“IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Pinching the first dozen words of a Charles Dickens classic seems a fitting way to summarise Worcester City’s maiden voyage into Midland Football League waters.

Some of a blue and white persuasion are perhaps still rubbing their eyes, getting used to not being at the pinnacle of part-time football.

Others may have looked at reformed Hereford’s escape from non-league’s fifth tier at the first attempt and assumed promotion would be forthcoming, if not easy.

But in the main, in spite of some of the regulars at City’s current level choosing to claim otherwise, most involved with the club got what they expected from 2017-18.

Given the clout City started the campaign with, it was fair to expect the new-look squad would keep pace with the leading lights.

A sizeable budget for the level, perhaps, but the biggest it was not which made the pressure of the target on Worcester backs unwarranted.

“We started the season with a completely different squad and facing a completely different challenge,” said manager John Snape.

“There was a new enthusiasm from the off but also new and different expectations, which was understandable.

“We had a good pre-season in terms of building morale in a bunch of lads that were new to each other and hit the ground running.

“The squad probably had a decent 14 or so players so it did not help when we picked up a few injuries and suspensions, especially when teams upped their game against us.

“They were playing against Worcester City at Midland Football League level, that made a difference to how some opponents performed and our lads needed time to adjust to that.

“We steadily got back our consistency, got ourselves in touch again over the Christmas period and planned to strengthen in January. That didn’t come to fruition for whatever reason.”

Then, of course, there was the madness of March to contend with.

The landscape changed significantly with news the club could be forced to go “fully amateur” on the back of losses of more than £290,000 for the financial year up to May 2017.

It truly was a tale of two cities – the on-field promise colliding with off-field issues that surely will only linger until a new ground is found.

Out went joint-manager and striker Lee Hughes, goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan, captain Brad Birch and fans’ favourite Tyler Weir, among others.

The squad, boosted by some lesser-known names, coped admirably until a run of four league matches without a win – City had put together no more than two up to then – all but ended hope of a top-two finish.

They kept going, though, scalping in-form Highgate in a final flourish that maintained a pulse until the final six days.

The campaign finished as many had predicted it would, well clear of those beneath in fourth place but a fair chunk behind the top three.

“The players deserve credit for the way we stayed in there when some of the bigger names left the club,” he added.

“There were a few ins and outs but it had a galvanising effect on the lads that stayed. I am hopeful we can retain the nucleus we finished with and improve our league position next season.

“The big thing, though, is that my relationship with the board has stayed strong.

“There has always been a focus on the new ground, even if we have taken a step back from the three-year plan in place when Lee and I took it on at this level.

“I think we can take two forwards next season. The teams we are playing will know us but we will also know a great deal more about them.

“My backroom staff have stayed loyal and have been working tirelessly to progress things. The ambition is still to gain promotion.

“We will have to work within our budget and it will be more difficult than this season, one that saw us come in well under budget.

“It is a challenge me, the staff and the players will be up for.”

And while the focus may still be on off-field matters, Snape argued the case for optimism.

“It is a long time since this club won 24 league matches, lost only seven and had someone who scored 30 goals in a season,” he added.

“Whatever people say about the league, I think it has been exciting and we have played some fantastic football at times, particularly at home.”