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Tuesday 12th February 2008 ko 19.45

Northern Premier League Division One North

ROSSENDALE UNITED 0

BAMBER BRIDGE 1 (Salmon 36)

Att 146

Entry £7

Programme £1.50

A week or two I told the sad story of Mile Oak Rovers & Youth and how gut-wrenching it was to be at their final ever game. This tale also ends with the club’s extinction but the reason for the club’s demise proved to be more complicated.

Rossendale is a borough in Lancashire, consisting of a clutch of mill villages in the Blackburn and Burnley area. In this quitessentially footballing hotbed the club played in Dark Lane, Newchurch, near Rawtenstall. They were formed in 1898 and worked their way through the Lancashire Combination, the Cheshire League, and into the North-West Counties League.

It was during their stint on the Cheshire League that the club reached national consciousness, embarking on two FA Cup runs, losing to Bolton in the 2nd round in 1971 and to Shrewsbury Town in the 1st round in 1975. They were founded members of the NWCL in 1982 and won promotion to the Northern Premier League in 1990. That seemed to be a step too far for the club, and despite a couple of top-ten finishes the club’s time in the NPL was one of struggle. They rejoined the NWCL, were promoted once again in 2002 but with losses mounting the club was put up for sale. The truth was that the club was on the brink of bankruptcy several times before their eventual demise.

With no new investment forthcoming, the club was relegated back to the NWCL in 2010, and after a bottom place finish in the NWCL’s Premier division the board resigned, and with Dark Lane on the verge of being re-possessed by the bank, the club folded.

A phoenix club was in the process of being formed when disaster struck. Arsonists broke into the club and the iconic main stand was burnt to the ground. With no ground for the new club to use, the whole phoenix club idea was abandoned, and the only nod these days to the club’s existence is Bacup Borough’s adding Rossendale to its name to become Bacup and Rossendale Borough in 2013. It not much of a memorial to all that history.

My memory of the place was of a struggling but friendly place, even if watching the chip basket slowly sinking into the slowly melting fat is one I’ll take to the grave. The wooden stand that was eventually burned was a wonderful edifice even if these days the benches would doubtless cause the ground-graders of today a few problems.

Grounds like Dark Lane were in short supply then, and in even shorter supply now. The tragedy of this tale is that its loss was completely pointless.