THREE MILES WEST THE WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC MAGAZINE
SAME GOALS Can 2013/14 be THE YEAR FOR WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC?
THREE MILES WEST THE WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC MAGAZINE 4
Gee! Ain’t it Funny...
A look at the world and West Allotment in 1913
The Villans, the Bulls and the Celts
The plethora of teams in the West Allotment area that emerged and perished in football’s roaring Twenties
Football and the Brotherhood
The impact of the West Allotment Primitive Methodists in the creation of the club that stands today
10 The Push Begins in Pre-Season Allotment’s pre-season fixtures against tough opposition
14 Just Not Football Pre-season cricket, anyone?
16 Meet the New Boys New boys Bannon, Latimer, Gordon and McKenna share their Allotment ambitions
20 ‘I Love it When ‘A’ Team Comes Together’ The potential Burundian connection at Whitley Park
24 The Tipster’s Odds The latest odds and tips from the Allotment shed
26 Allotment Have Strengthened...But So Has the Division A glance at Celtic’s Second Division promotion rivals
Welcome back to Whitley Park, and to the season’s first issue of Three Miles West. 2013 is a year of milestones; the Northern League celebrates its 125th year of existence, bettered in the world only by the Football League itself, whilst Allotment trails forty years behind, ringing in our 85th season of football. What better way to start than with the efforts of the men behind its formation? As much as we love delving into the rich tapestry of our past, there are also matters that require your attention in the present. As the season kicks off, we present a comprehensive look at the pre-season campaign, and introduce you to our newest signings - although you may recognise two or three of them from years gone by. As the club continues to roll towards its centenary, we also explore the provisions that are being set up for the future. We share with you the first steps taken by our newly-formed development side as they enter the Northern Alliance. From the teams of the Twenties to the starlets of 2017 (possibly), we have it covered. All that remains is for you to read it!
THE TEAM Craig Dobson Editor Stephen Allott Contributor / Archivist Graeme Jackson Photographs Jonny Thompson, Paul Mason Advertising Have an Allotment story that you’d like to share? Or any interesting or useful snaps hidden away in the attic? Send your articles, photos or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GEE! AIN’T IT FUNNY...
Stephen Allott takes us back to the year of 1913, where impending war, women’s rights and Northern League football were on the local agenda
One can only imagine the thoughts of one Harry Hawker as his seaplane did a wobbly and plopped into the Irish Sea near Loughshinny. For the intrepid aviator had flown two thirds of the way around the British Isles and was less than five hundred miles from winning a prize worth £10,000 (equating to £375,000 today) put up by the Daily Mail for the first person to accomplish the feat. Luckily, Mr Hawker escaped injury and blamed his special footwear for the sudden decline in his fortunes, figuratively and literally, as his foot slipped off the rudder bar and caused the seaplane to live up to its name. The above incident occurred one hundred years ago, just as the 1913/14 football season was kicking off late in August and perhaps the water bound Mr Hawker would have been better off wearing the sort of footwear about to be donned by those taking to the playing fields across the country. The advertisement (reproduced across the page for the Manfield company) shows a range of equipment that look like exhibits from a medieval torture catalogue; a stamp from these contraptions would do more than break a metatarsal – it would convert it to bonemeal. Sadly, in 1913 no such boots would have been donned in West Allotment as the
first club to compete under the village’s name had come to an end as abrupt as Hawker’s round-Britain flight. After a promising start in the Blyth & District League in 1908/09, West Allotment FC had fizzled out in early 1913 with no clear record as to why. Still, there were teams dotted around the area, as Backworth Hotspur and Earsdon Road United continued in the Blyth-based league formally populated by the defunct West Allotment. There were also the two Shiremoor clubs operating in the United Free Churches League. This competition stretched to two divisions and Shiremoor Primitive Methodists, in the top tier, made a start to the new season that must have tested their faith on many fronts. Meanwhile, Shiremoor Mission were certainly on one in Division 2, winning their first six matches with ease. The emphasis on football as a way of encouraging a more enlightened lifestyle is shown by the proliferation of church-based competitions and leagues such as the “Durham Temperance” and “Tyneside Temperance”. One century later, it is too easy to forget how football was still effectively a sporting toddler, or at least a stroppy teenager, at the time. Even the venerable Northern League had only reached its 25th campaign (and probably didn’t have any special mugs
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issued to mark the occasion), but other leagues were much younger. Although the sporting pages were increasingly filled with football, there was still room for a report on a quoits match in Coxlodge where Tot Slaister and Tot Lee pitched up, from ten yards and three steps, to battle for a £10 stake. The final tot-up was 41-33 in favour of Lee. “Ten yards” was also a phrase being popularised in football that season as Law 10 was amended so that defenders had to be that far away from the ball at a free-kick instead of the previous six yards. Strangely, the revision only applied to free-kicks and not goal kicks or corners. The new rule was applied under cloudless skies as the summer of 1913 proved to be a glorious one. Masses of holidaymakers had pitched up in Whitley Bay, Cullercoats and Tynemouth and the visitors continued to arrive deep into August and even into September. Large crowds watched music displays on the sea banks at Tynemouth while the bandstand at Whitley Bay was surrounded every evening. Those present might even have snatched a glimpse of Mr Gustav Hamel, “the daring aviator” who was giving performances over the North East coast; fortunately, there is no report of him emulating old Harry Hawker and taking an unwanted dip in King Edward’s Bay.
Manfield football boots: weaponry conveniently disguised as Saturday afternoon sportswear
One was an Austrian archduke with a nose tickler to rival seventies-era Jimmy Wilson. The other was an Australian aviator famed for his transatlantic flight attempts. Neither were known to be keen West Allotment FC fans. Undoubtedly, those milling around the coastline would have discussed the news of the day and, although the weather was bright, there was a definite sense of foreboding in the air. A lethal political brew was fermenting that was eventually to lead to World War I; the spark ignited by Gavrilo Princip when he shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand was just ten months away but already the Balkans were in turmoil and power struggles were going on across Europe. Some of the struggles were nearer home, with the Suffragette movement becoming ever more violent locally and nationally. Emmeline Pankhurst had already been imprisoned for inciting supporters of women’s rights to place explosives outside the home of David Lloyd George and now the local branch were in action too as an attempt was made to burn down a set of houses in Jesmond. A note left hanging from a ladder leaning against one of the targeted homes warned, “Until we get the vote, you will never stop militancy”. In the same newspaper as the report, was a small ad shouting “Ladies! Ladies!! Ladies!!! – Consult or write immediately to A Nixon, Ladies’ specialist on all diseases and complaints incidental to her sex”. I just wonder if the suffragettes were tempted to check out Mr Nixon. He was
probably perfectly fine but it was no time to mess around with the distaff side. A similar maxim was being heard from across the Irish Sea too, as industrial action by the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union in Dublin lead to a lock-out of the Dublin United Tramways Company. Demonstrations were arranged and an attempt at suppressing them led to a death and many hundreds being injured. It was another giant step towards the major conflict that was about to erupt in Ireland and added to the clouds appearing on the horizon for everyone. The sunshine was not destined to last much longer. Still, life went on and local miners each tore out an average 288 tons of coal from over 246 working mines that employed 121,782 people. No doubt some of those workers looked forward to the start of the new season and, as noted earlier, the Northern League was celebrating a quarter of a century of action. Only thirteen teams were involved (four of which are still around one hundred years later, albeit with some coming and going in between – see the end of article for the unsinkable quartet). One of the thirteen clubs, Stockton, was noted as having returned a dividend of the maximum 5% for the seventh successive year. How many clubs would love to
be in that position a century later; just to have shareholders, never mind issuing dividends. Of course, West Allotment Celtic are now proud members of the Northern League, one of forty-five clubs making up a competition celebrating its 125th anniversary. The temperance leagues have run dry, Harry Hawker has long since departed (possibly smelling a bit of seaweed) to the great hangar in the sky and the ladies have calmed down (a bit) but the Northern League keeps on kicking – a constant from 1913 matched only by it still being a volatile world out there.
