These are the days of miracle and wonder

You will have seen these words before in Paul Simon’s song ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ but they are how I feel about my 2021/22 football season.

We all started the season hoping that it would finish and not be cut short by the Covid Pandemic as it had been in the two previous.

The Non-League scene had seen some major changes of league structures and a new landscape beckoned. New to me and new to the Toolstaion North East Counties were Teversal F.C. who I visited in July. The ground was homely but the football was dull and they lost 1 nil which was a bad omen towards their eventual relegation at the end of the season back to the feeder leagues. The club house was reassuringly warm and friendly and the chance to eat football ground chips was a delight.

Spalding up next saw them beat Loughborough Dynamos in a detour on the way home from holiday.

My first F.A Cup game was at Belper Town who progressed against Whitchurch in a ground that I fell in love with because of its view of the local church and Salts Mill along with great facilities

More F.A. Cup action followed at Lancaster 1874 as they beat Northwich in a disappointing game that was enhanced by the staff at the ground.

As September rolled on the evenings were darker and the lights were on at Dinnington Town. It was fascinating to sit in the small stand with the locals and hear about the development of their club.9

A highlight was my 5th attempt at visiting Tow Law Town to see a competitive game against Birtley. The ground clinging to the Durham hillside has some stunning views and its history seems to hang in the air. A great chat with a Birtley fan was all that is good about the game at this level.

Having messed up on visiting Quorn I went to see Rainworth Miners Welfare play Hallam in a game previously abandoned due to a medical emergency to an official. He was there to start the game having made a welcome recovery. Hallam ran out 4-0 winners at this near Mansfield ground.

Back to Staveley Miners Welfare because it was one of the only games I could reach as others had been called off due to the constant rain. Their artificial pitch meant the game was on but it didn’t help them with the result. The facilities here are amazing for their level and they intend to make them even better. Despite a mid table finish they have accepted a demotion to ensure that they achieve their plan for ground improvements and ensuring that the club achieves a debt free position. I believe that this mature governance of the club will see them becoming a beacon in this level of football for some years to come.

By the end of October I visited Folkstone Invicta to see them overwhelm Kingstonian. Good facilities here that are being used by good crowd support. The fanzone was one of the best I have seen.

A night time drive to Milton Keynes Dons to see them play Aston Villa in the EFL Trophy was special as I met my son and my 5 year old grandson. Three generations of fans felt good. The ground changed my mind about the new stadiums that are sprouting everywhere. Often they just seem like a concrete bowl with no soul but this has a great feel being next to a vibrant retail area, lit up at night by food outlets. You walk in off road level and you are at the top level of the seating which unfolds below you. You can stay in the hotel built into the stadium and watch from your room. There is also space to increase the capacity in the future. One thing I would say though is please it is time to drop the Dons name’ your roots have now been firmly planted in Milton Keynes.

Next up was Percy Main in the Northern Alliance not far from the North Shields Cruise terminal. I had to visit here after reading Ian Cussack’s book about his experiences with the club.

It was all I expected, a small homely club and ground providing local football in these parts. Long may they continue and also keep serving the enormous amount of chips that they do.

St Albans City F.C. – YES!!!! The F.A. cup again brought me to my original home town where I saw my first match in 1955. In all those years since either watching games or the results, St Albans had never beaten a Football League side in the F.A. Cup but they did it at this match beating the League 2 leaders and eventual winners, Forest Green Rovers. It was a tremendous game not just for the players but the supporters too, the excitement could be sliced and taken home. City unfortunately went out to local rivals Boreham Wood in the next round and then having been in a position that could have seen them win their league they faded away and didn’t even make the play offs. Oh well there is always next year.

Kiverton Park was a complete change to St Albans but this feeder league club is trying hard to develop. Where else have I ever been served chips in my seat in the stand. Thank you for this unusual but appreciated experience.

The end of November saw me visit Turf Moor to see Burnley play a hectic 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace. The continual rain that drenched me did not dampen my appreciation of visiting a ground that I have wanted to see for many years. It didn’t disappoint.

