Worksop Town fans watch the action at Sandy Lane. Photo credit: Worksop Town FC

It is becoming a familiar sight that football supporters read about clubs facing a fight for their survival, but for fans of the fourth oldest football club in the world, Worksop Town, that story has become all too real.

A mixture of “miss-management”, “naivety” and “complacency” has left the Nottinghamshire club in need of £30,000 by the end of February to help pay off outstanding debts, but the club and the wider footballing community are doing everything in their power to avoid losing another piece of English footballing history.

“Every year clubs go down the same path, take Bury as an example,” states Keith Ilett, 70, the life president of Worksop Town FC. “These people just leave clubs and the fans have to clean everything up after them.”

The people that Keith refers to are the ‘money men’ of football. The ones who aren’t equipped to run a football club and only look at it as a business, rather than so much more. With the influx of money into the beautiful game, these characters are becoming more and more visible and it is the club, the players and the fans who have to suffer in their wake.

Fans such as Adie Richards, 66, semi-retired, have found that they are taking responsibility onto themselves to help the club financially: “I’m also a fan of Northampton Town, (where I was born) so seem to have a thing about clubs with money problems! It’s not easy but, they both are my teams & will do all I can to support them financially. I can’t attend many games but since we moved from Worksop to Cumbria, in 2013, I have always bought a season ticket and have then given that to a supporter who could use it.

“I said many years ago, it’s easy to support a club doing well, adversity shows who the real, true fans are.”

Should the £30,000 be successfully raised, a new dawn for the club will begin under the ownership of Peter Whitehead, who owns the lease for their ground, Sandy Lane.

The Sandy Lane pitch. Photo credit: Worksop Town FC

“I’d feel a lot more comfortable in the long run if Pete takes over,” Keith says. “He’s not only a business man, but a football one too. Clubs have money people and separate football people. Pete is both and that is a luxury that we have, especially in the position that we are in.”

What people don’t realise is how powerful the footballing community can be, and thanks to fans like Adie, the fight for the Tigers’ survival is well underway.

“The campaign is going very well so far. The overwhelming support to the campaign has meant my phone has been constantly buzzing for the last three days or so – which is a good thing,” says Devon Cash, 19, Media Manager at Worksop Town. “I believe the start of campaigns are always like this, it’s just how we maintain this going forward, as well as making sure the interest remains.”

That interest is constantly being reignited by the celebrities of sport and their messages of support on social media have spurred fans from all around the world to donate.

Devon adds: “It is amazing that big football influencers have took time out of their schedule to help the club. Their reach in social media have meant that we can find a bigger audience to help save this club. I, for one, must thank FootyAccumulators who have made a massive push for us with getting Peter Crouch and Alan McInally involved and donating. Jeff Stelling’s initial tweet did so much for us, he has also donated. Other high-profile people like Lee Westwood and Smiv have also helped out.”

If you start underestimating the power that this has on the fight for the club’s existence, an anonymous pledge of £1000 came in on Wednesday morning with the simple message attached to it stating: “Let’s get this ramped up!” Those high-profile appeals and pledges lead the charge towards safety, and it is Devon’s job to make sure that the campaigning carries on throughout the month.

“I have been directly involved with it quite heavily with the campaign and putting it onto social media and really trying to push everything as much as possible. I’ve also tried to push it on my personal social media.”

The campaigning doesn’t just stop on social media, as radio and podcasting have added to the Tigers’ efforts, with Alex Shiells, 25, Club Chaplain for Worksop Town, leading the charge: “I’m a long-time follower and Worksop ambassador for That Peter Crouch, so to have Peter Crouch involved is a particular point of pride of mine!”

The title of the world’s fourth oldest club doesn’t come lightly for Worksop, who have had to deal with their fair share of problems throughout their history:

  • The club was founded in 1861 but the first recorded game was dated at 1873.
  • Worksop Town and Manton Athletic merged to become Worksop and Manton Athletic after the First World War.
  • The club disbanded in 1930 and a new club was formed a week later
  • After the Second World War, the club once again disbanded and Worksop Town Athletic was established.
  • They were relegated to Division 1 of the Northern Premier League and got evicted from their home Central Avenue, only to return to the newly built Sandy Lane three years later.
  • In 2007 the club underwent financial difficulties and lost ownership of Sandy Lane, having to rent the Hucknall Town, Retford United and Ilkeston Town grounds.
  • The club returned to Sandy Lane as tenants of Worksop Paramore who had bought the ground.
  • The club entered another financial crisis in 2014 after owner Jason Clark withdraw all of his funding to the club, meaning that the Tigers had to resign from the NPL and join the Northern Counties East League.
  • Worksop won the Northern Counties East League in April 2019, but now need to find £30,000 by March 1st in a bid to find a new chairman in Peter Whitehead.

What people need to realise is that clubs themselves are not that special, but it is the fans and the people behind them that makes them so.

Keith Ilett will be officially involved with the club for 50 years come August and watched his first Worksop game in 1954 with his dad and grandad. He is 70-years-old now and confidently says that he can’t see a reason why he’d ever step away from the club that has been a part of his life for 65 years.

Adie Richards supported the club in the 70s when he first moved to Worksop. He fell out of love with football for a number of years as he brought up his family, but returned to support the team when they came out of exile in the 90’s. He now can’t attend many games after moving to Cumbria but still buys and donates season tickets to supporters who could use them.

Alex Shiells is originally from Newcastle but found a home in Worksop. He has combined his Christian call to love and care for people with his love of football and serves to give support to everyone affiliated with the club and the community.

Devon Cash is a fan of the club and has been attending games since he was 11. He is an aspiring journalist and has began his career with the club he supports and says that it would be a proud moment for himself if he can do his bit to help save the club.

These are the type of people who make clubs special. Those who support teams through thick and then. Those who take on responsibility and go the extra mile for their team. Worksop Town is full to the brim of fans like this and they do not deserve to lose their club due to the miss-management of others.

If you wish to donate to the club, click on the link here: https://t.co/uF2U8iXBzH?amp=1