THE FOUR CLUBS STILL IN THE NORTHERN LEAGUE:
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Y THE EARL
THE VILLANS, THE BULLS AND THE CELTS
Stephen Allott explores the village’s plethora of short-lived sides in football’s roaring Twenties Football sprang back into life with a vengeance in the local communities once the hostilities of World War I ended. By 1922, four different clubs were representing the village of West Allotment. However, as the twenties came to a close, only two teams remained and, by 1931, West Allotment Celtic stood alone. There is little doubt that the foundations of the present day club were laid in a turbulent and often troubled decade. The 1919/20 season saw the revival of local competitions but there is no record of a senior team from West Allotment playing on a regular basis. However, football did spark into action in the neighbouring communities. In September 1919, Backworth Celtic were admitted as associate members of the Northumberland Football Association and they were emulated one month later by Shiremoor Celtic. As servicemen returned to the area after the end of the Great War, football reaped the benefit. Older clubs were revived and many new ones were established. After a slow start, West Allotment was soon playing its part in the restoration of football to the centre of local sporting life. The first full season after the war went very well and some newspapers even questioned the wisdom of having a close season. The Evening Chronicle, in discussing local football, noted that “the public appear as keen as ever, and evidently consider they cannot have too much of a good thing, when it takes the form of footballing”. Even though football was in good health, a lot of effort was expended in assuring the long-term future of the sport. Perhaps one of the most significant developments was the decision made to organise junior football more systematically. In November 1919, the Juvenile Organisation Council (JOC) was set up under Major M.O’Connell. Three football leagues were established for the age ranges 12 14, 14 16 and 16 18. West Allotment Celtic were to reap the benefits of this action in later years. Although the JOC became best known for its football activities, its original remit covered all games and recreations such as
music, dancing and “physical culture”. In 1920, after a year of lying fallow, football exploded into life in West Allotment. West Allotment Villa entered the Heaton & District League and, in their inaugural season, West Allotment Miners’ Institute comprehensively won the Gosforth & District League. Unfortunately, a final league table is not available but, with three games remaining, the record of the Institute made impressive reading, with the side winning twenty of their twenty-three games, drawing twice and losing just once. Not surprisingly, their nearest rivals were some way off the pace. Dinnington Colliery lagged nine points behind the Institute, with Denton Burn a further two points in arrears. The area appears to have boasted a good crop of talent at this time as, in addition to the success enjoyed by the Institute, Backworth United went very close to becoming champions of the BDL. Encouragingly, the BDL had survived its crises of the pre war days and now possessed a full complement of sixteen teams. Within a couple of years, United had progressed so well that they felt able to enter the Northern Alliance, a particularly competitive league at the time. Indeed, Backworth even signed two players from Barrow, a club playing professionally in Football League Division 3 (North). They were right half Johnson and outside left Jamieson. Whilst the football scene was buoyant, the same could not be said of the local economy. The economic and social legacies of the war were destined to linger throughout the twenties. Strikes were commonplace, causing acrimony and hardship in equal portions. It is little wonder that any opportunity to forget the struggle for a while was seized upon with enthusiasm. The following report appeared in the football edition of the Evening Chronicle dated 30th April 1921. “A stranger at West Allotment on Monday afternoon, would have found it difficult to believe that the mining stoppage was causing anything in the nature of local destitution. A good humoured revelry was
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in full swing, and hundreds of people chiefly of the mining class were enjoying themselves without restraint. Footballers, more ancient than modern, were strenuously endeavouring, more or less successfully, to give an exhibition of the dribbling code to the huge delight of the onlookers. However, they got goals, and when the “Wolves” finished up with six goals to three for the “Terriers”.... their ovation was great. Conquerors and conquered were played off the ground like heroes by a wonderful jazz band from New York - the village, not the city - and there was not a sign of care or worry to be seen anywhere. The Northern miners are certainly good strikers, as they are certainly good sports. Enquiries failed to discover the presence of any League agents at the match; which is perhaps a pity.” The report illustrates how, after the trauma of war, football had regained its place at the centre of social activities in the area. It is unfortunate that the article does not refer to the teams other than through nicknames. However, it appears to have been a one off match, played to fill in the void caused by yet another stoppage in the coal industry. West Allotment Villa did not survive long. It soon became the second club from the village to have started with great promise, only to wither almost as quickly as it blossomed. The reasons underlying Villa’s precipitous demise are unrecorded. However, it came at a time when the life expectancy of minor clubs was still being measured in years, or even months, rather than decades. Within one year of joining the NFA, Shiremoor Celtic felt compelled to withdraw from the Newcastle and District Amateur League and hand over their fixture list to Brough Park AFC. In such a climate, Villa’s short existence was nothing exceptional. West Allotment’s other secular club proved to be only marginally more durable than Villa. In an ironic reference to their all-red strip, the Institute team were known as the “Bulls” and they duly charged to success during their formative years in the Gosforth & District League. Inspired by their achievements, the Bulls seized the opportunity
to join the more competitive Northern Amateur League (NAmL) at the beginning of the 1922/23 season. The chance arose as both Springfield and Willington Square dropped out of the competition at a late stage. Gosforth Comrades took up the other spare place. The Bulls found the going very tough in their new league and were soon on the receiving end of some morale-sapping drubbings. Their fellow “new boys” from Gosforth walloped them by eight goals to nil in December, another in a long string of defeats. Gosforth Bohemians certainly seemed to enjoy playing the Institute. In addition to a five-three win in the League Charity Cup, the Bohs won both league fixtures between the clubs, by scores of five-nil and six-two. However, it was not all gloom as the Bulls put up some impressive performances against the leading teams without ever receiving their due reward. Goals from Moore and Welham were not quite enough in a defeat (2-3) away to the eventual champions, Rosehill Villa, in March 1923. Frustratingly, the Bulls had lost their home match against Rosehill by the same score. Although they were thrashed by Heaton Stannington (2-8) in April 1923, the Institute had held the runners up to a goalless draw one month earlier. This was no mean feat, as Heaton scored ninety one goals in the league that season. Bennett, the Bull’s goalkeeper, received a good deal of praise throughout the campaign. “The predominating feature of the game was the display of the home goalkeeper, J.Bennett, who was wonderful.” This accolade was bestowed after a six-two defeat! Gallagher, the centre half, was another who performed well during the season. The team was also regularly lauded for its sporting nature. The topsy-turvy nature of the Bulls’ experience of life in the NAmL is most aptly shown by an encounter with Walker Welbeck. Travelling to face one of the better teams in the league, the Institute burst into a three goal lead before the home team responded by planting five goals past the luckless Bennett. According to Press reports from the time, the club was regarded as a useful
acquisition for the league. However, the standard of football was too high for the players and it was no surprise when the Institute tendered their resignation from the NAmL after just one season. It was to be fifteen years before another side from West Allotment ventured into the competition. After leaving the NAmL, it appears that the Bulls applied for admittance to the BDL. Unfortunately, the team found life little easier in their new playing environment. The downward spiral in the fortunes of the Institute was proving increasingly difficult to reverse. One match report, after a six-nil defeat at the hands of Blyth Spartans Reserves, compared the club unfavourably with local rivals New York United. However, this was rather unfair as New York were a very strong side and won the NFA Minor Cup in 1925. Nevertheless, the early success and promise of the club had long since faded and the 1924/25 campaign saw the Bulls suffer another series of heavy defeats. Eventually, the team took one beating too many and the club disbanded at the close of the season. Not surprisingly, the socioeconomic problems faced by the country as a whole had serious repercussions at a regional level. Inevitably, the impact of the financial chill was swiftly and keenly felt by minor football clubs. The game was as popular as ever but the budgetary concerns faced by the clubs were often insurmountable. The dreaded “double” of poor performances both on and off the pitch almost certainly scuppered the Bulls, but they were not alone. In early 1925, urgent discussions were held throughout the North-East in order to review the problems faced by clubs and the competitions in which they played. Amalgamation of various leagues was a serious possibility. The BDL, Ashington & District League and East Northumberland League were considered particularly ripe for merging. It was stated that “in the present conditions of trade throughout Northumberland, it is becoming imperative that the district clubs operate in smaller areas”.
Above: How the club crests - and club mascot - could have looked.Most are decidedly anachronistic! The problems were compounded by the fact that some competitions were being dominated by a handful of teams, leading to disillusionment and bitterness amongst the also rans. The irony is that there were more clubs than ever but a large majority were finding it extremely difficult to continue in existence. Local football was to remain in a parlous state for many years to come. However, whilst two clubs had folded in West Allotment in a matter of five years, another one continued to survive. It was to play a major role in the creation of the only senior club still representing the community to this day.
