Death knell sounds for Gretna as staff sacked

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The Independent Football

Two years ago, the minnows from Gretna, then in the Scottish Second Division, were being lauded around the world for their spirited performance in the Scottish Cup final against Hearts, losing only on penalties. A year ago they were still blazing a trail, winning a remarkable third successive promotion to the Scottish Premier League. Yesterday, with all the stardust long gone and recriminations in the air, the club's administrators sacked all the remaining staff – 40 people – taking Gretna to the brink of oblivion.

The staff were summoned to talks with the administrator, David Elliot of Wilson Field Ltd, where they were told that even the emergency funding that has kept the club afloat in recent weeks had run out.

The only glimmer of hope that Gretna will not fold completely is that a potential buyer is still considering an offer for the club. Relegation from the SPL was confirmed earlier this year after they were docked 10 points for going into administration. But a deadline for fresh investment, last Saturday, passed without a firm offer, and yesterday's sackings were effectively the club's last rites.

"All the staff have been made redundant," Gretna's director of football, Mick Wadsworth, said. "We're told there is still one interested party, but because there are no funds to carry on then everybody has been made redundant."

Gretna could still play in the Scottish Football League next season if a quick sale can be achieved, but the SFL has in place contingency plans to fill a gap if the club disappear from the football map.

Wadsworth, who has also been caretaker manager since Davie Irons left for Morton, said: "It's a big shock to the people that have been here a lot longer than I have. It's a shock to the players that have got contracts, not only for the rest of the season but for next season.

"And it's a shock I'm sure to the local people for whom the club is very, very important. For that group of supporters and certainly the workforce that are local, it's very, very difficult."

None of the four parties who had expressed an interest in the club has made bids. Gretna spiralled towards meltdown after their long-term owner-benefactor, Brooks Mileson, withdrew his funding on the advice of his lawyers after becoming seriously ill with a brain infection.

Mileson spent some £8m during Gretna's rise in Scottish football but the club now has debts of more than £4m. Their one-year stay in the SPL was marked by the lowest gates the division has ever seen as they shared Motherwell's Fir Park because their own stadium was unfit for SPL football.

l The funeral service of Celtic legend Tommy Burns will take place at noon today at St Mary's Church, Abercromby Street, Calton, Glasgow. Due to restrictions on seating, access to the service will be predominantly for family, friends and club representatives. St Mary's church hall was the birthplace of Celtic Football Club when, in November 1887, a meeting discussed the establishment of a football club to feed the poor in the east end of Glasgow.

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