Football is about many things. It is certainly about the passion, the drama, the ups and the downs. It is about having a sense of belonging, of being part of something that can occasionally be special and even unique. But it is also about journeys. Journeys the fans, players and managers make, and also the one the club takes.
The journey Rangers has been on over the last eight years and more has been exceptional. It has been far too long since Rangers have been in the running for a title, but this season they very much are. Odds of around 6/4 reflect just how close the title race is this year and with free bets available at Oddschecker, it could be a good time for punters to put their money where their mouth is. Success now will feel better, sweeter, more deserved than at any time previously.
Other clubs have, for various reasons, gone bust, been liquidated, ceased to exist, and many have used those incredibly tough times as an incentive to start again with a clean sheet. As a way of taking one huge step backward to take several forwards, in the hope that they at the very least eventually even themselves out. It is true, few clubs have fallen so far or as fast as Rangers, but football’s history books are littered with examples of clubs that have risen from the ashes.
The shocking thing about the AFC Wimbledon story is that it was a series of deliberate decisions that started the process of the demise of the club. A club, don’t forget, who have well over a hundred years of history and that had only recently achieved football greatness. From the moment in 2002, when the Football Association independent commission voted to allow Wimbledon’s owners to uproot the club from its south west London home and move it almost sixty miles to Milton Keynes, the writing was on the wall. MK Dons, as they are now called (and it will only be a generation before people are scratching their heads and heading to the internet to discover just why they are called the Dons) in essence became the first franchise club in the UK, but our story is with Wimbledon.
Faced with losing the club they had grown up with, the fans who refused to be part of anything to do with their club’s reincarnation set up open trials on the famous Wimbledon Common. Out of the 230 players who came to become a part of the club’s new journey, they formed a squad to play in their new home, the Combined Counties League in England’s ninth tier.
In their first nine seasons, the club gained promotion five times and found themselves back in the league proper, League Two for the start of the 2011 – 2012 season. Five seasons later and they made it to League One, and currently sit above MK Dons in the table. They move back to their spiritual home in Wimbledon next year at a purpose-built stadium yards from their original home Plough Lane.
BAK (Budapesti Atlétikai Klub)
The reincarnation at Rangers and Wimbledon was immediate, at least in the beginning of the return. That was far from the case with Hungarian club BAK (pronounced ‘bock’). One of the founder members of the Hungarian league, and a club that had spent more than a decade in the top division, finishing as high as third and reaching the cup final in consecutive years, the club began to decline in the 1920’s before finally dissolving all together in 1947.
That story is one that would be repeated across the continent as the professional era took hold and left a trail of victims. The remarkable part of BAK’s story though is what happened next. Practically forgotten, the club would have forever been resigned to a footnote in Hungary’s footballing annals, were it not for a chance discovery by football historian Bertalan Molnar, who was from the same part of Budapest that BAK used to play.
The full story of BAK’s reincarnation is fascinating, but one far too long for these pages. In a nutshell however, Molnar and a small group of like-minded individuals were fascinated by the club’s colourful history and sought to bring it back to life. They found a team that they thought would serve that purpose perfectly – Respect, a club consisting mainly of football writers, historians and even actors.
Respect were more than happy to play their part and changed their strip to that of BAK as well as their crest, and 71 years after the side’s last ever game, the players took to the pitch in the club’s new guise.
To go bankrupt once is perhaps unlucky. To do it three times can be seen as something approaching careless. But that is precisely what Parma and its fans have had to live through. On the plus side, every time they have been down and seemingly out, they have come back fighting. It could be argued such financial calamities could only happen in Italy, which may be the case, but it is also the only country where a football club would be founded in honour of a composer of operas. Verdi Foot Ball Club began life in 1913 as a mark of respect for the centenary of the Parma born musician.
The club was a founder member of Serie B, but was soon in decline and, in 1968, two years after being relegated to the fourth tier of Italian football, was liquidated. That same year another club from Parma, Associazione Calcio Parmense, won promotion to Serie D and shortly after adopted the liquidated club’s name, colours and badge.
The club went from strength to strength, and by the end of the 20th century had won both domestic and European honours. In 2004, however, when parent company Parmalat hit financial difficulties, the club was declared insolvent, and remained so for three years, before being reborn in 2004. This time, it was only eleven years before they hit trouble again. After moderate success, they became embroiled in financial troubles once more and went bankrupt in March 2015.
In July of that year, the club was reborn for hopefully the final time, this time under the name S.S.D. Parma Calcio 1913. After starting once more in Serie D, the club won three consecutive promotions to secure its place once again at the top table of Italian football, and currently sit mid table in Serie A.
If Rangers finally reclaim the SPL title this year, or when they inevitably do win it again, it will be a fitting end to their current leg of the journey. It will have been a tough few years, but one where aspects of it will be looked back at fondly in years to come. It should also serve as a lesson, not just for Rangers but for all clubs, that you are only one mistake or bad decision away from disaster.