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West Allotment Primitive Methodists Football Club 1923/24 Top Row: R.Newlands; G.Bowman; H.Ogle; T.Ogle; H.Greason; J.Turnbull; J.Baxter; W.Kirkpatrick Middle Row: F.Coxon; W.Wright; J.Brown; A.McAntee; R.Ogle Bottom Row: B.Heard (trainer); J.Mowatt; B.Sidney; J.Anderson; W.Ogle (President)
FOOTBALL AND THE BROTHERHOOD The coal trade was the main influence on the lives of people in West Allotment but not far behind was the call of the Church. The Catholic church in the area was centred on St.Edmunds in Backworth (whose football team played in the Tyneside Catholic League) but it was not the major denomination. There is no doubt that Methodism was the dominant religion locally. Methodist chapels were situated in virtually all of the villages and towns in
South-East Northumberland from early in the nineteenth century. Methodism itself was split into factions. Primitive Methodism established itself from 1807 onwards. The term “primitive” was chosen intentionally as the founders of the movement believed in preaching outdoors at “camp meetings”. This was believed to be truer to the aims of the original Methodists. To save souls was their passion and purpose, everything else was
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considered subsidiary. One prominent local Primitive Methodist was John Batey. He was born in Backworth in 1852 and joined the movement at a very early age. He taught at Sunday School, preached for over fifty years and exercised a considerable influence on life in the neighbourhood. He was treasurer of the Colliery Mechanics Union for many years before becoming its secretary for a further twenty eight years. Batey was a classic local
example of someone who devoted his life to the twin powers of church and coal, as did so many of his congregation. United Methodist Free Churches placed more stress on ideas of organisation and jurisdiction but were equally zealous in their aims of converting their fellow men. This is illustrated by the United Free Church manual which states that “every member of the Church ought to devote a portion of his spare time to some department of Christian work and to seek the salvation of souls”. One method of saving souls was through the provision of physical activity. Naturally, football was a popular option and there was an abundance of church sides playing in church leagues in the first half of the twentieth century. These leagues often had as many as four divisions. It is no surprise that West Allotment had both a Primitive Methodist (PM) and a United Methodist (UM) team. Both the West Allotment PM and UM clubs were formed after World War I ended and both competed in the Forest Hall & District Churches League. Despite the outward similarities, the two clubs were to have contrasting fortunes. The UMs were yet another West Allotment team fated to fold in the middle of a season whilst the PMs were to prosper and eventually merge with the local junior side to produce West Allotment Celtic. The PMs were a well organised outfit and consistently attracted players of a good standard, not an easy task when they faced competition from so many other clubs in the area. The team quickly established a reputation as being one of the strongest in their league and were regularly involved in the chase for the championship. In contrast, the UMs found life on the pitch a constant struggle. A rare thread of equality arose when both sides were knocked out of the Minor Cup by teams from Burradon during the 1921/22 season. The UMs lost the replay after drawing one-all with Burradon United whilst the PMs were beaten at home (2-3) by Burradon Black Watch. The number of teams entering the Minor Cup at this time was so great that the early rounds were played on a regional basis. This also helped clubs reduce travelling costs as entrants were located in all reaches of Northumberland. The life span of West Allotment UMs reached a premature conclusion during the 1922/23 season. The side made a miserable start to the season, picking up a single point from their first seven games. Team morale was not helped by a nine-one thrashing handed out by Gosforth PMs on 21st October. The end came with the club having completed only eleven league fixtures
and possessing the wretched record of nine defeats and two draws, with a mere six goals scored and forty two conceded. As the UMs slipped quietly into the archives, the PMs were enjoying another good season. They won five of their first six league fixtures and drew the other. This good form continued and by mid November the team were top of the league with fifteen points from nine games. However, Dudley PMs produced the best sustained run over the season and they went on to win the championship by several points. Nevertheless, West Allotment PMs ended the season with a fine record of seventeen wins and three draws from twenty six games. The side managed to score eighty four goals in those matches and only eighteen goals were conceded. The PMs continued to thrive in the Forest Hall league over the next few years and eventually won the championship in 1925/26 after going close on so many previous occasions. The list of honours won by the club was further boosted by success in a variety of knock-out competitions. These achievements were earned despite the players having to perform on very poor pitches. The team played at various locations at the whim of the local farmer and most were far from ideal. The PMs played at Holystone and at Shiremoor crossroads as well as in a field attached to Algernon Pit. The team had to complete their home fixtures before the farmer needed to sow the field, there being no winter sowing at the time. This also meant that the early season games were played on pitches consisting mainly of stubble. Throughout their existence, the PMs retained close links with the colliery and this gave rise to the team nickname of “The Understoppers”, a local mining term. The colliery managers were supportive of the Methodist church, which is not surprising considering its ethos of hard work and self discipline. In the early part of the decade, the Institute were regarded as the superior team in West Allotment. However, an intriguing fixture in 1923 demonstrated that the gap in standards was not as wide as local people thought. When the PMs beat West Cramlington PMs (2 0) in the first round of the Minor Cup, the draw for the second round pitted the Understoppers against the supposedly superior Bulls. When the eagerly awaited game took place on 27th October, it resulted in a very satisfying win (3-1) for the Understoppers. The most embarrassed man around was one of the Ogle brothers. The three Ogle brothers and their nephew all played for the PMs and their father was Club President. However, one of the clan
had decided that he wanted to play at a higher level and had left to join the Bulls. He did not dare go home after the cup tie and merely threw his boots in the doorway at home before immediately going out again ! Unfortunately, the PMs could not capitalise on the result and succumbed at home to West Chevington (2-4) in the third round of the competition. The trainer of the PMs during this successful spell was John “Benny” Heard. He can be seen with a towel draped over his shoulder in the team photograph taken for the 1923/24 season. Benny was the first in a series of coaches who were to bring silverware to West Allotment. Also pictured is John Moat who is resplendent in the flat cap which he reputedly wore even during matches. The PMs played in blue and white striped shirts with blue shorts. It is to be hoped that Moat’s headwear did not clash too much with this kit. Regular opponents of the PMs in the Forest Hall league included Bigges Main St.Andrews, Dudley UMs, Dudley PMs, Cramlington St.Nicholas, Seghill Brotherhood, Allen Memorial (Wallsend), Wesley Guild (West Moor), West Moor PMs, St.Marks (Newcastle), Springfield Brotherhood, St.Columbus (Forest Hall), Gosforth PMs, St.Pauls Congregational and St.Judes (Newcastle). Whilst the Church attempted to further salvation of souls through involvement with football, it was the match officials who often needed physical salvation in the 1920s. A statement to which referees Mr.Watts and Mr.Brown would certainly have testified. Watts was assaulted and knocked senseless at Walker during a Minor Cup tie whilst Brown was reported as having faced a “particularly terrifying experience” during a game played at West Stanley. Thus, despite the involvement of the Church, football at the local level was anything but angelic in nature and was still bedeviled by the conduct problem which had surfaced before the war. Reassuringly, there is no evidence of any particularly wicked activity having taken place in West Allotment and the PMs continued to play in the Church league. However, the initial burst of success enjoyed by the club was beginning to wane. The team began to lose form, as exemplified by the seven-four defeat inflicted by Blyth St.Cuthberts in the first round of the Northumberland Amateur Cup in 1927/28. Even more worryingly, the Understoppers began to suffer off the field too. Prompt action was needed to arrest the decline and ensure that West Allotment did not lose its fifth club in the space of fifteen years. It was this remedial action that led directly to the formation of West Allotment Celtic FC.
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THE PUSH BEGINS IN PRE-SEASON
A comprehensive look at Celtic’s intense summer schedule against mostly top tier opponents “People read too much into pre-season friendlies,” insists club president Alec Smailes. “It’s mostly about fitness.” Purely from a results perspective, the Allotment veteran isn’t wrong. Unbeaten runs in July and early August do not put points on the scoreboard, and the high morale garnered from an impressive string of victories can dissipate in the time it takes to ring in the final score at the end of the opening day. For the players, however, it is an entirely different matter. Those who cherished the break on the first weekend of May, belatedly resting their sprained joints and double hernias, soon find themselves at a loose end once the obligatory Spanish holiday draws to a close. After weeks of working and waiting, the first training session is pencilled in. The boots are scraped and scrubbed, primed for contact with synthetic leather. Instead, they are used to turn quickly and sharply around rows of fluorescent markers. Footballs are little more than figments of the players’ imaginations, having been consigned to the confines of Hoggy’s boot. Fitness first, after all. By the time they meet Shankhouse on a school field at Seaton Burn College, the squad is champing at the bit; rusty and raw, but hungry as ever. The description best fitted Ryan Anderson, one of the hottest prospects from the newly-formed ‘A’ team. His instinctive early finish set the two sides apart in an ultimately scrappy and often turgid affair, as one may have come to expect from an opening pre-season fixture. The sparse spectators were as quiet as the game itself, but would only have been drowned out by the frequent and disconcerting rumblings of the airport-bound planes as they descended overhead. Exam periods at the college must be a nightmare for the helpless adjudicators. An undoubtedly sterner test awaited Allotment six days later. There were no low-flying airliners to drown out the fans at Hillheads, the home of Whitley Bay - and, for a number of seasons, Celtic themselves. Judging by the impressive crowd (and the £2 admission fee), one could have mistaken the
SHANKHOUSE 0 WEST ALLOTMENT 1 17th July 2013 Seaton Burn Community College Goal: Ryan Anderson West Allotment kicked off preseason with a narrow but comfortable victory over Shankhouse. The Northern Alliance outfit started the brighter of the two sides, scooping a speculative effort over keeper Ryan Beal’s crossbar. But Allotment took the lead with their second genuine attack of the evening. Eighteen-year-old debutant Anderson, a member of the club’s development side, had a goalbound shot charged down in the box, but made no mistake from the ensuing corner, steering Stoneman’s second ball home from close range. The early goal boosted Celtic, who should have doubled their lead, only for captain Ian Dunn to head Marc Dummett’s corner wide from six yards out. At the other end, his namesake Paul flashed an effort wide of goal, and his strike partner dragged the ball just past Beal’s near post. Shankhouse continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides in a largely scrappy encounter, firing two
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golden chances well over the crossbar. Allotment almost took advantage of the opposition’s profligacy as the half drew to a close, but Liam Hudson could not apply the finish after good work down the left from Anderson. Allotment made the customary raft of changes after the restart, but both sides struggled to hit the target. Another Hudson strike flew well wide, and an effort from Shankhouse’s Dunn managed to evade second-half keeper Chris Bannon, but bobbled agonisingly beyond the far post. The returning Celtic stopper was soon forced into action, getting down well to tip away a goalbound strike, but Stoneman’s men remained unduly troubled by their enthusiastic Alliance opponents. Allotment could have extended their lead late on but Michael Bell was twice denied at the near post by two fantastic reflex saves. Ultimately, Celtic settled for the win - but will be equally pleased with the workout.
