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Glasgow Rangers: This is How It Feels When Your Club Goes Bust

by Neil Grayson
5 March 2012 33 Comments

Don't ever take your team for granted because one day it might just disappear altogether. As Rangers enter administration, one Scarborough fan reveals how he felt when his side simply ceased to exist.

I was eight in 1987. We lived in Scarborough, and my Dad took me to see the local football team for the first time in March. I remember struggling to push through the rusty old turnstile at the same time as my old man, a trick that a lot of guys used at football grounds in the eighties to get their kids in for free.  There can’t have been more than two thousand people at that match against Weymouth, but I was four feet high and it felt like a lot more.  I had to sit on a ledge at the back of the stand to see the game because I wasn’t tall enough to lean on the posts that lined the terraces. It was next to the battered shed where they served drinks and dodgy pies from the local Westler factory.

I’d listen to the older guys in Scarborough Building Society sponsored replica shirts as they queued up for dishwater tea and imitation Bovril that would always burn your tongue – a sensation that to this day still reminds me of my earliest football games. From them, I learned about the team. Craig Short, who  went on to play for Everton, was big but too slow. Our cockney ‘keeper, Kevin Blackwell – later manager of Sheffield United – was the best they’d seen at this level but was never the same after he broke his leg. And right back Cyril “Ces” Pod – the first black person I had ever seen in the flesh – was our international star, having turned out for Saint Kitts and Nevis. When opposing fans visited, they made monkey noises at him. It was something  which I heard at Scarborough from fans of all teams well into the 90s.

At the time, I didn’t realise that even if every person in Scarborough had turned up to the Athletic Ground (we didn’t have the infamous ground sponsorship from McCain yet) we still wouldn’t get near to the average Old Trafford attendance. Scarborough is a two hour drive from a motorway. Players couldn’t be attracted to sign for a club literally at the end of the road.  And away fans couldn’t be bothered with the trip down the A64 to see their teams either. There was an obvious glass ceiling of achievement at the club. But in 1987, we were  on the up. Neil Warnock – a chiropodist in the town – had guided us to the top of the GM Vauxhall Conference. And a few weeks after my first game we became the first ever part-time club to be automatically promoted to the football league and turn professional. The Sun ran three pages on the team of firemen, foot doctors and McCain’s factory workers that were soon to be playing Wolverhampton Wanderers, Bolton and Wigan Athletic in the old Division Four.

I was at the first league game we ever played, when Wolves fans tore the ground to shreds.  One visiting supporter fell through the roof of a stand and was crippled for life. The away end shed was set on fire. The PA man began crying as he begged people to stop. We drew 2-2, although that wasn’t the reason the team was on the television news that day. And it was to be the last time the rest of the country really paid any attention to Scarborough FC until the winter of 2004.

The club reached a play-off or two and were infamous for a day when our shirts became sponsored by Black Death Vodka

I carried on following the team through secondary school and into college. I’d wear the shirt in the gym and it was always a neat way to make new friends. People were genuinely interested in talking to me  about a team that was not on Sky Sports or the back of the Sun every day.  By wearing the shirt I discovered closet Maidstone, Whitby and Crawley Town fans – all of whom are mates to this day. Meantime, the club reached a play-off or two and were infamous for a day when our shirts became sponsored by Black Death Vodka, but they remained rooted in the bottom division. The club’s debt from “big” spending in the early 90s – trying to keep up with much larger teams in the division, sleeping giants like Fulham – was starting to bite.  The town wasn’t big, or interested, enough. Crowds rarely spilled over the 1800 mark. The club spiralled into debt.

In 1999, I was at Nottingham University in my halls of residence bedroom when I learned we’d been relegated back into the non-league. A goal scored deep into injury time by Carlisle United’s goalkeeper saved them and sunk us. Much was made about whether or not Jimmy Glass should even have been on the pitch to score that goal for the Cumbrians,  but Scarborough hadn’t been good enough for many years.

In 2004, we played Chelsea in the fourth round of the FA Cup. I travelled from London, where I had been working as a radio DJ, to stand in the same spot I had against Weymouth in 1987. And just like when I was eight years old, I couldn’t see. But this time it was because we had a genuinely large crowd, there to see Lampard and Terry play against a Scarborough team that was part-time for the first time in 12 years. The Sun was interested again, sponsoring the team’s shirts for the game. And the money the club received from Sky for the television rights was supposedly enough to secure the team for years to come.

It didn’t.

Administration – and points deduction – followed. Scarborough were relegated again in 2006, and wound up in the summer of 2007.

I felt widowed.

