Berwick Rangers history tour that borders on the highly entertaining
Berwick Rangers, it should be said, are no more anomalous than their home town. Berwick today lies just south of the Border between England and Scotland, but over the centuries changed hands several times as a result of armed conflict - or, as Maxwell puts it, "Chuckle Brothers-style 'to me, to you' shenanigans".
For the past five centuries, however, the town has been English, hence the curiosity which gripped the young Maxwell when he learned that every time his father took him to an away game it meant visiting a different country. "It just always fascinated me, this English team who played against Scottish opposition every week," Maxwell said.
If there is one fact that the average Scottish football supporter knows about Berwick Rangers other than their status as the only English club in our leagues, it is that on a fabled day in 1967 they beat Rangers 1-0 in a Scottish Cup tie. Five of the men who played for the team that day were present at this week's launch of The Lone Rangers, and their feat is acknowledged by the author as a rare highlight in the club's history.
But the book deals just as well, and just as entertainingly, with the low points. "I wanted to write a warts-and-all biography of the club, not a dry, A-Z history," Maxwell explaine.b His early years as a supporter coincided with some tough times for the club, who came close to going out of business in the early 1990s. Since then, they have enjoyed a modest revival, with the recent cup win away to Partick Thistle being one of their best results for years. But attendances, as Maxwell knows all too well, are still on the small side.
"Gates aren't tremendous," he accepted. "And it is frustrating to see buses leave the town every Saturday for Newcastle or Sunderland, Glasgow or Edinburgh."
Still, while the club no longer attract the crowds approaching 1,500 which they drew during their seasons in Division One more than 30 years ago, Berwick are still a cherished part of their community. The Lone Rangers should be cherished, too, as an affectionate and entertaining account of the club's life through thick and thin. But mostly thin.
• The Lone Rangers by Tom Maxwell is published by Northumbria Press, priced 17.99.