Bray Wanderers AFC has seen many dark days over the years, particularly in recent times as the club has struggled during the austerity years. Just when we seemed to have light at the end of the tunnel though, it looks like we have entered our darkest hour, following events of the last few days.
The first rumblings that something was wrong occurred with the sale going through late last week of Dylan Connolly to Dundalk. We’d managed to hold onto Dylan and our other sought-after players during the close season, and the decision was paying dividends with our lofty position in the league. Why was he being let go now for what seemed like a bargain price?
Things became a little clearer [and bleaker] with the release of the statement at half-time in the Dundalk game on Friday night. Reading between the lines it looked like the financial backing the club has enjoyed this season was about to have the taps turned off. Poor attendances were held up as being to blame.
Then on Sunday morning a further hammer-blow was delivered with news coming out that the players had been told they could look for new clubs as there was no money to pay wages beyond the next week. The taps had indeed been turned off; the tank was empty.
Running a football club must be a nightmare job, especially in Ireland where we are effectively fourth in the pecking order behind rugby and both GAA codes. We struggle to attract fans through the stiles. This has been a particular problem in Bray given the added complication of our proximity to Dublin – clubs like Dundalk and Sligo can get bigger crowds as they are in more remote locations and can be more of a focal point for the town.
The assembly of an expensive squad this season in the hope that more people would come through the gates to help with the costs of maintaining that squad looks like a tactic that hasn’t worked, but I wouldn’t for a moment be critical of anyone living in Bray who doesn’t come to or has never come to Wanderers games. It’s a free world – you don’t have to buy the product, even if it is local and of good quality.
So what now? Will we be able to field a team on July 14 for the visit of Cork City, if a lot our first team find new clubs? Will we be able to complete our fixture list with the help of some of our U19/U17 squads? Can we avoid being wound up? Will some investment come into the club? Will the FAI help? We are already safe from relegation I’d say, with 33 points, if we can somehow manage to keep going. If we don’t, will we be playing in the First Division next season, possibly re-branded as Bray Unknowns [a nod to our history]? Will we still be playing in the Carlisle Grounds?
‘’The darkest hour is just before dawn’’ is an old proverb that means there is hope even in the worst of circumstances. I’m not giving up hope just yet. I’ll cling to any piece of flotsam I can in the hope that the club can survive this storm and weather it. All I’ve ever wanted from Bray Wanderers, and all that’s ever mattered to me, is that there are 11 lads on the Carlisle Grounds pitch wearing the green jersey and playing with pride. That’s all I want for the future too.