The fans, the unbeaten home record and the Columbus Ravine darts days are the three things that stand out in Kevin Nicholson’s mind when you mention Scarborough Football Club.
The current Torquay United manager spent just over two years at the Athletic Ground before heading south in the summer of 2006 and ultimately ending up on the English Riviera.
During that time he played his part in the aftermath of the club’s big FA Cup run, shone at left-back in an unbeaten home season and then witnessed the beginning of the end for Scarborough FC as they slipped out of the Conference.
These may have been some of the darker days of the club’s existence, but Nicholson still looks back fondly.
“I arrived on loan with Hacky (Tony Hackworth) at the end of the season after the FA Cup run and we had a massive backlog of fixtures,” said the 35-year-old.
“I think we ended up playing 13 games in six weeks, which wasn’t great.
“On the back of the FA Cup run Russell Slade left for Grimsby and he told me that he wanted to take me there.
“When I turned up I expected to sign a contract and take it from there, but instead it turned out I was on trial with another player in my position.
“Sladey opted for the other trialist left-back and I was left without a club.
“In the meantime Nick Henry and Neil Redfearn had taken over at Scarborough.
“I owe a lot to the fact that Steve Baker got sent off in a pre-season game because he was pencilled in as their left-back.
“I came back, they offered me a contract and I leapt at the chance to sign it.”
In Nicholson’s first full season with the club, Boro’s home form was exceptional, but their push for the play-offs was hit by their lack of consistency on the road.
He added: “To go a full season unbeaten at home was a huge achievement. I think only us, Chelsea and Manchester United managed it that season. The problem was our away form was disgusting.
“I signed for a second season, but the club was hit by financial problems. Scarborough folded a year or so later, which was really sad.
“Sometimes problems like that can kick you on as a group, but it didn’t at Scarborough, everybody got a bit down.
“Redders was a top coach when he took over, but there wasn’t a lot he could do.
“Everyone I speak to about the club remembers Brian Hodgson, the kitman.
“He sent me some pictures of how the stadium is now and it’s quite hard to take.”
Football wasn’t the only big sport among the players at the time of Nicholson’s stay, as the club’s house on Columbus Ravine hosted regular darts championships.
Nicholson was joined in the house by Steve Baker, David Pounder, Chris Hughes and a smattering of others, who came and went from the club.
“I was the best darts player, but Bakes (Steve Baker) definitely fancied himself,” he added.
“We got quite good in the end and had some decent battles on the dart board in the front room. “The camaraderie and spirit we had, especially in the first season, was fantastic. I loved it.
“We used to go to the Hollywood Plaza cinema and watch films and every morning we’d head down to Al Frescos for our breakfast.
“I still speak to a few of those lads because they were great times.
“You don’t tend to stay in touch with that many people in football, but the great thing about social media is that you are just a click away from talking to them.”
When asked to cast his mind back over his favourite games, Nicholson followed the trend of many a Scarborough FC fan by singling out the two wins against York City in the 2004-2005 campaign.
Boro crushed York 5-1 at the Athletic Ground on Boxing Day and followed that up with a 2-0 win at Bootham Crescent just a few days later.
He said: “Those York games were great. It was a big derby at the time and the atmosphere was electric.
“I think York were struggling a bit at that time, but to have that support behind you was just amazing for a player.
“I also remember my first game for the club against Leigh RMI because I scored in it, but the York games definitely stand out.
“The support we had was great. It was a lot like Torquay because we are out on a limb as well. At Scarborough I can remember getting regular crowds of 1,500, which was brilliant.
“I still follow how the new club is doing now on Twitter. It was sad to see Paul Foot leave because he’s a great lad, but hopefully the future will be bright for them.”
Nicholson was given the opportunity to work under two current Championship managers in Redfearn and Slade during his time at the Athletic Ground. The experiences he picked up from them and other bosses he played for have given him a firm grounding for his own managerial career.
He has also picked up quite a bit from Bournemouth gaffer Eddie Howe, who despite being relatively new to management at the age of 38, is becoming something of a hero on the south coast.
“I spoke to Eddie, he gave me 20 minutes of his time, which was amazing for me, I was very fortunate,” added Nicholson.
“He’s a hell of a role model and gave me tips on what to do and possibly what not to do.
“I was a player for 20 years, so I have a good bit of experience of the game myself, I’ve learned plenty from the managers I worked under.
“You pick up on the good things that managers did to make you feel great and also the bad things, so I know what not to do.
“I’ve always been one to take note, but you have to put your own spin and personality on things.
“Management is a bit different to being a player because you go from looking after yourself to looking after players, budgets and other things.
“I’m enjoying it and we’re in a reasonable run of form at the moment, but we still have a lot of work to do to get us away from the relegation zone.
“We still have a chance and that is all that matters.”