WHITLEY BAY 3 WEST ALLOTMENT 2
23rd July 2013 Hillheads Goals: Liam Hudson, Michael Bell Whitley Bay twice came from behind to defeat West Allotment Celtic in an entertaining contest at Hillheads on Tuesday night. Both sides looked to play fastflowing, high-tempo football in front of a sizeable number of spectators, and the home side were first to threaten the scoresheet. Lively Bay new boy Ash Davis had a shot charged down, but the Division and Ryan Beal had to tip over Chris Fairley’s volleyed lob. Having survived the early onslaught, Celtic grew in confidence. Sean Reid just failed to convert Dean Lee’s neat flick, whilst Liam Hudson bustled fullback Novak off the ball, but was denied by a brave low stop from ‘keeper Carmichael. At the other end, Celtic had Ryan Beal to thank for preserving the scoreline, as he made three increasingly spectacular saves to keep out Coglen and Antony’s drives, as well as a goalbound header. A goal seemed imminent, but it was the visitors who ultimately drew first blood to the surprise of the Hillheads faithful. Hudson made the most of a defensive error on the edge of the area, thumping a half-volley on the turn past the despairing Carmichael to give Celtic the lead. Allotment went into half-time one goal to the good, having just shaded their well-respected opponents. The usual raft of changes were made at the interval; as a result, Allotment’s play lacked the fluency of the first half, and Whitley Bay took full advantage. New Bay boy Liam McBryde got on the scoresheet, beating two defenders on the edge of the box and firing an unstoppable shot into the top corner. The equaliser was no less than the Bay
deserved, but less than a minute later, Celtic were ahead against the run of play. Tony Lancaster did well to put in a deep cross from the left, and the aerially dominant Michael Bell nodded in from close range to restore Allotment’s advantage. Thereafter, the visitors were placed under the cosh by their relentless opponents. Bay legend Paul Chow and scorer McBryde both spurned chances under pressure, whilst full-back Craig McFarlane beat Chris Bannon with a thunderous drive, only to see his effort come back off the post. Time was running out for the Bay to grab a deserved leveller, but they restored parity fifteen minutes from time, courtesy of that man Chow. The veteran latched onto a sweet Michael Coglen ball over the top, effortlessly stroking past Bannon to make it 2-2. The hosts’ prolific striker, second in the Seahorses’ all-time scoring charts, should have completed the turnaround one minute later, but headed McFarlane’s deep cross over at the back post. However, the hosts were not to be denied the win, and a deft McBryde backheel played in the unmarked Brad Brooking, who made no mistake from inside the box. The Bay could have made the game safe, but Bannon held onto a fine Brooking strike, before fellow sub Perry clipped the top of the bar. Celtic weren’t out of it yet, and almost grabbed a share of the spoils, but Lawrence McKenna could not turn in Stoneman’s headed knockdown from four yards out. Despite the result, Allotment will be pleased with their performance, having pushed one of the Northern League’s top sides in a high-octane encounter.
match for one that mattered. To those in the stands, it clearly did. Points or progression were not on offer, but local bragging rights - valued so highly by so many - were very much at stake. The rivalry was keenly felt on the pitch as well as off it, resulting in a faster tempo and a greater sense of urgency to get the ball forward. Bay’s strong starting eleven attacked with venom on the counter, but found Ryan Beal in inspired form. Three saves in the first half were particularly top drawer, tipping away two lobs and a point-blank header. The message to counterpart Chris Bannon was clear: I’m here to challenge for that number one jersey. Allotment’s intense pressure started to get to the Bay, and Celtic slowly gained the edge over their Division One rivals, maintaining possession in a manner belying their lower league status. Liam Hudson caused havoc on the right wing, bullying full-back James Novak throughout the half, getting himself on the scoresheet with a fine halfvolley on the turn. With 26-goal winger Dean Lee on one flank, and Hudson finding his feet on the other, the 4-5-1 can so easily become a 4-3-3 within seconds of going forward. Add Reid into the equation, and Celtic have a very potent and fluid attacking force at their disposal. A very different Allotment side came out for the second half, with playermanager Stoneman the only player to retain his place in the line-up. A Bay boy born and bred, Stona could not simply look on from the sidelines - and his experience would be called upon instantly, as Whitley Bay came flying out of the blocks. Celtic’s second string were very much second best, and it came as no surprise when McBryde equalised, but the third goal of the game stunned the crowd into silence. Michael Bell may well be one of the strongest jumpers in the Northern League, surprising many an opponent with his perfectly-timed leaps, and no Bay defender could touch him as he nodded in Lancaster’s cross. The goal was but a brief moment of respite for West Allotment Celtic, and the Seahorses deservedly turned the game back in their favour, so often sweeping into Celtic’s final third like a North Sea breeze off the coast. That said, the scoreline remained close, owing to the never-say-die attitude of the beleagured substitutes, and the first half performance showed Allotment to be more than capable of rubbing shoulders with one of the higher division’s behemoths. Even the opposition recognised the potential, with a number of home fans and officials tipping their old tenants for promotion - among them Whitley Bay’s Press Officer, Julian Tyley. The Bay had won the day, and with it the prized bragging rights, but their relative humility told the story better than a match report ever could.
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It was back to regular pre-season service within three days - Hillheads replaced with a rather less majestic field behind Benfield Sports Centre. And, much like the standard of the ground, Allotment’s form didn’t carry over from three days prior. Benfield’s Steve Bowey looked to be winning the battle of the player-managers, scoring after just ten minutes as his exasperated counterpart looked on. The aging midfielder was lucky to stay on the pitch, having lashed out at David Henderson after the latter’s poor challenge. The referee gave the veteran the benefit of the doubt, but showed no leniency to Ian Dunn, who similarly kicked out at a player when the ball was gone. The playermanager of the home side remained on the pitch after a brief chat, whilst the away team’s captain was forcibly substituted - a sending off without the ban or the one man deficit - for no more than the aggressive Benfield boss. Did the referee find it too embarrassing to ask the player-manager to substitute himself? It’s all politics, even in pre-season! As it happens, Benfield soon took advantage, and were three up by half-time. A dejected and sloppy Celtic side looked beaten, having been played off the park by their opponents. However, changes on both sides afforded the visitors a way back into the match. Newcastle Benfield replaced most of their starting eleven, but Celtic only needed to introduce the one: David Dormand. The striker came off the bench (or, rather, side of the pitch) to nod his first, and his industry proved too much for the ‘keeper, who could only wrestle him to the floor and hand him a second from twelve yards. Benfield, to their credit, kept hitting back and reasserting their lead - sometimes through individual error on Allotment’s part, other times via lady luck, in the form of Glenn Ford’s unsuspecting thigh. Dormand had by this point claimed his clinical second half hat-trick, and Allotment could smell blood. Ford atoned for earlier errors with a fine header, before Hudson belatedly got the goal that his efforts deserved. With the scores level at 5-5, there was only going to be one winner - and it wasn’t the hosts. Ryan Page smashed home the final goal with just minutes remaining, sparking a reaction that would have seemed over-the-top in a cup quarter-final. Some played down the win, pointing out Benfield’s wholesale changes, but they missed the point. It wasn’t the win itself that was significant, but the manner in which the game was won. Despite going two goals behind on three occasions, Allotment kept fighting, and got their just desserts even if I didn’t get any hot half-time snacks. No team sheets, pints or pies but they were all happily traded for a thoroughly satisfying - if unexpected - victory.
NEWCASTLE BENFIELD 5 WEST ALLOTMENT 6 26th July 2013 Benfield Sports Centre Goals: David Dormand x3, Glenn Ford, Liam Hudson, Ryan Page
Allotment twice came from three goals down against Newcastle Benfield, defeating their Division One opponents 6-5 in another pulsating pre-season friendly, with substitute David Dormand bagging himself a second-half hat-trick. Celtic’s strong starting eleven were initially no match for Steve Bowey’s charges in the opening exchanges, and the hosts took the lead within the first ten minutes. A Benfield winger outmuscled Stoneman in the area before squaring for an easy tap-in. The dominant leaders could have extended their advantage minutes later, rattling the top of the crossbar with an effort from the edge of the area. Tensions soon began to flare up on both sides, as Bowey lashed out at Henderson, before captain Dunn reacted similarly to being kicked by an opponent, only to be forcibly substituted at the request of the referee. Benfield took advantage of the controversial circumstances, breaking at pace from a corner and doubling their lead. Newcastle Benfield deservedly made it three before half-time. A Benfield forward managed to shrug off two defenders, before sliding a tame shot past wrong-footed ‘keeper Chris Bannon, leaving Allotment starting at a seemingly unassailable deficit going into the break. However, the introduction of striker David Dormand galvanised the visitors instantly. The substitute nodded a Chris Douglas corner into the ground and beyond the ‘keeper to reduce arrears, only for Benfield restore their advantage from kick-off, bustling Glenn Ford off the ball and slipping it around Ryan Beal. Celtic refused to lie down, and soon had a second, courtesy of Dormand.
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The forward raced after a loose ball in the box, and was wrestled to the floor by the Benfield ‘keeper, before duly converting from twelve yards. Hardworking attacker Liam Hudson should have put Celtic within touching distance from a Dormand pass, but smashed his close-range effort clear of the bar. It was left to the unplayable Dormand to haul Allotment back into it, and he did just that, completing his hat-trick with a powerful effort that the Benfield stopper could not keep out. Despite Celtic’s resurgence, the hosts snatched a fifth goal, as a shot reared off the unfortunate Ford and beyond Beal. That was as good as it got for Benfield, who could not find another way past the back four, with makeshift centre-half Michael Bell impressing at the back. The scoreline did not dent Celtic’s confidence, and Bell’s defensive partner dragged them back into the game, Ford rising highest to head in another superb Douglas delivery. The unlikely comeback was on with five minutes remaining on the clock. Dean Lee burst into space down the right and fed Douglas, who contributed yet another assist, flashing a ball across the box for Hudson to ultimately turn home. Benfield were on the ropes, and, in a game where the win seemed inevitable, could not even hang on for a draw, as the rampant Celtic side took the lead for the first – and final – time. A corner broke kindly for new boy Ryan Page on the edge of the box, and the versatile prospect thumped the ball through the crowd and into the back of the net to complete a gutsy and dramatic turnaround in favour of the visitors.
