Stafford Rangers rolled back the years at Marston Road on Saturday as the club hosted a special reunion day to mark their 140th anniversary year.
Heroes from the club’s most successful era, the 1970s and 80s, came together, some for the first time in many years, and recalled their great days in the black and white striped shirts!
Among them were Rangers’ two FA Trophy winning captains, Graham Chadwick (1972) and Bob Ritchie (1979), who had flown in from America, where he has lived and worked for many years.
Joining them were over 20 players and officials from that golden period, including one of the club’s most successful managers, Ron Reid, who spent six years at Stafford in the early 1980s.
A virtual unknown in managerial circles at the time, he arrived from Yorkshire in 1983 and steered Rangers to the Northern Premier League (NPL) title, followed by success in the Bob Lord Trophy, Jim Thompson Shield and Staffs Senior Cup during his spell in charge.
But even his achievements are somewhat paled into insignificance when you consider what the ‘boys of the seventies’ achieved.
It was a decade when Rangers were very much one of the leading non-league clubs in the country lifting the FA Trophy twice at Wembley and just missing out in the 1976 final in extra-time.
The 1972 squad pulled off a memorable treble, adding the NPL championship trophy and the Staffs Senior Cup to their Wembley triumph, and skipper Chadwick, who was previously with Manchester City, Walsall and Chester, said:”I had five very successful years at Stafford.
“Two years after I joined Rangers we won the treble and that season was my happiest at the club without a shadow of doubt.
“We had a very good side. They fought and worked for each other. I think Barnet (trophy final opponents) were slight favourites, but fortunately we turned up on the day and did the business.
“It was a great honour for me to climb the Wembley steps and collect the trophy. They were really good times, the best in my career.”
For fellow FA Trophy winner Ritchie it was third time lucky. He missed the 1972 final after being suspended for the semi-final win over Yeovil and subsequently losing his place to Joe Clayton. He was then a beaten finalist in 1976, before finally leading Rangers to Wembley success in 1979.
“My first Rangers highlight was when we played Yeovil and I didn’t play. I felt after that win we became established.
“I know we lost against Scarborough in the 1976 final, but in 1979 we went to Wembley again and I skippered the team against my home town Kettering. A lot of people don’t know but I was the only Kettering-born player on the field, and they still haven’t forgiven me!
“But it was nice to beat Kettering, and looking back through the records I found that my last home game for Rangers was actually against Kettering in 1981.
“It certainly was a proud moment when I walked up the Wembley steps to collect the trophy from Billy Wright. It’s one of those occasions you dream of. I had very many happy times at Stafford and will always remember them.”