From a wet Burnley I next went to an even wetter Sherwood Colliery who beat Knaresborough Town in a thrilling game. Sherwood Colliery are on the outskirts of Mansfield and are a team on the up, supported by a lottery winner who is building the club slowly putting in building bocks one at a time. After a successful season in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League they have now been moved along with other Nottinghamshire clubs to the United Counties League.

Corby Town in Northamptonshire was next just before Christmas but the damp cold fog put a damper on the experience although the coffee and mince pie at half time kept me going.

My Christmas game found me at Hallam F.C. in Sheffield to see what was going on. The crowds had been growing as Hallam edged up the league and now in 2nd place they entertained the third placed team in front of 1198 spectators in this step 6 clash. Hallam won and went on to finish top of the league with 100 points and 100 goals for. It will be interesting to see the crowds in the Premier Division next season.

2022 saw me welcoming the New Year at Heanor v Selston which was an edgy 0-0 draw.

From a goal less draw I couldn’t believe that I saw Hucknall Town hit 10 in my next match. Hucknall are trying to get back to former glories and the set up is all there but the United Counties League Division 1 looks like one of the hardest in the country to escape from.

A long journey to Spennymoor was nothing to their opposition that day in the F.A. Trophy, Plymouth Parkway. Parkway looked like making the journey worthwhile but a Spennymoor revival in the last ten minutes must have broken their hearts and made the return home seem like an eternity.

Mid week and it was Rossington Main near Doncaster Airport and the floodlights piercing the darkness always make evening games exciting. Brigg Town won in this league Cup game but were eliminated due to playing an illegible player.

Now down to the South Coast where I saw Poole Town beat Swindon Supermarine a game which was decided by penalty incidents. I stayed at the Royal National Life Boat H.Q. in Poole for this one where you can stay if members are not using the overnight facilities. Look it up if you are planning to stay in the area.

Another night under the lights, this time at Emley AFC, and also under the two Emley Moor towers. A solid 4-0 win against Knaresborough Town being the outcome, I had now seen Knaresborough concede 9 goals in two matches.

Then to Esh Winning for a Northern League match, a great club house, an interesting ground in the country, an unusual name and Dec, Alias Miserable Les who enthralled me with stories of the club, the area and his music career. Thank you Dec for a great afternoon. Afterwards we nipped into the village chippy, Fields, to get chips cooked on one of the last coal fired chip shop ranges left in the country.

With February nearly over I attended Non League heaven when I went to Loughborough Students. What great facilities this University has for their students and rightly so an investment in young talent to see us into the future. Loughborough won in the league against Eastwood but their exploits in the F.A. Vase were where it was at this season, reaching the semi finals only to lose away at Newhaven. Unfortunately the purple didn’t make it to Wembley.

Having seen Eastwood Community play away the previous week at Loughborough I decided to visit their ground. The facilities were good for the level though the two level synthetic pitch was unusual. Eastwood unfortunately lost again, this time to visitors Newark Town.

Having enjoyed my visit to Belper to see Belper Town I noticed an evening game at the same ground which is shared by Belper United. I again took the wrong turning some where and arrived just in time for kick off. If you go to Belper to see either team go early to park near the ground. The walk down the hill to the match is fine but up hill on the way back is a killer. Belper United won but just missed out on promotion unlike their bigger brothers Belper Town who won their play offs.

Mansfield Hosiery mid week was next, where I enjoyed the evening football and a second half chat with a budding coach. Great name for a football club though.

A hot sunny day in Newcastle under Lyme and a very long walk from the town via a cemetery to a park with all types of sports grounds and a football stadium with a velodrome around its perimeter. Newcastle Town played Glossop North End in a not to remember game where I watched the end of a rugby match from the back of the goal on an adjoining pitch.

The chance to see England’s under 19’s at Chesterfield couldn’t be turned down and I enjoyed a slick performance to see them qualify for this summers UEFA competition.

St Josephs Rockware Worksop was the venue for the most unreal game of the whole season when the referee abandoned the game after 44 minutes due to what appeared to be alleged threats from the home sides bench. I still haven’t been able to find out the outcome of the episode.

A full 90 minutes were restored at Carlton Town in Nottingham where the home team beat Belper Town to keep their play off hopes alive. Carlton eventually failed in their quest but Belper gained promotion.