TEAM NORTH 4 WEST ALLOTMENT 2
31st July 2013 Bullocksteads Sports Centre Goals: David Dormand, Ryan Page
Team Northumbria put West Allotment Celtic to the sword at Bullocksteads Sports Ground, comfortably seeing off the visitors 4-2 on a sodden, rain-soaked Wednesday evening. John Pendlebury started his first game of the pre-season programme for Allotment, whilst new signings Chris Bannon and Roy Gordon both started for the visitors, as they looked to build on their high-scoring 6-5 victory at Newcastle Benfield. However, within ten minutes, the University side had taken the lead, as a well-struck effort from outside the box took a wicked deflection on its way into the top corner, giving Chris Bannon no chance in the Allotment goal. Four minutes later, Team Northumbria had doubled their lead against a lacklustre Celtic outfit. Captain Ian Dunn put in a remarkable block to deny the hosts from a corner, but the ball span kindly into the path of another attacker, who duly despatched the easiest of chances. Despite struggling to get a foothold in the game up until that point, Allotment hit straight back. Liam Hudson used his devastating combination of pace and strength to get down the right wing, and his pinpoint cross found David Dormand at the back post. The striker made no mistake with his close range header, halving the deficit within moments of its extension. With the rain beginning to lash down, Celtic must have hoped to maintain the narrow deficit before half-time, but Team Northumbria earned themselves some breathing space directly before the interval. Bannon did very well to keep
out a stinging goalbound effort, but could do little to prevent the simple follow-up, as the incoming forward bagged Team North’s third of the evening, all but securing the victory before half-time. Allotment made a number of changes at the interval, with Chris Douglas, Ryan Page, Kallum McGlen, Tony Lancaster and goalkeeper Ryan Beal all emerging from the bench for the second half. However, the changes did little to change the flow of the game, which remained in the home side’s favour, and Paul Johnson’s men soon had a fourth goal to celebrate. Team North attacked into space down the left, and the forward beat the offside trap to finish high past the flying Beal. Former Allotment players Andrew Charlton and Lee Wall both featured in the second half for TN, but the latter had little to do between the sticks, as the torrential rain and torrid conditions put paid to any hope of playing grounded, intricate football. Amidst the poor weather and similarly poor football in the second period, one flash of brilliance from Allotment reduced arrears, softening the blow of a second pre-season defeat. Celtic broke down the right hand side at pace, and former Newcastle United trainee Ryan Page was on hand to smash the ball low past Wall, making it 4-2 on the night. The Division One hosts thoroughly deserved the win on the night, having dominated for large periods. Allotment struggled to create clear cut chances, but once again displayed their tenacity and willingness to battle on, despite the match being ruined as a spectacle by the appalling conditions.
The trip to Bullocksteads always looked like an unpleasant one. On the way, the darkest of the grey clouds were looming ominously over a pitch without so much as a stand. By the time the heavens had fully opened, soaking the players and the smattering of bystanders in minutes, Allotment were already two goals behind, largely owing to sloppy marking and the occasional missed interception. At times, the University outfit played some very tidy football, playing one-touch passes well into the final third, in spite of the awful conditions. At the other end, Allotment’s attackers all too often found themselves isolated in advanced positions, and the aerial option often failed to work against a rather rangy back four. Allotment did claw their way back into it briefly, as the fledgling HudsonDormand partnership was in fine evidence again, before slow reactions for the third goal consigned Allotment to defeat. Despite their barely believable heroics five days previous, the comeback was never on - especially when the torrential rain turned a substandard pitch into a marshy one. It wasn’t just the game that Allotment lost on the night. Ryan Page’s tidy build-up play and emphatic finish for Celtic’s second goal caught Paul Johnson’s eye - and, one day after he was due to sign on at West Allotment, Ryan was snapped up by the Division One outfit. Thanks to their unique position as a University side and a non-league one, Team North will always have strength in depth. Meanwhile, just down the road, a number of central midfielders would be unavailable for Celtic in the first fortnight of football. Ironic, perhaps, that Ryan could well have learned more at Allotment. And so, West Allotment Celtic finished their pre-season programme with two wins and two defeats - with both losses coming against higher-placed opposition. The squad is collectively approaching match fitness, and, injuries aside, is looking as strong as ever. The pre-season programme is more than just fitness: it is a statement of intent, and one which Paul Stoneman made abundantly clear when pitting his side against three Division One sides - and it would have been four, had the Hebburn Town fixture survived another downpour. Over the course of those three games, the players told Stoneman that they are mentally strong enough to hold their own against the big guns. The results, given their closeness, are irrelevant, but the performances are far from it. If Allotment can perform with the same resolve over the course of this season, they will find themselves up against the same opposition in twelve months. And this time, it won’t just be about fitness.
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JUST NOT FOOTBALL One week before the start of the season, Celtic warm up in gentlemanly fashion It’s Saturday the 3rd of August, the penultimate weekend before the start of the Northern League season. Whitley Bay host fellow Division One giants Spennymoor Town in the Cleator Cup - the League’s own Community Shield. Seaham Red Star battle hard in the John Hay Memorial Trophy final, but ultimately went down 4-2 to Shildon. Across the North East, teams were putting the finishing touches to their pre-season programmes, engaging in their final sporting activities before the big day. West Allotment Celtic were no different - in the broadest of senses. Nineteen squad members turned up for a behind-open-doors intra-squad exhibition match at Percy Park. The players turned up in twos and threes, some accompanied by their spouses and sprogs. Most were decked out in various forms of white - excepting only Chris Douglas’ purple indiscretion - but there would be no need for bibs. Paul Hogg’s infamous cones inevitably made an appearance, but only to mark out the boundary. Most of the running would be done out in the middle. Captains Dormand and Hogg, representing the young guns and the old guard respectively, joined Ian Dunn in the middle for the coin toss. Crease, rather than centre circle; cricket, not football. The sprightlier side elected to bat first, sending out potential big hitter Liam Hudson and the cultured Michael Bell as their openers. The attack-minded Hudson approached the game in Twenty20 mode, but ultimately went for a duck, holing out towards fine leg. Partner Bell fared a little better, playing a series of strokes that his England namesake would be proud to call his own, but was soon to be the victim of a controversial LBW call from infirm umpire Stephen Little. Diminuitive right-hander Marc Allen, sporting his trademark backwards baseball cap, was next to go. Allen successfully survived a number of balls, getting off the mark in the process, but was soon heading back to the pavilion (in reality, a patch of grass just outside of the boundary), courtesy of a Stoneman ball and a Dummett catch. With his young side in danger of capitulation, up
stepped Dormand himself, joining Sean Reid in the middle. Any hope of racking up the fabled century was obliterated by a decision which had the captain fuming. Little once again responded to cries of leg-before-wicket, and, with the technology not available to third umpire Al Liddle, all a belligerent Dormand could do was walk. There was nothing dubious about Reid’s dismissal, trapped in similar fashion by a fine Ian Dunn ball - and could not disguise the fact that the ball had struck his foot, limping off the field. John “Brett Lee” Pendlebury sent wickets tumbling, accounting for Simon Wilthew and Ryan Beal, before Dummett came in to dismiss Michael Latimer with a fantastic pacy delivery. Chris Bannon soon fell in similar circumstances, leaving the Press Officer stranded in the middle. Chasing a respectable target of 59, Hogg sent Dean Lee into the lion’s den - but the decision only served to prove that older does not necessarily mean wiser. With the posture of a nightwatchman and the grace of a bemused, heavily armoured goose, Deano went for the more familiar form of cricketing poultry, bowled by Bell without so much as one run to his name. Marc Allen came into the attack and grabbed the next wicket, clean bowling Marc Dummett. Approaching the crease with swashbuckling lunacy, Pendlebury looked to smash one through point on his first delivery, but caught the thickest edge possible, looping it twenty yards into the air at a near vertical angle and into the waiting hands of Wilthew. Roy Gordon was Latimer’s next victim, and Stoneman went for four, with Wilthew holding onto another good catch. With his dark sunglasses and Select Telecom-branded sportswear, much was expected of the senior leader, and he did not disappoint. Playing with the sort of confidence that inspired him to select himself as captain, Hogg mercilessly knocked Hudson around the doors, accruing fourteen runs in quick succession. However, with the required total fast coming down, his counterpart did the damage , as Dormand got revenge with the ball
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in hand, striking the coach’s stumps with an expert delivery. The outgoing skipper still had one ace up his sleeve. Ian Dunn had accrued a number of caps at village level, becoming one of the most experienced cricketers on the field of play. Dunny rattled off a quickfire eight, before the less than stellar umpiring of Little swayed the match in youth’s favour. A Hudson delivery struck Dunn’s pad, but seemed to have been pitched well outside of leg stump. Little’s finger of contention once again went up, provoking a mild outcry from the pavilion end. The game was there for the taking, and the victory was wrapped up for Dormand’s side after Glenn Ford’s dismissal,
Cricket report compiled by a football reporter.
winning comfortably by twelve runs in a high-scoring encounter. It was a day of controversial umpiring, expert field tactics, copious amounts of alcohol and the occasional run here or there. The losing captain and his vice competed in a race to avoid the ultimate forfeit - yet more ouzo - but Stoneman, one of Allotment’s fastest players over a yard, proved to be a little slower over one hundred. As the new season approaches, some questions remain unanswered. Will Dormand go down the Steve Harmison path and swap his boots for a bat? Is Stona better suited to chasing bigger balls? Would the committee stump up and purchase DRS technology for the rematch? Few could question the positive mood emanating from the Allotment camp. “We should have been training today, working on set-pieces,” admitted a rather tipsy Stoneman, having put away one and a half cans of lager and most of the three shots. “But instead, I thought it would be nice to have a team bonding session. And then they stitched me up!” A happy squad is a strong squad, and in that respect, Celtic’s current crop - complete with three new signings - has never looked stronger. Camaraderie is the order of the day, and the coaches have engendered the sort of feelgood atmosphere that can’t be taught at a training session. On days like this, everybody wins - but the old timers, for all their Twitter angst, won’t need me to tell them that. West Allotment Celtic will be looking for a similarly good innings when they swap the gentleman’s game for the beautiful one.
