Whenever a team comes up into the Football League, the main aim is to make sure that they settle into life in League Two and consolidate their status amongst the top 92 clubs in the country.
This year, it was the turn of Stevenage Borough and Oxford United to try and adapt to life above the Blue Square Premier. But while Oxford are used to life at this level, for Stevenage it was a whole new chapter in their history.
When they secured promotion by winning the title last May, they did so knowing that the following season would bring league football to the club for the first time in their 34 year existence.
So there would be no better way to celebrate their 35th anniversary by doing themselves and the fans proud by maintaining a league status that they’ve worked so hard to achieve – and so far so good for the Boro.
They currently sit in 12th position, just inside the top half of the table, and closer to the play-off positions (seven points) than they are to the bottom two (nine points.)
So much credit for where Stevenage find themselves now must go to manager Graham Westley. But his success is a strange one in footballing terms.
This is the 42 year-olds second spell in charge, and when he was re-appointed as manager in the summer of 2008, he returned just two years after his contract was not renewed by Chairman Phil Wallace despite a three and a half-year spell that saw him revive the fortunes of the club within non-league football, getting them to within one game of promotion to the Football League.
So having left the club without achieving what he wanted to, Westley was
given the chance to resume unfinished business at Broadhall Way, and he’s done so in terrific fashion.
Despite selling star man Steve Morison to Millwall in 2009, Westley was able to develop a squad capable of getting the club into the Football League. Stevenage won the FA Trophy in his first season back in charge, and the following campaign saw them secure that historic promotion.
So why have they settled into life in league football so well? The hugely experienced Chris Day has led by example in goal, and Scott Laird has impressed at full-back, helping the Boro form a resilient defence, in particular alongside Jon Ashton, Mark Roberts and Ronnie Henry.
In fact, resilient is quite an understatement; they have the best defensive record in League Two, having conceded just 22 goals.
There have been three players in the middle of the park that have stood out for Stevenage this season. Despite being just 24 John Mousinho has used his valuable experience from his days at Wycombe and Brentford to help anchor the midfield.
Lawrie Wilson deserves huge credit for recovering so well from a horrific injury that saw him have both a dislocated ankle AND a broken leg to add a creative spark from the right of the midfield, while Michael Bostwick has partnered Mousinho well in the heart of the team.
Up front, and Stevenage certainly don’t lack attacking options. They have 8 strikers on their books, and the majority of these have played a part in chipping in with the goals. Chris Beardsley has been the standout forward with Peter Winn supporting well, although Charlie Griffin and Yemi Obudabe have since moved on.
The only issue for Stevenage is that while they know how to prevent goals, they aren’t scoring enough. While they have options up front, they do not contain a prolific striker that can propel them to the top-end of the division.
If they find that, or one of the striking options that they have runs into form, then there’s no reason why Stevenage can’t push on. They have the best defence in the league, a settled midfield, and in Graham Westley, a manager that has the confidence of the fans and players to take the club forward.
I haven’t even mentioned their famous win over Premier League Newcastle in the FA Cup last month! Life in the Football League may be new to Stevenage, but the fans have every reason to believe they will get used to it over the coming years.
So what do you think? Stevenage fans, how excited are you about the future of the club? How good is Graham Westley? What is needed to push this squad on further? Let us know