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Rough Guide to... Boston United's glorious and frequently illegal history > Rough Guides > Boston United's glorious history

History is wonderful. It can be re-written at will to fit whatever ideological agenda one happens to have. What a great invention it is. Here, then, is impsTALK's history of Boston United.

The Very Very Early Years
The name 'Boston United' first emerged 196 million years ago when eight distinct streams of windblown excrement emitted by a queasy pterodactyl fell upon an exposed sandstone outcrop in north-east Pangea, forming looping shapes that we today would now understand to approximately spell the words 'Bstn Untd'.

Since it would be a several millennia before even the most basic of syllabic Neolithic written languages emerged, let alone the Vauxhall Conference, it is possible, but far from certain, that the pterodactyl was not displaying an early, primitive show of support for one of the most successful non-league football clubs of the 1970s, and was merely just very ill.

The Very Early Years
Plato was to allude to Boston United’s well publicised financial difficulties when writing about the death of Socrates in 399 B.C. According to the account, after drinking poison hemlock, Socrates said: “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Please, don't forget to pay the debt.” According to some scholars, Socrates then added, with his last gasp: “Or, at least, enter into a Cock Voluntary Arrangement. Two eggs in the cock."

The Early Years
Football began to be played in Boston during the latter part of the 1880s when two local schoolboys, Herbert Mugfret-Fishhead and Isaiah Bromley Shattocks, laid down their blazers in the Mart Yard at Boston Grammar School. The impromptu game did not go down well with one master, who wrote: “By God! Curse all wretched infant fools who deign to play this new fangled ‘game’ foot-ball. We ought thrash these young scoundrels with a might and a fervour unseen since I helped crush rebellious darkie savages in Gujarat!”

The craze for football soon spread, and it didn’t take long for the town to boast its very first team, playing on the site of the York Street Stadium. In 1889 the ground was renamed in a sponsorship deal and became known as ‘Mr Hartley’s Radium Watch Emporium Foot-ball and Re-creation Ground’. The site witnessed the first entry into the FA Cup sponsored by the White Star Line in 1897, but Boston were thrashed out of sight by Gainsborough Trinity thanks to the vocal backing of both Trinity supporters. "Never before a cheer such as this have I heard!" one reporter at the game exclaimed. “The earth banks were in tumult!”

Boston was again in the limelight in 1914 when British and German troops celebrated Christmas together, abandoning their trenches in the now famous Christmas Eve match. At this time, there were now two senior clubs in Boston – Town and the Swifts who both played at Mr Hartley’s Radium Watch Emporium Foot-ball and Re-creation Ground. Both teams were members of the Lincoln and District League and were well known throughout the region.

It was therefore little surprise when, as the troops on opposing sides in the Great War converged for their memorable amnesty, Private Harry Mankle exclaimed: “We’ll be Boston Swifts!” before hoofing the ball long for a goal kick. Meanwhile, the British manager, a young Scotsman called Private Evans, and three of this friends attempted to use the game of football as a smokescreen to acquire and redevelop the German trench into ‘a British residential development incorporating ammunition bunkers’. In other words, a British trench. The Germans rejected the plans with a sustained artillery barrage lasting six days.

After the end of the Great War, there were only enough men left intact to form one club in the town. Calling the club simply 'Boston' and joining the Midland League in the early 1920s, the townsfolk witnessed their first FA Cup shock and saw the side achieve moderate success before it was wound up in 1932. In 1933 a new club was formed, with supporters opting to adopt the name found fossillised in rocks found on the Lincolnshire Wolds - Bstn Untd. "We need only add vowels" exclaimed important ex-Boston Swifts fan Albert Mugfret-Fishhead - and on the 3 July 1933 the new club was born.

However, Boston United achieved little of note until they reached
the second round of the FA Cup in 1955/1956. The then manager, ex-Derby man Ray Middleton, was delighted to be drawn against Derby County at the Baseball Ground. United trounced the home side, rolling in six goals at the Baseball Ground in a 6-1 win. In doing so, United laid claim to one of the more impressively obscure FA Cup records, that of a record score by a non-league club against a League club on their own ground. The fact that this particular record doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue is probably why it is always omitted from those newspaper features about giant-killing that lazy newshounds trot out every November. United were drawn against Tottenham in the next round of the FA Cup, and they were dispatched back to from whence they came 1-0.

