Hard times for Histon
5 February ~ Tuesday night's Blue Square Premier fixture between Histon and York City was a match of note for both sides. For the visitors, the 1-1 draw brought a club record run of nine consecutive league wins to an end, while the attendance of just 487 gave a clear indication of the fan's opinions of the recent goings-on at Bridge Road. Histon's rise to the highest tier of non-League football ranks as one of the most impressive stories of recent seasons. They were in the Eastern Counties Premier as recently as 2000. Last season, however, they finished third in the Conference and famously beat Leeds Utd in a televised FA Cup clash.
While a number of players remained as squad members throughout this rise through the pyramid, chairman Gareth Baldwin and manager Steve Fallon were regarded as the key men behind their ascent. Roll forward to the start of 2010, both of those key figures are gone and the new chairman has done little to appease the existing fan base. Tony Roach is now the man in charge and his predecessor Baldwin was last week announced as an advisor at near-neighbours Cambridge Utd, his boyhood club. It's no secret that he will be on their board by the end of the summer.
Roach did not have everybody's support at Bridge Road even before the departure of Fallon, but the sacking of the man who had earned four promotions in seven years sparked a furious reaction from his supporters. The reasoning behind the dismissal also gained controversy as Roach claimed that Fallon had sacked assistant manager Alan Lewer in his first training session after returning from gardening leave enforced by Roach. Even Lewer himself wouldn't confirm that this had happened, but the "irreconcilable differences" between the parties saw the manager on his way.
This was just the worst in a series of events that had disillusioned those supporters who had either watched the team all the way up from Eastern Counties level or those who had jumped on board during the rise up the leagues. Four veteran players were released from the squad, which is what caused Fallon's absence in the first place, as Roach attempted to lower the playing budget.
Mere weeks later and the new chairman was in the Cambridge News making a very public bid to sign three full-time professionals from Cambridge Utd, sparking bemusement among Histon fans who wondered how such full-time players could be paid by a part-time team. Roach had also boasted that Histon are "the biggest club in Cambridge" despite never having finished higher than Cambridge in their history. That may happen this season but would not of course bring the villagers anywhere near the Football League history of their neighbours.
After averaging almost 1,200 for home games last season and seeing that figure fall into three figures for this campaign, Histon can't afford to lose more spectators. With 100 of the 487 present on Tuesday night being away fans, it's clear that many fans are choosing to make their dissatisfaction known by voting with their feet. Crowds that small are not sustainable at Conference level, leaving those that remain to hope that they are not returning to where they started. Matt Ramsay
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