It is a year we all want to forget, for a variety of reasons, with football just one aspect of life suffering since a worldwide pandemic inflicted itself upon us twelve months ago.
From a Workington AFC perspective, 2020 has to go down as one of the most frustrating years ever. No sooner than Danny Grainger had assembled a team capable of winning titles and cups, progress shuddered to a halt in the most bizarre of circumstances.
Seven games away from winning a maiden NPL title, football from Step 3 down was declared ‘null and void’ and months of endeavour, blood sweat and tears was in vain.
Nothing in football is guaranteed and we were well aware that others club could have leapfrogged us in the NPL North West table during March and April. But the title was within touching distance and, although we came close to ending up as champions in both 2005 and 2015, being ten points clear of Ramsbottom United after that mid-March victory at Tadcaster was a fantastic opportunity for us to make a bit of club history.
Having got over the situation, eventually, there was a determination in the camp that, despite being denied in 2020, we would, at least, have the opportunity to achieve our goal at the end of the 2020-21 campaign but the delayed commencement and stop/start nature of this term has extinguished all the momentum we had.
Of course there is plenty of self pity amongst the Workington faithful, and understandably so, but spare a thought for our promising young manager who has achieved so much yet so little in the past eighteen months.
The year itself got off to a bad start as we suffered a 2-1 reverse at Pontefract Collieries, one of our main rivals for the title. We did enough to win but it wasn’t to be and our lead at the top of the table, where we had been since the 17th August, was reduced to just two points.
The disappointment of a frustrating afternoon on New Year’s Day lingered for a few days and we were held by Trafford (2-2) in our next outing with the lead reduced to one point as a consequence.
A potential title decider at Ramsbottom was imminent and when we ‘choked’ at the Riverside in a 2-0 defeat it was Rammy who took over top spot at our expense.
From that point, though, we regained our form and became the most consistent of the title challengers and an eight match winning sequence put us firmly in pole position. The situation was very much in our own hands, confidence was high, team spirit superb and all seemed well in the camp.
We were scoring freely, not conceding many and in one week scored four at Droylsden followed by six at Kendal. The latter was a carnival day for the Reds supporters with a good two hundred of them making their way through to Parkside Road and witnessing a record away win in the NPL.
After a 4-2 win at Tadcaster we knew it could well be our last action for some time but little did we know the extent the break from football would be.
The Runcorn Linnets home match became the first of seven not played as all football was suspended. In addition, we had reached the semi-finals of the Cumberland Cup and the League Cup but those ties against Workington Athletic and Sheffield, respectively, were never played either.
Pre-season preparations were delayed but, eventually, we got going in July and completed a testing batch of games including excellent performances against higher ranked opposition – Gainsborough Trinity (0-1), Morecambe (0-1) and Lancaster City (4-3).
A home friendly v. Carlisle United was cancelled when one of the Reds’ players test against Coronavirus proved inconclusive.
The season eventually got underway on the 12th September with, unusually, our first game in the FA Cup.
But it was a stuttering start from the lads and draws in the opening three league games suggested a bit of a hangover from the winning run pre-lockdown.
Winning service was resumed and exits from both Cup and Trophy focused our attention exclusively on league matters.
The highlight was probably the hard fought 1-0 success at Colne with the importance of that victory emphasised by the fact that they topped the table as the year ended and that was their only defeat to date!
Reds were not at their best in December’s visit to Brighouse Town but the 2-2 draw extended our unbeaten league sequence to 17 games (W W W W W W W W D D D W W W W W D) a fantastic run of results which, at the moment, may prove irrelevant.
We haven’t lost at Borough Park throughout 2020 but that is another statistic that has a hollow ring to it at the moment. In normal circumstances, we would be shouting about such achievements from the roof tops!
Just twenty eight league and cup matches have been played throughout the year and our overall record reads:
P. 28 W. 19 D. 5 L. 4 F.71 A. 29
Scott Allison scored our first goal of the year in that frustrating defeat at Pontefract and has been finding the target on a regular basis since. His twenty goals throughout the year took him to a career total of 127 – level pegging with Gareth Arnison in the modern era.
Another milestone was achieved in September when Conor Tinnion made his 300th appearance for the first team.
Scott and Conor have given superb service to the club over many years – long may that continue.
But one career on hold at the moment is that of Nathan Waterston. He sustained a reoccurrence of a shoulder injury in the game at Tadcaster back in March and is still going through an extensive rehab programme following an operation.
We wish him well and hope it isn’t too long before we see him in action once more.
Nathan’s injury prompted the manager to boost the squad numbers in the summer and Louis Potts and Reuben Jerome joined us to improve the team’s attacking options.
They have already registered their first goals for the club and join a list of fifteen different players who have found the net over the past twelve months.
Reds Ladies have endured a frustrating year with the stop/start scenario not helping them one bit. They have played very few home games throughout 2020 but have continued to clock-up the motorway miles, completing their away matches when allowed to do so.
The newly formed Development Squad started their Cumberland County League programme in October but, five games later, were sidelined in line with all other grassroots levels of the game.
To compensate, they have played some higher ranked teams in friendly fixtures obtaining some morale boosting results in the process.
There were plenty of changes behind the scenes with the ‘old board’ replaced by a new structure of six individuals, all with the club’s interests at heart. It remains a thankless task running a football club, and never more so than in these uncertain times, so a big thank you to those directors – past and present – for keeping this wonderful club of ours on an even keel.
The various supporters’ organisations and voluntary helpers have to be praised too and their efforts have never been more appreciated than they are now.
Sadly, we have lost many of our supporters over the year, not forgetting several former officials and players.
Our condolences go to the family and friends of: Dave Wilson (61), Jimmy Moran (84), Jimmy Scott (92), Noel Hodgson (81), John Rowlands (73), Jimmy Goodfellow (76), George McLean (83), Andrea Buggy (39), Peter Hampton (66), Les Massie (85) and Derek Trail (74). RIP
All that remains is to wish you a Happy New Year and trust 2021 will be kinder to us all.