It’s nearly twenty months since that fateful, rain-sodden gloomy December day when Boothferry Park was ‘packed’ to the rafters for one final time, the scene of so many memories that are permanently etched on the mind of thousands upon thousands of football fans up and down the country.
The day in question, 14th December 2002, was supposed to be a glorious ending to 54 years of professional football being played on it’s lush, Centre Court-esque turf. It turned out, however, to be everything but that.
In fact, it turned out to what we had, at that time, become accustomed to – a dull, below par performance full of agonising missed chances, during which we conceded a ‘sucker punch’ goal against a crap team of pseudo-Geordies, witnessed by an extremely subdued crowd.
The final whistle was blown, thousands of the Tigers faithful slowly bumbled their way onto the squelchy, rain-sodden turf, including myself. It was in fact the first and only time I had ever set foot on the pitch, despite having supported my beloved team since my first visit as a starry-eyed five year old in 1981.
In the many years since, the place had hardly changed, but for the shameful replacement of the stadium’s quaintest stand with a pissy-coloured supermarket abutted with several moss-strewn concrete steps.
The place was decrepit, ugly, and hardly befitted a football club with such a numerous and enthusiastic following. It was time to move on.
And move on we did. Only four days later, we played our first game at our glorious new home, one that even the most optimistic of our fans feared would never happen. It was the dawning of an exciting new era, even though there were a curiously high number of people opposed to the idea, especially those who experienced the ‘golden generation’ of the late 1950s and 60s. Their memories of Boothferry Park were mainly happy ones.
Many younger folk like myself, however, don’t quite share that feeling. Yes, I’ve seen some great times there, for instance our two promotions during the mid-80s, our memorable FA Cup clash against the then-mighty Liverpool not long after, the Great Escape and not least the many sublime performances from the likes of Norman, Jobson, Payton and Windass. Ask me to reminisce of Boothferry Park though, and I think of the many sad times.
I think of that hideous supermarket. I think of half the ground (including Kempton at one point) being closed off in a state of disrepair. I think of our freefall from Division 2 (old) to the ‘dungeon’. I think of Terry Dolan and Jeff Lee shouting at Rob Dewhurst to hoof the ball towards the corner flag. I think of Bastard City fans in the South Stand. I think “Fish Out”. I think of Mark Hateley and his sidekicks skullfucking the clubs’ finances. I think of David Lloyd’s henchmen clamping heavy-duty padlocks on the club gates. I think of that last, dreadful, 1-0 defeat to Darlington.
As mentioned earlier, nearly two years have passed since we were all penned in there for one final time. We have since moved onwards and undoubtedly upwards. I still, however, keep being reminded of our dismal past each time I drive past Fer Ark on my way to the Circle and often wonder to myself why it’s still there. I look at it and my heart sinks, even though I feel I should be experiencing a warm glow and reliving memories of the better times. It doesn’t quite work like that for me though. I’d rather that somebody pulled the place down tomorrow, although it seems we’ll be waiting a long time before that actually happens.
Boothferry Park? You can keep it. I know where I’d rather be.