Column: Surely it's Sandy Lane or nothing for Worksop Town, and is it time to park promotion hopes?
Sandy Lane is the only venue that currrently gives Worksop Town hope for a meaningful future.
The club confirmed this week that a groundshare at Clipstone is an option open to them for next season, and creating back-up plans is a diligent action.
Should the Sandy Lane negotiations fail to yield an agreement between the club and leaseholder Pete Whitehead, then of course the world’s fourth oldest club will have to play somewhere.
The league need to know where next season’s home games will be played, by the end of this month – but another period of exile is unthinkable.
Even playing home games just a short drive away, at Clipstone, would probably halve the current Worksop Town average home attendance figure of 472.
All the momentum the club have built through their Team500 scheme, and the support of local businesses keen to be linked to a thriving football club, would be in serious jeopardy.
Would Mark Shaw stay at the club? This is a man who – whether you like him or not – came up with the Team500 initiative, the community outreach ideas, links to local schools, academy and built a team that finished second last year.
Whatever your thoughts on him as a manager, or the current Worksop Town team, you cannot question his worth to the club since Tigers became self sufficient almost two years ago.
This season might have fizzled out in disappointing fashion, but a competitive Tigers team playing out of Clipstone is highly unlikely.
How long could the club survive?
There’d be little hope of fundraising to the extend needed to secure the Sandy Lane lease once and for all.
Would all hopes and dreams be pinned upon John Mann’s proposed new stadium in the town?
On that, we’ve had no detail on public record, other than the promise that one day soon, something will be revealed.
The future of a football club cannot rest on promises.
Surely, the only blueprint for Worksop Town is to shake hands on the deal offered by Mr Whitehead, whatever that is, and knuckle down to start a fighting fund to acquire the lease once and for all?
And maybe it’s time to park the promotion hopes, as bitter a pill as that will be for some to swallow.
A wise old Tiger said to me recently: “This isn’t even an existence.”
He’s not far wrong – the current status is very temporary, with no definite answer to the question: ‘What does the future hold?’
Should money be ploughed into player wages year after year, chasing a promotion that has in recent years eluded even the likes of Handsworth Parramore.
Or should the vast majority of any cash raised be put aside to wrestle back control of the club’s future?
Especially when the current budget apparently isn’t cutting it.
Stick a team of young, developing and yes, cheap, footballers on the pitch and bide your time.
Playing the long game might just ensure Tigers are playing any sort of game in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time.
If Worksop Town made clear their long term strategy to the fanbase, who have proved their loyalty in times of duress more than once in recent years, I believe they would get the same backing they’ve enjoyed since returning to Sandy Lane.
If the club’s stated aim was to build a young squad who will, in a few years, be in a position to compete for the title – all the while squirrelling away money to buy the lease, I think the most supporters would accept that as a sensible plan.
It might take a decade to gather the capital needed to prise the lease from Mr Whitehead, and of course he might have no desire to hold onto it for that length of time, or wait for Tigers to get their act together.
So is a mortgage an option? If not through a financial institution, through a local businessman or perhaps even the man whose cash saved the club from financial ruin in 2010.
Jason Clark pumped over half a million into Worksop Town, all in the name of entertainment and trying to get into the Conference North.
How I’m sure everyone at Worksop would like to turn back time to see that money put to an alternative, more practical use.
A sticking point is the obvious fact that Clark did sink £550,000 into Worksop Town, with no return, and that debt has not yet been legally written off.
But look at how well Tigers have done financially since he left the scene – with the correct leadership they could pay off any further loan with a continuation and development of the membership scheme.
All avenues must be explored, because the road the club are currently travelling is a dead end.