Review of the year

As we approach a New Year, let us reflect on what has been a fantastic 2023 for all involved with Workington Football Club, despite that bizarre result and defeat at Atherton Collieries in our final action of the year.  

No doubt, there have been good days and bad but it is safe to say the positives far outweigh the negatives and it will be some time before we can match or better the many achievements, on and off the pitch, recorded throughout a memorable 2023.  It has been an enjoyable period of the club’s history and certainly appreciated by the majority of the Workington Reds family.

It was definitely a year of two halves with the first period one of success and glory, culminating in what most felt was an overdue promotion.  The second half of the year was one of great uncertainty as major re-construction started on the squad that got us back to Step 3 football.

Some players moved on, one retired and others hinted that this would be their last season because, quite simply, the body was spelling it out in capital letters that it was time to stop.

The squad evolvement has caused massive disruption after what has been, in general, a steady regular group of players giving sterling service to the club.  The last few months has been a challenge with dozens of players, including many new faces, trying to establish themselves at the club.  No wonder the results have been topsy-turvy.  

We first-footed at Clitheroe on the first Monday of the year with Scott Allison netting our first goal of 2023 via the penalty spot.  Scott hit a purple patch and scored in the first six games of the year.

At the start of the new season, he bagged four against Ashton United which conveniently took him to the 150 mark – a wonderful achievement for the 33-year-old, now in his eleventh season at the club.

He was one of three veterans, Conor Tinnion and Dan Wordsworth were the others, who contributed so much to our promotion and have given wonderful service to WAFC over many seasons.  Over a thousand games and 250 goals between them – legends in the true sense of the phrase.

If anyone is thinking of erecting a statue to grace the new stadium, how about sculpting this trio for starters?   

And speaking of the new stadium, a trickle of news started to emerge again after months of silence.  Nothing substantial but news nevertheless, just enough to stimulate the interest on this protracted project 

The year began well with two draws followed by four victories but there was a little blip in February when, firstly, we were held to a draw by struggling Ramsbottom United then, frustratingly, lost at home to Bootle.  Against Rammy, both Scott Allison and Lewis Reilly missed from the penalty spot and the league’s eventual wooden-spoonists added a touch of irony to the proceedings by converting a penalty themselves.

We got back to winning ways with a fine 3-1 success at Runcorn Linnets with Dav Symington making his 200th club appearance as Kai Nugent made his full debut, having joined us on loan from our neighbours in the big city.

Title favourites, Macclesfield, arrived at Borough Park in late February and duly completed a league double upon us, ending any faint hopes we had of catching them.  We did take a point off them in this season’s home encounter and they, like us, have found the step-up challenging.

We looked a bit jaded in defeats at City of Liverpool, Widnes and 1874 Northwich but those setbacks were counter-balanced by enough wins to secure a play-off berth.  Witton Albion were one of those teams put to the sword with Reds romping to a best ever win against the other Northwich outfit with Mr Symington helping himself to four goals, including our eventual ‘goal of the season’ winner.

The final day of the regular campaign saw us condemn Colne to relegation with our 4-0 victory also securing a 3rd place finish.

Clitheroe were first up in the play-offs and a debatable penalty (converted by Tinnion’s audacious ‘Panenka’) eased any nerves and we won more comfortably than we probably expected.  Runcorn scored first in the final but, although we were dragged through extra-time, we eventually won 2-1, more comfortably than the narrow margin suggests.  Lewis Reilly had the satisfaction of scoring the goal that ensured our return to Step 3 football.

Promotion for Danny Grainger and the squad was richly deserved.

The outstanding Symington won the Supporters’ Player of the Year’ award, Dan Wordsworth picked up ‘Players’ Player of the Year and Bobby Carroll was voted Young Player of the Year whilst the entire squad collected a rare play-off winners medal (eventually).

To complete a memorable season, we lifted the Cumberland Cup in style at Brunton Park with the 9-1 victory over Penrith a record score in the final.

Obua Mugalula certainly made his mark in the competition but, unfortunately, not in the League yet his short stay will be forever memorable.  Ben Hughes was also amongst the goals in the final as was Lewis Moore, a young talent with potential, and Lewis Reilly.  Sadly, all four would play few games moving forward, for different reasons.

A very satisfactory pre-season preceded our return to the NPL Premier Division but, as enjoyable as that 5-0 first day win over Ashton United was, the victory papered over a few cracks and the squad had to change – a situation compounded by a never-ending injury list.

That, in turn, saw many comings and goings in terms of personnel and no great surprise that results became consistently inconsistent.  The saddest departure was that of Dan Wordsworth – warrior, captain, leader, legend no more.  To see him reduced to tears when he left the field for the final time in October was moving.

Sam Smith, Bobby Carroll, Lewis Reilly and Aidy Roxburgh will be hoping for a happier new year as long-term injuries have left them sidelined and frustrated and the talents of Jamie Devitt were on show only sporadically. 

We added two games to our FA Cup record and that included a commendable effort in defeat at Darlington with Trophy glory also put on hold for another twelve months at least.

We have drawn some bumper crowds to Borough Park with no fewer than 24,000 punters passing through the turnstiles to back the boys.  It is fair to say they have had value for money.

Man of the year for me would have to be Dav Symington simply for the outrageous talent he brings to the field.  He has emerged from the shadows of three greats (Tinnion, Allison and Wordsworth) and become a leader in his own right having captained the side too.  The talisman has netted no fewer than 26 goals in the calendar year including a collector’s item – a rare headed goal – at Atherton.

Symington, Tinnion, Allison, Smith and Wordsworth – heroes all but the next generation now have to pick up the baton and continue to progress this club in 2024.  We have two of the best goalkeepers in the league so that’s a good starting point! 

A flurry of drawn games in a welcome unbeaten run confirmed that there is still plenty of character in that dressing room and we are grateful to all who have pulled on that red shirt over the past twelve months. 

Six draws were registered in succession, bettering a record that has stood for seventy years.  The last of those draws, a welcome clean sheet and a point against Macclesfield, was also a milestone for Danny Grainger with that particular game marking his 100th league appearance as Reds’ boss.

Reds played 43 league games in the calendar year, winning 19, losing 14 and registering a draw in the other 10.  They netted an incredible 90 league goals but conceded 74.

Add to that 9 cup and play-off matches and the number of goals scored amounted to 130!

Often criticised for the number of penalties missed, we actually converted eight of the thirteen awarded.

We lost a number of former players during the year as well as several life-long supporters and to them all we say a fond farewell.    

Overall, though, a memorable twelve months as we wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2024.

COYR

Comments (1)

  1. Trevor Gauntlett
    Trevor Gauntlett

    COYR! And here’s to a great 2024

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