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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nobes' Boston Decade Review

The second of our reviews of the decade focusses on Boston United. Nobes tells us how things have been for his club at the start of the new Millennium.

How's the decade been?

Tumultuous, to sum it up in one word.

A rollercoaster ride of emotions where the club, illegally, reached the highest points in its history before coming close to coming out of business and then dropping down to the nether reaches of Non League is the longer answer.

On the face of it, we end the Noughties a level below where we started it, so you could class it as a failure - we're no further up the pyramid. I prefer to see it as almost our teenage years - it's been full of angst and we've learnt a lot of harsh lessons.

Now we're building solid foundations on a sustainable base to hopefully lead to some comfortable relaxing years. Just have to hope we don't suffer a mid-life crisis. Perhaps we needed this decade to realise just what's important though.

Highlight of the decade?

It's difficult to describe a promotion, won on the back of cheating and tax fraud, as a highlight. It kind of sours the whole experience knowing that any achievement was not fairly earned.

So, I will go for one match in particular. A 2-0 home win against Workington in the Conference North in the opening game of the 2007/8 season. It was a match I never thought I'd see after we came perilously close to going under during the summer.

Relegated at Wrexham - but the fans were back to see Boston play Workington

It was genuinely the most emotional match I'd ever been to. Forget tears of joy or anguish at any promotion or relegation, this was pure relief. You honestly don't know how precious and important something is until the prospect of it not being there confronts you.

We realised that it isn't the division you're in, or the opposition you're playing that's important. No, it's having a club to go and support and watch week-in-week out, whether they're successful or not, that really matters.

As some football fans this decade have found when they couldn't do just that anymore.

Low point of the decade?

In a decade of so many low points, this one is surprisingly easy to identify. June 17, 2007. Father's Day. A public meeting was held at York Street to discuss the future of the club. Well, to save the club actually.

I felt absolutely sick. Looking around the ground thinking it might be the last time I was there. That I had already seen us play for the last time and not even realised it.

I have to admit, I walked away along with the 800 others who had given up their Sunday lunchtime to stand on the terraces thinking that all hope was lost.

Our General Manager, John Blackwell, and the man who played a huge part in saving my club - Barrie Pierpoint [right], had delivered an impassioned plea and set out their dream of the community and local businesses saving the club, but I never thought it possible.

As it was, it turned out our current owners, Chestnut Homes, were at that meeting that day and decided they had to act. They saved the club and are now making it stronger every day.

We owe them, and Barrie, a lot. I hope Pilgrims fans will never forget the part he played in calling the town to arms.

Boston's best manager of the decade?

I'd like to say, in a few months time, that it's the current managerial duo we have - Rob Scott and Paul Hurst. They won promotion from our league with Ilkeston last season and we are on course to at least finish in the play-offs again.

However, other than the current duo, I'd have to highlight the work of Neil Thompson in keeping us in the Football League in our debut season. He came so close to getting the chop and some fans were after his blood when we lost eight on the trot.

He turned it around though and did brilliantly to recover from a -4 deficit and £100,000 fine to stave off immediately dropping back down.

As for including Steve Evans - just not possible. Promotion to the League was done through illegal means, he divided and lost huge parts of the fanbase, and left the club on its knees, dying, when he upped sticks to Crawley.

Neil Thompson helped keep the Pilgrims in the Football League in 2003

Boston's worst manager of the decade?

In terms of actual managerial ability, Evans wouldn't be the worst. Indeed, some could argue he was the best. He took us to our highest ever League finish and a few points off the play-offs in 2006.

However, all that counts for nothing because he dragged the good name of the club through the mud, and some of it will probably stick for eternity. He created a poisonous atmosphere on the terraces, splitting our support.

The club almost died in 2007, and he had a huge hand in that. I dread to think what would happen if he ever returned to the club in the away dugout.

Best Boston player this decade?

I'm not going to go for the most gifted or talented player. I'm not going to go for our best goalscorer or our first ever Full International. I'm not even going to go for Paul Gascoigne.

No, my choice is Paul Ellender [left]. Record club signing from Scarborough in 2001, he was a key part of the team who promotion to the League and stayed throughout our time in League Two.

He was your typical lower league centre half - big, strong, physical, cumbersome. He often got on the scoresheet from set-pieces, but he always gave it his all and would have died for the club. He also went weeks without pay during our financial crisis.

He remained with us after demotion to the Conference North, and then in the Unibond last season, he returned on loan to help inspire the team to avoid yet another relegation.

Affectionately known as 'Gypo' because of the way he looks, but a firm terrace favourite and my personal Boston legend.

Worst Boston player this decade?

I could be really cruel here and single out Graham Potter, without a doubt the worst signing Neil Thompson ever made at the club. He only ever had one good game - against Macclesfield - and they were so impressed they went and signed him!

Slow, ineffective, he was a left sided player who couldn't defend strongly or attack with any dynamism. I'm not sure where his best position was, or if he even had one.

However, I'm sure he always gave his all, so I can forgive him for his lack of ability. I can't forgive the bunch of wasters who turned out for us last season. Most were completely gutless and almost conspired to see us drop down four levels below the Football League. Worst team ever.

Hopes for the next decade for Boston?

I'd love to be able to say restoring Football League status and, although that isn't out of the question, it's not my number one hope.

York Street - enterting its last decade as Boston's home

After the last decade we must aim for a period of greater stability. Having built regimes on sand we now need a firm foundation to help establish ourselves back as one of the top teams in the Conference.

That's eminently achievable, but getting things right off the pitch is just as important as on the pitch. We will be moving ground some time in the next ten years, so a smooth transition to a new stadium is also high up on my wishlist.

Most of all though, we must make sure that the prospect of us not having a club to support in future decades never returns.

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