When Kevin Henning lost a childhood Subbuteo bet to his big brother he wasn’t to know that it would lead to a lifetime of supporting a lower league side across the far end of the country…

Bets are often struck in an instant and forgotten just as quickly. As a 9 year old boy, one bet I made with my older brother stuck with me for the next twenty years. It was the first day of the 1987-88 season and the two of us were watching Saint and Greavsie while our mam made our dinners. Being the opening show of the season, the ‘comedy’ duo were previewing all four divisions of the Football League. We were midway through an extremely competitive game of Subbuteo if memory serves me when our kid came out with a challenge as absurd as anything he’d ever said to me. He told me to pick a team from Division 4 and we’d see how our selected sides fared come the following May.

At this point in my football history, Division 4 was a league completely over my horizon due to living in Manchester. My brother was a red and I was starting out my life as a blue. We’ve always tried to keep our differences under wraps when it comes to City and United (until he fell out with me after the F.A. Cup semi final) but any other conflict of interest is fair game. My Rangers to his Celtic, his fondness for Barcelona and my appreciation of Atletico Madrid, even my loyalty to Salford in the Rugby compared to his glory-hunting with Wigan. This was to be the latest rivalry.

He announced quite proudly that his choice was Tranmere Rovers. Ever the backer of the underdog, I decided to back Scarborough through their maiden league season. That night on the News at Ten, brief highlights were shown from the Seadogs home match against Wolves. I remember it clearly as a Wolves fan fell through the roof of one of the McCain Stadium’s stands. Scarborough had earned a 2-2 draw against the eventual champions. Come the end of the season, I had won the bet by a single point and two league places. Although Tranmere’s 2 point deduction owing to a postponed match after a dispute about police presence played a significant part in my small victory. The love affair had started.

Over the next 20 years, I never failed to check how the North Yorkshire outfit had got on. Saturday was perfect providing Manchester City, Rangers and Scarborough had won while United and Celtic had lost. Then came the season when my bit on the side made a play for my affections.

Scarborough were falling away faster than the crumbling shore on the North Yorkshire cliffs.

City had come to the nadir of the ‘90’s farce and had slumped to Division 2. Things were so bad that my true love were just one league above my little secret passion. We all know that City somehow dodged and weaved through the season, culminating in the ultimate comeback at Wembley versus Gillingham. Only a handful of Citizens will recall Scarborough’s fight for their professional status.

Hull City fans refer to this campaign as the ’Great Escape’ season. Indeed, during February whilst visiting my parents in North Wales, the big Friday night live match on SKY was Rochdale versus Hull City. My mam was busy making my tea and my dad was in his computer room when Rochdale went 3-0 up. My old man came through to see what the commotion was. When I explained that we needed a Dale win to help Scarborough stay up, he casually enquired whether I had finally gone over the edge with my football based obsessions.

As the season wore on, Hull City slowly clawed their way back towards the land of the living during which a 1-1 draw with the Seadogs was played in front of a crowd officially recorded as 13,000, but visibly far more were packed into Boothferry Park. Scarborough were falling away faster than the crumbling shore on the North Yorkshire cliffs. Carlisle were also slipping towards the trap-door. While Manchester City headed for the play-offs, a small band of blues, fascinated by my obsession with Division Two’s relegation zone began to inform me of the Tigers’, Cumbrians and Seadogs’ scores as I walked into the Beehive after each match in Moss Side. It reached a climax on the last day of the regular season. City had already guaranteed their play-off spot but still had a home tie with York City to fulfil. My mate and I decided to miss our first home match for over five years to give us extra funds towards a possible Wembley final. However, for the first time ever my attention was divided for a match that had absolutely nothing to do with City.

Hull City had secured their survival in the penultimate weekend of the season by beating Torquay United 1-0. It would all come down to a one-off survival special on the final day of the season between Scarborough and Carlisle United and an audience with Jeff Stelling. As we all now know, the unthinkable happened when Carlisle’s goalkeeper Jimmy Glass went forward in desperation for a corner kick in injury time. The ball inevitably fell to the on loan goalie who smashed it home and sent Scarborough spiralling towards the semi-pro abyss.

I was almost the reverse of the glory hunting Manyoo or Liverpool fans from anywhere but the North West of England.

I clung on to my fondness for Scarborough for the next eight until they were forced into liquidation. There were highlights over the years. The triumphant bet with my brother, the 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Frankie Bunn and Oldham Athletic and a high profile F.A. Cup tie against Chelsea after the drop from the league.

Scarborough were a strange phenomenon for me. A team that I had no connection with, who I’d never been to see play live and scraped around the basement league constantly. I was almost the reverse of the glory hunting Manyoo or Liverpool fans from anywhere but the North West of England. However, they had a place in my heart due to a 20 year old, childhood wager. I must confess that I abandoned them mercilessly after they went bust. They now kick around in the Humber Division 1 alongside teams such as East Riding Rangers and Bransholme Athletic. You know, now I live in Hull, I may well pop along to see the old girl…..