THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

With several new and reformed clubs in the English and Scottish Leagues, Ian Plenderleith finds their sites offering goat sacrifices, laughable claims of sportsmanship and matrimony on the cheap

Scottish League newcomer FC Gretna’s web presence is minimal, but any parsimonious, football-minded elopers may be excited by the chance of holding their wedding reception in the club’s salubrious bar for free. “Make your Wedding Day both special and different,” the club’s official site promises. “We also offer the use of our facilities to pre­pare your own food.” It is too modest to men­tion the incentive of a free glance out the win­dow at Gretna v Albion Rovers while doing the conga.

Just about the only information provided on the supporters’ page is that Gretna “is the only Scottish club to play in an English league”, so it will be interesting to see how they sell themselves once they get round to updating the site. Perhaps they will resort to a claim to be the only club in Scotland to sell “wire blazer badges” (a snip at £12.50 each), a merchandising rarity that evokes images of well-attired, red-nosed elderly gentlemen standing on the touchline snorting G&Ts and roaring “Play up, Gretna!”

Further north, the official site of the Scot­tish League’s other “newcomer”, Airdrie Un­i­ted, is getting its text in a twist and pasting photos over prose, although that’s perhaps not surprising when a considered highlight of the club’s history (well, the old Airdrie’s) is that “in 1992-93 they played Sparta Prague in the European Cup-Winners Cup – losing only 3-1 on aggregate”.

Elsewhere, an outline of the new club’s goals reads like one of those noble but deeply uninspiring corporate mission statements which became all the rage in the 1990s. It in­cludes “respect for others; integrity and open­ness; sportsmanship – officials, players, and fans” and finally “entertainment – value-for-money for all the family”. If a professional football club anywhere has managed to uphold a single one of those ideals over more than the shortest period of time I’ve yet to hear about it, but you can’t fault them for trying. And the new board looks fairly young and optimistic, despite chairman Jim Ballantyne’s jacket giv­ing him the appearance of an old-style eastern European party apparatchik.

In England, the Third Division’s new ar­rival Boston United is not that well served online. The official website is thrill-free, but comprehensive, especially the history section, while Bostonfever.com, a Rivals site, lacks the kind of flair and energy you might expect from a League debutant. Another unofficial site, Boston on the Brain, is punchy and up-to-date, but lacks both humour and content.

AFC Wimbledon’s official homepage is developing as quickly as the club itself, with pictures and player profiles recently added, including nicknames (goalkeeper Andy Bell is reassuringly known as “Ding Dong” – AFCW is clearly on its way to establishing it­self as a bona fide football club) and superstitions. Centre-forward Joe Sheerin likes to “sac­rifice a goat or chicken”, while the team’s oldest player, Keith Ward, cites Never Mind The Bol­locks as his favourite album. Do his young team-mates think he’s an anarchist rebel or an old fart?

The Big Tissue (another Rivals site), has also thrown its lot in with AFC Wimbledon, and is probably the best unofficial “real” Dons site, featuring quickly realised match reports, sharp comment and witty headlines, such as the one reporting Kenny Cunningham’s dep­arture from Wimbledon FC to Birmingham – KC leaves Sunshine Band.

The mediocre Wimbledon Mad site, under the aegis of the miserably named Footy Mad umbrella, also initially threw itself behind the new Combined Counties League club, but has since reverted to short, unenthusiastic match reports of the largely abandoned Wimbledon FC (pressure from the parent company, per­haps?).

Meanwhile, the Wimbledon section at Fansfc (formerly From The Terrace) also cov­ered both clubs during pre-season, but has now mysteriously dropped almost all mention of AFC Wimbledon. Incidentally, the re­nam­ed, “new look” Fansfc is plagued by ir­ritating, user-hateful, pop-up ads, while having suf­fered a profound drop in both depth and quality.

From WSC 188 October 2002. What was happening this month

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