Currently sitting bottom of SPFL2, Berwick Rangers hold the title of the UK’s worst professional team. That’s not something you can claim overnight: it takes years of cockups and wrong decisions to achieve such a status.
Now, there are enough reasons to write several novels on just how we found ourselves here, but as a man who has spent the last few years behind the scenes, I’m putting on my serious hat and outlining some of the key ones…
1. Standing still
Since winning the league in 2007 we’ve not had a lot to shout about. Whilst clubs around us have developed and progressed, we seem to have just plodded on as we were and now find ourselves worryingly behind the times. More on this thought to come.
2. Edinburgh’s arrival
The introduction of relegation in 2015 was followed in 2016 by the arrival of Edinburgh City. An ambitious team in the same area (sort of), chasing the same players and offering the same level of football had a major impact on our recruitment.
This is summarised by Blair Henderson, who has netted more goals than the entire Berwick Rangers squad this season after choosing City over the ‘Gers.
— SNS Group (@snsgroup) May 14, 2016
Between 2010 and 2015 we managed to build a sizeable rainy-day fund with cup ties against Celtic, Rangers and Hibs boosting our bank balance. Sadly, we’ve had nothing but rain since and the fund is now gone. None if it appeared to be used to invest or grow the club in any way either.
4. Boardroom fallouts
Another topic which could be the subject of a novel, an obvious boardroom split developed over years and came to a head in the summer of 2018. Half the board resigned overnight following a failed takeover attempt, leaving a boardroom full of dinosaurs to run the club.
5. Appointing Johnny Harvey
Upon Robbie Horn’s resignation in October, the board chose Johnny Harvey as his successor. Whilst it’s blindingly obvious now that Johnny was the wrong man for the job, I felt at the time this was the case. There was backing for him from supporters, but for me his CV was no different from Robbie’s – young, success in non-league, previous player – and I felt a more experienced manager was required. Why is he the wrong man? Keep reading…
— Berwick Rangers (@OfficialBRFC) October 20, 2018
6. Binning a goalscorer
The first thing Mr Harvey did upon his arrival was send Cedwyn Scott – a striker on loan from Dundee – back to his parent club. The youngster had netted four in six and looked exactly the type of player we’ve gone on to cry out for all season.
7. Player recruitment
Harvey has signed more than 10 players since arriving in October. Almost all came from youth teams and non-league. Now I’m not saying none of them are good enough, but almost none of them are good enough. Four of them have already left again – including Alexander Happi who didn’t even kick a ball – and only Lewis Barr gets pass marks from me. We were already an inexperienced team and this didn’t help the situation.
Harvey ‘Happi’ with squad following latest addition #BRFC
— Berwick Rangers (@OfficialBRFC) November 18, 2018
8. Releasing players
To make space for all his new wonder-signings, Harvey released almost a full team worth of players. With over 800 SPFL appearances between them, this wasn’t a good move from a team already lacking experience. Most notably, Harvey released our top goalscorer Paul Willis, for free. Willis went on to sign for table-topping Peterhead, in a move comparable to Juventus deciding to give Ronaldo to Napoli for a laugh. A fatal and unforgivable error.
Paul Willis leads the way in the goalscoring charts with seven goals so far this campaign. Who do you think will finish the season with the most goals? #BRFC
Paul Willis 7️⃣
Lewis Barr 4️⃣
Cedwyn Scott* 4️⃣
Daryl Healy 3️⃣ pic.twitter.com/uVvIhAeNzB
— Berwick Rangers (@OfficialBRFC) January 22, 2019
9. Ahmed Aloulou
A flop so terrible it warrants a paragraph for itself. Having released Willis, Harvey signed former international Futsal player Ahmed Aloulou. A total of 0 goals have been scored by Aloulou since January, despite spending 467 minutes on the pitch. Sticking with the above analogy, this is like Juventus attempting to replace Ronaldo with Lebron James. Sheer madness.
“Ahmed is powerful, pacey and has an eye for goal. He is hungry to make a real impact here at Berwick Rangers. I have no doubt he will be a player the fans will enjoy watching.”
10. Barca style of play
Having overhauled the team to include the players he wanted, Harvey opted to adapt a Barca style of play. Sadly for everyone involved with the club, players recruited from the East of Scotland leagues aren’t comparable to Xavi and Iniesta and so this failed. Spectacularly.
After a string of pumpings and growing fan unrest, we’ve scrapped that style of play and, by the looks of it, any style of play whatsoever as the players now seem to have no idea or direction.
11. Harvey’s reputation
Harvey arrived with a bit of a reputation for arrogance and talking nonsense from former roles. Rumours of several training ground bust ups, many laughable post-match interviews and even a prank call which shows our manager discussing transfer costs for players with a random bloke in a pub, have a left the manager and the club as a laughing stock to the rest of the SPFL. A prime example of some of Harvey’s deluded comments can be seen in my tweet below.
A clip from a post-match interview after we LOST 2-0 to Peterhead in January. Our record since:
P12 – W1 D2 L9
For 19 Against 57 pic.twitter.com/wrXAaywqvp
— Dom Gall (@DomFGall) April 9, 2019
12. Board’s lack of decision-making
The board seem unable to find the balls to admit their mistake and sack Harvey. We have a maximum of six games to save our league status and no one within the support seems optimistic of that. For me, a caretaker needs to come in and try to steady the ship before we hit the iceberg. It’s a drastic move but we’re in a desperate situation and I would rather we tried something.
13. Board’s refusal to cooperate
It may seem obvious from the above that I think the board are a bit useless, so here’s a few examples of why. Ignoring the argument around my sacking, I was the last of a large group of young volunteers who all tried to help bring the club forward, particularly online. Every one has been disheartened to the point of departure and I can’t help but feel – as the club’s digital presence is plunged back into the dark ages – we’d be in a different place if their contributions had been valued.
14. Board’s failure to adapt and change
The world changes and if you don’t change with it, you find yourself in trouble. Looking forward, our chairman-to-be has already announced that if the worst is to happen, admission will remain at £12. This is 50% more than any other club in the league and, with a drop in quality on the pitch, will undoubtedly lead to a decline in crowds. This is evidenced by East Stirlingshire, who were relegated in 2016, seeing crowds drop by over 100 even with adjusted pricing.
To almost anyone with a brain, this obviously won’t work. However, our board have “realistic targets” of improving attendance by 10%. This is the standard of blind and delusional decision-making that has led Berwick to where we are.
To conclude, I could be here writing all day. I’ve not even touched on so many points including the loss of youth development or commercial failures, but I hope this provides an insight into what goes wrong to make a club this shite. Wish us luck.