The first half of the year 2013 has been an amazing year for the Seadogs of Scarborough Athletic. They managed to achieve promotion from North East Counties league into the Northern Premier League. Before the FA chose to place them into the First Division South. The Non-league scene caught up with Scarborough Athletic fan Jonathan Wood (a supporter of Scarborough for over 20 years) to discuss about the Seadogs.
First of all I wanted to know how Jonathan felt about the Seadogs gaining promoted from the NECL league: “It feels great! The Northern Counties East League was all good fun, but, with only 1 promotion spot available we were in danger of becoming stuck there, but, Rudy Funk pulled out all the stops and we got promoted, losing only 3 league games, although with 3 teams getting 95 or more points it was certainly a nail biter! The euphoria when we beat Retford (2-0) and Brighouse blew their 3-0 lead at Barton was amazing.”
Scarborough achieved a point’s total of 99 points which put them in the Northern Premier Division (also known as the Evo-stik Northern Premier League) and many people expected the Seadogs to be placed in First Division North. But, on the 17th May the Football Association chose to place Scarborough in the first Division South much to the disgust of the Seadog faithful.
Jonathan’s reaction to this news was: “At first I was extremely upset by it all. The North section has some familiar names that the old Boro played in the not too distant past such as Farsley, Lancaster, Burscough and Ossett Albion. There was also the added incentive of playing the new Darlington club, along with some nice scenic trips across the Pennines to the likes of Padiham and Kendal to look forward to.”
“Without meaning any disrespect, many of the South teams didn’t seem so appealing. But I’ve slowly come round to it, and there will be some interesting new grounds to visit, and the biggest plus is that our manager knows the area really well so he will hopefully know the strengths and weaknesses of many of the teams, as well as being able to sign some decent players from the area. If we are still at this level in a few years we might of course get moved back North, especially if we are playing in Scarborough by then.”
Some experts in the non-league game say that the Northern Premier First Division South is easier then the North section so how does Jonathan think Scarborough get on next season in the South?
“Hopefully we’ll do well. Some of our fans have claimed the South division is “easier” than the North but I’m not really buying that – both divisions will likely be of a similar quality. The fact there are play-offs reduce the pressure to finish top, and that might help us. We’ve kept the majority of the title winning squad, and some recent quality sounding additions have recently been announced so I’m hopeful that as long as the fans continue their excellent backing we should be right up there challenging for a play-off or automatic spot.”
Some of these new signings that Jonathan talks about included North Ferriby United quadruple- Gary Bradshaw, Paul Foot, Chris Bolder and Steve Ridley. All four help guide the Villagers to the Evo-stik Premier Division title. So with their experience and the success last season they can surely lead the Seadogs to a second successive promotion.
Scarborough Athletic were formed in 2007 because the old club Scarborough fc were wound up by the high court. But what were the memories that Jonathan had of the old club?
“Obviously I had really fond memories of the old club. My interest in the club was a bit of a slow-burner, firstly only getting their results from Grandstand and the local paper, then listening on the radio, before attending my first game in 1993, and gradually getting to more and more games until by the turn of the century I was pretty much a regular at home games. During the 00s I also started going to more away games. The highs were obviously the 1998 play-offs and the 2004 cup run, with the numerous relegations and financial problems being the biggest lows.”
The 2004 FA Cup run was a great one for Scarborough fans as it culminated in the visit of Chelsea FC in the 4th round. Which leaves more fond memories for Jonathan.
“It was all quite surreal. I remember walking through the town centre at about 9:30 in the morning, and loads of flags and other merchandise was already being sold. It was a really sunny day, although being January obviously not all that warm really! We got to the ground shortly after 11 probably and it soon filled up for the 12:30 kick off. When Lampard hit the post after a minute I was thinking we’d get battered, but apart from John Terry’s goal we more than held our own and by the end of the game, when we should have been given a penalty, the crowd were singing “We’re Proud of You” and “Premiership? You’re having a laugh”. The disappointing thing was we weren’t able to translate that cup form into league form, and finished a disappointing 15th! Probably partly due to the publicity he got from that cup run, the manager Russell Slade left at the end of that season for bigger things, and has managed the likes of Grimsby and Leyton Orient.”
It is a feat that Jonathan believes could happen again but it will need a change in luck of fortune as since that day the FA Cup gods haven’t smiled on Scarborough that well as he reckons they have won 5 of the next 9 FA cup ties they have played in.
But just three years later and Scarborough were fighting for their lives in the Conference North after being relegated to the Northern Premier League they then loss their manager Mark Patterson before the FA had advise them that club would be able to survive after 12th June. They were given an 8-day stay of execution but on the 20th June at a high Court in Leeds. They were wound up a distressing time as Jonathan recalls: “It was a very traumatic time for all of us, even though we sort of knew it was coming. For me the worst thing about it was that we didn’t know for certain that our last game of that season would turn out to be our last ever game, and so we never really gave the McCain Stadium a proper goodbye. The end came at a Leeds court on a Wednesday morning and even though we expected it, it was still a really numbing experience. Fortunately though, the Seadog Trust had put in place plans to form a new club should the worst happen, and only 5 days later we had the completely different emotions of starting up a brand new fan-owned club from scratch. The last 6 years have certainly had their ups and downs but on balance there have been far more ups so it has all been worth it!”
Scarborough Athletic were formed five days later and were forced to play at Bridlington Town’s QueensGate ground and the old McCain Stadium was knocked down in 2011 which was a sad sight for Scarborough fans to see.
“It was very sad, especially as you have to drive past that site en route to every away (and for that matter home!) Game but the consolation is you also drive past the site of the proposed new ground, and whilst that is still in the pipeline there is still the big hope for what the club really needs which is to be back playing in its home town.”
Scarborough is hoping to get back into playing in the town just around the corner from the McCain Stadium site. A coach park called Weaponness, which the council is hopefully going to turn into a Sports Village with not only a football Stadium. But, Tennis courts, Sports Centre and maybe a swimming pool. Which Jonathan expects it may be open midway through the 2014-2015 season. But we would have to wait and see.
Scarborough Athletic are a club striving to achieve things but where can we see the club in five years time? This is Jonathan’s prediction: “Very hard to say obviously but I would like to think we will be playing in Scarborough in the Weaponness Facility in the Conference North. I certainly hope so anyway.”