Workington Reds – making the best of it

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Whether they will play at Borough Park next season or across the road at Workington Town’s Derwent Park is still undecided, but the friendly nature of the club is very unlikely to alter – and for that reason alone this gallant little club will continue to have my support.

In an effort to stop deliberating about Dundee United’s embarrassing inability to score from the penalty spot, I’ve decided to consider some of the fundamental problems faced by one of my many “other teams”.

Workington AFC were relegated from the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division (level 7 in English football’s league pyramid system) and next season will play in the NPL Division One West. Reds supporters endured one of the club’s most disappointing seasons during which they lost each of their last eight fixtures and finished twenty-first out of twenty-one. They also lost an unprecedented nine consecutive home matches – the last nine.

The West Cumbrians’ isolated geographic position, often described as “out on a limb and miles from anywhere”, combined with small gates and a consequential lack of money, has always made it difficult to attract players, even during their twenty-six seasons as a Football League club. The number of local players of suitable quality is hindered by the Reds operating in a Rugby League stronghold and that has also always been the case.

As Bill Shankly discovered in the mid-1950s, there are no shortage of problems at Borough Park. Looking back years later, he said of his time at Workington: “We made the best of it. Deep down I enjoyed it.” His typically determined efforts during his twenty-two month stay in Workington is commemorated by the Shankly Lounge at the old ground and it is to be hoped that this deserved tribute will also be incorporated in the proposed new West Cumbria Stadium . Making the best of it could be the club motto. It’s an approach which predated Shankly and continues to this day. Workington has only won one league championship in its history, when they were crowned North West Counties League First Division Champions in 1998–99 (I was there!) but their true success could be said to be their continued existence.

Managing next season’s push for immediate promotion will be ex-Dundee United, St. Johnstone and Hearts full-back Danny Grainger. Penrith-born Grainger knows he is coming to a club with a loyal band of supporters; the club’s average attendance of around 380 was almost exactly the same as the previous season despite so many matches during 2018-19 ending in defeat.

Whether they will play at Borough Park next season or across the road at Workington Town’s Derwent Park is still undecided, but the friendly nature of the club is very unlikely to alter – and for that reason alone this gallant little club will continue to have my support.

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