By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Garforth Town’s relegation back to the Northern Counties East League ends a project that began with a promise to get the club to the Premier League.
A 25-year plan was also mentioned, but Simon Clifford’s hopes and dreams for Garforth are completely in tatters following a disastrous year for the East Leeds club.
Last May the club were riding the crest of a wave. Manager Steve Nichol had guided Garforth to Evo Stik Division One North play-offs – historically their highest ever league finish. A title charge in the 2012-13 campaign seemed on the cards.
However, by early July, Nichol (pictured below) and his team were gone along with almost all the volunteers. The grass at Garforth’s Wheatley Park was overgrown with the ground looking abandoned.
All what has happened next is confusion and mystery along with multiple public relations calamities.
Supposedly all was well, but it took until late July for pre-season training to start with long-serving coach Vernol Blair taking charge as manager – his team mostly made up of the successful Chapeltown Fforde Grene Sunday football team.
The season started badly as alongside a number of battering, Garforth were forced to postpone their August Bank Holiday derby clash with Farsley AFC because of a lack of hot water.
It took until November 10th for Garforth to record their first league win – a 4-1 victory at Warrington. It was should have been a home game, but because of power problems, the Evo Stik imposed an embargo on Garforth playing at home. It led to fears that the club may be expelled from the league.
The problems were eventually sorted after a further delay and then a White Knight arrived in the form of former Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe. Lowe seemingly saved Garforth and provided investment in the short-term. His current involvement is unknown.
Clifford returned at Christmas with Lowe seemingly appointing him as the club’s manager. A brief recovery followed with Garforth drawing 0-0 with Goole and then winning 3-2 at Harrogate Railway.
But, Clifford’s return as manager lasted barely a month so Blair was left to ensure that Garforth fulfilled their fixtures.
In the backdrop of growing concerns, Blair managed the side in a dignified manner, but was unable to inspire a revival. It means Garforth have to rebuild themselves in the NCEL.
But, they need to get themselves sorted and quickly. There has been no communication from the club since the season closed. Have the NCEL had contact with the club? Have the FA received their application to play in the FA Cup and Vase – which should have been done before the recently departed secretary resigned?
The community of Garforth want to know the situation. They want a team they can be proud of, but since last summer, they have never received real answers from their questions.
Blair cannot manage a side in the NCEL with the same resources as Garforth will go straight through into Division One.
A new beginning is needed and fast. Because of various reasons, Garforth have turned into a laughing stock. This is the club that nearly reached Wembley in the 1980s through the FA Vase when it reached the quarter-finals with a team that contained the likes of Vinny Archer. It appears closer to oblivion than Wembley.
The community was proud of that team. But, last season attendances sunk and will do even further unless answers are given.
It’s late May and the clock is ticking – the season starts on August 10th.