Seven years ago, Boston United chairman David Newton and vice-chairman Neil Kempster took to the stage at a packed fans’ forum in the Pilgrim Lounge and revealed, to widespread astonishment, their plans for a new stadium and community complex, along with a huge commercial and residential development that would completely transform a part of Wyberton once bisected by a railway line next to Tytton Lane East.
The plans were sleek and professional. Glass. Loads of glass. Curved floodlights that didn’t look anything like those at York Street, but looked like someone had dropped Trent Bridge on the edge of the village. Concourses. Bars. Televisions!
Jaws dropped. Especially mine: my mum and dad live on Tytton Lane West. Finally, I thought, I could pile into my dad’s collection of real ales and stroll down to watch my team, a mere ten-minute walk from ‘home’. He was horrified at the prospect and has now hidden his beer stash.
It really is a historic day. This ground has been in the planning for years; a real labour of love. “It’ll never get built!” some protested. Well, turns out it did.
Well. Turns out he didn’t need to bother. I’m not strolling anywhere today. What I didn’t reckon with was the biggest public health crisis since McDonald’s launched the triple cheeseburger absolutely tearing society to pieces, to the point politicians are now openly arguing on TV about scotch eggs. As such, the first game at our sparkling new home is now being played behind closed doors under the guidance of fearsome Covid enforcer Neil Kempster. It’s a crushing reality that, denied a final farewell to York Street, United fans will also now be locked out of today’s match and forced to watch this historic occasion from the sofa.
And it really is a historic day. This ground has been in the planning for years; a real labour of love. “It’ll never get built!” some protested. Well, turns out it did. Well, most of it anyway. We’ll have to wait a bit longer for the sports hall and 3G pitches, but what Boston United have built is – from a distance at least – one of the best new stadiums in non-league football. If you’re going to replace a stadium as loved as York Street, you’d better not mess it up – and the owners certainly haven’t. Even the signs look posh.
But as it stands, the closest any of us can get to the new building is Costa Coffee, where plenty of fans have stood and taken their photos dreaming of the day they’ll actually be allowed to have a look inside. We were hoping that would be today: alas, the coronvirus had other plans.
But weirdly, it’s not even Boston fans I feel most sorry for. It’s the two chairmen. They’ve ploughed a staggering amount of time and money into this project and by all accounts agonised over every little detail. They are, rightly, proud of what they’ve achieved. It might not be finished, but this new facility is a stunning testament to what you can do with patience and determination, even when the odds seem overwhelmingly against you. The pair have, with literally no assets, created a stadium that the town should be proud of.
It’s taken time, it’s not happened overnight, but look at it – happened. David Newton has been particularly keen to ensure photos of the place don’t leak onto social media. I hate him for it, but I get it. He wants fans to see the place for the first time with their own eyes, and as annoying as it is, you can’t deny him that privilege. The Jakemans is his baby.
I’ll be honest, I semi-jokingly tried to blag my way in. It wasn’t a long conversation. Even spending hundreds of pounds on old York Street signage that my wife hates isn’t enough to defeat the Covid protocols. I’m as welcome at the Jakemans as a Chorley overhead kick. And rightly so.
It might not be finished, but this new facility is a stunning testament to what you can do with patience and determination, even when the odds seem overwhelmingly against you
What’s even more distressing is that Craig Elliott’s 2020 United are an incredibly exciting bunch. A blip at Fylde last weekend spoiled what had been an otherwise brilliant start for the Pilgrims, but they swiftly put that behind them with an excellent point at Gloucester, although technical issues with the streaming service left a number of fans unable to see the whole game. That better not happen today. Elliott has assembled the strongest Boston United side in years, which is typical when you consider no-one can actually see them play and we had to abandon the FA Cup just when we started to get good at it.
With games coming up at an incredible pace over the next few weeks as Boston try and make up for lost time, the squad depth we have acquired will be vital. But even so, the brutal nature of the schedule may still take its toll. The odds may be against us, but then they were in 2007. And look what we’ve got today.
Enjoy the game.