Stockport County manager Dave Challinor makes a plea to the National League before winning promotion to end their 11-year stay in non league.
He’s only 46 year old but Dave has a growing list of trophies and honours to his name since launching his managerial career in 2010.
Just a year ago, Challinor guided Hartlepool to a 4th placed finish and a place in the National League playoffs.
In the eliminator, Hartlepool defeated Bromley 3–2, then in the semi-final, they travelled to Stockport where Rhys Oates scored with fifteen minutes left to book Hartlepool’s place in the final.
On the 20th of June 2021, Hartlepool faced Torquay in the playoff final at Ashton Gate Stadium, Luke Armstrong gave Pools the lead in the first half, Torquay keeper Lucas Covolan scored a last minute equaliser to take the match to extra-time. Despite both sides missing their first two penalties, Hartlepool eventually won the shootout 5–4, returning to the Football League for the first time since their relegation in 2017.
On the 24th of September 2021, Challinor signed a new three year contract to remain as manager, however he stepped down on the 1st of November 2021 as Stockport came calling with hopes that he could finally get them back in the EFL.
On the 2nd of November 2021, Challinor was appointed manager of the National League side and was awarded the National League’s Manager of the Month award for January 2022 after six wins from six in all competitions that saw Stockport finish the month top of the league.
Challinor guided his Stockport side to 1st place in the division, and a comfortable victory against Halifax sealed them the title and a place in League Two for the 2022/23 season.
“Of course it is,” Challinor made a plea when talking with The Sportsman ahead of the final game of the season. “But the reality of it is, and I speak honestly, is that if everyone was in the same position and the EFL teams were voting and you were in a league where you could decide to have two relegated or three relegated, you’d vote for two all day.”
“Listen, I think there is absolutely a really good argument. You only have to look at the average attendances in League Two and the National League. I’d suggest that six or seven of the National League clubs are right at the top end, if not above what there is in League Two. I don’t envisage that changing in the short term.”
“This league is brutal,” Challinor went on. “It always has been brutal. Last season with us, with Hartlepool, it is littered with ex-Football League clubs and clubs with massive infrastructures. We know where we are at, the investment here has been big and it has been big based on getting the club out of this league – just as at Wrexham and other clubs.”
“It gets tougher and tougher. There was a point probably where this league has flitted between part-time and full-time – the majority of the teams are now all full-time. At least a huge proportion of them want to get that golden egg and into the Football League for the first time or back to the EFL for a lot. So of course, it is really difficult and challenging.”
Journalist Sam Byrne also spoke about how tough it is to get out: “I suppose it is difficult to say that now as it looks like sour grapes if ourselves or Wrexham start asking for that promotion place but when you look at the quality of the teams at this level, and when you look at when they go up to League Two, they are in and around the play-off places. Hartlepool were in and around the play-off spots before Challinor left to come here, teams have really kicked on – FGR have gone from strength to strength, Lincoln went up from non-league a few years ago.
“All these teams, not only are they thriving in the National League, they are kicking on and progressing even further. To all intents and purposes, it is a League Three at the moment, it is not non-league football. I think the fact that you can have Paul Mullin dropping down to Wrexham Ollie Palmer, Antoni Sarcevic and Paddy Madden here – Harry Arter at Notts County. These players don’t see it as non-league.
“I think that previously there was a feeling that players would fall off the face of the earth if they came to non-league, they’d get forgotten about and never get back. Now they are so confident and comfortable with dropping down because they know either they will get promoted with the club they are at, or there are always clubs looking down into the National League for players.
“I don’t think it will happen, but I think that automatic promotion spot is something that really could do with being brought in to help the likes of Stockport, Wrexham, Halifax, Notts County, Chesterfield, all these former Football League clubs that carry on going from strength to strength.”
Four months ago saw changes seemingly being planned for the National League and EFL, according to general manager Mark Ives on The Magpie Circle Podcast. See what he said on that, talk of more promotion places, transfer spending and more by clicking HERE.
