At the end of the season, the great and the good usually come together to pontificate over who has been the best. Not merely satisfied with the final league tables (which, you know, are a pretty definitive guide to who has been the best), journalists, managers and even players themselves come together to hand out their own awards. I won’t be joining in with them this year. You don’t have to be highly qualified to be able to pronounce that, yes, Cristiano Ronaldo has been pretty good this season, and what good would it do anyway? He’s already likely to win at least a Champions League or Premier League winners medal (quite possibly both), and he’ll be playing at Euro 2012. He earns thousands of pounds each week and gets to gallivant around with ladies of the night without anyone even batting an eyelid. Some sort of trinket from here (or even kind words) wouldn’t even register on his radar. It’s far better, then, to focus on the worst. Miles away from the world of the likes of Ronaldo, thousands of cloggers are turning out every Saturday and doing their best, but some of them don’t make a particularly good job of it. Here, then, are my personal picks as three of the very worst from 2007/08.
Third Place: Bedwell Rangers (Herts Senior County League Division Division One) – The Hertfordshire Senior County League is one of the oldest football leagues in the world. Founded in 1898, it has plodded away for over 110 years now, occupying a position very near the bottom of the football pyramid. Bedwell Rangers, from near Stevenage, haven’t had a successful season. In fact, the local big team Stevenage Borough’s failure to get into the Conference play-offs (and the subsequent departure of manager Peter Taylor) looks like a major success when compared to Bedwell’s season, which has seen them acquire a grand total of four points (one win – against Allenburys Sports – and one draw – against Sarratt) from their thirty league matches. They managed to score a respectable enough twenty-six goals, but conceded a monstrous one hundred and seventeen. Their worst defeat was a 9-1 home defeat by Wodson Park. At least they didn’t go into double figures in any of their league matches. A quick look at the Bedwell Rangers website doesn’t give too much away about the reason for their disastrous season, but it does at least confirm that, for all the misadventures of their first team, Bedwell Rangers offer a vital resource that is more important than any league position – over 250 children play for their nineteen youth, junior, girls and senior teams.
Second Place: Garw AFC (The Welsh Football League Division One) – The summertime is the time when everything changes. Who will be leaving your club? Who (arguably more importantly), will stay? Even though the transfer windows have done for players moving from club to club during the season, there’s still a glorious three month period of the year when the gloves come off and clubs go head to head in a ridiculous glorified cattle market to bring the best players that they can into their club. For most supporters, the worst that things could get would be to find out that a much-loved player has left, so what would your reaction be if you turned up to the first pre-season friendly of the season only to find that there were no players left? Spare a thought, then, for the officials and supporters of Garw AFC, who lost their manager, Chris Wells (who claimed to be going abroad but resurfaced at a rival club a few weeks later with many of their previous players), in July of last year, and then the whole of their first team two weeks before the start of the season after a row over wages. After the club’s first training of the season (to which no players turned up), lesser clubs might have admitted defeat and resigned their position, but not Garw. Instead, they threw the reserves in at the deep end, and the results have been painful. Garw scored fourteen goals in their thirty-four league matches, conceding 217 goals and picking up four points along the way, from a goalless draw at Cwmbran Town and a 2-1 win away to mid-table Pontardawe Town. The low points are too numerous to mention – losing 13-0 to Ton Pentre is probably the lowest point of them all, though. The club, however, was kept going by a desire to “not end… 56 years of league membership”. All power to them.
First Place: Fakenham Town Reserves (Dolphin Autos Anglian Combination Division One) – The first team, it has to be said, haven’t had a terribly good season, but third from bottom in the First Division of the Eastern Counties League could have been worse. For the reserves, though, things couldn’t have been much worse. You can sense there might be a problem when the team photo has just twelve players in it (some of whom don’t look much older than fifteen), but quite how traumatic it must have been for such a group of young players almost beggars belief. They managed a single, solitary point in the league (a 2-2 draw against Long Stratton, in case you were wondering), but were docked three points by the league for reasons unknown. Those of you of a mathematic persuasion will already have worked out that this means that Fakenham Town Reserves finished this season on -2 points. The good people of Bott Ltd must be delighted with the value that they got from their sponsorship deal with The Ghosts (an eerily appropriate nickname for a team appears to have played somewhat ghoulishly this season) – the lowlight being a 14-0 defeat against Sole Bay in a season which has seen them concede 173 goals in just thirty league matches.