Rod Liddle is an oft-acerbic and highly rated on the Sunday Times and elsewhere. He now lives in the Guisborough area but has yet to be seen – recognised, anyway – at the KGV.
Chiefly he’s a Millwall fan, them and the Boro. Today he reveals an unexpected soft spot for Fort William, perennial seven-stone weaklings among the caber tossing giants of the Highland League.
Fort haven’t won since 2016, lost 14-1 on Saturday, presently sit on minus seven points after being deducted nine for three times fielding an ineligible player.
Liddle has been trying to discover if any other team has finished a season with a negative points tally. The best/worst so far is an Israeli fourth tier side which didn’t manage a point in 2014-15 and Lancaster City who scraped just one in the Conference North in 2006-07.
I thought, mistakenly, that the Northern League might be able to help. Eppleton, poor hapless Eppleton, came to mind.
In 1998-99 they were bottom of division two with just seven points, six having been deducted for playing what colloquially are known as wrong uns.
The following season they managed just three points, three draws in 36 games, but at least fielded men who’d signed a form.
In 2001-02 they amassed but eight points, 21 adrift of Whickham in second bottom place, while the following season they improved to second bottom but still had six points deducted.
In 2002-03 the Hetton-le-Hole side had 15 points deducted – surely that would have put them into negative equity?
It didn’t. Bizarrely, it was otherwise their annus mirabilis – eight wins and six draws in 38 games. They folded, anyway.
Several Northern League teams have finished the season with three points – including Darlington St Augustine’s, champions in the first season and rock bottom in the second. The money ran out.
Then there’s a bit of a puzzle. Northern Conquest, the league’s 125th anniversary history, records that in 1997-98 Washington lost 35 of their 36 second division games, finishing with three points.
In Northern Goalfields Revisited, the millennium history, it’s recorded that that single win – 1-0 at Alnwick Town – was negated by a three points deduction and that poor old Washington finished with naught for their comfort.
Which is right? I’m inclined to believe Northern Goalfields Revisited – Brian Hunt got very little wrong – but am seeking advice from an army of eminent statisticians. Keith Stoker, anyway. Watch this space.
*We wondered a couple of days back what had happened to the Nonleaguezone website. Server problems, apparently. The domain name has temporarily changed to http://www.nonleaguezone.net