Monday, 10 July 2017

Wrong Shaped Balls

Rugby Borough  9  Clean Slate  0


I can imagine that William Webb-Ellis was one of those really annoying schoolkids.

You are having a game of football with your mates and then without warning some clever little dick decides to pick up the ball and run off with it, and in the process of  brassing off all of his schoolmates,  the game of Rugby is suddenly invented.

Myth or legend that tale may well be, but young Webb-Ellis, while allegedly breaking all the rules in his days as a student at the Rugby School, is deemed to have been the man who created the game, and to that end he finished up having a World Cup named after him. Maybe not such a clever dick after all....?

And on a day when the elite British and Irish rugby players slugged it out for a stalemate with the sporting dynasty that is the All Blacks, it did seem wholly appropriate to the head to the town where it all started, but in this case, to watch the wrong shaped ball.

Rugby Town FC - The Orange Version
Football in Rugby is complicated, a bit like some of the rules in the oval ball game, and while you can have a basic grasp, to understand it properly you need to be part of it, or in the case of the football, you probably need to be from the town itself.

That said, I will try to summarise the story as best I can.

Rugby Town were historically the principal club in the town, up until 1973 when they ceased to play, which is very different to going out of business, I suppose the phrase you would use is that they were "In Abeyance" as a senior club. They reappeared in 1993, but disappeared again mid way through the 1995-96 season with their playing record expunged. Back they came again in 2000, but by 2004 they had once again vanished.

Across town VS Rugby (Valley Sports) were the junior of the clubs but following the demise of Town in 1973, they took on the mantle of the senior team and had success. The FA Vase was won in 1983 and the heady heights of the Southern League Premier Division were achieved. Along with that the Proper rounds of the F.A.Cup were reached on several occasions.

The club changed their name to Rugby United in 2000, much to the annoyance of the VS faithful, but then upon the demise of Rugby Town in 2004, the club that was United and formerly VS, decided to take on the name! Their time in the Premier Division came to an end, a move to the Northern Premier League followed, and then at the end of last season the club were relegated to Step 5 and the superb Butlin Road ground will host the lowest level of football it's witnessed since the early Eighties.

The Impressive Kilsby Lane
But, it complicates further still, because while the newly named Rugby Town play at Butlin Road, just further East is the Kilsby Lane ground of Rugby Town (Juniors) which looks like a completely separate club, and if anything is connected to the original incarnation of Town. So, we have two clubs called Rugby Town, or so it seems?

I guess while one was solely a junior organisation and one a senior club it was ok, but when the juniors want to branch into senior football then it's perhaps not quite so simple. Hence the recent birth of Rugby Borough Football Club.

Rugby Borough will be plying their trade in the Leicestershire Senior League this season, after initially looking like joining the Midland League. It was time to pay a somewhat curious visit to see what it was all about.

The entrance to the ground is through some gates adorned with Rugby Town in the colours of orange and black. You follow down a long driveway and as you arrive at the large car park, the facilities which are based on the very edge of town in a rural setting, open out in front of you. The single story club house and dressing rooms are modern and smart, while two pitches adorn the facility. A railed grass pitch that is used by AEI Rugby, and an artificial floodlit pitch that is to be Borough's home for the season.

They've been great with their use of social media, and of course the local written media has picked up on the story and run with it. Playing wise they do look to have assembled a very useful young squad that on first evidence will be a real handful at the level they'll be playing at. 4-0 up at half time against a willing but limited Clean Slate outfit from Milton Keynes, they ran out 9-0 winners. They looked very impressive.

The ground is very smart, the welcome friendly and a good number of interested onlookers had turned up to see the show. The club looked very well organised, professional in their approach, and forward thinking.

If I have stated any inaccuracies in the story of football in Rugby then I can only apologise for my ignorance and shoddy research, but as can be seen it isn't straightforward. However, from the basics of the story alone, it's clear that for a town of it's size, 'underachievement' is probably a word that wouldn't be deemed as overly harsh, certainly in recent years. While 'instability' might also be considered to be a fair word.

Maybe Rugby Borough can provide some of that stability and also some much needed success, but then again the supporters of VS Rugby (as many still call it) might have something to say about that.

William Webb-Ellis might also have had something to say about it, and it would probably be along the lines of sticking to the wrong shaped balls, it's much simpler.......

Rugby Town - Don't Ever Forget It

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