The 1960s might have seen vast scientific and cultural advances around the world, not to mention an explosion of cool music, but sadly Boston weren't feeling any groovy love. In 1964, the club's finances were in such a state that Ernest Malkinson decided that United should effectively fold. Unhappy supporters swiftly resolved to form a new club - Boston FC (later to be known as Town) - only for Malkinson to deny the new club use of the ground and decide he didn't want to club to fold after all. Boston FC were told in no uncertain terms to do one somewhere else while the Pilgrims, having withdrawn from their league, flailed around in a local amateur competition for a season before they rejoined the big time. Well, the United Counties.

In 1968, Boston helped form the Northern Premier League and the following decade saw Boston reach some quite extraordinary heights. So extraordinary there's not really much impsTALK can do to mock them. They even helped launch the careers of Jim Smith and Howard Wilkinson, who both had spells as player-managers between 1969 and 1977 - their first managerial positions before moving onto bigger and better things. Although Wilkinson did briefly manage England as caretaker, so perhaps not 'better'.

Howard Wilkinson in action for Boston

Meanwhile, the club continued winning trophies at a bewildering rate. The Malkinsons simply couldn't purchase trophy cabinets quick enough, so much of the silverware was stacked up in the car park or in skips around the rear of the Sportsbar. As the nation's most successful non-league club, it seemed inevitable United would make their long awaited step up the the elite 92. In 1977, however, the club was denied a place in the Football League after inspectors deemed the third world facilities to be unsuitable. Wigan Athletic were elected instead, a decision that dismayed fans and officials alike. “We’ll show them!” roared a defiant Ernest Malkinson, before setting about rebuilding York Street. With the exception of the York Street stand, the stadium was entirely rebuilt and included a huge terrace at the town end of the ground. “It's perfect for away supporters,” Malkinson said. “It’ll keep that South Liverpool rabble away from my car anyway.”

Barren 80s
Having blown none of their money on the new stadium, Boston somehow managed to use the fact they had blown other people’s money on a new stadium as the perfect excuse for the next thirteen years of abject underachievement. Boston joined the Alliance Premier League in 1979 but subjected their supporters to over a decade of clogging nonsense.

The only moment worthy of note was Boston’s only appearance at the cess-pit that was the old Wembley Stadium in the FA Trophy Final of 1985 against mighty Wealdstone. 12,000 suspicious and handbag-cradling Boston fans – well, 12,001 if you include young Scot Steve Evans - headed down to the pickpocket haven of fackin’ norf’ Landahn to see Chris Cook secure a lifetime of free fish suppers by knocking in Boston’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat.

Seven years of hurt: 1990s
Abject disappointment became hapless failure in 1993 when Boston finished bottom of the Conference and were relegated back into the Northern Pub League. Despite promising to bounce straight back, United were to remain out of the Conference for seven years.

Peter Morris was replaced by Mel Sterland in 1994 and he guided the Pilgrims to second place in 1995/1996. This should have been good enough to see the Pilgrims promoted back to the Conference when Marine, who had finished top, saw their large mound of dirt masquerading as a stadium deemed unsuitable for promotion. Sadly, Boston had forgotten to post the forms applying for membership of the Conference. Furious United then reacted in the only way they could: they sacked Sterland and replaced him with player manager – and penalty specialist - Greg Fee.

It speaks volumes about the paucity of success at the club that Boston enjoyed a relatively exciting 1996/1997 season. They reached the second round of the FA Cup, destroying Sudbury 10-1 in the process, and secured a glamour away tie at Chester’s Stadium of Breezeblocks.

Despite conceding an early goal, Boston dominated the game and when they won a late penalty their travelling fans began preparing for the replay at York Street.

Chester City: why?

