Thursday, 6 December 2012

Gloucester City 1 Boston United 0

This was it. This was the end. The final straw, Revelation, Endgame, the Coup de Grace. For Jason Lee, this was the burdensome straw that broke the camel’s back, the defeat too many that flicked the safety on the shotgun, the rope snap that sent the Sword of Damocles swooshing down. 

And what a way to go - no heart, no spirit, no fight, one of the most listless performances I’ve ever seen from any group of lads representing the town of Boston. It came to an undignified end on an Arctic evening in the Cotswolds, a long way from home, in a deserted stadium where the empty stands cruelly echoed his last anguished cries. 

I was one of the 187 people who witnessed this latest chapter ending in the grand history of Boston United Football Club and though those of us of a Pilgrims persuasion did not know it when we left the ground at half nine, it didn’t require a lot of foresight to realise that the end was nigh for the Gaffer. 

I had plenty of time to reflect on the situation on the long and draughty train ride back to London and I concluded that it was time for change. I don’t like to see any man removed of his livelihood but it was clear that the Good Ship Pilgrim was being steered into a perfect storm.

Jason will have a fruitful managerial career in the future, I’m sure of it, but as much as it may have been pleasant and nostalgic to return to a town and club where he was so revered and appreciated during the Football League days, it was never really a snug fit. 

The fans at Boston are perhaps sometimes a little too demanding in their expectations but when the momentum of our Conference North play-off season in 2010-2011 drained away at the start of the next campaign, and inconsistencies and incompetencies crept in, it was always going to be a long way back to gain favour. 

The truth was, this season, that Jase wasn’t motivating what should have been a vastly superior squad to the one that finished mid-table last year. It is a squad that should have ample firepower to score in every match, a creative midfield and a solid rearguard - one that should need little work, just a little nurturing and sending out with a desire to win for the loyal fans and the club. 

And, don’t get me wrong, there have been games - and games against high quality opposition like Chester, Gainsborough, Stalybridge and Halifax - where those players have turned in magnificent performances and how we have reveled in them. 

But set alongside these high points have been baffling results and infuriating inconsistencies - how can we inflict Chester’s only league defeat of the season and yet be the victim of rock bottom Hinckley’s only win? How can we outplay the likes of Halifax, but be beaten at home by Guiseley, Worcester or Altrincham? Why do we play so badly at home and why are matches against the lower lights regarded almost as a nuisance not worth getting up for? 

Add in to the brewing storm of woeful inconsistency the dark clouds of bitterly disappointing cup exits to Alty and Skelmersdale and the chilling wind of collapsing attendances - 782 at York Street saw the loss to Altrincham, just 782! - and it should be clear why a drastic change of direction was required.

It made no sense and, following another defeat at Gloucester, the head-scratcher just became too tough to figure out. Jase must have known it was coming and I knew it was coming when Craig, the club’s press officer, asked me on Thursday morning how I thought things were going. I said Jase should be given until Christmas to oversee an upturn of fortunes and, if he failed, he should be given the bullet. 

“You may be right” came the reply, a subtle hint. An hour later, he was sacked. It was at that point a normal day went a bit surreal. I was set to interview West Ham legend Julian Dicks when the news broke and it came up in the conversation. Dicks said he might send in his CV, as he had done a couple of years back. 

Then I found myself talking about it on Lincs FM, trying to put things into words of perspective while shivering outside the American consulate in Fitzroy Square. I’ve no idea how much they used of the recording. 

I said that the chairman needed to move quickly to appoint a manager of non-league experience, not someone from the old boys’ network who would try and recreate 2005 like Lee did. For the sake of our season, we need a new man quickly because we now have ahead of ourselves a run of winnable fixtures against sides in the lower half. We MUST gain maximum points and get some stability again. 

Oddly, walking back to the Tube to get back to the office, I felt a surge of optimism for United and also for Jase’s career elsewhere. He’ll do well and i wish him well. But we go onwards and upwards. Hopefully. Literally speaking, we go to Vauxhall Motors next which doesn’t seem like a great occasion to start a new era, but then these things can start in odd places.

As for last night, it was a piss-steamer of an evening (in that it was so cold, when you pissed in the urinal, steam came from it) and with constellations of stars visible above Whaddon Road, temperatures must have been well below freezing. 

There was plenty to cheer the 25 or so Pilgrims fans in the ground (I was the only one in the bar beforehand, leading myself to think that nobody else had come) in a first-half we dominated. Ian Ross was inches wide with a trademark free-kick and Mark Jones, who drifted to the left wing a little too much, fizzed a low shot wide. 

But having taken none of these openings, United contrived to produce a second-half performance so abysmal it was like they were spraying the writing on the wall themselves. There wasn’t a single chance and, on the hour, Steve Davies finished at the back post from an Adam Mann cross to settle the game. 

In order to make my train home, I left five minutes from the end confident that I wouldn’t miss anything. As I walked out, I glanced one last time at Jason Lee in the Boston dugout. He looked helpless. He knew, I knew, we all just knew. 

Next match: The beginning of the new era, with assistant Graham Hyde in temporary charge, will start at Vauxhall Motors on Saturday. I’m going to go, i just know I am.