Springtime again. The sun is back from winter hibernation, the trees are blossoming and the Shaymen (Halifax Town Football Club for the uninitiated – the nickname is taken from the name of the stadium – The Shay) are involved in their perennial relegation dogfight.

Following the club for the last 30 years of my life has been a rollercoaster ride with few highs. Of course people speak with pride about the historic Watney Cup victory over Manchester United in 1974, and the 1981 FA Cup run where the mighty Manchester City were defeated, but recently there has been little to lift the gloom that has settled over the Shay.

The season just ended has been more traumatic than most: three managers have tried to save the club from relegation, the board of directors have put the club up for sale, and the perennial relegation battle has ended in failure – next season the Shaymen will not play in the football league, but in the Nationwide Conference.

This is not an entirely new problem. The club were last relegated in 1993, but won the Conference championship in 1998 to reclaim a place in the League. The 1997/98 season was a glorious trail of thrilling attacking football inspired by manager George Mulhall and coach Kieran O’Regan. Unfortunately, it was not to last, and 4 seasons of declining league positions have culminated in a second relegation.

However, the outlook is not completely bleak. The Shay stadium has been redeveloped and is now a wondrous, gleaming, yellow and blue construction. Some good young players are coming through in to the first team and the current manager, Neil Redfern, has an attacking, swashbuckling mindset. And more than anything else, you can still stand in the main stand and gaze across at the nearby Pennine hills – the scenery is always superb, irrespective of the fare on offer on the pitch.

Roll on August and the start of the new season, and here’s hoping for another championship!

Andrew Howarth, a life-long Halifax Town supporter.


Photo: The Homes Of Football, Ambleside.