To the palpable relief of the fans, Greg Fee opted to take the spot kick - and calmly and fearlessly rolled the ball, with a slight of touch befitting a world-class neurosurgeon, into the grateful arms of Chester’s goalkeeper. The game ended 1-0 to Chester, who then drew Middlesborugh in the next round in the days when Boro were actually vaguely glamourous.

Despite finishing a disappointing sixth, Boston contested the final of the Northern Premier League Cup against Gainsborough at Sincil Bank. Trinity, roared on by both of their fans, brushed aside the Pilgrims in extra time to get their grubby little fingers on the plastic trophy and certificates of participation.

Hardly anything of note happened during 1997/1998, a season so devoid of interest that the crowds began to sink dangerously low. Indeed, the horrendous home defeat to Spennymoor on 7 March 1998 saw barely 600 fans show their faces and was sufficiently dreadful to prompt this pre-impsTALK writer to write a letter to the local paper so fired with adolescent anger it made absolutely no sense whatsoever and required a corrective missive the following week.

The prospects for an improvement in 1998/1999 were bleak. Boston started the season badly, so badly that Greg Fee made haste to the studios of BBC Radio Lincolnshire to protest that the finances of the club were such that he had little hope of reversing the inexorable slide into further obscurity. The few remaining fans, resigned to their fate in with no hope of ever seeing Conference football again, were hardly inclined to disagree. After a calamitous FA Trophy exit at the hands of Congleton, a thoroughly dispirited Fee tendered his resignation and was replaced by a cheeky little Scotsman going by the name Steve Evans.

Steve, having alienated most normal people in the regional non-league scene at Stamford, fancied his chances at becoming Bigtime Proper Manager, and in Boston found the hotbed of chest-puffing glory hunters he needed to fulfil his dream. Steve immediately set about spending Big Cash on Big Name Players, mostly from Big Name Managers, most of whom he counted as his Biggest Bestest Friends when name checking them in the local paper. Not surprisingly, given the Big Cash he was spending, Evans managed to haul Boston from the foot of the Southern League to an unlikely runners-up spot – but then a deceased goldfish could do that.

Fucking joke: 2000-present
The following season, 1999/2000, he went one better by leading Boston to a first Big Proper Title since the heyday of the 1970s. That he did it while in the midst of a serial tax conspiracy is, apparently, immaterial, since to this day Steve proudly trots out this ‘triumph’ if anyone attempts to question his abilities as Big Manager. United consolidated their regained position in the Conference during 2000/2001. After a very poor start, the Pilgrims finally sparked enough to finish safely midtable. Meanwhile, the Evans-fuelled rumour mill was doing double shifts to hype up the fact Boston were on the cusp of great things.

And how. Ahead of the 2001/2002 season, already financially stricken Boston made the frankly bonkers decision to go full time, assuring startled fans that the break-even gate of 13,253 was ‘absolutely achievable’ and the absolutely gigantic multi-million pound sized hole in the club’s finances ‘wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about’.

And besides, the club said while nervously wiping its sweaty brow with a nearby tax form, with eight million people tuning into such big-draw Sky Mega Wednesday games as Boston v Hereford, the television money was flowing into York Street faster than you could say ‘fraudster’ – the plan just couldn’t fail.

Happier times for Stevie and Ken

And, for a while, it seemed as though they were right. United made their newly acquired but not-at-all-funded-with-dirty-money full-time status count on the pitch, going toe-to-toe with bigger, less debt ridden and more law abiding clubs in the most exciting, but pointlessly crooked, title race seen in years. After a dramatic run in - including the now famous Southport comeback, covered by Sony award winning BBC double act Dalton and Hortin - Boston snatched the title from under the noses of Dagenham on a spectacular final day in which they secured the win they needed at Hayes live on Super Sky.

