Worksop Town’s NCEL journey finally ends, rewarding the fans and volunteers who saved the club and show its potential

Armthorpe Welfare v Worksop Town. Worksop's Matthew Booth and Armthorpe's Stuart Preston. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 09-08-14 Armthorpe v Worksop MC 3
Armthorpe Welfare v Worksop Town. Worksop's Matthew Booth and Armthorpe's Stuart Preston. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 09-08-14 Armthorpe v Worksop MC 3

The travelling army that roared Worksop to victory on the day their NCEL journey began, roared them to victory on the day it ended.

From Armthorpe on 9th August 2014, to Albion Sports on 13th April 2019, that band of loyal Tigers and the club’s tireless volunteers have been just about the only constant through the ups and downs.

Worksop Town boss Craig Denton has built a team of champions

Worksop Town boss Craig Denton has built a team of champions

The fans who saved the world’s fourth oldest club, have finally had some reward.

It has looked bleak on too many occasions to count, for Worksop Town FC.

They’ve been kicked out of the ground they call home and forced to spend years in exile, twice.

The most recent of those periods away from the town very nearly killed the club.

Worksop fans have been a constant reminder of the club's potential

Worksop fans have been a constant reminder of the club's potential

Jason Clark will always be regarded as a saviour for his financial rescue bid, helping return the Tigers to Sandy Lane and writing off the debt owed him.

But when he decided it was time to stop footing the bills, the future was on the line again.

The board reacted to his decision by voluntarily giving up their Northern Premier League status.

A public meeting at Langold in the immediate aftermath showed that, had the situation been brought before the fans, there would have been sufficient passion and fundraising potential to have avoided a two-division drop.

But a call I received from a league official minutes before that meeting confirmed that the club’s letter of resignation could not be rescinded and Worksop must accept their new station in life.

There was a significant amount of cash to be raised, if this wasn’t to be the end.

It was all hands to the pumps and there were too many heroes to mention individually.

Collectively, the club, its fans and its townsfolk showed a burning desire to keep Worksop Town alive.

And on 9th August, in glorious sunshine, it was so fitting that a Worksop lad, Matthew Booth, scored the winner in the Tigers’ first NCEL Premier fixture.

That first season probably felt like an adventure, to most.

New grounds, new opposition sides, new favourites wearing the amber and black.

It was so close to being a single season outside the Northern Premier, Mark Shaw’s talented team pipped to the title by big spending Shaw Lane Aquaforce – a club that doesn’t even exist anymore.

With just one promotion place on offer, it has always been an horribly difficult league to escape.

That first title race almost seemed to deflate the club.

Their challenge for promotion got weaker and weaker as their time as an NCEL club went on.

Last season three teams went up in a restructure and it presented a glorious chance to every club with promotion aspirations.

Midway through the campaign, Worksop announced new owners and there was, once again, talk of success.

Yet they finished 18th, losing 13 of their last 14 games, ending the season closer to relegation than promotion.

From the outside, it seemed as though the club had lost sight of where it should be.

But with the appointment of Craig Denton on 26th May 2018, the decision makers at Sandy Lane put the club back on the front foot.

To many, it felt like a good fit.

Denton had previous with the Tigers, having served as a first team coach and assistant manager, before going off to gain managerial experience elsewhere.

Worksop started like a house on fire, beating every team they faced in August.

Four losses in September put a check on growing expectations, before another unbeaten month in October.

November and December were up and down.

But they haven’t lost since.

The year began with two draws and then they set off on the most remarkable winning streak.

Simply put, Denton, his staff and his squad have made history.

They’ve beaten their nearest rivals, come back to win from 2-1 down with four minutes to play at Bottesford, bludgeoned a top four team 7-0, racked up a bewildering 18 victories on the trot and scored laughably good goals along the way.

Denton has built a team worthy of its support, a team of champions.

And fans have flocked through the gates in ever increasing numbers.

Over 1,600 watched them beat Penistone at Sandy Lane.

But it was the hardcore who saw the club clinch its first title since the 1970s, in emphatic style, with last Saturday’s 4-0 win at Albion Sports.

That’s how this journey should have ended, in front of the diehard fans who through it all have been an ever-present reminder of this club’s potential.

It’s a National League North sized fanbase.

It’s a club that should really be in the National League North.

It’s a club that has, after five long years, climbed the first rung of the ladder back to where they belong.

Up go the Tigers.