stockport might have outdone both of those. ****½
It was £22 to get in. That’s cheaper than Crewe and Swindon, both of whom I thought overcharged for the level. I can live for £22 for a team that’s pushing for League 1. ***
The destructive approach of Doncaster did hurt this score. I realise they needed to do that to get into the game and to be fair to Doncaster, they did create chances. It wasn’t a total bust from them. Hinchcliffe had to make a great save right before half-time to keep it at 0-0. However, Doncaster only mustered two shots all game. Stockport had five. It was just one of those games. **
EASE OF ACCESS:
It’s only 12 minutes walk from Stockport train station, according to Google maps. It didn’t feel that far away on foot. It’s literally half a mile. Parking looks like it might be a challenge but with the ease of rail links into Manchester, I would just go with the train for this one. ****
The concourse under the Cheadle End is pretty sensational. I actually got lost looking around it. The toilet facilities are decent, but the bar and food areas were better. For the level, that stand is excellent. I’m docking it points for the legroom though. ***
I enjoyed my time at Stockport. The club has wonderful support and the atmosphere is genuinely among the best I’ve experienced in English football. It’s pretty close to five stars. With a little love, care, and hard work the ground and the club could be a worthy addition to the Championship in a few years. It’s going to be tough, but the future looks bright for Stockport.