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A town’s sense of self-esteem is often bound up with the success of the local football team.  Which, in recent years, is unfortunate, in the case of Woking FC. For several years they have been hovering around the Conference (now Blue Square Premier league) relegation zone, and with only a few matches left to play, things are looking particularly dire this year. They are currently third from bottom. Woking may stage yet another great escape. But for many diehard fans with memories of the glory years of great FA cup runs and giantkilling acts, FA Trophy triumphs at Wembley, and almost-promotion to the Football League on more than one occasion, the present struggles must be hard to take. This season the problem has been lack of goals. It’s been the problem for a number of seasons, actually. I can remember, a few years ago, when the club was particularly cash-strapped, going to eight successive home games over a period of three months to show I cared, and not seeing them score once. I’m not even a fair-weather supporter anymore, as the picture above might indicate.  Yet Woking’s home attendances have stayed surprisingly resilient in the circumstances, with a hardcore of loyal fans cheering them on through thick and thin.  The crowd potential if significant success ever returned is still there.

Manager Geoff Chapple presided over Woking’s great seasons,  when they rose through the non-league rankings to gain promotion to the Conference.  The council helped them build a splendid stand, which still puts the rest of the ground to shame.  The likes of Tim Buzaglo (hat-trick hero of the great FA Cup giantkilling act at West Brom in 1991, see below) and former Chelsea star Clive Walker helped them to some momentous victories and titanic matches against league teams that made the whole football world sit up and take notice.

Those years have gone, and may never return.  But what of the future? An ambitous redevelopment plan that could transform the stadium at Kingfield has been put on the back burner because of the economic downturn, and the club faces a £300,000 deficit next season after long-time benefactor,  owner Chris Ingram – he of the extensive art collection that graces the Woking Lightbox – withdraws his funding in May.  Manager Phil Gilchrist has said he wants to concentrate on the “winnable” matches among the club’s remaining games.  Admission prices have been reduced for the next two home fixtures, against Cambridge United and Kidderminster Harriers, on Monday and Wednesday night.

After those two games both resulted in defeats, including a 1-5 drubbing at the hands of Kidderminster, Gilchrist was sacked – and Woking promptly won with an 88th minute goal at Barrow. Can they do it?  We’d all hate to see them go down from the Conference. COME ON YOU CARDS! 

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