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THE 2017/18 season sees Burton Albion competing in the Sky Bet Championship for the second season after back-to-back promotions.
The Brewers were promoted on the final day of the 2015/2016 season with Nigel Clough’s team earning a draw at Doncaster to secure second spot behind Wigan (see picture).
The previous season, under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the Brewers had been promoted to League One after being crowned League Two champions.
It has been a meteoric rise for the club, which only entered the Football League after being crowned Football Conference champions in 2008-09.
After a first season that saw the Brewers comfortably consolidate their new found status with a thirteenth place finish, the second term in the Football League was a more difficult campaign given that the club had to play over half of their league matches in the final three months of the season after numerous postponements left them with up to eight games in hand on their rivals.
From a comfortable position just five points off the play-offs in December their inactivity meant that at the start of February a relegation battle ensued with a six game unbeaten run at the end of the season eventually confirming League status for a third season with a game to spare. The backlog of games was also affected by the club’s best ever FA Cup run. Championship side Middlesbrough were beaten in the third round but the club’s first ever appearance in the fourth round ended in a 3-1 defeat to another Championship side, Burnley.
The club’s rise through the Conference and into the Football League coincided with the move from previous ground Eton Park to their current home, the Pirelli Stadium, built just a stone’s throw from their former home on the site of the Italian tyre giant’s Sports and Social Club.
Although the ground opened for business in July 2005 with a low key pre-season friendly against Chester City the ground was officially opened in November 2005 by Manchester United BuBwho ironically returned to the Pirelli two months later in the FA Cup third round with Albion holding the Premiership giants to a 0-0 draw in front of a then record ground attendance of 6,191 before losing in a replay at Old Trafford.
From there the Brewers kicked on and from being strugglers in the Conference the club moved forwards over the next three years narrowly missing out on the play-offs followed by an unlucky play-off semi-final defeat to Cambridge United and culminating with the winning of the Championship. The Brewers racked up an impressive run of twelve straight wins mid-season to streak ahead of the pack but when former manager Nigel Clough left for Derby County in January 2009 with the club in great form it seemed the title was a formality but as nerves crept in Albion’s lead was whittled away and the title went to the final day when despite Albion’s 2-1 defeat at Torquay United, Cambridge United’s failure to beat Altrincham handed the Blue Square Premier title to the Brewers.
The Pirelli Stadium has hosted an England ‘C’ international and a UEFA under 19’s international along with several UEFA under 17’s matches featuring England, Italy, Sweden and Malta. An England Women’s U-19s international between England and Scotland also registered the highest ever crowd for a fixture at that level. The ground also hosted the Blue Square North play-off final for three years between 2006 and 2008 and is the regular host of the Independent School’s Football Association junior finals each March.
Ahead of the 2009/10 season the club was granted permission to increase capacity at the Pirelli Stadium to 6,912.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The formation of Burton Albion Football Club at a public meeting on 6th July 1950 brought senior football back to the town of Burton-Upon-Trent after a ten year absence. In the pre-war years Burton could proudly lay claim to three Football League sides in Burton Wanderers, Burton Swifts and Burton United. When Burton Town ceased to exist it left a void to be filled and the Brewers aimed to fill that gap.
Making use of the Wellington Street ground owned by Lloyds Foundry the club began life in the Birmingham League making their bow on 19th August 1950 against Gloucester City in front of more than 5,000 supporters, barely a month after being formed.
The Brewers spent eight years in the Birmingham League and apart from the first and last season’s in that division top half finishes were secured each year. Early cup success came to the club with the Birmingham Senior Cup the first silverware in the trophy cabinet in 1954 and the Staffordshire equivalent added in 1956. That same season saw the club hit the national sporting headlines for the first time when they reached the third round of the FA Cup only to lose 7-0 to the then mighty Charlton Athletic at The Valley.
In 1958 the Brewers took the next stage in their development with the switch to the Southern League and also a move from Wellington Street to Eton Park on the opposite side of the town. The club struggled in the Southern League finishing bottom in their first season and generally struggling in the lower reaches of the league. Cup success continued for the club as they became the first side from outside of the Premier Division to win the Southern League Cup when they beat the then mighty Weymouth 5-2 on aggregate in 1964. The manager at that time was Peter Taylor (the club’s eighth manager) who went on to enjoy a very successful partnership with a certain Brian Clough at both Derby County and later Nottingham Forest.