Northern Premier League Division One North play-offs: 2010
Northern Premier League Premier Division play-offs: 2011
Northern Premier League Division One North: 2011–12
Northern Premier League Premier Division play-offs: 2014
National League North: 2016–17
FA Trophy: 2018–19
National League play-offs: 2021
Evo-Stik NPL Manager of the Year: 2011–12
National League Manager of the Month: January 2022
National League North Manager of the Month: September 2014
National League North Manager of the Season: 2016–17
🔵🗣 Dave Challinor’s Stockport County got promoted this weekend, but he keeps flying the National League flag as he calls for more promotion spots…
— The Sportsman (@TheSportsman) May 16, 2022
Twitter users reacted as Stockport manager Dave Challinor makes a plea to the National League after winning promotion…
@Scribblemilk: Perhaps the fiscal rules league clubs are under can be applied in the national league in return so clubs down there don’t overspend.
@OfficialJarvo: They have to overspend to stand any chance of returning to the League. There are so many more bigger clubs in non-league now than ever before. And with only 2 places to go up out of 24 teams, it’s tough
@CallumAtkins94: Should be 3 up 3 down
@GuyWood_: And of course he is right
@malcgill50: If this happened it will kill off many clubs
@OfficialJarvo: Kill off clubs? No it won’t, look how many teams and the size of the teams that are currently in non-league. There is money, followings, TV coverage all that will benefit many teams with a low income. The fact that most teams have bigger fan bases than league 2 says it all.
@GabSutton: As always, this comes back to whether League Two clubs will vote for an extra promotion/relegation spot, which would be turkeys voting for Christmas.
@dharvey4: Not much difference between the National League & League 2 in my experience of watching games. I’m expecting Stockport to be top 7 next season.
@NeilSullivan7: Stockport will be strong next season I reckon they’ll have that 1st season syndrome coming back up! Look at little Sutton last season.
@Sammmlucas: Follow Germans. Have an extra place, but becomes a playoff game between team from league 2 and team from national league.
@tomhwilliams23: And the national league side would win every time. No wonder they never get relegated when they come up and don’t come back once they’re relegated
@matthew_glazier: There did only used to be 1 up 1 down Gab. Also, I can recall Kiddy and Stevenage not being allowed to get promoted because their ground wasn’t up to scratch!
@MyDesireIs_: IMO there’s v.little difference in quality between the bottom half of L2 and the top half of the National. But same for top half of L2 and bottom half of L1, and there’s 4 promotion/relegation places there. Don’t see how that can be justified when only 2 for L2/National.
@alexbarmy: Look at the top of the National League though – it is made up of all ex league clubs with the odd ‘traditional’ non league club added. Since 1987 only Wycombe, Chelt’m, Morecambe, Accrington & Burton have been decent additions. FGR and Salford will establish themselves due to £s only
@TrevGriff57: It’s basically a fifth League now, it takes a few years to bounce back because most Clubs struggle to adjust.I hope the dream of promotion to the football league never diminishes for any club.
@jacobwoods97: Think the only way it will change will be with the slow trickle down of ‘established’ football league teams into the national league, who then realise how hard it is to get back up. Meanwhile league 2 becomes populated with former non league sides that are more likely to vote for
@AntHedges: I think absolutely it should be looked at…but with caution. If an extra place became available at NL level (2 auto, 1 playoff) I think we could see more teams throwing lots of money at an attempt to get promoted – could lead to tragic circumstances for lots of clubs
@Stevenorient: If Wrexham don’t make it, he might pop over there for a season! 😁
@BenDJ91: They need to put greater restrictions on ground requirements. Barrows “facilities” even after an upgrade are a long way short.
@rhyswjenkins1: Even as a supporter of a league 2 club this could impact, I think he’s right. Probably should be 2 automatics and 1 playoff.
@tomhwilliams23: It’s ridiculous, shouldn’t be down to them I’m afraid. The quality in the national league is higher
“I’ve completed this now.
“I’ve lost a play-off final, won a play-off final and now gone up as champions. That’ll do me.”
Dave Challinor is thrilled not to have to endure @TheVanaramaNL play-offs 😆
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 15, 2022