When I was eight, Scarborough really were my Manchester United, my everything. Some of the other boys at school followed the major clubs, but it never occurred to me to do so. I remember looking at the league tables in 1987 and thinking, cutely, that in just a few promotion’s time we would be playing Leeds or Chelsea. Except now we never would. We were gone. And to start supporting another team felt like cheating or a betrayal, which my London friends found baffling. They were the proverbial prawn sandwich brigade; a new breed of casual middle-class football fans that chose their team according to how successful it was or who played for them. And now, they chortled, I could do the same.

Scarborough were relegated again in 2006, and wound up in the summer of 2007. I felt widowed.

But I had other ideas. I decided to become the neutral that Dad and I had talked about so often as we walked back to the car after games. What a great game it always is for the neutral!

Except it isn’t. Neutrals miss out on a lot. You are never truly pissed off with the referee or angry at a vicious tackle and you don’t make new friends in the gym because of the shirt you’re wearing.  You don’t nervously stand in the living room in front of the Sky Sports News ticker on a Saturday afternoon waiting for your team’s league to flash up (which, of course, it never does for long enough). The tribal passion which truly makes football the obsession of so many men’s lives is absolutely extinguished if you do not follow a team – no matter how lowly or obscure.

So in the end, I plumped for Barnet.

The nearest ground to me at the time was actually the Emirates. But watching matches there felt wrong, like I was watching a Hollywood interpretation of soccer. And ultimately, it didn’t really matter if Arsenal won or lost. They would always be alright, Champions League place or no. So I got onto the Tube one Saturday afternoon and went as far as the Northern Line will let you go.

You can see Underhill as soon as you come out of the station. It has a cowshed and seats behind the goal that aren’t covered. You will burn your tongue on the Bovril. You can’t hear the announcements on the PA properly. And when the away fans begin to sing, you know which part of the country the team has come from because you can hear the regional accent in the “O”s and “A”s.

It is like 1987 for me again. And I love it.

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Keith Wildman 8:50 am, 23-Oct-2010

Great piece. I was Within hours of a similar situation a few years back with city. We were saved from the brink at the last minute, but in the days before I was left wondering who I'd go along to. Guiseley, Avenue... As I type I'm sat on a train heading to Burton away and despite out lowly league position, still glad I get to see my hometown team every week. By the way, I'm pretty sure tat Wolves fan walked away from that fairly unscathed.

sea dog update 10:58 am, 23-Oct-2010

Scarborough Athletic are the Phoenix team that have risen from the ashes, they are a great club & they deserve your support, owned by the fans as well

Neil Grayson 11:13 am, 23-Oct-2010

Thanks for the kind words Keith. Fan and school folklore was he "never walked again" but perhaps I am naively taking that as gospel. Apologies for that. I remember seeing him come through the stand clear as day - he got a kicking from Boro fans at the bottom too. The footage pops up on "Most Extreme" type shows on Bravo from time to time. Best of luck with Burton - a team we truly had some great battles with!

Ed Nell 11:50 am, 23-Oct-2010

I have to confess I am a neutral when it comes to football, I love watching good games. It's really interesting to read about what it means to support a team that isn't in one of the top divisions.... I now feel I've been missing out

Tony Ashton 12:12 pm, 23-Oct-2010

Nice memories! reminds me of my days as a kid watching PNE, eating luke warm pies, sipping bovril and my feet freezing! More please.....

Jeff Price 6:24 pm, 23-Oct-2010

Fantastic read. I come from Portsmouth...enough said.. When I was growing up and trying my hardest to support Pompey they were really tough to support, one season they would start great and theen 3 games in they would just fall apart. The next season they would start as they finished the last.naff..and then they would pull something out of the bag and the last few games were fantastic.. Then again my first visit to Fratton Park, Pompey were playing Millwall. I remember seeing a brick go through some guy's car window.Didn't see me for dust.. Then as I began to work in all kinds of exotic places around the world the pull back to Fratton Park has been ever greater.. Play Up Pompey... go on ... at least once..Please!

Dave Robinson 7:41 pm, 23-Oct-2010

I went to Pompey from 1955 until the start of last season. When I saw the mad exodus of players and manager when the money ran out I couldn't bring myself to watch them again Footballers at the top level are just a bunch of mercanaries

Keith Wildman 8:07 pm, 23-Oct-2010

Lost 3 fuckIng nil! Still. Trains stopping in Leeds. Few characters on. Should be fun. Great day apart from the football.

Jonesy 11:21 am, 24-Oct-2010

All power to Pheonix clubs owned by fans. This from one of the 4 credited with kickstarting AFC Wimbledon. At least bust clubs don't get to watch a rapist club parading about in their league position with a buffalo bill wearing their league status like a skin dress. Minutes from an FA Cup draw that could line up the biggest needle game on earth...

