York Street never got its send off and the Jakemans is yet to have its Christening! A year without fans at Boston United

Today marks 12 months since Pilgrims supporters were last allowed into a home game...
It's been a year since fans last allowed in to watch Boston United at home. Photo: Eric BrownIt's been a year since fans last allowed in to watch Boston United at home. Photo: Eric Brown
It's been a year since fans last allowed in to watch Boston United at home. Photo: Eric Brown

As fans trudged out of York Street they were rightfully deflated.

They had just witnessed Boston United's eight-game unbeaten run ended as they slumped to a 3-0 at the hands of Gateshead. The Pilgrims were below par but also outclassed by a side packed with threatening pace on the counter attack.

"To lose in that manner is disappointing," reflected Pilgrims boss Craig Elliott after watching his side suffer just their second home defeat of the National League North campaign.

That night was February 25, 2020. One year ago today. The last time United fans were allowed into a stadium to watch their team play a home match.

For many, that was their last ever visit to York Street, where the Pilgrims had played since their inception in 1933.

The frustration felt by the fans as they left that night was nothing compared to the emotions they have been forced to go through over the following 366 days.

Many expected to return four days later to host Farsley Celtic, but a waterlogged pitch put paid to that.

The Heed proved too strong for Boston 12 months ago. Photo: Eric BrownThe Heed proved too strong for Boston 12 months ago. Photo: Eric Brown
The Heed proved too strong for Boston 12 months ago. Photo: Eric Brown

Some supporters were lucky enough make the away trips to watch their side draw at Brackley Town and Curzon Ashton, also the Lincolnshire Senior Cup defeat to Cleethorpes. But only a handful.

Fast forward a year and Pilgrims supporters - fans of all clubs, all sports - really know what it feels like to have something they love taken away from them.

Yes, their points per game record meant United were fortunate to compete in last season's play-offs, gaining revenge over Gateshead before that heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Altrincham in the final.

Yes, this season kicked off and gave you moment after moment of trepidation, anger and joy before - once again - it was taken prematurely from you just as things were hotting up.

Yes, victories still feel great and defeats like a punch in the guts.

But, no matter how hard you try to kid yourself, watching a livestream isn't the same as standing on the terrraces.

Sitting in your lounge inputting a passcode onto your SmartTV doesn't compare to swigging a pint with mates, enjoying a long, what-could-be-today chats with a stranger you've known for years or waiting nervously to discover where or not there are any steak and onions left.

Jumping on the sofa in delirium as your side put their fourth past bogey team Leamington or getting an insight into the mind of Scott Garner as the substitute sits a little too close to the mic at the Citadel doesn't come close to a sea of limbs shoving you up the barrier as Brad Abbott runs in for a group hug.

The smells and noises are all wrong. Downloadable PDF programmes don't compare. Losing to Rochdale felt better than beating Fylde on penalties.

It's not until moments like this when you realise how miss you much hugging a randomer as you feel a chunk of someone else's pie fall onto your shirt collar and down your back. It's not until moments like this when you realise you don't even know the names of that family you chat to every week.

But the stands-to-pitch relationship works both ways and, make no mistake, the roar of a crowd, the banter and hand gestures that elude to what the man in black gets up to when he has a little me time is missed just as much by those playing the game as watching it.

For United fans, this past year without football has been particularly tough to take.

York Street - for many a second home, for some a place that feels more like home than home itself - never got its send off. The Jakemans Community Stadium never got its Christening.

Perhaps worse, familiar faces never got together to discuss where they would convene at the new gaff. New friendships will be made but old ones may never quite be the same.

The only sure thing is that one day the same old voices will be heard from behind the dug-out when things aren't going to plan. Elliott and his team don't get to dodge that one.

Things may finally be looking up for exiled sports fans as the Government announced their roadmap this year.

The 2020-21 season is dead. Long live the 2021-22 campaign where, if things go to plan, action can resume with loyal supporters and curious newcomers pitchside.

If the new normal can be a new stadium housing old friends revelling in their old customs then set the alarm for July and let the clock start ticking.

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