There is evidence to support the existence of a football club in Stamford as far back as 1870 and various clubs came and went in the next twenty years until 1894 when the town’s two most prominent clubs Stamford Town and Rutland Ironworks agreed to amalgamate. Initially the club adopted the name of the Rutland Ironworks who were viewed as the stronger of the two, but the current club’s existence is generally accepted to date back to 1896 when the Stamford Town name was adopted to give the club a higher profile. It was to be some years before the club became known as “The Daniels” after Daniel Lambert, the heaviest British man ever, who died in 1809 in Stamford weighing 52 stone or thereabouts, and is buried in St Martin’s churchyard a few hundred yards from the ground.
The club’s first ever match was played on Hanson’s Field, the location of the current stadium, and the club has enjoyed continuous use of the ground in its 117 year existence. Evidence has recently come to light that the site staged football in the early 1870s making it a candidate for the world’s oldest football ground. Stamford Town enjoyed success from the off, and won the Younger Cup in their first season. Several other trophies followed in the next decade and a half as Stamford established themselves as one of the area’s most successful clubs. Most notable were back to back successes in the prestigious Hinchingbrooke Cup in 1907 and 1908, the trophy being won in front of four figure crowds in the finals at Huntingdon.
Encouraged by these successes Stamford turned professional in 1909 and joined the Northants League, their first venture into league football apart from a one season venture into the short lived East Midlands League in 1896. Stamford were quick to progress and in only their third season of Northants League football they won the championship, staffed largely with players lured across the Northamptonshire border by the offer of employment in committee man Jack Pick’s car factory! In 1913-1914 Stamford enjoyed their best ever FA Cup run reaching the 5th Qualifying Round before losing 2-0 at Chatham, who were promptly drawn against Football League champions Sunderland! Both full backs Teddy Tye and Joe Johnson were signed up by professional clubs with Tye joining Chelsea and Johnson signing for Notts County, the pair followed one time England amateur international Harry Springthorpe (Grimsby) into the League.
The inter war years were far from distinguished. An FA Cup replay at Rothwell in 1927 brought the club its record defeat (17-0) and an unwanted place in the record books – the biggest ever margin in an FA Cup replay, but within three years Stamford had also recorded a biggest ever victory, a 13-0 away win over Peterborough Reserves. Stamford’s star players continued to climb the ladder with Reg Chester moving to Aston Villa and Charlie McCartney going to Notts County, but the big time passed Bert Knighten by as he accumulated a career record of 235 goals in Stamford colours. Financial troubles plagued the club towards the end of the thirties and in 1939 they decided to take a season’s break to put the finances right. Within a few weeks war was declared and it was 1945 before league football resumed.
After a season regrouping in the Peterborough League Stamford returned to the United Counties League, successor to the Northants League, in 1946. They soon earned a reputation as cup specialists winning the Lincolnshire Junior Cup in 1949, UCL Knockout Cup in 1952 and Lincolnshire Senior Cup ‘B’ in 1952 and 1954 with the star of the era being George Clarke who became the first man to complete 400 appearances for the Daniels. Football in the early post war years captured the public’s imagination with a record crowd of 4,200 watching a 3-3 FA Cup draw with Kettering in 1953. In 1955 Stamford joined the Central Alliance before stepping up in class to join the Midland League in 1961. The sixties were years of struggle although 1961 saw Arsenal come to Wothorpe Road to beat the Daniels 9-0 in a match arranged to mark the town's quincentenary, while the club’s best FA Cup scalp was claimed in 1968-1969 as Bedford Town were beaten en route to a 4th Round Qualifying exit.
1972 saw the Daniels return to the United Counties League where they became a power under the guidance of former Peterborough manager Norman Rigby. Another FA Cup run to the 4th Qualifying Round in 1973-1974 was followed by an excellent FA Vase campaign a year later, Stamford reaching the semi-finals of the new tournament. After several near misses Stamford won the UCL league and cup double in 1976, also going one better in the Vase, losing 1-0 to Billericay in extra time at Wembley. Malcolm Hird – later voted Stamford’s Player of the Century by supporters – and goal ace Dick Smith, the club’s highest postwar marksman, were stars of this side. Stamford continued to dominate the UCL under Rigby winning a further title in 1978, their first Lincs Senior Cup ‘A’ success the following season was the highlight of a disappointing campaign under Ray Medwell, but the appointment of ex-skipper Hird as boss in the summer of 1979 proved a masterstroke.
Three seasons under the management of the Casterton schoolmaster saw the Daniels complete a hat-trick of UCL championships, Knockout Cup successes in 1980 and 1982 and best of all a Wembley return in 1980, goals from Keith Alexander and Andy McGowan giving Stamford a 2-0 win over Guisborough. Other key figures in this squad were goalkeeper Kevin Johnson and right back Dick Kwiatkowski, both of whom made over 400 appearances in Stamford colours. Money made from the second Wembley visit helped Stamford install floodlights in 1981 and Manchester United and Nottingham Forest were among the top level clubs to visit Wothorpe Road in the early 80s.