“It’s the best day in the history of the club!” gibber-jabbered booze-drenched club secretary John Blackwell, supping his ninth bottle of champagne in the away dressing room before blacking out and waking up three days later on his desk with a furry tongue, a pair of underpants on his aching head – and a sinister Bean-sized shadow knocking loudly at the door. “Show us where your computer is!” bellowed the leader of the FA Compliance SWAT unit and a groggily compliant Blackwell duly led the counter-Evans team to his solar powered 10-digit CASIO scientific calculator. “Ok, now crack open the Earl Grey and the Battenberg,” Bean then didn’t say, instead choosing to get on the phone and order a couple of transit vans to take away the several tonnes of accumulated paperwork in Blackwell’s office.

It took 72 hours of sifting by sixteen of the FA’s most bone-idle student temps for the 1995/1996 Vauxhall Conference application forms to finally surface - but only after Bean’s team had uncovered a grubby paper chain indicting many of the club’s top officials. It soon became clear that Boston United had been up to no good. Indeed, Steve Evans hadn’t so much bent the rules as snapped them over his knee, set fire to them and eaten the ashes.

Evans was swiftly suspended by Des Wood, now the club's chairman as he figured out a way to engineer a lucrative property stunt, to be replaced by Neil Thompson. The club was handed a four-point deduction but they were permitted to take their place in the league - leading to a furious on-air rant from BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson. Dagenham’s hysterical reaction, even if it was born from an understandable sense of indignation, kept spirits up as they prepared for 2002/2003 - their first season in the league - with a burning sense of embarrassment.

After the tumultuous close season, it was little wonder that the Pilgrims struggled to adjust to life as a league club. Not even a first home win against Lincoln could disguise the fact that Boston were destined to be the first Conference champions not to cruise to the top half of the table. It didn’t help that Thompson very publicly fell out with Daryl Clare and seemed, at times, a little overwhelmed. The spectre of Steve Evans was never far away, the suspended manager lingering, just waiting to get his old job back.

The disgraced Scot was eventually persuaded to notionally sever his ties with the club after Thompson resigned in protest at his continued influence at York Street, not to mention his penchant for spouting complete ballsacks to the newshounds. Thompson returned, but Evans was in no mood to make his life any easier, sticking his oar in at every available opportunity and ensuring many of his little cabal of special supporters maintained a disgraceful smear campaign against Thompson throughout the season. The Yorkshireman, however, was made of much sterner stuff than even Evans gave him credit for. He just about survived an eight game losing streak, dug his heels in, weathered the storm from the knuckle-draggers and watched his players grind out a gritty season of survival, finishing 15th.

No rest for the wicked: 2003/2004 was another season of turmoil. With a hardcore group of Evans acolytes baying menacingly for the return of their messiah, Des Wood’s reign as chairman came to an abrupt end when wannabe property magnate Jon ‘Sinister’ Sotnick took over the club. His first act was to vehemently deny rumours that he was set to immediately sack Neil Thompson, install his friend Steve Evans as manager and unveil plans to bulldoze York Street.

His next act, minutes after the end of the press conference, was to immediately sack Neil Thompson, install his friend Steve Evans as manager and unveil plans to bulldoze York Street. Evans’ return destroyed what little remaining credibility remained at the Pilgrims; that such a large section of the United fan base welcomed back a cheat would fatally undermine subsequent efforts to restore the club’s reputation as anything other than a fly-by-night, morally bankrupt, tinpot ego trip. Still, Evans took United the 11th in the League. And for many of the fans, that was all they desired.

2004/2005 saw the ego yet again begin to swell grotesquely. ‘Promotion’ became the buzzword, and Boston needed the players to match their preposterous ambitions, regardless of whether they could actually afford them or not. In came David Noble and Andy Kirk, paid with cheques signed with disappearing ink. Kirk would become Boston United’s first current-international player when he was allowed a six second run out against North Korea.

Austin McCann, snatched from under the noses of several surprised Scottish teams and paid with monopoly money from Steve Evans’ games cupboard, was one of the few players not to spend most of his time on the pitch trying to hit Boston Stump with aimless lofted punts, and was thus duly elected as the Supporters Player of the Year. But in the back office, the figures in the accounts ledger still weren’t adding up: Kirk and Beevers were both sold for fees Evans would later claim to be substantial, but since the fees were all ‘undisclosed’ fans had to take his word for it. A bit like: ‘Read my lips: no new taxes’. United staggered over the finishing line in 16th place.

