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Four visits, three wins and one title

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

Workington AFC’s match against Gretna on 27 March 2001 was the fourth fixture I had watched at Borough Park, and the first time I had seen the Reds defeated. Disappointed though I was after the 1-0 loss to the Dumfriesshire side, I took comfort from my reconfigured 75% success rate as a Reds supporter and the fact that one of those three witnessed victories enabled Reds to win a league championship for the first, and so far, only time in their history.

The first match I saw at Borough Park took place on Easter Monday, 12 April 1993. My wife was working that day, so I asked my then two young daughters if they wanted to go swimming in Keswick. Even at their age they had a rough idea where Keswick was in relation to our home - in Glasgow! - and they knew it was near Workington. Given my enthusiasm for the Reds at the time, bordering dangerously on the obsessive according to my wife, my choice of this less-than-local swimming pool wasn’t really a surprise to the girls. An early start saw us heading down the A74 and after a mid-morning dip at Keswick and a bite of lunch, we set off for Workington.

The match against a promotion-chasing Curzon Ashton was the last home game of a season which had seen Manager Alan Cook transform the team’s fortunes. Former favourite Billy Gilmour was back, the semi-final of the NPL League Cup had been reached and a crowd of over 800 turned up to support the Reds for that match. Things were looking up. On that holiday Monday, the three McPhersons from Glasgow took the crowd to 252 as Workington won 1-0, thanks to a spectacular own goal. I’m not sure how much my daughters enjoyed their first taste of HSF Loans League football; my suspicion is that they much preferred the flavour of Silloth’s finest fish suppers on the way home. For my part, I was just delighted to have finally seen a match at a ground which I had only previously accessed through a hole in the fence.

My second visit, on 29 October 1994 for a Northern Premier League match against Goole Town, was an altogether more formal affair. My own team Dundee United were playing in Aberdeen, and as Borough Park was slightly nearer than Pittodrie to my home in Glasgow, I considered a trip to Workington to be the obvious alternative to a Granite City jaunt. This thoroughly enjoyable occasion included a guided tour of the ground by Reds Match Secretary and man of many parts Steve Durham, a seat in the Directors’ area and a half-time cuppa in the Boardroom. Most importantly, Reds won 3-0.

My third visit was not for another five years and came at the end of our annual Spring weekend in the Lakes. Monday 3 May 1999 was a glorious day in every respect and the sunny weather encouraged my wife to plunk herself down on the Borough Park terracing and take out a book. Seemingly oblivious to history being made in her midst, she later told me she had almost completed her book by full time! She must have been the only person in the ground who hadn’t eagerly watched as Mossley were beaten 2-1, nor appreciated that the victory meant that a league championship trophy was coming to West Cumbria for the first time ever. Over 2,200 people exhibited sheer joy, but as usual on such occasions I looked around the much bigger than usual crowd and thought, “what do the majority of these people normally do on a Saturday afternoon?” Quickly putting aside such unnecessarily censorious reflections, my line of thinking switched to the few hundred regular Reds diehards on the terracing and those marvellous club servants behind the scenes who had stuck by Workington AFC through many a difficult period. No one would have enjoyed the title-winning moment more than them. After each of my four visits to Borough Park, I have come away with even more enthusiasm and affection for the club. Given the many ups and downs that Workington AFC has experienced since my last visit to Borough Park in 2001, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that good luck and Workington Reds are seldom on more than nodding terms, but I have always considered myself very fortunate that a business appointment in late 1992 first took me to West Cumbria and introduced me to Workington AFC.

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