My first Sheffield and Hallamshire League game found me at North Gawbor Colliery for an evening game which with the lengthening daylight didn’t need lights. The away team Wakefield AFC won on their way to win the league and promotion to the Northern Counties East League. Wakefield are a team to watch in the future. this was one of the best games of the season as it was amazing to see families, dog walker et al turn up to watch, no payment needed. I was sorry for the bus driver who had to wait till the game ended to pass the spectators cars and vans parked on the road. Luckily no passengers were inconvenienced in the playing of this game as there were none on the bus.

Easter Monday and the playing of the 125thMexborough Montagu Hospitals Charity Cup Final at Mexborough, believed to be the oldest cup competition still played at the original ground. A real family local football crowd of 1700 helped the Hospital Charity. By the way Scawthorpe beat Dog Daisy Athletic.

Nearing the end of the season on the way to a holiday in North Wales it gave me the opportunity to see some Welsh football when I went to Llandudno v Llangefni. I was impressed with the quality of their second tier football and I think they are building a good future.

On the way back I managed to get a ticket to sit with the Southend fans at Wrexham. Wrexham won the game and eventually finished the season in second place and are favourites to win the play offs. Their new owners have the money to develop the squad and stadium but the National League must be the hardest in the country to win.

The last game of the season unusually not a Non League game but Barrow v Northampton in League Two. Not to see the drama that unfolded but to see my daughter attend her 92nd current League game, an amazing achievement. A proud Dad who was there at the first.

These are definitely the days of miracles and wonder in that the season was completed and I attended 36 diverse and enjoyable football matches.

Welsh league football at last

I had seen football in Wales before but never a Welsh League game so it was with anticipation that I drove along the A55 North Wales dual carriageway. The road is a pleasure except on those manic holiday weekends when queues can often cause frustration. There are some huge vistas, castles, sea views, on a late April day Bluebell and yellow splodges of gorse and to finish off Snowdonia.

Llandudno F.C.’s ground was on the edge of an industrial estate behind the town centre and the game was against Llangefni in the Cymru North League which is the second tier of Welsh football. Only one team is promoted from the Cymru North League along with the winner of the Cymru South League. The game was the last of the season for both teams Langefni sitting near the bottom table and Llandudno in second place but with no chance of catching runaway leaders Airbus UK.

There was ample parking just outside the ground and on entering the brightness of the synthetic pitch hits you first. The pitch was mainly flat with a few undulating areas. The pitch was heavily sanded evident by the amount being kicked up by the players warming up. The weather was glorious with blue skies and a few grey clouds but unless you could shelter from the strong coastal wind it felt chilly.

The OPS Wind Arena has low level seating on three sides with hard standing behind one goal and along the areas where there is no seating. There are one strorey buildings behind the goal and on the sides for changing rooms, administration, bars, food, shop etc. Three of the floodlight poles are also telecommunication antennae which may add to the clubs income along with the multipurpose pitch. The crowd was a good mix of all ages and almost 50/50 males and females.

There is recorded evidence that there was a team in Llangefni in 1882 which like many of the time was born out of religious attendance. The Llangefni Town Football Club was founded 5 years later in in 1897. They initially played in the newly formed Anglesey Football League formed in the same year. nearly 100 years later in 1988 they were promoted to the Gwynedd League. There stay here was nowhere near as long as only two years later after a very successful two years they joined the Tyn Lon Volvo Welsh Alliance League. Their success at this time was emphasised when in 1992 they won the Welsh Intermediate Cup, the only Anglesey club to do so. Keeping up their rapid change saw the advent of the new millennium bring a new ground and another move this time to the Cymru Alliance.

The next highlight for the club was in 2008 when they were promoted to the Welsh Premier league but unfortunately having reached the summit of Welsh football they were relegated the a year later. After nearly getting back into the Premier League by 2012 they were relegated back to the Welsh Alliance and due to organisational problems had to start the 2013 season in the Anglesey league back to where they started. By 2015 their efforts had lead them back to Welsh Alliance Division 1 and 4 years later they went up to the Championship North. So after some very static early years you have to say that more recent times have been quite a roller coaster.

Football in Llandudno started 1878 4 years earlier than Llangefni with a club believed to have been called Gloddaeth Rovers formed out of a cricket club.

