Gainsborough Trinity: The club that went 145 years without being relegated

Marcus Dinanga's close-range winner completed Telford's comeback from being 2-0 down with half an hour left to win 3-2 and send Gainsborough down
Marcus Dinanga's close-range winner completed Telford's comeback from being 2-0 down with half an hour left to win 3-2 and send Gainsborough down

Non-league Gainsborough Trinity had two long-standing records to speak of prior to Saturday's National League North visit to Telford.

In the 145 years since they were first formed in 1873, they had never been promoted and never been relegated.

The Lincolnshire side spent two decades as a Football League club early in their existence, only to suffer the fate of not being re-elected when they finished bottom of Division Two in 1912.

Apart from that, they have only ever moved divisions as a result of league restructuring.

But that all changed when, after being 2-0 up at relegation rivals Telford, they shipped three goals in 15 minutes - and that condemned Lee Sinnott's side to the drop to the Northern Premier League.

"We've not been relegated in 145 years," chairman Richard Kane told BBC Radio Lincolnshire. "But nor have we been promoted either.

"Hopefully, we can go straight back up next season and break another record.

"And Lee Sinnott is definitely in the plans for next season. He's very experienced, he's not paid a fortune and we've seen a difference since he came in. He's not paid a fortune and he likes the club."

Players and fans consoled each other alike at the Bucks Head
Players and fans consoled each other alike after that traumatic turnaround at the Bucks Head

No hope for part-timers

One major factor behind Gainsborough's relegation is being a part-time club in a league, which even at sixth-tier level, Kane claims is half populated by full-time clubs.

"We have to be honest, for the past two or three seasons we've been knocking on the door," he said.

"We could not have done anything else with our limited resources. This is now just a big money league and it's difficult to compete.

"There's 10 teams in there that are full-time, with a playing budget in excess of £20,000 a week.

"We're a small market town with a population of less than 20,000, playing teams like York, which has a population of 200,000.

"We live and die by what we've got. Other teams are out there spending more than they bring in, but that's football."

Gainsborough's league hopping

  • After being founded by a local vicar as Trinity Recreationists in 1873, Gainsborough joined the Football League in 1896 as members of the Second Division, which had been formed in 1892.
  • Having finished bottom in 1902, only to be re-elected, they achieved their highest Football League finish of sixth in 1905. But, when they finished bottom again in 1912, this time they failed to be re-elected.
  • The club returned to the Midland League, after which they were three times unsuccessful in reapplying for Football League membership, most notably when the new Third Division North was created in 1921.
  • They became founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968, after which they made two unsuccessful applications to rejoin the Football League again in 1975 and 1976.
  • They then become founder members of the Conference North in 2004, reaching the play-off final under Steve Housham in 2012.

Message from the boardroom

Gainsborough Trinity social media post
Chairman Richard Kane said he was "gutted" in a post-match social media post on Saturday

Trinity Tales

  • Gainsborough still play their home matches at The Northolme, their home since 1884 - which now has a 4,000 capacity. The record attendance was in the 1940s when 9,760 watched a wartime Lincolnshire derby against Scunthorpe United.
  • The last time the ground was full was for their 125-year centenary in 1998 against a Manchester United side playing as Newton Heath - to mark the fact that the very first game they played was against Newton Heath, who reformed to become United in 1902.
  • Neil Warnock began his managerial career at Gainsborough, since when Trinity have had other well-known football names in charge - Leighton James, Ernie Moss, Phil Stant, Brian Little and now Lee Sinnott.


BBC Radio Lincolnshire reporter Mark Hone, who played for Crystal Palace, Welling, Southend, Lincoln and Kettering

"It's a sad day for everyone associated with the club. It really hurts, but maybe it was something that needed to happen.

"Some of the old guard that have been here a while just maybe need to be moved on - both on and off the pitch."

Gainsborough were brought to their knees by Telford fighting back from two down to win 3-2
Gainsborough were brought to their knees by Telford, who fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 on Saturday

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