Fan's Eye View: Pilgrims' painful progress: No. 4 Boston United

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The Independent Online
The author is editor of 'From Behind Your Fences', the Boston United fanzine

ALTHOUGH the fact may have been camouflaged by Boston's reassuringly familiar position at present, in the bottom half of the GM Vauxhall Conference, this season the Hurricane Andrew of change has already blown through York Street.

Having guided United to a slightly fortuitous eighth place last term, Dave Cusack was jettisoned as manager by the United directors in June. This decision was not a shock to most Pilgrims fans since the decision had already been taken to sell what were arguably Boston's best four players (Paul Shirtliff, Paul Cavell, Paul Richardson and John McKenna) to fellow Conference rivals Dagenham and Redbridge.

No sooner had Cusack's name been sandpapered off the door, than he was appointed manager at Kettering Town. Their manager, Peter Morris, was in turn sacked, and shortly afterwards became manager at Boston.

Morris immediately swept away nearly all the squad and brought in 16 new players, mostly from Kettering.

And thus an eager Boston public, possibly still angry with themselves for greeting too many new seasons with incautious optimism, dutifully turned up at York Street for a pre-season friendly against Mansfield Town. Boston won 4-0 in a game which was as one-sided as a public hanging.

Duly enthused, a large crowd shuffled through the turnstiles for this season's Conference opener against Runcorn. Sadly everyone had to witness a fairly incident-free 0-0 draw against a characteristically physical Runcorn side.

Worse was to follow, with a 2-1 defeat against Conference newcomers Bromsgrove Rovers, and a 3-0 home defeat by Kidderminster. Our dismal form has continued with losses to Stafford (1-0), and defeat at Witton last Saturday (2-0).

But, like most supporters of smaller clubs, Boston fans can draw comfort from the phrase 'it hasn't always been like this'. Or at least their fathers can. One surely unsurpassable piece of FA Cup giant-killing occurred at the Baseball Ground in 1956. Boston travelled to play a strong Derby County side who were then at the top of the Third Division North, and predictably fell behind to an early goal.

This signalled one of the greatest FA Cup results in history, with Boston eventually winning the game 6-1] A third-round defeat at Tottenham stopped the town's desire for Wembley tickets, but it is a margin of victory attained over a League club that has never been beaten, nor is ever likely to be.

Another awe-inspiring Cup result was also achieved at Derby, some 18 years later when the Pilgrims achieved a 0-0 draw against the then League champions and European Cup semi- finalists. From whistle to whistle United surged forward but with Derby's left-hand post playing a blinder, the game remained scoreless. (In the replay Derby scored with a breakaway from ceaseless, relentless Boston pressure. . . six times).

The last League team Boston were paired with was Bury in 1983, and although the Pilgrims managed an unanswerable 3-0 defeat, this match was remarkable for the performance of United defender Trevor Parr. Having been dismissed by the referee in the second minute for fighting with a Bury attacker who also received his marching orders, Parr trooped off the pitch, stopped at the entrance of the players' tunnel, and waited for his partnerin-fisticuffs to arrive so that the two could exchange a few more punches away from the referee.

Perhaps the two greatest names to have donned the famous amber shirt are Jim Smith and Howard Wilkinson who between them oversaw four Northern Premier League championships in the halcyon Seventies. Both served United in a player/manager capacity, with Wilkinson being a tricky, weaving winger who could sell a full-back such a good dummy that they couldn't find him with sniffer dogs. He once scored four times in an 8-0 defeat of Barrow.

Those glory days seem long ago now, but whatever happens the real reason for smugness as a Boston fan is provided by the magnificence of the club's facilities - an all-covered 13,000 capacity stadium, with terraces so vast that unless it is a particularly clear day you cannot see the half dozen or so spectators standing towards the back. Now, if only we could manage a win this season (small word, big concept). To be a Pilgrim . . .