It’s always funny to revisit predictions – especially mine, which are traditionally terrible. A quick glance at last year’s New Year issue of The Pilgrim saw Terrace Chatter eagerly looking ahead to what it hoped would be a rather more enjoyable year than the last. “Frankly, 2017 will not be a year that lingers long in the memory,” I’d said. “But let’s give it a great send off today and look forward to a better year ahead.” I know I struggle to sound optimistic without sounding sarcastic, but I really did mean it. 2017 was rubbish.
SO LONG, 2018: So here we are – Boston United’s final game of the calendar year and a chance to reflect on the last twelve months. Did 2018 end up being much better? Well yes it was. I mean, sure, we didn’t make the play-offs, but the fact Craig Elliott’s revamped team kept the season alive right up until the final few games was an extraordinary turnaround given the dire position this club found itself mired in just a year ago. 2018 saw everyone throw their weight behind Elliott, a young, highly-rated up-and-coming manager, and a popular guy to boot. Fans haven’t been this united about a boss since the days of Scott and Hurst, and you shouldn’t underestimate how important goodwill is when it comes to taking the pressure off the people at the top. It hasn’t all been rosy. As it stands today, Boston United are in a slightly disappointing position in the league, especially given the Vanarama North’s scattergun unpredictability this year. We’ve also had an unusually high turnover of players, although the reasons why are no great mystery. But 2018 was still more good than bad. And we didn’t get beaten 9-2 in 2018, which certainly qualifies it as a better year than 2016.
AND ANOTHER THING: So what else was good? Well, there was an FSF award nomination for the club’s excellent community outreach program. Preparatory ground work started on the site of what will eventually be a spiffing new community stadium out in Wyberton. On the pitch, one standout moment was that excellent 2-1 win away at Salford, a game which saw Craig Elliott tactically outsmart the 2017/2018 managers of the season and (slightly) spoil the Class of ‘92’s promotion party. David Norris came back for one last swansong. 2018 was also quite funny: one Boston fan had to watch a game from the Stump after being a bit naughty. And no, we weren’t much better in the knockout cup competitions this year either, but then we’ve had about twenty years to get used to all that. So even that didn’t feel like much of a gut-wrencher.
NEW HORIZONS: So what next? What would count as success in 2019? I suspect we’ll all have slightly different opinions on that. Some of us will be disappointed if we don’t get our act together and make a late punt for the title (and the way the league is going, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility). Some will be expecting a run at the play-offs, which is a far more realistic expectation. Others, myself included, have more of an eye on the long term outlook for a club that has for many years now had a “there’s always next year” feel about it. Let’s be pragmatic about it: 2019 is probably not going to be the year we move into a spanking new stadium and become an all-conquering behemoth ruthlessly bulldozing its way through the league with all that new-found revenue from a badminton court. But that’s not to say progress won’t be made towards that ultimate goal, and as that huge patch of land south of the town continues being developed, every passing day brings us that bit closer to saying farewell to this place. It may not feel like it at times, but we really are closer to the dawn of a ‘new’ Boston United than you think. On the pitch, Craig Elliott’s first full year in charge has had more ups than downs, and in 2019 we’ll all be willing him on as he continues striving towards a settled, successful side that can display a little more consistency. Of course it’s hard to get right – if it was easy, anyone could be a manager. Just ask Jose Mourinho.
So that’s that. Another year is over and although my 26th year of watching Boston United didn’t yield a trophy or a promotion, I still think there’s much to look forward to. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2019 is a happy and prosperous year for everyone – whether you’re a Boston regular or one of today’s visitors from Bradford. Safe travels and enjoy the game. See you next year – roll on 2019.
This article originally appeared in The Pilgrim matchday magazine. Boston drew the game 2-2 in front of 1064 fans.