May not be entirely accurate in its retelling of events.
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INGS N G I S W E N
McKENNA AGE: 25 POSITION: ST PREVIOUS CLUBS: BEDLINGTON TERRIERS NEWCASTLE BENFIELD HEATON STANNINGTON Lawrence, bemusingly known as “Treddy” by his teammates, is certainly no stranger to the upper echelons of the Northern League - and scores goals wherever he hangs his hat. The clinical finisher has worked his way up the league system, bagging an impressive 22 goals for then-Alliance side Heaton Stannington perhaps the most significant being his last-minute winner in the final of the George Dobbins League Cup. From there, McKenna moved on to highflying Division Two side Whickham. The Tyneside club struggled in 2011/12, but the newly-christened forward could not be held accountable, having bagged 18 goals in 34 goals - with 14 of those coming in the club’s disappointing league campaign. For the second consecutive season, “Treddy” made the significant leap into the next division, this time signing for Bedlington Terriers, where he was often employed as a dangerous supersub. With playing time limited in Northumberland, brief spells at Newcastle Benfield and Ryton and Crawcrook soon followed, before the striker arrived at Whitley Park to bolster Allotment’s attacking options. Having moved between the ninth and eleventh steps of the football system, McKenna knows what it takes to play in the Northern League’s top tier - and firmly believes that West Allotment have what it takes to challenge for promotion. “We’ve got a good bunch of lads here, and we have the ability to push on. But it’s just about settling in now, and getting the formation that’s going to get us up there.” The coaching staff have long favoured the fluid 4-5-1 over the more traditional 4-4-2, but the new signing is confident that he can call upon his spells at previous clubs and adapt to any tactical system devised by Stoneman, Kielty and Hogg. “I’ve played with a supporting striker and by myself, but I’ve got experience at a higher standard, so it’s easy playing up there by myself.” The deployment of a lone forward leaves just one place available up front. Sean Reid has
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THREE RETURNING FACES AND A WE CHAT TO WEST ALLOTMENT C
come on leaps and bounds in his roaming playmaker role, whilst Hudson is making similar improvements on the right wing, leaving just McKenna and Dormand scrapping it out for the number nine jersey. Lawrence will know his rival well from their Alliance days, as only Dorma bettered his tally at Heaton, and outscored the new arrival by one solitary goal in 2011/12. However, McKenna is relishing the prospect of challenging the 30-goal striker for that coveted role, insisting that both can benefit from each other’s presence. “I think it’s good for both of us. It’s always nice to have the competition there, it just keeps you on your toes a bit. So I don’t mind the battle with Dorma. It’s good craic for me!” Allotment’s promotion ambitions have allowed the club to attract a player of McKenna’s pedigree, and the striker has been encouraged by what he has seen thus far. “I think we’ve got the ability to get up there,” he insisted. “The dressing room is good, to be honest. We will start moving up the league soon.” Lawrence has bedded in well at the club, but will not want to settle in the division, as the side looks to earn Division One status at the third time of asking Having one proven goalscorer in your promotion-chasing side is good. Having two is even better.
A DIVISION ONE DANGERMAN... CELTIC’S FOUR SENIOR SIGNINGS
With Little still recovering from an operation, Wilthew occasionally unavailable and Stoneman forever playing just one more season, a regular slot at centre-half may be up for grabs. However, Latimer has his sights trained on his preferred position - currently occupied by the likes of Ian Dunn, Sean Reid, Michael Bell and Marc Allen, with Henderson also scheduled to return, and Roy Gordon waiting in the wings. “It’s probably the strongest part of the team, in the middle,” admitted the former Washington skipper. “But I’m fairly confident.” “Latts” is similarly convinced when it comes to West Allotment’s promotion prospects. “We’ve got a decent squad, so we’ve got a very good chance of going up. Obviously, I haven’t seen the other teams yet, but this squad’s definitely good enough to go up.” The pool of players is undoubtedly improved by Latimer’s inclusion, and the arrival of a player with a determined mindset and extensive experience will challenge last season’s midfield quintet to go the extra mile this season. Subdued off the pitch but ferociously intense on it, Latimer adds the kind of energy and bite that will be sorely needed on those rainy midweek nights in the middle of County Durham.
MICHAEL LAWRENCE LATIMER McKENNA
AGE: 26 POSITION: CB, CM PREVIOUS CLUBS: BEDLINGTON TERRIERS WEST ALLOTMENT WASHINGTON How many Northern League hot prospects have shown the maturity and leadership skills to captain a Division One side before breaking into their twenties? Michael Latimer must be one of a select few, having donned the armband at the age of 19 whilst playing for the Terriers. Even in the earliest stages of his development, Latimer’s promise was there for all to see. As a youngster, he featured in the Schools FA Cup Final, and had already appeared for Durham City, West Auckland and Washington by the tender age of 18. The tough-tackling central midfielder went on to accrue further experience at a host of clubs - including West Allotment Celtic - before joining his brother Richie at Wearside outfit Washington. “I enjoyed being at the club, to be honest,” said Latimer when reflecting on his previous stint at Whitley Park. “I only left because my brother was manager at Washington.” The younger sibling fast became one of the Mechanics’ key players, appearing 41 times in a plethora of positions at the Nissan Sports Complex. However, his brother stepped down from the managerial hotseat due to family commitments. With the familial football ties severed, Michael saw his future away from Wearside - and his availability caught the attention of another influential coach. When pressed on what facilitated his return to the Allotment fold, the answer was unequivocal. “Paul Stoneman, really,” he replied, before currying favour with Wilf and Hogg by amending his answer to “the management”. Of course, the management team are more interested in what he adds to the squad, rather than his savvy media handling skills, and Stoneman was delighted to have finally snapped up the coveted 26-year-old. ““I’ve been after him ever since he left nearly two years ago.” the playermanager admitted. “I’m over the moon he’s joined the squad. He knows what we as a management team are aiming for this season and he’s after the same thing.”
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CHRIS BANNON AGE: 27 POSITION: GK PREVIOUS CLUBS: WEST ALLOTMENT HEBBURN TOWN WASHINGTON Last season, Allotment could comfortably claim to have two of the strongest goalkeepers in the division - until one shattered his knee and the other broke his wrist. Celtic ended the season much as they had started it, with a string of makeshift deputies filling in between the sticks. Across the water, their former custodian was enjoying one of his finest Northern League campaigns, alongside fellow signing Michael Latimer at Washington. “The first six months was towards the end of the previous season, and I was injured,” said former Mechanic Chris Bannon. “Then last season obviously I wasn’t injured, and I had a great season with a great set of lads, and picked up all of the awards at end of season do. But I was more impressed with my own performance, because I was getting back to fitness, which hopefully helped that move back to Allotment.” His return could not have seemed less likely two years ago, after the popular stopper left the club in favour of a move to Hebburn Town. “I thought Hebburn had a better chance of getting promoted to Division One, and I wanted to play at the highest standard,” he admitted. His decision was vindicated, as the Hornets finished above Celtic by eleven points - enough to finish in third place. Chris’ dream had been realised on South Tyneside - but it would soon become a personal nightmare. “It was just unfortunate that I got injured, and they had to get another keeper in,” Bannon admonished. Things looked bleak for the ‘keeper, until Washington’s manager offered him a lifeline. “I just wanted to play, and Richie said, “well just come to Washington, you’ll be number one, there’ll not be anybody else there, you can play, you can get your fitness back up,” and if another club comes in, it would be up to me if I wanted to go. I enjoyed my time and stayed there for the next season as well.” The 27-year-old soon got back to his best at the Nissan Sports Complex, catching the eye of his former employers. With Aiden Ames set for a long spell on the sidelines, Bannon got the call - or, rather, the text. “Stona’s texted me to see if I wanted
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to come along, explained the situation that Ryan was here, and obviously Aiden as well, but he’s injured at the moment. So it would just be me and Ryan fighting for the number one shirt. Since I left, I’ve been watching, coming to the games, seeing how Allotment were doing, and they seemed like a good set of lads. It seemed like a challenge worth taking.” The capture of another top quality ‘keeper delighted Stoneman, who will be intensely keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s fiasco, with no fewer than eight different players donning the gloves. ““Chris is a very good signing. He’s a big presence, and it means we start the season with two excellent ‘keepers, and also have a reliable deputy in Rob Rodgerson, who has signed as cover for us.” As good as they were, there should be no need to consign left-back Marc Dummett and midfielder Sean Reid to goalkeeping duties this time around. Chris paid tribute to the efforts of Stoneman and his coaching staff in getting Allotment into good shape for a promotion push. “Stona, Wilf and Hoggy have done a good job from when they took over to get the team to where they are now. I’ve come back with the aim of getting promoted, and hopefully we will get promoted.” Having come so desperately close to experiencing top tier football, Chris will be hoping to finally reach the Promised Land with Celtic. However, there’s no promise of first-team action, with the incumbent and the challenger expected to push one another in the perpetual battle for shot stopping supremacy. The rotation policy employed throughout the last campaign could well be in effect once more - provided Bannon and Beal both avoid getting injured at the same time. But it’s unlikely that history will repeat itself. Isn’t it?
