THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

As relegation looms and despair mounts across the land, Ian Plenderleith went online to see how fans of endangered clubs are coping

The season is reaching its zenith, but for some teams it’s more or less over. How are the fans of table-proppers across the leagues coping with despair and defeat with two months of the season still to go?

In Watford’s case defiantly, if Ian Grant’s unofficial Watford site Blind, Stupid and Desperate is any gauge. Apart from a moose with a dunce’s cap at the main page crying “Help”, the site is mainly text, but this is redeemed by the quality of the writing. The match report from the recent defeat at Chelsea pleads the club’s case passionately: “We have every right to take great pride in falling at the final hurdle rather than the first. It’s difficult to explain – sometimes you have to measure achievements by emotion rather than points gained, and this felt monumental.”

At Swindon, though, all unofficial fan sites were apparently abandoned without hope a year or two back, while the official club site under the sections “News” and “Match Action” can only promise “coming soon”. Or not. Click on “Players” and your browser will promptly, and appositely, inform you “Done”, but the faces of shame remain hidden.

Site of the month goes to the unofficial Chesterfield fan site Aspire! This excellent webzine should be even better once current reconstruction is complete. Competently written and smartly laid out, Aspire! has manfully given up on what it is already calling this “relegation season”, but is keeping fans well informed in a critical period where the club is looking for both a new owner and a possible site for a new ground. The content of the old site can still be accessed, and Glasgow Rangers fans may like to go back in time on the Spireola – a virtual jukebox of nostalgia which shows tickets, programmes and local match reports – to the night in 1980 when they were stuffed 3-0 in the short-lived Anglo-Scottish Cup.

The unofficial site of Chester City (it’s been a bad season for clubs beginning with “Chester”) – Singing The Blues – was last updated at the end of October following a home defeat by Lincoln, typically a point in any club’s history where fans fall into a state of irreversible pessimism. Not that it needs much updating as the following quote shows: “Effect on City’s league position: Still 24th!” It’s a shame, however, that the team has no effective online voice at such a critical time in its history.

In Scotland, the United Clydebank Supporters’ feisty site documents the struggle against losing the club’s ground and, possibly, both its identity and existence. A lucid campaigning forum, it presents in full its well-argued blueprints for the future of the club, as well as a list of all the shareholders (with home addresses) who wanted to move the club to Dublin. On the football side it is doggedly supportive, although the “Fewest League Wins” statistic in the “Ups and Downs” section will possibly need to be updated come the season’s end.

From WSC 158 April 2000. What was happening this month

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