The Brewers won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division on three occasions but also suffered relegation from the top division the same number of times as the club sought stability in the upper echelons of non-league football. The Brewers were agonisingly close to a Wembley appearance when they suffered semi-final heartbreak in the FA Trophy to Matlock Town in 1975. The club also enjoyed the skills of former Nottingham Forest and Manchester United winger Ian Storey-Moore in the mid 1970’s and he was persuaded to return in 1978 as player-manager overseeing the Brewers move to the Northern Premier League in 1979 as the non-league world underwent significant change with the advent of the Alliance Premier League (now the Football Conference).
Moore was succeeded in 1981 by another player-manager, ex-Brewers player Neil Warnock, who after cutting his managerial teeth with Gainsborough Trinity proved another shrewd appointment by chairman Ben Robinson during his first period at the helm of the club. Although not managing to win an elusive league championship Warnock did bring silverware to Eton Park in the shape of the Northern Premier League Challenge Cup beating Macclesfield Town in the final at Maine Road, Manchester in April 1983.
Under the management of the outspoken Warnock Albion again hit the national headlines in 1985 when they lost in the third round of the F.A.Cup to Leicester City at Derby County’s Baseball Ground. A 6-1 defeat (including a hat-trick for Gary Lineker) was due in part to the fact that Albion goalkeeper, Paul Evans, was hit by a missile thrown from the crowd. After huge national publicity and a Football Association review the game was replayed behind closed doors at Highfield Road, Coventry with Albion losing by a far more respectable 1-0 scoreline.
Warnock was eventually succeeded by his assistant Brian Fidler and under the former Macclesfield man the Brewers eventually reached Wembley in the F.A.Trophy Final in 1987. A goalless draw with Conference side Kidderminster Harriers was followed by a replay at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich where 15,685 saw Albion go down 2-1 with midfielder Paul Bancroft missing a late penalty and the Brewers having a Paul Groves header somewhat harshly ruled out.
After eight years in the Northern Premier League the Brewers reverted back to the Southern League as part of a geographical balancing exercise. Initial high expectations were soon dampened as the club struggled to adapt costing Fidler his job. Managers came and went but none could deliver the long awaited first league championship the club craved. Former Everton and Derby defender John Barton delivered a cup double (Southern League Cup and Birmingham Senior Cup) in 1997 but he left the club in September 1998 after a disappointing start to the campaign to be replaced the following month by the most famous manager in the club’s history.
The town of Burton stood up and took notice when Ben Robinson, now in his second spell as chairman, appointed Nigel Clough, son of the legendary Derby County and Nottingham Forest manager to the managerial hot seat in October 1998. Clough brought in former Forest team mate Gary Crosby as his assistant and between them they set about realising the untapped potential of the club. After struggling in the remainder of the 1998-99 season there followed a period of continual improvement that saw the club finish as runners-up in the Southern League Premier Division in successive seasons, just missing out on promotion to the Conference.
Another geographical alignment of the feeder leagues saw Albion return to the Northern Premier (UniBond) League in 2001 but this time it was only a one season stay as Clough’s team swept all before them winning the first league championship in the clubs 52 year history in style. A league record number of points were gained, over 100 goals scored and just 30 conceded as Albion at last achieved their goal of Conference football. There was even time for another run to the F.A.Trophy semi-finals where eventual winners Yeovil Town crushed dreams of an incredible double.
The first three years in the Conference were all played at Eton Park and saw the club finish in the bottom half in each campaign as it became clear that the only way for the club to progress was to move away from their home of more than 45 years.
Once the move to the Pirelli Stadium became a reality the club’s ability to generate significant off field revenues through the excellent banqueting and conferencing facilities enabled Clough to have the backing to put together the side that ultimately achieved Football League status. When caretaker-manager Roy McFarland opted not to apply for the full time role it was turn of former Birmingham City and Derby County striker Paul Peschisolido to benefit from the chairman’s desire to give ambitious young manager’s a chance to succeed. The former Canadian international brought in another ex-Blues and Rams man, Gary Rowett as his assistant.
