AS ‘Back to the Future Day’ finally arrives, Richard Sutcliffe charts the ups and downs of Yorkshire football over the past 30 years.
GREAT SCOTT! The big day is here and the future has finally arrived.
October 21, 2015, is a date that will need no introduction to fans of the ‘Back to the Future’ film trilogy.
For those, however, who did not fall under the spell of Marty McFly, Doc Brown and Biff Tannen during the Eighties, a quick explanation is required as to how a time-travelling DeLorean took Michael J Fox’s character from 1985 to 30 years into the future and a world of hover boards, self-tying trainers and flying cars.
Much of these imagined elements, of course, proved to be fanciful, though 3D movies and fingerprint technology have become a reality along with voice recognition technology.
The Chicago Cubs could also be about to help life imitate art. Depicted in Back to the Future II as the 2015 World Series baseball champions via a hologram-style billboard news report that caught McFly’s eye, the lovable losers from Chicago’s North Side are through to the semi-finals and strongly fancied to claim a first pennant since 1908.
This got The Yorkshire Post wondering as to what anyone from 1985 would have made of a 2015 Sports Almanac – the publication McFly brought back from the future to try and beat the bookmakers – relaying how the coming three decades would pan out for the county’s football clubs.
On the surface, not much has changed. All 12 of our clubs in the Football League on October 26, 1985 – the date McFly’s time-travelling adventures began – are either in the same division or just one rung away.
Sheffield Wednesday led the way for the county back then, Howard Wilkinson’s men occupying third place in Division One behind Manchester United and Liverpool. A further seven clubs were in the second tier, one more than today, with York, Doncaster and Rotherham in the old Third Division and Halifax Town the basement.
So far, so routine. What would, however, have surely surprised anyone given a glimpse into the future three decades ago is the journey that many of our clubs have taken to reach this point.
Hull and Bradford, for instance, have played in both the Premier League and bottom division during the intervening years. Both have also been to the brink financially, twice in the case of the Bantams, who slipped into administration in 2002 and 2004.
Others to have needed protecting from creditors include Leeds, York, Rotherham (twice), Middlesbrough and Huddersfield. Both Scarborough – promoted to the League two years after the film trilogy was launched – and Halifax, meanwhile, folded and had to re-form several rungs down the pyramid.
Stadia are another area where there has been huge change within the Broad Acres. Any football fan transported here by DeLorean from 1985 would, no doubt, be able to recognise Hillsborough, Elland Road and Bootham Crescent without too much trouble. Ditto the main stand at Oakwell.
But the KC, John Smith’s, New York and Keepmoat would be totally alien along with a rebuilt Valley Parade – which, just a few months earlier, had been reduced to a smouldering wreck by the fire disaster that claimed 56 lives. Hillsborough, too, suffered its own horror as 96 lives were lost in 1989 to signal the end for the old terraces.
Yorkshire’s fortunes in Cup football over the past three decades would also have scarcely been believable. In the 40 years that followed the Second World War, just Leeds (seven times) and Sheffield Wednesday (once) featured in a major final.
In stark contrast, the last three decades have seen no less than five of our clubs reach a major final.
Of those, Boro appeared in four, including the 2006 UEFA Cup final, and the Owls three. Both clubs lifted the League Cup.
It is not just knockout football where there has been plenty of thrills and spills for Yorkshire football, either, with no less than 43 promotions for our senior clubs and 45 relegations.
Rotherham have been on the move the most, going up six times and coming back down on five other occasions while Leeds’ long stint in the Premier League means they have moved divisions just four times.
Leeds also boast the county’s solitary League title triumph of the past 30 years, Wilkinson’s Leeds having pipped Manchester United in 1992.
Considering the club’s travails in October, 1985 – Elland Road had just been sold to raise much-needed funds, hooliganism was rife and supporters were in open revolt following Eddie Gray’s sacking –had that Championship success been forecast in an English version of the Sports Almanac 2015, it would surely have been dismissed as being as fanciful as flying cars and shoe-laces that tie themselves.