THREE MILES WEST THE WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC MAGAZINE
Naughty or Nice? Who received what from Santa Claus this Christmas
Steve Harper The Magpies veteran drops in at West Allotment
RETROSPECTIVESFEATURESINTERVIEWS ELVES DECEMBER 2012 THREE MILES WEST 1
The Cold Snap Postponements aplenty,
courtesy of winter weather
Around and Aground
Allotment’s humble abodes throughout the years
Naughty or Nice?
Who received what at Celtic this festive season
...goals that the camera only just missed
A light-hearted take on club goings-on
An Eve With Steve Harper
A retrospective take on an interview with the winger
The Drawing Board
Terry Mitchell discusses Celtic, coaching and the Heed
A Chat With Dean Lee
The veteran United goalie drops in at West Allotment
The Model Professional
Tactical tinerking - past, present... and future? Welcome to the inaugural issue of Three Miles West, the official West Allotment Celtic magazine. Think of it as a Christmas gift, ableit one that you pay two pounds for, and that turns up one month late in the post. It’s stuffed to the brim, like the stocking of a very good child with wealthy parents, or an obnoxiously greedy uncle on Boxing Day. You decide which. Why name it Three Miles West? West Allotment Celtic play their football three miles west of West Allotment - or 2.7 miles to be exact. Two-Point-Seven Miles West is a bit of a mouthful, so we’ve rounded the number up to save you from spouting superfluous syllables. Our heartfelt thanks go to Environmental Construction Solutions - without their support, the magazine may not have made it to the printers. Enjoy the magazine, and the hectic month of Northern League football that awaits - weather permitting, of course...
THE TEAM Craig Dobson Stephen Allott Harry Slavin Jonny Thompson
Editor Contributor / Archivist Contributor Advertising
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ADVERTISE WITH US If you’re looking to gain exposure for your company or business with a half-page or full-page advert, contact the Commercial Team at sponsorship@westallotmentcelticfc. com. The club always appreciates and reciprocates any support it receives, so please do get in touch!
THE COLD SNAP AN UNEXPECTED WINTER BREAK FOR WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC It was that time of year again. Mad pre-apocalyptic shopping sprees, all too familiar festive songs in the air, superfluous wastage of card and wrapping paper and the inevitable postponement of Northern League football. No fewer than seventy-six winter fixtures succumbed to Mother Nature at her bitterest, with torrential rain, partial flooding and icy temperatures all taking their toll on a number of humble playing surfaces. A pitch that resembled a marsh on Wednesday can be transformed into tundra by the weekend. And, with temperatures predicted to dip below freezing in the second-coldest winter for a century, conditions will get worse before they get better. Even sides playing at the very best non-non-league grounds cannot escape the weather. West Allotment Celtic have already had six fixtures called off in the last two months two of which were to be played at Whitley Park, one of the best-kept pitches in northern England. Paul Stoneman’s men were left kicking their sodden heels for twenty-one straight days, as four consecutive fixtures were postponed due to the adverse conditions. The aftermath of flash floods and mini blizzards has created havoc for the beleagured administrators of the Northern League. “I already have 51 First Division matches to rearrange and 25 Second Division matches and we have not even reached the normal time for bad weather – February – and consequently more postponements,” admitted league secretary Anthony Golightly. “It will mean that I will be fitting midweek matches in for almost the rest of the season for all clubs.” On the plus side, more Wednesday night football. On the negative side, far fewer training sessions.
Sean Reid practices his set-pieces at a rare Allotment training session © Ben Gamble
CAN ANYTHING BE DONE ABOUT IT? Undersoil heating and pitch-wide covers are a little expensive for the regular Northern League club’s budget, so the construction of retractable roofs is definitely out of the question - particularly for those grounds without four parallel stands. One genuine - albeit tenuous - alternative does exist: the possible implementation of a winter break. A fortnight away from sub-zero football would result in the same congested fixture list, but would give clubs a little more time to train and prepare. As Dean Lee pointed out on Twitter: “Who said we don’t get a winter break?” Getting geared up to play four times, only to have all four games postponed on the day, is nothing short of gutting for most of the players. However, in reality, a ratified break is highly unlikely. Why? “We have lost a load of matches already so if we were to take a winter break - say, the last week in December and the first week in January - it may be good weather when no matches would be postponed,” explained Golightly. “The North East climate does not allow us to work out when to take the break.” Throw February into the mix, and you have one of the most unpredictable climates in English football.
Members of the committee quietly freeze away at Tow Law Town
Short of playing all fixtures indoors, or groundsharing with very generous Football League sides, there isn’t much that can be done. Of all the controllable variables in football, the winter weather is not one of them.
