ON THE ROAD: Worksop Town are on the brink after 160 years

ON THE ROAD: Fans are digging deep to save wobbly Worksop Town, the world’s fourth oldest club who are on the brink of extinction after 160 years

  • Worksop Town are the world’s fourth oldest club and are in danger of folding
  • The Northern Premier League side have debts to pay with one week deadline 
  • Fans have raised more than £24,000 to save wobbly Worksop from extinction 
  • They lost to Sutton Coldfield, but fans are worried if they’ll be back next week 
  • There is a JustGiving page to donate to save Worksop Town, aiming for £30,000 

On the BBC quiz show Pointless a few years back, contestants were asked to list the 10 oldest football clubs in the world still playing matches.

A tough question for most, but a group of football anoraks were taking part. Answers of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea were all incorrect.

One knowledgeable chap correctly answered Notts County, much to the surprise of the rest of his team. Nobody, however, plumped for Worksop Town, the world’s fourth oldest club and founded in 1861, a year earlier than County.

Worksop Town are the fourth oldest football club in the world and first formed in 1861

The club are currently playing in the Northern Premier League Division 1 – England’s eighth tier

Once Worksop was revealed as a correct answer, along with Sheffield FC — the world’s oldest club — there was a look of bemusement on the face of the contestants.

‘Worksop? Where is that?’ one asked, while two others questioned the club’s very existence. 

Perhaps that should have come as no surprise given Worksop’s greatest achievement is still considered to be holding Tottenham to a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane in the first round of the FA Cup in 1923. 

Since the mid-1970s, they have spent the majority of their time in steps seven and eight of the English football pyramid.

But for the 400 or so who regularly turn up at Sandy Lane, the club’s ground in the former coal-mining town, the Tigers are what they live for. It would, then, be a ‘tragedy’, as club historian John Stocks puts it, if Worksop were to fold.

But that remains a possibility should funds not be raised by the end of this week after financial mismanagement, which only came to light recently and is now being investigated by the police, left the club £60,000 in debt.

The club are in danger of folding due to ‘financial mismanagement’ with one week to sort it out

A police investigation showed that they were £60,000 in debt which needs paying off

Half of that has been paid by Peter Whitehead, the owner of Sandy Lane, who wants to take control of the club and help move it into a new era. A further £24,000 has been raised by supporters and well-wishers in just over two weeks. 

Whitehead’s eight-year-old grandson, Oliver, upon ­hearing his grandad — and club president Keith Ilett — talking about the club’s struggles, cycled 80 laps of the ground, which equates to 18.61 miles. That brought in £4,000.

‘It put a lump in my throat,’ Whitehead says. ‘For his thinking at that age. Wow, just fantastic it were, I’m shivering now because I feel so proud of what he’s done.’

Whitehead says the club would be long gone without Ilett, who adds: ‘The response has been amazing. We’ve had a £5,000 donation from someone in Spain who used to watch Worksop. He saw that we were going to go under and so he just come to the ground and give me a cheque for £5,000 just like that. Then there’s Chris Waddle, who played for us in 1990s, he’s said he’ll help.

Pete Whitehead (right), owner of Sandy Lane, paid off half and wants to take control of the club

Their fans raised £24,000 along with other donors and fund raisers connected with the club

‘It tells you something about the club when someone like him says to me, “I’ve played at Marseille, I’ve played at ­Newcastle, I’ve played for England” but ‘ere it still gets me ‘ere,’ Ilett points to his heart for emphasis.

The push to get Worksop over the line was evident on Saturday ahead of a mid-table Northern Premier League Division One South East clash against Sutton Coldfield.

Shaun Taylor, a fan of 45 years, shuffles to the front of a queue that has formed at the Clubhouse End to donate £100 to the ­President’s Fund, which will get his name on a plaque that will honour those who have pledged to save the club. ‘It were a no-brainer,’ he says. ‘Money’s a bit tight like, but it’s a worthwhile cause and I wouldn’t want ­Worksop to go down the pan. This club means everything to me.’

Worksop welcomed Sutton Coldfield in a league match that could potentially be their last

On the pitch it’s a fairly even contest to begin with. Strong gusts of wind make a typically direct style difficult, much to the annoyance of one old boy in the packed Main Stand. ‘Get it on the deck, Town!’ he shouts.

‘Bloody hell lads, c’mon,’ soon follows, much to the amusement of 31-year-old manager Kyle Jordan when it is put to him over a pint after the game. ‘Ha, the old boys,’ Jordan laughs. ‘It’s never good enough. If we’re winning 4-0, it should be 6-0, but I love it because that’s football. Then you flip that with the fans who are always behind the goal and they sing no matter what.’

Ben Usher-Shipway scored the only goal of the match to add salt to the wounds for Worksop

The contest was hard-fought but supporters care more if they can come back next week

It is from behind the goal that Richard Nelson and his son Aaron see Worksop concede the game’s only goal, but then enjoy ­sustained pressure inside the Sutton ­Coldfield area after the visitors go down to 10 men following James Mutton’s dismissal for a stamp on Matt Sykes.

Chances come and go but ­Worksop can’t find an equaliser. ‘The result doesn’t matter,’ ­Nelson says. ‘All that matters is if this club is still here this time next week.’  

How to donate to help save Worksop Town

On February 10th, the club released a statement on their website that said president Mr Keith Ilett ‘had approached Mr Peter Whitehead, who owns the lease to Sandy Lane football ground, to ask if he would kindly take over the club as chairman’.

Mr Whitehead has agreed to do so, as long as the fans raise £30,000 by the end of the month. The statement goes on to please for help from anyone ‘who cares for their club to do what they can’ and Peter Whitehead has confirmed that an ‘official plaque, in recognition of the names of those individuals and businesses who come forward to help save the club, will be placed in the clubhouse should he take over. Each person would also receive a club membership pass, which would entitle them to certain benefits at the ground.’

If you wish to donate, click here to find the JustGiving page aiming to raise £30,000 to save Worksop Town FC.  

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