1990-2020: Wanderers' 30-year famine ended
EVER SINCE Frank Skinner and David Baddiel sang about it prior to Euro 96, 30 years has become the standardised measurement of hurt in football. But while England’s remains untreated, two of the oldest and most successful clubs in their respective leagues were on the verge of ending theirs this campaign, until a viral outbreak put the world on lockdown.
For Liverpool, the wait must continue for at least a while longer, but for JTC Jersey Wanderers the pain is over.
It may not have been the most satisfactory of league wins – it will forever have an asterisk against it – and not everyone at the club was completely comfortable with the manner of the triumph, but the JFA’s decision to conclude the 2019-20 season on an average points-per-game basis (taking onboard Combination clubs’ wishes) made it official.
It has been a tough 30 years at the club since captain Martyn ‘Jessie’ Stratford lifted the league trophy which they retained under Tom Richardson’s management. They won it by just two points from second-placed Sporting Academicals, claiming a prize fund of £1,000. It was their fifth title in nine seasons, and their 20th overall, making them the most successful club on the Island at the time, ahead of First Tower. Never would they have imagined that the club would have to wait so long to win their 21st.
The marker was laid when Wanderers won the annual curtain-raising Charity Cup. After seeing off St Brelade, St Peter and St Paul’s, Wanderers beat Grouville in the final 1-0, with Gabbiadini scoring the winner in the 20th minute. The league campaign then started with an emphatic 3-0 win over a much-depleted St Peter side and they continued their good form with further league wins against St Clement, St Lawrence and Rozel Rovers.
In the middle of the early winning run, Wanderers suffered a shock exit inb the Wheway Cup, going down three-one at home to Grouville. It was a stark reminder that Wanderers were not going to have it all their own way, something that was brought home to them in even more dramatic fashion when they suffered their first and only loss in the league, losing 4-2 at home to St Brelade (having been three-nil down at half-time). The club bounced back with a 2-0 win over Grouville thanks to two late goals from Logan McGhee and then held St Paul’s to a 2-2 away draw in their first true acid test of the season. It would be the last time Andrews’ side would drop any points, winning their next six league games, including a vital 1-0 win at home against second-placed St Ouen in their very next game. Lorne Bickley, who had only just returned from a prolific collegiate career in the US, grabbed the goal.
We will never know if Wanderers would have seen it through. Many observers agree they were looking like the strongest side – and their record would back that up. Others remarked how superior their fitness levels were compared to the rest of the division. They had suffered a surprise loss to Rozel in the semi-finals of the Jersey FA Cup in February and St Paul’s may well have thought they would have caught them if they beat Wanderers at home. That is now, of course, pure conjecture –Wanderers can now put their 30-year-long wait behind them. They are the league champions by virtue of a points-per-game average in the face an unprecedented disruptive phenomena in the daily lives of all.
Full report in Monday's JEP.
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