Peschisolido was sacked as manager in March 2012 following a poor run of results, and Rowett was promoted from within to lead the club to Football League safety.
Rowett's first full season brought the club's highest ever league finish of 4th in League Two, qualifying for the League Two play-offs against Bradford City.
The Brewers won the first leg at Valley Parade 3-2, but the Bantams fought back in the second leg to progress to Wembley and break Albion hearts.
The Brewers bounced back however, and once againr eached the play-offs in 2013/14. A narrow first leg win at home to Southend set up a finely poised second leg at Roots Hall, where Marcus Holness and Adam McGurk sent the Brewers to Wembley with a 3-2 aggregate win.
Over 8,000 Albion fans made the trip to Wembley to see the Brewers make their first appearance there in 27 years. A tight game against Fleetwood Town looked to go either way until Antoni Sarcevic scored with 18 minutes left to consign the Albion to a second successive year of play-off disappointment.
After that came the celebrated back-to-back promotions with the League Two title being followed a year later with runners-up spot in League One. Promotion to the Championship was celebrated at Doncaster Rovers after a final day 0-0 draw and then with an open top bus tour around the town.
Runners up League One 2015/2016 (promoted to Championship)
League Two Champions 2014/2015
Football Conference (Blue Square Premier) champions: 2008/2009
Northern Premier (UniBond) League champions: 2001/2002
Northern Premier League Championship Shield: 1983
Southern League Championship Shield: 2000
Southern League Premier Division runners-up: 1999/2000, 2000/2001
Southern League Cup Winners: 1963/64 (v. Weymouth), 1996/97 (v. Sudbury Town), 1999/2000 (v. Hastings Town).
Northern Premier League Challenge Cup Winners - 1982/83 (v. Macclesfield Town)
Birmingham Senior Cup Winners: 1953/54 (v. Brierley Hill), 1996/97 (v. Tamworth)
Runners-up: 1969/70, 1970/71, 1986/87, 2007/08
Staffordshire Senior Cup Winners: 1955/56 (v. Tamworth)
Northern Premier League President’s Cup runners-up: 1982/83, 1985/86
F.A.Trophy runners-up: 1986/87
Semi-Finalists: 1974/75, 2001/02, 2004/05
Midland Floodlit Cup Winners: 1975/76 (v. Alfreton Town)
Bass Charity Vase winners: 11 times, latest win - 2011
F.A.Cup best performances: 4th round 2010/11 v. Burnley
3rd Round proper 1955/56 v. Charlton Athletic, 1984/85 v. Leicester City, 2005/06 v. Manchester United.
Players capped at Semi-Professional level Aaron Webster, Darren Stride, Dale Anderson, Dougie Newton, Stewart Mell, Gary Clayton, Jon Shaw, Shaun Harrad, John Brayford.
Previous Managers include: Peter Taylor (Derby County & Nottingham Forest), Richie Norman (Derby County), Ian Storey-Moore (Nottingham Forest, Manchester United & England), Neil Warnock (Scarborough, Notts County, Huddersfield Town, Bury, Plymouth Argyle, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, QPR), Nigel Clough (Derby County)
Players progressing to Football League: Richie Barker (Derby County), Ian Hutchinson (Chelsea), Steve Buckley (Luton Town), Peter Ward (Brighton & Hove Albion), Paul Haycock (Rotherham United), Richard Jobson (Watford), Gary Clayton (Cambridge United), Paul Groves (Leicester City), John Gayle & Steve Cotterill (Wimbledon), Darren Carr (Crystal Palace), Darren Roberts (Wolves), Matt Duke (Hull City), Daniel Crane (Rushden & Diamonds). John Brayford (Crewe Alexandra)
Biggest victory: 12-1 v. Coalville Town, Birmingham Senior Cup, 06/09/54.
Heaviest defeat: 0-10 v. Barnet, Southern League Premier Division 07/02/70.