A Llandudno team were founder members of the Welsh National League (North) in 1921 but the current team were started in 1988 as Llandudno F.C. moving to their current location in 1991. Since then the team have managed to improve the ground with the seating, covered areas, the floodlights and buildings with disabled access all to Cymru Premier League criteria. All in all a herculean effort topped off in 2014 with the addition of the 3G pitch and a year later promotion to the Welsh Premier League for the first time. The dream continued with a first season 3rd place finish and qualification to the Europa League. Unfortunately ups are often followed by downs and they were relegated to the Cymru North in 2019 where they currently play.

Llandudno F.C. 6 Llangefni F.C. 1

Saturday 22rd April 2022 Kick Off 2.30 pm Last League game of the Cymru North Season

With Snowdonia as a backdrop the teams kicked off and it soon seemed obvious that Llandudno were well on top of the conditions Within 1 minute they were ahead when the Llangefni defence were static appealing for offside that left Toby Jones on his own to easily score past the rooted goalkeeper. I hardly had time to settle in my seat and it was two nil after 9 minutes when Mark Williams deflected a ball into the net despite vociferous appeals from the Llangefni goalkeeper for hand ball.

Players had difficulty taking free kicks or goal kicks as the blustery wind refused to let it stand still. Llandudno showed some skill with long pin point passes often from one side of the field to the other and their defensive dominance enabled their right back to threaten as an extra wide player. On the half hour Llangefni were on the score sheet when Phillips curled a glorious ball into the top left of the net from outside of the goal area. However the home team cemented their dominance when Danny Hughes cut back the ball to the back post for Guto Williams to restore the 2 goal lead. which was maintained until half time.

Llandudno playing against the wind in the second half continued the scoring when 10 minutes into the half their captain stalwart Lee Krusty Thomas who was playing his last game for the club ran on to a pass to smash the ball home. Although

Landudno were already assured of finishing second in the league but they did not sit back and made it five with 15 minutes left when another plyer, Neil Ashton, also making his last game for the club used his left foot to volley a good goal.

Five minutes later Lee Thomas, wearing number 99, was substituted for the last time before his retirement and was clapped off by the crowd of 308.

Marc Williams made it 6 with a few minutes left to end my Welsh League experience.

The chips were cooked to order and were hot, golden and fluffy inside but had a neutral taste gaining a score of 70.

Referee abandons football match before half time because of threat.

On a cold afternoon I made the short journey to see SJR Worksop F.C. play Harworth Colliery F.C. in the Central Midlands Black Dragon Premier Division North League.

The ground is adjacent to Sandy Lane in Worksop just a quarter of a mile down the lane from Worksop Town’s ground.

It was a cold windy afternoon interrupted by a few sleet and rain flurries decending from the dark grey sky. The car temperature gauge had shown 3.5 degrees as I entered the ample car park. I had no idea that the game would up the temperature and boil over later.

The pitch is set apart from the clubhouse and changing rooms, another pitch being in between. I had a coffee to warm up but there were no chips here for my chip league.

The pitch is surrounded by a white fence and the playing surface sloped slightly end to end with a good thick grass cover.

I would normally write a few paragraphs abut the clubs but this was all about the game.

St Josephs Rockware Worksop 1 Harworth Colliery F.C. O

Central Midlands Black Dragon Premier Division North: Kick off 3.00 pm

Glassworks Pitches, Sandy Lane Worksop.

This local derby, 10 miles apart by car and less as the crow flies started with SJR playing down hill and the grey skies had cleared and now bright blue skies meant you could see planes making their decent into Doncaster Sheffield airport. Harworth took complete control and had most success attacking down the right, they even clipped the post after 7 minutes with the ball rebounding into the keepers arms. For all of Harworth’s pressure it was SJR who took the lead on 15 minutes when from a corner the ball was worked back to no.22 who from just over 20 yards out took down the ball with his right and curled it with his left into the top right hand corner of the net.

Worksop now took control but were pegged back to 10 men when one of their players was sin binned five minutes later for continual arguing with the referee’s decisions. Harworth did not take advantage of this but had a further chance to take the upper hand when the referee sent off Worksop’s number 4 for a second yellow card received for two strong fouls just 5 minutes from half time.