Under Chris Corby’s management Stamford enjoyed Lincs Senior Cup ‘A’ success in 1982-1983 and a third Wembley visit in 1984, losing 3-2 to Stansted in the Vase final, while Paul Brackwell steered the Daniels to Knockout Cup success in 1986. By now the club’s golden age was at an end although the club continued to produce good players with Keith Alexander and Andy Tillson (both Grimsby), Darren Edey (Peterborough) and Brett McNamara (Northampton) all graduating to the pro ranks.
The appointment of Steve Evans as manager in 1994 started Stamford’s revival. His policy of signing high profile players brought ex-Posh favourites Trevor Quow, Steve Collins, Milton Graham and Micky Gynn to the club, along with Scottish international David Speedie and ex-Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson. The club’s centenary season saw Stamford win the UCL for a seventh time after a spectacular late burst through the pack, while 1997-1998 was even better as Stamford retained the title, also carrying off the Lincs Senior Cup’A’ and Hinchingbrooke Cup.
The facilities at the ground were upgraded with new perimeter fencing, turnstiles, new seating and a perimeter walkway all features of the new set up. Promotion to the Dr Martens League was the outcome and the club’s debut campaign in the Midland Division proved hugely eventful. After steering Stamford to Benevolent Cup success and a place in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup final manager Evans moved to Boston United with Billy Jeffrey arriving from Rushden & Diamonds to take the reins. The new manager rebuilt with younger players and a final placing of 18th in the Midland Division. League reshuffling saw Stamford placed in the Eastern Division for 1999-2000, and an 11 match unbeaten start – the club’s best ever – proved invaluable as Stamford accumulated a record 18 draws over the season, eventually finishing 17th in the table.
The club created a piece of Lincolnshire football history in January 2001, beating Boston United 2-1 at York Street to win the Lincolnshire Senior Cup for the first time, thereby completing a clean sweep of the four county trophies. The Daniels had claimed the scalps of Football League clubs Lincoln City and Grimsby Town to reach the final. Stamford completed an excellent season by finishing 7th in the Eastern Division and reaching the last eight of the league cup.
The 2001-2002 season saw the club make continued progress as Stamford set a new DML high by finishing fifth in the Eastern Division with their best points total of 76. Better still was to come in 2002-2003 as the Daniels claimed third place with an 87 point haul, their home record the best in the division. Seventh place in the 2003-2004 season was enough to earn the Daniels a Premier Division place for the first time in their history. Unfortunately too many draws proved costly as Stamford were relegated, but they performed well in the FA Trophy reaching the 5th Round before bowing out to Exeter City who scored a last minute winner in front of a crowd of 1,058.
In July 2005, new manager Graham Drury arrived from Harrowby and his new look side regained the club’s Premier Division place at the first attempt. After finishing fourth in Division One East the Daniels defeated Barking & East Ham and Wivenhoe to progress through the play offs. Stamford fared much better on their return to the Premier Division and briefly topped the table in January before ending the season in eighth place. In 2006-2007 the season ended with silverware on display as the Daniels claimed their fifth different county cup, beating Brigg to win the Senior Shield at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank Stadium.
In the summer of 2007 the club was transferred to the UniBond League Premier Division after nine years playing in the Southern League, but suffered instant relegation to Division One South after losing manager Graham Drury and half the squad to Corby Town in mid season.
The highlight of the 2008-2009 campaign saw the Daniels claim some silverware with a 4-1 win at Boston United in the final of the Lincolnshire Senior Shield, but despite a club record run of twenty league games without defeat they narrowly missed out on a play off place.
In the 2009-2010 season Stamford reached their first UniBond final, losing 3-1 to Belper in the President’s Cup at Quorn. The 2010-2011 season was largely one of disappointment as the team finished 19th in the league, their lowest ever finish at Step 4 but did regain the Lincolnshire Senior Shield again beating Boston United this time on penalties.
The 2011-2012 started well with Stamford top of the table in early October, before manager Simon Clark left and joined Worksop and Tommy Brookbanks was bought in to replace him. The team remained in the play-off positions for most of the season before disappointingly finishing in 7th place. Graham Drury returned to take over as manager within a couple of weeks of the season ending. Graham departed for Boston United in December 2012. He was replaced by Wayne Hatswell in January 2013, which culminated in the club gaining promotion via the play-offs defeating Chasetown in the final. We then had another managerial change with Hatswell leaving for a coaching role at league 2 Newport County. His deputy David Staff was promoted for his first managerial position.