It was a day to remember the past and look forward to the future for fans, players and officials of Stamford AFC.
The first team played their final match on the Wothorpe Road turf on Saturday ahead of the long-awaited move to the new multi-million pound sports centre in Ryhall Road.
The players gave the crowd of 410 plenty of reason to celebrate at the Vic Couzens Stadium, storming to a comfortable 3-0 win against Rushall Olympic. The result gave fans some much-needed optimism for the future at the Zeeco Stadium. But there was also time for reflection. Prior to the game 118 red balloons were released to mark each year since the Daniels, named after Daniel Lambert, made the site known as Hanson’s Field their home. And a minute’s silence was held to remember those associated with the club who were no longer there.
Club director Guy Walton said: “Saturday was truly an emotional day for all involved and I imagine that like myself, everyone at the game went through the full gamut of emotions.
“Everyone was trying to take in their view from the ground for one final time, and laughing and joking with friends and fellow supporters about memories down the years - great wins, depressing defeats and all the hilarious stories that come with supporting your favourite club.
“For myself and many supporters, the view of Stamford town’s Georgian Collyweston slate rooftops from our footballing perch is iconic, and will be remembered for a long time.
“It has been a fantastic journey for the club at Hanson’s Field, and we shall miss it dearly while welcoming the fantastic new facility we will be moving to.”
The club has a strong attachment to its home of more than a century, and long-serving fans have seen plenty of highs and lows from the sidelines. Lewis Lee, a supporter for more than 60 years, had mixed feelings on a historic day for his beloved club.
“I’ve been a fan since I was seven or eight years old, and I’m 74 now so there’s a lot of memories,” he said. “Obviously Saturday was a very emotional day, and thinking of some of the big memories I can go back to some cup games. One in the 1950s when we played Kettering, and drew 3-3 and there was about 4,000 there, but we lost the replay 12-0!
“Then the FA Vase semi-finals when we played Curzon Ashton in the semi-final, then we went to Wembley and won. And then we played Irthlingborough Diamonds up there, and of course Fire Lane from Leicester which was in 1976, I suppose it must have been.”
Lewis paid tribute to those who had devoted their lives to the club, including Arthur Triviere, Harry Butcher, Hilary Hudson, Richard Jacobs and former chairman Ken Jointon.
He said: “It was his dream, this new ground, he did a lot towards getting things going.
“I’m sad to be leaving in a way, but we do need new facilities. Over the years we have worked to keep the old ground going with painting and repairing and different things. But it’s a great chance for the club to move on to these wonderful facilities down at Borderville, and its also a great chance for the young people to be involved with all the new pitches and things like that.”
Lewis had time for reflection at the end of Saturday’s game. He said: “When the final whistle went it was quite sad I suppose. It’s the end of an era but we have to move on and it’s a great chance for the club to move onwards and upwards.”
Stamford’s victory at the old Wembley Stadium in 1980 was one of the high points of the club’s history. Current commercial manager Paul Pepper was part of the squad that also won the United Counties League championship and the Knockout Cup that season. He hopes the move to the new ground will be the start of another great run for the club.
“There’s a tinge of sadness that we are leaving, but I’m looking forward to being at the new ground and the possibilities that it will bring,” he said.
“In the long term we hope to progress further up the pyramid and also just put Stamford back on the map for the kind of football we had in the 1980s. We were a formidable team, and it was very nice because we had half of the team that played at Wembley there for the final game on Saturday.”
Although the Wembley trip is now a distant memory, there has been plenty for Daniels fans to celebrate in recent years. The first team won promotion to the Evo-Stick Northern Premier in 2013, beating Chasetown in the play-off final. And the following season they were within 90 minutes of reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in their history, eventually losing 2-0 to Hednesford Town in the final qualifier.
Striker Ricky Miller, now playing for League Two high-flyers Luton Town, was a key part that success. He said: “To get promoted with them and to score the winning goal will stick with me forever. The celebrations and the togetherness of the players and fans that evening is something will never leave the memory.
“I wish them all the best in the new stadium, and I hope it’s the start of even more success to come.”
Fan Giles Lawrence, or Stampy, has been attended more than 400 Stamford matches. He said: “In a way I’m sad to be leaving 118 years of history behind, but going to Borderville is going to be fantastic. I was at the opening day, I’ve been down there taking photos while the building work was taking place, and I’m thoroughly impressed with it.”
The Daniels’ first home game at the Zeeco Stadium will be against Nantwich Town on Saturday, December 13. Kick-off is 3pm.
Do you have any memories or photos from Wothorpe Road? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.