At this point I was thinking of another coffee or even a hot OXO came to mind as I could see an OXO factory in the distance.

A few minutes after the dismissal the referee approached the SJR bench to get them all to vacate the touchline and some ensuing verbal’s resulted with a yellow card for one of their management team which turned red when further words were exchanged. The referee then blew his whistle and shouted that the game was abandoned as he had been threatened by the home team.

The referee gathered the other officials and walked back to the changing room leaving the players bemused on the pitch. The crowd of circa 70 were stunned too and one of them said that someone had threatened the referee to sort him out in the carpark later! The players eventually trooped off and as it was just on half time the crowd stayed hoping that the game would resume for the second half. However the players started to come out of the club house having changed and the crowd drifted back to their cars. I overheard one of the Worksop players say, that was an easy win and an early finish too. Unfortunately I think it will be the Central Midland League’s committee that decide the result of this one in the future.

England Under 19’s footballers win at Chesterfield

England U 19’s 2 Portugal U 19’s 0

Chesterfield Technique Stadium kick off 7.30 p.m.

UEFA Under 19’s Qualifier

6005 turned up for this England qualifier and filled two sides of the 12000 all seater stadium.

After a few glorious days fans were pleased to have dressed for a wind that was quickly reducing the temperature. Chesterfield’s pitch is perfectly flat and against local reports I was pleased to find that only the immediate goal areas were sanded on what looked a green thick turf.

A win for England would ensure them a place in the finals in Slovakia from the 18th June to 1st July.

The game started fast with Portugal pressing with two quick forewords in Diago Trevasson and Joleson testing the England back line. It was England however who took an early lead when Brooke Norton Cuffey of Arsenal made a great overlap on the right to cut the ball back for Dave Scarlett to place the ball along the ground between a defenders legs.

The pace kept up and just before half time on 40 minutes Devine was brought down by the Portugal goalkeeper and Dave Scarlett stepped forward to take the penalty. Scarlett placed the ball to the keepers right to give England a comfortable lead at the break.

England only had one scare in the second half when a Portugal defender was free at the far post after a great cross from the left. How he ballooned the ball over the bar when almost on the goal line baffled everyone in the stadium. Portugal made numerous changes to try and gain a foothold in the game and were shown 6 yellow cards to England’s 1 mainly due to their frustration at the home sides controlled play. England ran our competent winners to progress to the summer finals. In a fast and furious game the two Aston Villa players of Charney Chuckwuemeka and Tim Iroegbunam stood out as they were effective but seemed to have time on the ball that appeared almost casual.

There are no pictures of the match as UEFA asked that there should be no autographs, selfies or pictures taken of the players.

The sun doesn’t always bring out the best in football.

On a mission to see Keele University play I checked on the journey to find the game postponed, so looking at other games locally I found that Newcastle Town were playing Glossop North End in the Northern Premier league West.

Parking in the centre of Newcastle under Lyme I decided to take the 18 minute walk to the game because the weather although hazy was a beautiful 19 degrees with no wind. With 50 minutes to kick off it seemed a cinch looking at Google maps. I decided to take a short cut through the cemetery but as I entered the cool I lost signal. It was peaceful walking through in the tree lined paths but totally disorientating. After being sent the wrong way by a helpful passer by my signal returned and I found that I had gone totally off piste. After finding my way back to where I started I was running out of time so I quickened my pace and eventually walked through the gate to the ground with a minute to spare.

There was however a ceremony taking place on the pitch which I found out was unfortunately a tribute to Newcastle’s late Chairman, Paul Ratcliffe who had recently passed.

The ground is in a very large park with other sports pitches and facilities and it is unusual because it has a velodrome all around the perimeter and therefore feels spacious but I did not feel that this made it a bit removed from the pitch. The pitch was very flat and green and all around there is hard standing at different heights depending on the curve of the cycling track. In the middle of one side behind the dugouts is a covered standing area and there is a seating area on the other side.

The Newcastle club is believed to have been started in 1964 in the local Sunday League but its present incarnation started in 1986 with the merger with another local club, Parkway Clayton. Initially playing in local Cheshire Leagues they soon progressed the the North West Counties League and as Champions in 2010 were promoted to the Northern Premier League. Newcastle have developed a very strong youth set up and have even been able to create their own multi pitch facility in the area.