James Hull 12:32 pm, 25-Oct-2010

The first football match I ever attended was Scarborough vs Blackpool in (I think) 1992; Trevor Sinclair was playing for the visitors. I've got a scarf and shirt from the Geoff Richmond era too. Remember the League Cup run of 1992-93, hammering Bradford and beating Coventry only to be put out 1-0 by Arsenal (the eventual winners)? Can't believe they made it to the play offs in 98, I remember taking my mates up to watch the semi vs Torquay and them being comprehensively beaten. Very sad to see them go, my local side Farsley Celtic have gone a similar way after making it to the Conference a couple of years ago.

Neil Grayson 11:45 pm, 25-Oct-2010

James: Ah yes, the Richmond era eh? Highs and lows or what! The resignation of Warnock when they fell out; our record club siginng (Martin Russell, forget from where, for 125k); and his parting shot when he dumped us to take over at Bradford City. I paraphrase, but he said that ultimately we'd always be a shit club and he wanted to progress. If nothing else, Richmond was one of Boro's most colourful characters of all time (take from the word "colourful" what you will.) Thannks for reminding me of the 92/3 cup run - an oft forgotten achievement. Wasn't that Arsenal match at Scarborough played pretty much in thick fog?

James Hull 10:15 am, 26-Oct-2010

Neil: Yes, it was about 2 days before Christmas, previously postponed from earlier in the month when Arsenal were going through a dodgy patch and were vulnerable to being turned over. By the time the game came around they had got their form back. Lucky Arsenal...

Footifan 4:55 pm, 27-Oct-2010

As a Darlo fan I had a few trips to the Seasiders always enjoyed the games & the fish & chips. At Darlo of course have had our share of downs & downs with the odd highlight thrown in.I am Darlington born so therefore I HAVE to support them ...I have often dreamed of being born in the likes of Manchester, Liverpool or even London but alas not, I have the life sentence of following MY team thru thin & thinner. I live in Texas now, but can not stop myself from listening to the live action on the internet every game. They may be dire but it could have been worse...I could have been born in Hartlepool !!!

Chris Rose 6:10 pm, 27-Oct-2010

Solid piece. The same fate nearly fell to Derby County in 1983/1984 season. Many trips to the high court to stop the club getting shut down. It's been even said that a heavy chain and padlock was bought for the gates of the Baseball Ground. But Maxwell turned up and saved us! Loved the bit about the prawn sandwich brigade, middle class "choose" a team, working class are usually informed at birth.

Footifan 6:41 pm, 27-Oct-2010

Its not a class thing its ... loyalty & pride & a little bit of stupidity thrown in. I could never bring myself to support another team.

Alleztfc 12:49 pm, 28-Oct-2010

Interesting comments footifan, because if you HAD been born in Hartlepool, you would still have a League team to follow. Toot Toot y'all!

Footifan 3:15 pm, 28-Oct-2010

Allez please do not bring this down to your usual infantile ranting.My original comment very much still applies.

Jamesy 3:29 pm, 29-Oct-2010

I had the pleasure of attending the Cardiff v Scarborough game in 1997/98 (April 98 I think) and remember the journey up being an absolute nightmare. Left Cardiff at midnight on a coach full of drunken lunatics, arrived in Scarborough at 9am and played footy on the beach until the pubs opened. Happy days.

Mike 11:25 pm, 3-Nov-2010

A great read that true football fans of any age will be able to relate to. A few years ago it seemed as through Leicester City (the team I love and support through thick and thin, good times and bad times - plenty of them recently) looked as though they could be going out of business. I'll always remember how it felt hearing that it could be the end of the club I love and have supported since I can remember - fortunately, we were saved (I still remember the Birch announcing to the fans at the Walkers (not a patch on Filbert St) that we'd been saved.) Whoever you support it's sad when a football team goes out of business!

Yamile Mendez 11:49 pm, 9-Nov-2010

I felt your pain while reading this great post. You're usually born of a team. My team, Rosario Central from Argentina, was relegated this year. We're fighting hard to return to first division. I live thousands of miles from home, but every Saturday, I wish I could be in my city just for the match to cheer the team of my heart. I chant the songs with the fans, I swing my flags, I curse the ref, all from my home while I listen online and hold my breath for the team to hold on to a victory or most times a tie. My husband often says, "Choose another team. Why suffer so much." He doesn't understand. I never chose Central, I was born a Scoundrel and I'll be one until the end of times.

Kirsty 10:20 pm, 18-Nov-2010

Great read, even from a non football fan, fantastic writing, you have a real gift! 1987 was a great year, Rick Astley, Garfield, Michael J Fox, the lot : )

Jack 10:39 am, 8-Dec-2010

Great read, my team (hibs) were on the verge of going out of business a wee while back, can't think how it would have been. Living away from scotland has been awful for not watching the game, tried loads of clubs in london but none come close.