ROY LAWRENCE GORDON McKENNA
AGE: 31 POSITION: CM PREVIOUS CLUBS: WEST ALLOTMENT NORTH SHIELDS ANNFIELD PLAIN
In pre-season, the father of two featured primarily at left-back - a position occupied by well-renowned defender Marc Dummett - but Roy acknowledged that competition for places across the pitch is fierce. “Marc’s been one of the best players in pre-season, and probably the last three games as well, cool and calm always. But my main position is probably playing in the middle, but there’s an abundance of players playing in there as well, so I’ll just have to hang on. Wilf, Stona and Hoggy all know that I’ll play anywhere for anybody. I’ll just have to bide my time and see if I can get in.” One year on from his self-imposed hiatus, Roy is itching to get back into the beautiful game, having looked on in frustration from the sidelines. “I missed it massively,” he admitted. “I had a little stint where I was up at Ponteland assisting with the coaching, played a couple of times, which I probably shouldn’t have. But I’m so glad to be back, especially when looking for a team that’s really looking to hit promotion, it’s the number one aim, so I’m happy with that.” All work and no play makes Roy a hungry player. The utility man has the next three decades to pay off that mortgage and fund the pension plan. And if Allotment are going to challenge for a top three place in the current campaign, they will need characters like Gordon in the dressing room. His versatility and willingness to play for the team can only benefit the club, and fans can expect to see him cropping up all over the pitch over the course of the season, giving those venerable legs at least another season’s worth of runouts. There’s no substitute for experience in football - so it’s a good job that Allotment can call upon the experience of a very well drilled substitute.
AGE is just a number - as the old adage goes, it’s about how old you feel, rather than how old you are (or how old you look). Just ask the playermanager himself - forty years old, and still going almost as strong as ever. Roy Gordon is nine years Stoneman’s junior, but is still the second-oldest member of Allotment’s relatively young squad. He is keen to substitute every iteration of the word “experienced” with the markedly more pointed “old”, but the latter term is by no means synonymous with the former. Roy has been playing Northern League and Northern Alliance football for over a decade with the likes of Consett, North Shields and Annfield Plain, as well as turning out for Allotment two seasons ago. The versatile midfielder went off the footballing radar last year, as personal commitments forced Roy to temporarily hang up his boots. “I was working, work commitments. I’ve now got two kids as well, rather than just little Matthew, I’ve got little Bethany as well. So I decided to come back and give it another go before I’m too old!” Perhaps one of the greatest indications of what Gordon has to offer the club came during the half-time interval in the pre-season friendly against Whitley Bay. All too often, the subs limber up in schoolboy fashion, kicking the ball around in circles and taking potshots at an empty net. Not when Roy’s on the bench. The self-confessed veteran took charge and led the warm-up drills, ensuring that his sprightly counterparts had stretched properly before their impending introductions. “It’s something I’ve always done. I’ve always warmed up properly. You’ll know from how long I’ve known Hoggy that I know how to warm up properly,” harking back to his long-standing relationship with the coach that persists from their Annfield and North Shields days. “You’ll see by the amount of injuries with the lads kicking the balls, pulling hamstrings and stuff, they can afford to do it when they’re young, but I’ve got to warm up properly now, as I’m nearly 32.”
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THE ‘A’ TE
‘I LOVE IT WHEN ‘A’ TE
For the first time in its history, West Allotment Celtic has its own developmen Thompson share their hopes for the coming season, as their promisin The academies of the North-East’s big three have, since time immemorial, produced their fair share of talented players. In recent times, many have gone on to become great successes. Steven Taylor, the Ameobis (ahem) and Andy Carroll all graduated with honours from Little Benton; the Academy of Light produced Jack Colback and Jordan Henderson; and Middlesbrough’s renowned setup churned out England internationals Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson amongst others. Unfortunately, not all of those starlets make it to the big time. with a number of them now plying their semi-professional trade in the Northern League. On the other side of the coin, that’s where members of Allotment’s new development side aim to be playing in the years to come. The West Allotment Celtic ‘A’ team, managed and coached by Henry Brandon and Reece Chapman respectively, will be up against the likes of Longbenton, Gateshead Leam Rangers and the legendary Wallsend Boys Club in their inaugural Northern Alliance campaign.
The idea for such a project lay dormant for a number of years, despite the previous interest of Whitley Bay Boys Club. “They approached us a few years ago, but nothing came of it,” explained ‘A’ team secretary Jonny Thompson. “We decided as a club that we’d like to explore this further, so Jim & Keith Wilson and I met with the committee of Whitley Bay Boys Club with the suggestion that we link up in order to provide young players who can no longer play in junior football the opportunity to progress to senior football. There are far too many players reaching the age of 18 who then stop playing football because there’s no natural progression for them. West Allotment Celtic now have an A team, a mutually beneficial partnership with Whitley Bay Boys Club and some very talented players that could represent the senior team in the years to come.” 22-year-old manager Henry agreed with those aims, saying: “It’s going to be interesting. Obviously, as a development squad, the aim is to give younger lads a chance to play senior football at a club with a really good setup and feeding into the first team.”
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By entering a side into Division Two of the Alliance, West Allotment became the eighth Northern League club to have a reserve side in the feeder leagues. The first teams of five of those clubs - Billinghams Town and Synthonia, Whitley Bay, Bedlington Terriers and Newcastle Benfield - play in the Northern League’s top division. Alnwick and Northallerton’s setups are perhaps borne of necessity, owing to the isolated location of the two towns. Despite being a Division Two club in one of the most congested footballing postcodes, Celtic have taken their first steps towards a dedicated youth system - a warning shot across the bow for their division rivals. “The statement is that West Allotment Celtic intends to be around for at least another 85 years, and we’re doing things that will hopefully help us reach that aim,” insisted Thompson. Allotment aren’t the only ones looking to secure their longevity. Whitley Bay Boys Club now have an outlet for the players that come of age - and, whilst the ‘A’ team is very much the priority, further collaboration could be on the cards in the long term. “The
EAM COMES TOGETHER’
nt side. Inaugural player-manager Henry Brandon and ‘A’ team secretary Jonny ng side enters the Second Division of the Northern Football Alliance partnership is very exciting for us as a club and both clubs see it as a long term relationship. A successful ‘A’ team is the current aim, so that young players from the boy’s club can progress into senior football,” said ‘A’ team official Thompson. “I’d like to think that both clubs would be able to come up with other ways to work together in the future that will benefit us both, but it’s important to make the A team the best it can be before we even think about anything else.” After many months of wrangling, the side will call the distant pitches of Churchill Playing Fields their home - but the entire process frustrated the secretary. “After the Olympics everyone was told that the legacy would be to get as many young people playing sport as possible, but our experience has been that it is extremely difficult and expensive to find suitable places for our players to play football,” he bemoaned, shedding light on the tribulations that are rarely seen by supporters. “Local sports venues are either prohibitively expensive to use on a regular basis, poorly maintained or certain venues are now completely unavailable to the general public.”
With the foundations diligently laid down off the pitch, the hard work could finally begin on it. A modest number of youngsters made the trip to Valley Gardens for the initial trial session, with more arriving in the following weeks. Many hailed from the nearby boys club, circumventing at least some of the problems that often beset newly-formed outfits. “It’s an advantage in some respects,” admitted the manager. “There’s quite a few lads that have come from either the 18s, the 17s or the 16s from Whitley Bay, so all of them kind of know each other a bit, and then there’s lads from elsewhere as well, so it’ll be interesting to see how they gel. It’s early days now, but once we start to settle in as a team, and the lads start to get to know each other well, everyone will be pulling together in the same direction.” Allotment ‘A’ kicked off their preseason campaign in positive fashion, defeating Forest Hall and North Shields Athletic Reserves in two high-scoring encounters, before being outclassed - but not disgraced - by Newcastle United’s Academy side and New Hartley’s strong Under-18s. The Celtic
youngsters got their preparations back on track with a fantastic 4-2 win against Howden Social Club in appalling conditions, setting the scene for what ought to be an intriguing debut season on the league system’s ninth step. And, much like in their warm-ups, Celtic ‘A’ have shown glimpses of promise in difficult opening fixtures. They were powerless to resist Blyth Isabella on the opening day, going down by three goals to one, but bounced back with a tremendous 3-0 victory on the road at Wideopen. A heavy defeat at home to Gateshead Leam Rangers followed - but, with Allotment beginning to find their feet, results are expected to impove. A number of hopefuls look set to impress. Dan Haggerston has helped himself to two goals in three games. Dan Surley’s rangy frame and relentlessly quick feet will torment many an Alliance full-back. In midfield, Scott McLaughlin has already shown the ability to pull all of the strings in the middle of the park. At the back, 16-year-old Jonny Maddick already looks like one to watch, his keen sense of positioning underpinning his strength in the air and the tackle.