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AROUND AND AGROUND For a club that has battled for over eighty years in the turbulent non-league zone, West Allotment Celtic has had a reasonably stable history in terms of home grounds. Yet, throughout most of the 1990s and into the early part of the twenty-first century, Allotment were unsettled following the termination of a long-standing agreement to play at Backworth Welfare. A tenancy at Hillheads was mutually beneficial for both Celtic and Whitley Bay FC but it stymied any hopes of Allotment driving upwards into the Northern League as their domination of the Northern Alliance deserved, and almost demanded. Therefore, it was little surprise that those connected with the club were so delighted with the confirmation that Allotment had signed a twenty-five year agreement to use the Blue Flames Sports Ground in Benton as it’s home base from the start of the 2001/02 season. The path to Benton was long and tortuous, studded by disappointments deriving from circumstances outside the control of the club yet the persistence of those involved and their refusal to be beaten surely embodies the true spirit of West Allotment Celtic. The reward was to see the team run out for a midweek Northern Alliance fixture on 22 August 2001,with Spittal Rovers the visitors. It was a somewhat understated debut fixture for the new facilities but it did result in a 4-1 win for Celtic and, within three years, Allotment were hosting a Northern League match at Whitley Park.
Understated the game with Spittal might have been, but to play football on a wonderfully manicured pitch with all mod cons showed how far the club had become from its early days. Indeed, the forerunners of the current club were forced to play on whichever field the local farmer had finished harvesting so the players had to get used to being nomadic and playing on what was effectively stubble. If only they were around to visit Blue Flames! Celtic finally found their first “permanent” home upon their formation in 1928. The pitch was close to the Holystone public house and the changing rooms were actually the old stables attached to the pub. Allotment remained at Holystone until 1938 when they were forced to move after an ill-starred attempt to call the bluff of the local Colliery owners. The refurbished Backworth Welfare had been opened in November 1937 and the Welfare Committee, which consisted of the representatives of the Colliery owners, wanted to streamline the number of local teams and make them play at Backworth. Basically, this meant perming two clubs from Celtic, Backworth Institute, Bertram Place and Shiremoor Albion. The Celtic Committee refused to accept the plan on the grounds that twenty-two men would lose the chance of a regular game. The Celtic officials were “politely reminded” that their own pitch belonged to the Colliery and could suddenly be made “unavailable”. Celtic called their bluff, saying they had alternative plans anyway. However, the bluff failed and as there were no “alternative plans”, Celtic had to eat humble pie and ask for continued permission to play at Holystone. Not surprisingly, permission was not granted.
Celtic in action at the Farm Ground, playing Forest Hall in the Minor Cup Quarter-Final in January 1960
THREE MILES WEST WINTER 2013
Thankfully, a frantic search for a new pitch was successful and Celtic settled in at Rowlands Farm Ground, which was located down a track running by the Northumberland Arms pub in West Allotment. Ironically, the land was still owned by the Colliery but the buffer provided by the farmer meant that Celtic were relatively safe.
Stephen Allott considers the multitude of venues that West Allotment Celtic once called home Whitley Park, the current home of West Allotment Celtic
Celtic stayed at the Farm Ground for thirty years. The residency coincided with some highly successful seasons, particularly in the 1950s when the Northern Amateur League was won for four consecutive seasons. Over time the club did try and improve the somewhat spartan facilities at the Farm Ground. The first step involved the purchase of a cowshed from a farmer in Heaton. It was dismantled in situ and transported, piece-by-piece, to West Allotment where it was reassembled as a pavilion. At one point, the pitch was re-laid in a different direction to counteract continual flooding problems but it was never very good, generally being muddy and the notorious pond was ever-present. Thus, when Backworth Welfare FC disbanded in 1967, Celtic took the opportunity to take their place at the Welfare. This was a rather ironic outcome considering the political manoeuvrings back in 1938! The last game at the Farm Ground was a 2-3 defeat on 20 January 1968 against Wills Imperial. However, Allotment started and finished with victories at Backworth, another “home” which was to see some very successful times for the club. Two goals from Ken Noble helped beat Parsons Athletic 2-1 on 10 February 1968 while Steve Atkinson, John Fitzpatrick and Vince Bollado scored the goals that helped Celtic to overcome Westerhope (3-2) on 13 May 1995. An outsized increase in the yearly fee charged by the Welfare for the use of the facilities at Backworth caused the Celtic officials to look elsewhere for a home base from the start of the 1995/96 campaign. Hillheads, home of Whitley Bay FC, was the venue selected. However, although grateful for the use of Hillheads, Celtic’s hopes of promotion up the non-league ladder were constrained by the fact that they were only tenants in a ground-sharing arrangement; something not allowed for a club in the Northern League. The six years spent at Hillheads were a tremendously successful period in the history of the club. Although Celtic actually lost their opening two league matches at Hillheads,