You would need a book to describe the history of Glossop North End who were founded in 1886 as an amateur club but turned professional just a few years later and soon climbed the Leagues to be invited to join the English Second Division in 1898 and a season later played for one season in England’s most senior league. Some poor seasons meant that in 1915 they were not re-elected to the League and have since spent many seasons in Non-league football. There have been ups and downs but their most recent success was when they reached the F.A. Vase final in 2015 only to lose to North Shields 2-1 and also win the North West Counties League and gain promotion to the Northern Premier League where the realignment of the Non League structure now finds them in the Northern Premier League West Division.

Newcastle Town F. C. 0 Glossop North End A.F.C. 0

Saturday 26th March 2022 3.00pm kick off: Attendance 211

Northern Premier League West Division: 17th v 13th: The Castle v The Hillmen

Blue shirts with white stripe across the chest and sides, blue shorts v Orange shirts, black shorts.

After 15 minutes I was wandering why the ball had spent so much time in the air with little effect. Newcastle did force 3 corners in a row exerting some pressure but the game soon reverted to kick and rush. Glossop did have the ball in the net on 34 minutes but is was ruled offside and they again came close 3 minutes later with a header.

Both sides remained level at the break and a walk round the pitch to see the rugby match on an adjoining pitch raised the tempo. However the football did drag on with both teams cancelling themselves out. Glossop did up their tempo in the last 15 minutes and Jordon Scott hit the base of the right hand post from 30 yards with 10 minutes to go. Glossop pressure nearly paid off with another shot that grazed the corner of the upright and crossbar just at the end. The referee’s whistle was a relief to the crowd who had enjoyed the sunshine.

Newcastle’s point keeps them just one place outside the play off relegation zone.

A small bar and adjoining food area served up a very large portion of chips ( I asked for small ). They were hot, not greasy, with a little crunch and a good texture earning a score of 73.

Would Spa break help Everton.

With Everton in a fight for Premier League survival would a look back in their history help them.

As I have said previously football can be everywhere and again on a Buxton Crescent Experience there on the wall was a trip back to the past with Everton F.C.

Everton F.C. went to Buxton for eight days prior to the 1933 cup final against Manchester City. They were subjected to coaching, running, massage and spa treatments and won the game 3 nil. Perhaps to avoid relegation they should go back and stay at the magnificently refurbished Buxton Crescent Hotel.

However they returned in March 1956 prior to another game against Man City but lost.

Buxton Spa Hotel

Origins of a football team.

Saturday 12th March.

With a friends special; Birthday party there was no football today although I would have liked to have been at Loughborough Students FA Vase Quarter Final.

My mind wandered onto football as it often does and I thought of the many teams I have seen since I started this blog now in its 5th year.

What I was thinking of was how some were formed.

Obviously Loughborough Students were started as and still are a University team.

More recently I have noticed the word Community being incorporated in team names or used as an expression of the clubs ethos. Recently visited Eastwood Community is one of these where some grant money has been used to change to a synthetic pitch enabling greater use of the pitch for more junior and youth teams for both men and women. The club houses that have always been there for fans are now promoted locally for Weddings, Parties, Meetings, Community Groups etc. This has brought about a wider local involvement and an increased income stream.

Talking of community there are still many ex Mining communities with teams that have Colliery, Main, Miners Welfare etc. in their name, showing that community involvement in sport has always been strong e.g. Rossington Main, Staveley Miners Welfare and Pontefract Collieries . Staveley Miners Welfare have kept their traditional name but have successfully morphed into a ‘community’ club in the current sense.

Esh Winning and Selston found their way into the Pyramid system through Sunday football, the former when they reformed in the Durham Sunday League. Collingham came via Sunday League football but after being a successful youth team. Whilst the current Emley AFC grew out of the reserve team of the seniors who moved to Wakefield.

Often a new team has been born out of the embers of an old one or in Spennymoor Town’s case, two, Evenwood Town and Spennymoor United. The recent match I watched between Poole Town and Swindon Supermarine were two teams both started through long ago mergers, Poole Town (Poole Rovers and Poole Hornets) and Swindon Supermarine – (Swindon Athletic and Supermarine).