AUGUST 2013 THREE MILES WEST
THE ‘A’ TE
“We’re looking to get promoted and move up the league....It might be an optimistic aim, but I think you’ve always got to go for the best.” However, few have caught the eye quite like Ryan Anderson. The all-action forward grabbed Paul Stoneman’s attention in the first two trial sessions, revealing himself to the senior team schemer as a hard worker and a clinical finisher. Stona evidently liked what he saw, registering the 18-year-old for firstteam duties - although Brandon expects the raw striker to remain in his ‘A’ squad. “Ryan’s got the opportunity with the first team. He’ll probably be with us a fair bit this season and get a few outings with the first team, and I’d like to think he’d be playing first team football at Allotment next season.” Just weeks into its life cycle, Celtic ‘A’ had a player looking to break into the first team. - something that will galvanise the rest of the young squad. “From a purely selfish point of view, we want our best players to stay with us, but as a development squad feeding into the first team, the bigger picture is that they’re heading up there. I think it’s exciting now. It shows straight away from day one that we have in place a route into the senior setup, which is what it’s all about. It would be great to see two or three break through, get some chances this season.” Club man Jonny has also been looking on from the touchline, and is similarly impressed with their initial progress. “It has been really great to watch the players take their first steps in senior football, especially as some of our players are only 16 or 17 so
it’s a big leap. They’ve all done very well and we’re very pleased they’ve chosen to be part of the club. Hopefully they’ll be with us for many years to come and continue to develop as players.” Integral to the young charges’ development will be the management team of Brandon and Chapman. Despite being just 23 and 22 respectively, the pair come to Allotment equipped with a wealth of experience far beyond their years. Both are currently undertaking Sports Coaching degrees at Northumbria University, and have mentored a number of youth sides between them. The peformance analyst interns at Newcastle United are the perfect men to take the Allotment boys forward - and have already impressed Thompson with their attitude and commitment. “We’re delighted to have Henry and Reece involved with the club. They are both very professional, love what they are doing and have a real interest in helping the players progress. Importantly, they’ve had fantastic support from the parents, families and friends of the players which makes the running of a team that little bit easier so we all really appreciate that support.” For all the talk of upward progression into the senior team, the management still have more pressing ambitions of their own. “As a team, obviously, we want to do well, so we’re looking to get promoted and move up
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the league, and the lads want to play as high as they can. So it might be an optimistic aim, but I think you’ve always got to go for the best, really. We’re looking to finish in the top two.” The new recruits will share in that confidence, well aware of Allotment’s reputation for success. The club has emerged from the Alliance in the last decade to become Northern League mainstays, even mixing it with the best of them in Division One for six seasons, and picked up significant silverware just three months ago. The culture of success has already whetted the appetite of the fledgling talents. Right midfielder Johnny Snell has made appearances at committee meetings and first team matches, whilst both McLoughlin and Maddick were spotted in the stands during the first team’s pre-season friendly against Whitley Bay at Hillheads. The support isn’t one way, either. The committee were there to oversee the first ever trial, and Roland Mather, Jimmy Wilson and Ted Ilderton have all made further appearances at ‘A’ team games. It is this synergy between the two sides that stands Allotment in such good stead. It’s more than simply wearing duplicate green and white shirts - it’s the same desire to play good football, the same lofty aspirations, the same steadfast commitment to the cause, and the same shared identity. As a result, the future of both sides - together as one club could not be brighter.
THE ‘A’ TEAM IN ACTION Shots of the development side, chronicling their trials, training sessions, pre-match fixtures against Forest Hall and North Shields Athletic Reserves, and their Alliance tie against Gateshead Leam Rangers.
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THE TIPSTER’S ODDS 125/1 TOP SCORER David Dormand Dean Lee Sean Reid Lawrence McKenna Liam Hudson Paul Stoneman Kallum McGlen
1/3 5/2 7/3 6/1 15/1 225/1 5000/1
THE TIP: DAVID DORMAND It’s hard to look beyond Dorma for this one. He’ll back himself to at least match his thirty-goal tally from last season, should he be awarded the lone striker’s berth once again. Of course, there will be challengers to the throne. McKenna will be figuratively snapping at his heels for that solo spot. Lee came tantalisingly close to snatching the boot last year, and has recovered from the injury that prevented him from doing so. On the other wing, Kallum McGlen is the longest of long shots. The unfortunate midfielder is 200-1 to score at any time during the season. Kall would be satisfied with just the one!
THE REGULAR Ian DUNN Evens John PENDLEBURY 11/10 Marc DUMMETT 6/5 Paul STONEMAN 13/1 Tony LANCASTER 35/1 Aiden AMES 2000/1
THE TIP: PAUL STONEMAN 6/5 24
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The club captain may be the obvious choice - and hot favourite - to rack up the most appearances, but it’s the veteran centre-half who would be our shout. Unlike Dunny, the player-manager literally picks himself. Despite clearing the 40, Stona made 46 appearances in the last campaign - and, though expected to take a step back on Stephen Little’s return from injury, is still a tempting bet at 13/1.
WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC’S BETTING TIPS ARE KINDLY SPONSORED BY JACKSON BOOKMAKERS, YOUR PREMIER NONLEAGUE BETTING ACCOUNTANTS.
ker a m k o o B
4/3 MOST ASSISTS Sean REID Marc DUMMETT Chris DOUGLAS Liam HUDSON David DORMAND Michael BELL Marc ALLEN
THE TIP: MARC DUMMETT
NL GOALS SCORED 100 or more 90 to 99 85 to 89 84 or less
One could expect plenty of money to be laid on Reid grabbing the most assists - and such a train of thought is not without merit. The roaming midfielder dictates play through the middle of the park, spearheading the majority of the side’s attacks. But Allotment have many creative outlets capable of supplying the perfect pass. Marc Dummett is one such player. And, with many of his dead ball deliveries finding their intended targets, the full-back is a strong bet at 8/5.
PROMOTION ODDS For more on Allotment’s Division Two rivals, see overleaf
2/1 12/11 4/1 20/1
NL GOALS CONCEDED
59 or less 60 to 64 65 to 69 70 to 75 80 or more
4/3 8/5 2/1 5/1 8/1 14/1 20/1
7/1 3/2 Evens 9/1 65/1
CLEAN SHEETS 14 or more 10 to 13 5 to 9 4 or less
7/1 1/3 11/4 350/1
NUMBER OF POINTS 80 or more 75 to 79 70 to 74 61 to 69 60 or less
5/1 Evens 5/2 10/1 40/1
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ALLOTMENT HAVE STRENGTHENED... ...BUT SO HAS THE DIVISION
A brief look at the other promotion contenders in Division Two
The Northern League’s third green and white hooped side behind the two Celtics, Birtley Town could be this year’s surprise package. The Super Greens weren’t up to much last season, limping to the barn in seventeenth place. Why, then, have the Tyneside outfit been tipped by many as the division’s darkest horses? Five miles up the road, their Blue Square neighbours scrapped their reserve side, instead taking on third year prospects at Gateshead College. Not only would they sign terms for the first team; they would also turn out for Birtley Town. Helping the youngsters make the transition to the Northern League and back again is none other than new manager Paul Bryson, former head coach and reserve manager with the Tynesiders, and head of the college’s football academy. He knows the young charges inside out, and, when the more senior players are added to the mix, Birtley should be making serious headway - or is that Heedway? - up the division this season.
Another of the sides relegated from the top tier last season, South Shields have had just as many issues off the pitch as on it. The Mariners were eventually evicted from their Filtrona Park home after failing to raise the £400,000 needed to buy their ground, rounding out a disastrous campaign. Now, Shields fans must make the forty mile round trip to their new home Eden Lane in Peterlee. Star ‘keeper James Winter departed in the summer for Durham City, but Shields have retained a number of key players, including Jonny Wightman and Barry Smith, and also welcome back Paul Kane from a productive loan spell at Seaham. Despite their off-field tribulations, Jon King has a strong squad from which to select. The manager may carry plenty of hyoscine on him for the journey down the A19, but may find it harder to remedy the homesickness.
NORTON and STOCKTON ANCIENTS The Ancients spent twenty-six long years in the Northern League’s lower division before achieving promotion as runners-up in 2009. Their dalliance in Division One was considerably shorter, finishing rock bottom with just six wins to their name. Manager Andy Campbell, a former Boro forward, has set about revamping his squad, crossing the Tees to poach midfielder Rocky Andrews and forward Gary Mitchell from Thornaby. Despite having to hold pre-season trials to bring in fresh blood, Campbell believes he has “established a squad of high quality to help our target of winning the Second Division.” Only a strong performance on their return to the lower league will consign the disappointment of the last campaign to Ancient history.
NORTHALLERTON TOWN Hailing all the way from North Yorkshire, Northallerton may be best known to commuters as that small town between Darlington and York on the East Coast line. Despite its modest population, it serves as the administrative centre of North Yorkshire, hosts a number of markets and fairs - and sends a strong team into the North-East of England. Playing attractive attacking football in a dangerous 4-3-3, Town will expect to mount a serious promotion charge in 2013. The club are even more daunting off the pitch, bringing with them by far and away the most vocal support in Division Two. If they achieve a top three finish, the north of England will know about it.
SEAHAM RED STAR Red Star manager Mark Collingwood certainly
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has a thing for eye-catching transfers. Last year, he snared former Sunderland full-back Dan Smith and Bulgarian under-21 Ivan Stoyanov. This summer, he hasn’t brought in any former Premier League prospects or capped internationals, but the transfers of well-renowned players like striker Adam Johnston and Chris McCabe from Shildon will set tongues wagging about the club’s chances this season.
NORTH SHIELDS After a second successive slump in the second half of the season, Shields had to settle for eighth place in the league. With double threat Nolan and Holmes both making the trip up to Blyth Spartans, boss Graham Fenton had some work to do to ensure that the Robins could challenge consistently for the next ten months. In Dan Smart and Gaz Bainbridge, Fenton has found two excellent - and equally deadly - replacements. With former Allotment man Dean Walker also in their ranks, the Robins should be knocking around the top three - provided they don’t run out of puff.
JARROW ROOFING Roofing supremo Richie McLoughlin is desperate to see his baby - now 26 and all grown up - make that leap into Division One. To that end, the founder/chairman/groundsman has brought in Paul Bennett and his promotionwinning team from Hebburn. Benno has wasted no time in coaxing his former charges down Victoria Road, including former West Brom pair Dean and Stu Nicholson, as well as Kieron McDonald, Martyn McGonigal, Dan Regan and Dan Kirkup, to name but a few. The wholesale importation of Division One talent, combined with the bottomless ambition of both manager and chairman, make the Roofers one of the favourites to nail down a place in the Northern League’s top tier.
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