Jasper Kyte 12:08 pm, 8-Dec-2010

Jack if your looking for a match for scottish football down south , do they not have pub leagues you could go and watch? I know they have ladies football so maybe they will reach that level some day.

Dan 4:52 pm, 8-Dec-2010

Every time a club goes out of business, it saddens me. When we came perilously close (we being Bradford City) it turns out that we were saved by players- mainly Ashley Ward and David Wetherall writing off wages, i guess we were lucky Ward had a wife who is a multi-millionairess(a house designer who designed Rooneys house) and that Wetherall had been very well paid at Leeds United, for quite a number of years. I don't know if i could support another club. I have a Scottish team(Stranraer)but the chances of a Bradford City Stranraer match are slim(although i hope it might be the Champions League final one day lol) People who are not football fans do not appreciate the said "tribal passion" Simply because they have never had it, and i personally think that the people who take pleasure in a team going bust are not proper football fans-Dare i say the sadness i feel would still exist even if it were Huddersfield or Leeds.

Neil Grayson 1:06 pm, 9-Dec-2010

Some wonderful comments here from all over the world - I've enjoyed reading them all. Thanks guys. Dan - Geoffrey Richmond, of course, left Scarborough to go to run Bradford City. I remember my Dad shouting at the local TV news that night as Richmond said Scarborouh were a "very small club with no potential". He could never have gone quietly! Scarborough also nearly went bust in the early 90s and then it became a recurring story that we were "about to be wound down" from about 1999 onwards. Nothing prepares you for it actually happening though. Nowt. And I too would not wish it on any other team.

r sole 1:08 am, 9-Jan-2011

you guys are fucking boring!!

Massimo Osti's Secret Son 9:40 pm, 4-Mar-2011

piss off if you don't like it then....

GZod 11:20 pm, 4-Mar-2011

I'm a Stockport County fan, look where we are, there's always someone worse off than yourselves. We are leaving the football league, we've won four home games in two years, we get tonked every week, three years ago we won the Play Off final, four years ago we created a football league record winning 9 in a row without conceding, only Manchester United have matched it, we've played at Wembley five times, we were a division above Manchester city in 1998-9. We were two wins away from Europe in 1996-7 in the league cup Semi Final, we finished just 8 places away from the Premiership the following season. I never though this would happen, we were great once. Thanks to sheer ineptitude from the current deluded ownership having to run us like Jossy's fucking Giants on a shoestring, and of course mulit, multi millionare 'I'm a football fan' Brian Kennedy and his wanky Sale Sharks outfit from out of town who've torn our heart out and stolen our stadium it's happening this season. We don't make any money, we have to pay rent in what was our own ground of 100 years, we have no assets, our legacy is all over the league with decent players we discovered and made. I doubt we'll bounce back.

Keith from helsby 2:58 am, 5-Mar-2011

Nobody's mentioned the newly reformed Chester FC So I will

kev hennessy 11:11 pm, 18-Mar-2011

Spent a memorable evening in Scarborough in 89, Chelsea's first season back in the top flight and an evening by the seaside was enough to tempt me onto the supporters coach at Newport Pagnell services. A good drink in the Royal Rangers club, is it still there? then off to the match, 2-0 up 20 minutes left and strolling....we lost 3-2. And my good mate Alex Marshall moved back up there about 10 years ago from MK, we've lost touch so if you know him tell him I said hello.

Geoff Capes 1:45 pm, 23-Mar-2011

Great read. I'm a Barrow fan and we were lucky not to completely go under over 10 years ago. Saw some pics of your ground now derelict and it saddened me. Hope the new club makes its way up the non league ladder.

Syncr0 10:37 pm, 28-Apr-2011

1973. FA Challenge Trophy final. Scarborough 2 Wigan Athletic 1. The trophy was the FA cup for non league teams with the final at Wembley. As a 13 year old pie eater, I cried. The joys of league football, nearly going bust. The trips to places like PNE, Bradford, Huddersfield etc. Pissing in world war 1 facilities in 4th division grounds around the country Priceless. The Premier league, boring.

jon sneddon 6:26 pm, 6-Mar-2012

as a plymouth argyle fan i know how you rangers fans feel all about administration and the constraints that the administraitors put upon the club , it is hard watching your club go down that road even though we are out of administration know its not a nice thing esp to watch all your favorite players go under the redundancies package,yes i do agree that the people that were in charge before are to blame ., but the blame is always shoved to one side to make it all go away bring these people back to the table to answer the most important questions wheres all the money gone good luck rangers your gonna need it

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