“This was not a football match”, wrote The Non-League Paper’s Chris Dunlavy this morning, “this was a snuff movie”, and never have truer words been spoken. Weymouth Football Club, battered and broken, were forced to field a youth team for their home BSP match against Rushden & Diamonds yesterday, and it was a foregone conclusion that they would lose this match. There is an irony, however, which means that the entire day wasn’t a complete dead loss. The result shone out from all others in the Saturday evening round-ups, and since yesterday evening messages of goodwill have been flooding into the club. It remains uncertain whether they will be able to complete the season and the vultures continue to circle overhead with their eyes fixed firmly on their ground. However, the pride shown by everybody at the club yesterday afternoon hints – just a glimmer of a hint, but a hint nevertheless – at a brighter future for them.
How did this come to pass, then? Weymouth’s players put in a fourteen notice to the club the week before last, having not been paid yet this year. However, this notice doesn’t expire until next Tuesday. One might have expected the players to have put in one final performance, but the club had reportedly allowed stopped paying for the players’ insurance, so the youth team had to turn out instead. They were facing a Rushden team playing its first match under new manager Justin Edinburgh following the recent departure of former manager Garry Hill, who had taken Weymouth into the Blue Square Premier before departing in January 2007, when the money ran out. Edinburgh couldn’t have been more fortunate with his first fixture. Bookmakers had stopped taking bets on the match last week. The only question was how many goals Rushden would score.
The Weymouth boys held out for eight minutes before Rushden, and the visitors were 4-0 up by half-time. Their goalkeeper, Pro Domo, made a string of fine saves, but his defence was hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with Rushden’s full-time professionals. The crowd did their best to get behind the team, and the Rushden players reportedly were offering their own encouragement to the Weymouth players to keep going until the final whistle. There was no shame in their performance, merely a sense of embarrassment that this club could have been allowed to have been allowed, by a series of unfortunate choices of owner, to descend to this level. The final tally of 9-0 at least spared them the embarrassment of double figures though the result equalled the record win for the league, which was managed by Hereford United against Dagenham & Redbridge in 2004 and Runcorn against Enfield in 1990.
If almost everyone at The Wessex Stadium behaved themselves with dignity, the same couldn’t be said elsewhere. As news of the goals filtered through, Sky Sports News seemed to think that it was hilarious. Whether this was due to poor research or just plain ignorance is open to question, but the pundits on Sky’s “Soccer Saturday” showed disrespect and contempt for a club at its lowest ebb and a team of young lads sent out to do the best that they could in an impossible. Sky have, by now, probably received hundreds of complaints about this – we will wait and see with interest what their reply is. Such contempt from the company that shows more televised football than any other in Britain should be surprising, but it isn’t. Sky famously treats all competitions that it isn’t covering as if they don’t exist, so that they shouldn’t be interested in the well-being of a Blue Square Premier club should hardly come as a major shock to the watching audience. On the BBC, by contrast, it looked as if the joking stopped as soon as guests in the “Final Score” studio were made fully aware of what the situation at the club currently is.
A couple of clubs have offered Weymouth loan players. York City supporters, mindful of the support that they received when they were on their knees several years ago, are arranging collections for them for their match at Bootham Crescent next weekend, and there is talk that they will be funding either the players or the supporters travel up to Yorkshire next weekend. The club’s supporters’ forum has been almost overwhelmed with messages of support from the length and breadth of the country in a show of solidarity which confirms that, once the rivalries and the pettiness is set aside, we are all the same underneath. We all want to go to the football on a Saturday afternoon, and for our club to have a team which represents us with pride and dignity. They may have lost 9-0 yesterday afternoon, but they managed this at least. They still need your help: you can find out more here.