Looking further back some of our most senior teams were the result of church teams that were created by members of the congregation to cater for the physical wellbeing of their parishioners Of these I have visited Aston Villa, created in 1874 by members of Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel and Everton whose roots were in the Methodist Church and were originally St Domingo FC.

Just earlier than this many teams were established by Cricket Teams who wanted to keep fit in the winter. One such team is Hallam FC where one side of their ground (officially the oldest football ground in the world) is still taken up by a cricket pitch.

Some teams used to be like the colliery teams started by a company for their employees, Newark FC. were originally Worthington Simpsons, most have changed names but one that is close to my heart still has the company name, Vauxhall Motors FC. The team is now no longer part of the company but a stand alone Sports Club.

It’s interesting to see how the change in society has seen a change in the way teams have been formed and are coping with the new paradigm. It seems that we are currently in the age of the ‘The Community Club’ which is hopefully fulfilling its message of being a strong part of the local area.

N.B. Loughborough Students won 2 nil and are in the F.A. Vase Semi-Final.

Get ready for Non League day.

A trip up the M1 canal which should have led to Shirebrook Town F.C was sunk by a ground inspection that meant a cancellation as a result of the residue of storm Eunice.

With no time to divert to another mooring I went home and looked at some future fixtures. What hit me most was the 26th March which will be ‘Non League Day’ this year after it was cancelled last year due to Covid. There will be fund raising events at many clubs on the day in conjunction with ‘supporting Prostate Cancer UK.

There will be no League games in the Premiership or Championship or other Leagues where players will be away on International duty and all of their fans are encouraged to go to a Non League match to boost attendances, income and to create new fans. It is also important that past fans return and new ones are attracted.

Non League Day is attributed to James Doe who suggested it in 2010 and it has grown every year it has been scheduled. The football authorities and the senior clubs all support it.

Many clubs come up with innovative ideas to encourage people through the turnstiles so look out for your own local teams games on 26th March.

The Farther Corner

The Farther Corner – A Sentimental Return to North – East Football.

Written by Harry Pearson. Published by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd 2020

On holiday in August 2019 I read and reviewed ‘The Far Corner’ a book by Harry Pearson that had been first published in 1994. I summed the books up as, ‘The humour and idiosyncrasies of Football fans shines through, who else would try to find where the Charlton brothers were born and succeed. The holiday was made better by my suppressed laughter.’

I have just read ‘The Farther Corner’ again by Harry Pearson a follow up to the ‘Far Corner,’ 25 years later which is about Harry’s journey through the 2018/19 season. Again the humour just drips off the pages and his amazing knowledge and research into all things football in the North East, the players, teams, history, games, grounds but most enjoyable the people he meets at matches and on his way on the Metro, trains, buses and in the street. Already I had a curiosity for North East football brought on by teams from the area winning the Amateur Cup and FA Vase and knocking St Albans out of the former trophy and this book has reinforced me to visit and learn more.

Harry Pearson’s team of the season was Dunston UTS but there are visits all over. The humour and writing style has not been diminished and I only hope that we do not have to wait another 25 years for the follow up.

Perhaps it will be called the ‘Farthest Corner’.

Esh Winning end up losing this football match.

A trip to county Durham gave me the chance to visit Esh Winning to see them play Bedlington Terriers in the Northern League Division Two at the West Terrace Ground.

The names conjure up a strange coming together of a mystical world playing a dog breed, but this is serious football. The village of Esh Winning comes from Esh, the medieval name for a local Ash forest and Winning the term given when a new coal seam was discovered (A winning).

Esh Winnings ground is outside the village in fact it is on the border of the neighbouring village Waterhouses. The ground was moved there around 1968 when The NCB cleared the Eastern Village and pit buildings selling the current ground to the reformed Esh Winning club.

There was a football team in village called Esh Winning Rangers around 1889 playing locally until joining the Northern League in 1912 and dropping the Rangers from their name a year later. This team folded in 1934 and today’s club can be traced back to 1967 when Esh Winning Pineapple was formed playing Sundays in the Durham League. 1981 saw them step up to the Northern Alliance where they stayed for only one season before joining the Northern League where they play today. At the same time as this move the Pineapple part of their name disapeared.

