Page last updated at 00:46 GMT, Saturday, 29 March 2008

Counting the cost of team's dream

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website, south of Scotland reporter

Save our club sign
Gretna supporters hope their club still has a future

If there was a football version of decompression sickness then Gretna FC would surely be among its victims.

Their rapid rise from the Unibond League to the Scottish Premier League was enough to give anyone the "bends".

Now administrators are carrying out the radical surgery needed to ensure the club's survival but the patient remains in a critical condition.

And just as their triumphs stretched out beyond the football world, so their disaster has had wide-reaching effects.

From the outset the Gretna project - funded lavishly by Brooks Mileson - was to create a "community club".

The problem, of course, is what happens to that community when the money runs dry.

Supporters fear that, having dined at the SPL table and made the Scottish Cup final, their club is in serious danger of going out of existence.

If it just disappeared altogether and the tumbleweed started blowing through the ground what a disaster it would be
Graeme Wellburn
Gretna supporter

For the town itself - which saw the football team raise its profile - there is the prospect of sliding back into sporting anonymity.

And a range of community initiatives which the club set up and supported face complete meltdown.

Among the lengthy list of footballers who were made redundant recently it was easy to miss the names of six community coaches.

Their work with local youngsters is now likely to be lost.

"We've spent the last two or three weeks since the administrators came in putting values on things, putting figures on people's heads," explained one community coach, Kevin Sommerville.

Fans at the cup final
The club's rapid rise was not universally welcomed

"Last week a disabled lad that I've worked with for three years trapped a ball that was moving for the first time - you can't put a price on that.

"It is heartbreaking."

Of course, Gretna's success was not viewed with universal pleasure in southern Scotland.

Many saw them as the nouveau riche neighbour driving around in a sports car - while everyone else in the street made do with sensibly slow people carriers.

Little wonder there has been a degree of glee among some football followers now that the flashy motor and all its trappings are being repossessed.

Graeme Wellburn, from nearby Annan, knows that sympathy for Gretna fans like himself is in short supply.

'Kind of fever'

He has taken an interest in the team for many years and his brother-in-law played for them.

When they were admitted to the ranks of the Scottish Football League, however, he admits he was caught by the Borderers' bug.

"It just all took off like a kind of fever," he said.

"I think it put Gretna on the map - it was a fairytale that started to grow and grow.

Raydale Park
Supporters hope to be back at Raydale Park next season

"It captured the community, there was a good buzz about the town."

He said that the club going into administration only confirmed what many fans had felt for some time - the spending was unsustainable.

The biggest fight is simply to have a club to support back at Raydale Park next season.

"There always has been a Gretna Football Club," he said.

"If it just disappeared altogether and the tumbleweed started blowing through the ground what a disaster it would be.

"They might have been as well just sticking where they were."

This Saturday afternoon, failure to beat St Mirren would administer the last rites to Gretna's SPL adventure.

Coming to terms with the situation they have left behind, however, is likely to take a lot longer than 90 minutes.


SEE ALSO
Gretna edging closer to closure
13 Mar 08 |  Gretna
Gretna players hit by pay delay
18 Feb 08 |  Gretna

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