Non-League Football: Worthy Workington

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SINCE being ejected from the Football League in 1978, Workington have rarely known anything but under- achievement, writes Rupert Metcalf. They have never finished higher than seventh in the Northern Premier League, in which they have languished in the lower reaches of the First Division following relegation in 1988.

The last time the Reds enjoyed a promotion campaign was 30 seasons ago, when they were elevated from the old Fourth Division. Their stay in the Third lasted just three seasons, and their downward progress continued when they lost their League place to the southern upstarts, Wimbledon, 11 years later.

Now, though, there is optimism at the club from the Cumberland coast as they experience their best season for at least a decade. Last week they reached the top of the First Division after a 1-1 draw against Gretna. They were deposed a day later (Alfreton currently lead the pack on goal difference from Guiseley) but they remain well-placed in the promotion hunt.

'This is one of our best sides since we left the League,' Jackie Donald, the chairman, said. The manager, Alan Cook, was assistant to the late Ray Wilkie at Barrow when they won the FA Trophy in 1990.

'We have a seven-year plan,' Donald added, 'in which our aim is to reach the Conference and be knocking on the door of the Football League. The way Cook is going that could happen sooner but we hope not, as we want to get our finances in order. We're proud to say that this club is in the black for the first time in 30 years.'