They have seen an awful lot of ups and downs since then, 2002 up to Division 1, 2006 down to 2, 2009 to 1, 2011 back to 2 where they are now.

Bedlington like Esh Winning has seen football in the town for over 100 years with teams playing around the 1900’s. The current team dates back to 1949 when they played under the name of Bedlington Mechanics in the Northern Combination. They changed their name to Bridlington Colliery Town and then to Bedlington Colliery Welfare in the next ten years joining the Northern Alliance League in 1955. After another ten years they disbanded (1963).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.jpg

They were back in business in 1965 reforming as Bedlington Colliery Welfare in the Alliance but by 1971 they left the Alliance League and played in some minor leagues under the new name Bedlington United again being readmitted to the Northern Alliance League in 1980. Two years later they were promoted to the the inaugural season of the Northern League Division Two. By 1985 they were promoted only to be relegated the next year. Promoted again to the top division in 1995 by 1998 they were winning that division, the first of 5 in a row, and a year later their highest peak was reached when they made it to the final of the FA Vase where they lost to the only goal to Tiverton Town. They were close again a season later but this time fell at the semi final stage. Somewhere along the way they were renamed Bedlington Terriers as per the dog breed associated with the village.

The heady days were over and they suffered a decline until finally sucumbing to relegation to the second division in 2016.

Sometimes it’s not the football that is the main enjoyment of the afternoon. Sitting in the stand I met Dec alias Miserable Les a musician of 50 years who now under his alias writes poetry and sings some of his output to paying audiences. He has released some albums one of which is called ‘7 Deadly Songs’ worth looking up but it is an acquired taste. It was the chat about the area, his support for Gateshead, knowledge of the local football scene all in a comical way that made the two halves fly by. Some of the humour was self depreciating, for instance his explanation of how his choice of name, Miserable Les, was a huge error because if you look it up on Google you find pages about Les Misérables before any appearance of himself. Definitely a very poor choice. Thank you Dec for a very amusing and enjoyable afternoon, hopefully our paths will cross again on another of my Northern excursions. Good luck with your music in the future.

Back to the football, the ground as I said was not in Esh Winning but in Waterhouses and is reached down an unmade road through a wood. To enter the ground you go through the club house that was busy with a bar and food area combined, however no chips. Going outside you are greeted by an open ground with good views of the local hills and woods. The pitch sloped from one goal to another and the grass was still thick with little wear even in the goal mouths, perhaps due to the exposed nature of the area and the drying winds which were very evident.

Although overcast it did not feel cold despite only registering only 6 degrees.

Esh Winning AFC 0 Bedlington Terriers FC 1

Northern League Division 2, Saturday 12th February, Kick off 3 p.m.

Esh v The Terriers

Esh Winning looked the liveliest early on but the two very young teams cancelled each other out as the defences took the upper hand. Even the sending off of Bedlington Terriers stalwart defender Shepherd for what the crowd thought was arguing with the referee changed little. The biggest excitement was when Esh hit the corner of the upright and crossbar just before half time.

With Bedlington now playing down hill little changed and it was a defensive error that gifted O’Connor the ball who steadied himself as two defenders and the goalkeeper tried to get in the way before he placed the ball home for the lead. Despite having a man advantage Esh Winning did not get back into the game and posed little threat to deny Bedlington their win.

The result meant that the Terriers moved up the lower half of the table but Esh Winning are now second from bottom only above the winless Durham City.

Interesting that both goalkeepers were young, tall and very competent. This seems a trend in lower league football. It could be that there are now specific goal keeper coaches or perhaps they are no longer sticking the kid that didn’t want to play in goal, Whatever the reason the standard of goalkeeping is definitely improving.

Unfortunately there were no Chips at the ground but I popped into Fields in Esh Winning to try their Chips. Fields have featured on TV programs as one of the last Chip shops to still cook with a gas fired range. It was busy and everything had been freshly cooked and the chips were just as they should be , tasty, hot, slightly greasy. Unfortunately my picture does not do them justice as I took it with them rested on my knee as we rushed off