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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A seaside sojourn and a seadogs revival?

The date was 29th March 1988. It was the North Riding Senior Cup semi-final - Scarborough against Guisborough - and along with my Father and some family friends, we took our place in the stand at the McCain Stadium. There is a programme from the game on eBay and Northern League fans of the 80s may remember names such as Mark Lawrence and Trevor Smith, who had graced the professional game before plying their trade in the Northern League. Lining up for the opposition was the teenage Christian Short, who went on to play for Sheffield United. Short’s brother – Craig – was also on Scarborough’s books at the times before a successful playing career at Everton and Blackburn.

I remember virtually nothing about the game that day, other than the comfortable margin of victory for Scarborough and the fact that the game felt like a professional football encounter; proper stands, genuine cheers when a goalscorer was announced over the tannoy and substitutes for Scarborough that looked and acted like professionals as they warmed up.

Nobody could have predicted what would have happened to Scarborough over the two subsequent decades. After a high profile FA Cup tie at home against Chelsea in 2004 (which they lost narrowly 1-0), a spiral of decline resulted in the club being wound up in the High Court. Scarborough’s motto – No battle, no victory – was semi-appropriate for this semi-professional side. A battle ensued, but the club did not emerge victorious. The McCain stadium then proceeded to lie dormant for several years. But the ground was not so much sleeping as rotting. Finally the ground was laid to rest in September 2011 as the council cleared the site. The images of the ground in its final hours – the grass untamed and the stands looking worn and haggard – must have been hard to take for the seasoned supporters of one of England’s oldest clubs.

After any trauma, there is often a collective will to begin again. The club effectively splintered in two directions. Scarborough Athletic formed and found a place in the Northern Counties East League, their games being played at the home of Bridlington Town. Scarborough Town initially played in the Teesside League and have rapidly progressed into the Wearside League.
Twenty-three years on from our semi-final encounter, the two sides met again on Tuesday in a North Riding clash, played at Bridlington. There is clearly a continued thirst for football in Scarborough. Crowds often number over 400 (and all of the home fans are travelling fans as they have to make their way seventeen miles to a neighbouring town) and the side are making headway on the pitch, handily placed this season in third position with games in hand over the teams above them. By all accounts, Scarborough Athletic took a relaxed approach to the game on Tuesday and handed opportunities to fringe players. But whereas twenty years ago they could take these liberties and still overcome a Northern League side, these days it is different. Guisborough were the comfortable victors 5-1 and now go into the last eight in a competition where they look to defend their title.

It remains to be seen how life will pan out for Scarborough Athletic. There are questions unanswered, such as when will they secure a Scarborough based ground? and how far through the pyramid can they once again penetrate?

With a population of 50,000 and having secured the tag of Most enterprising town in Britain in 2008, you have to think it is possible. Let’s hope the seadogs bite back.

3 comments:

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  2. Nice post, we are hoping the sports village will be built within the next couple of years, not far from the old ground which served the club well for many years.

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  3. Many thanks Kev.C - hope things work out for you. Scarborough deserve a decent football team.

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