After signing another batch of promising players, including Julian Joachim, 2005/2006 witnessed another ruthless winter cull of the playing squad after bills became red bills and red bills became debt letters and the debt letters became solicitor letters. Nevertheless, Steve Evans was somehow able to cajole and harass his 16 short term loan signings into finishing eleventh in the League, with a record points tally of 61. 61 was a records point tally. A record points tally of 61. Record. Record points. 61. Record.

But by this time, Boston United were already on the slippery slope to self-destruction. Even before a ball was kicked in 2006/2007, impsTALK, in a rare moment of smugness not fuelled by the benefit of hindsight, predicted a ‘gruesome relegation’ for the Pilgrims, and so it came to pass. When chairman Jon Sotnick quit to take up a post that mainly involved him wearing an expensive suit at Darlington and creating pointless Powerpoint presentations about revenue streams, leaving the club in the capable hands of Krazee Jimmy Rodwell and his sinister puppet sidekick Little Jimmy, the writing was on the wall.

Starting slowly, grinding ever slower and then turning from hapless to shambolic in record time, United were finally given their marching orders at Wrexham after a nonsensical final six months in which Steve Evans was found guilty of serious tax fraud charges (and lucky to avoid landing himself in the slammer to boot) and staff, including the players, remained unpaid for several excruciating weeks as the financial implosion really began. Lavaflow were dealt a severe blow when the plans for their new stadium were thrown out, mainly because they were dogshit, with the future of the club looking ever bleaker. The already dire situation was complicated by a mysterious group of investors called Standing Alone Ltd, who [CENSORED] and [NO COMMENT] with a [UNDISCLOSED]. They [CONFIDENTIAL] believed that [NOT FOR PUBLIC DISCLOSURE].

With time and money running out, witless United chairman Krazee Jim engineered a cringe worthy last gasp CVA when it became evident that United were going down in flames at the Racecourse - not that it mattered. It later emerged that the club’s CVA breached so many rules that United would certainly have been relegated even if they had finished 50 points clear at the top. “We’ll bounce straight back to our rightful place!” roared a few flag-waving United fans, failing to realise that (a) Boston had been non-league for approximately 96.6% of their entire history and (b) salivating Conference officials were ready and waiting – as they had been for five years - to give the hapless Lincolnshire outfit a hearty boot up the arse down to the Tinpot Pub League North to ensure there wasn’t even the remotest possibility of that happening for several years.

With no money in the coffers, Steve Evans swiftly departed to inflict his own brand of aggressive self-aggrandising pomposity on hapless Majeed-owned cowboy outfit Crawley Town, a club with a similarly long and proud history of spending non-existent funds on Daryl Clare. Back in Lincolnshire, however, it was still far from certain that Boston would survive long enough to field their team of three spotty youth players, a nine-day old banana, a rusty Phillips head screwdriver – with perhaps Paul Ellender warming the bench. With the Standing Alone takeover stalling, ex-Leicester malcontent Barrie Pierpoint took to the stands to rally support for the ailing club in the complete absence of any ‘Save Our Pilgrims’ campaign from other quarters.

Just days later, bonkers Chestnut Homes suits Neil Kempster and David Newton assumed control of the Pilgrims after a night on the Uzo and brake fluid. 2007/2008 was a season of consolidation as Newton, aided by his personal assistant Kempster, fought to keep the club alive. Tommy faaaahkin' Taylor replaced Evans in the hotseat, inheriting no squad and a heap of problems. The Pilgrims opened the season with a 2-0 win against Workington, but results remained patchy throughout. After a brief flirtation with the playoffs, United finished tenth.

Meanwhile, the Conference, huddled together around a cauldron, were hatching a plan to finish off the Pilgrims for good. Noting that the club was in breach of the second Saturday in May rule, the league opted to enforce its rules - something they were strangely loathe to do with Crawley. The FA rejected United's appeals, and the club was booted into the Unibond.

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