the first against Middlesbrough “A” on 14 October 1995, the club soon settled into the new headquarters. After a couple of seasons of transition, the club notched three successive championships and recorded both a Northern Alliance league and cup “double” and “treble”. Yes, there were some very enjoyable nights in Whitley Bay, although some of the more misdirected shots and clearances could lead to an expedition that would have tested David Livingstone. Rootling around allotments and back gardens for a lost ball was rarely an enjoyable task, especially when in too close proximity to a mean-looking pit bull terrier! Fortunately, the clubs could usually call on the services of Whitley Bay’s very own “Spiderman”, a young lad who showed incredible athletic prowess in leaping over fences and scaling walls! It is astonishing to think that the current season is Allotment’s twelfth at Blue Flames but the ground has already witnessed some memorable days in the history of the club. Not least was the first ever home match in the Northern League; a game that ended 5-0 to Allotment on 21 August 2004 – Easington Colliery the suitably accommodating visitors. There was also the busy day when approaching one thousand people descended on Whitley Park to see Celtic host Cray Wanderers in the last 32 of the FA Vase. This was at a time when Allotment were still in the Northern Alliance so it was some achievement to have reached such a stage of the competition. It was a game decided by one long-range strike that went the way of the visitors but only after a tightly fought battle. So will Blue Flames be the final home for Allotment? The current lease has several years left to run and there is no doubt that the facilities are first rate; however, there are some Celtic supporters who feel that the club is still effectively playing away even when at home. For those folk, the club should be within the boundaries of West Allotment, Shiremoor and Backworth. Such a scenario could have occurred; the club were very close to acquiring a pitch very close to the old Farm Ground before moving to Hillheads but the project never came to fruition for a variety of reasons. Still, perhaps it is time to count blessings and West Allotment are fortunate in being able to call on the magnificent facilities at Whitley Park.
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Naughty or Nice?
Who received what from Santa Claus this Christmas Flashing festive lights. Copious amounts of eggnog, Buck’s Fizz and snowballs. Hammy songs infiltrating the airwaves. The slim and hopeful chance of snow. The Boxing Day football fixture. Yes, there’s always plenty to look forward to at Christmas - and, if you’re materialistic, nothing moreso than the prospect of presents. Christmas is well and truly behind us, and certainly didn’t deliver on the football front, with three consecutive games postponed due to bad weather. Despite the cancellations, Santa did still drop by at Whitley Park, having kept an eye on the West Allotment squad since August. So, who was showered with consumerist goods on Jesus’ birthday, and who had to make do with a rather disappointing sack of coal?
The likeable ‘keeper is renowned for his communication skills, and is always looking for new ways to get his message across. But, with strict FA rules in place, Aiden won’t be manning an intercom any time soon.
Marc has been a calming, consistent presence and dangerous attacking outlet whenever he has featured for Allotment, but is on his way back from a nasty knee injury. He’s been good, but Santa can’t afford expensive treatment, so medication from a tube will have to do.
Stevie has become an Allotment regular in the past two seasons, complimenting Stoneman well at centre-half. However, his goalscoring record has not gone unnoticed by Kris Kringle. He’s scored as many own goals this season as he has regular goals in his Allotment career. Despite a series of good showings, Santa downgraded him a little for that.
Wants: Comm links Gets: A megaphone
Ryan Beal Ames’ deputy has already featured over a dozen times for Celtic. The Suffolkborn goalie has largely performed well, but has made one or two high-profile mistakes - but, thankfully, none as obvious as Tractor Boys chairman Marcus Evans when he appointed Roy Keane, and then Paul Jewell, as manager.
Wants: An oxygen tent Gets: Deep Heat
Chris Douglas Douglas has been solid ever since resigning for Allotment, having featured at left-back, right-back, right midfield and in the middle of the park. Santa can’t promise him any sort of regularity - but he can promise him a superhero belt. He’s earned it,
Wants: A decent Ipswich Town manager Gets: Mick McCarthy
Wants: A nailed-on playing position Gets: A Batman utility belt
Stand-in captain “Penders” is probably one of the most committed members of the current Celtic side, but is prone to the occasional gaffe. Santa will bring him the ball he wants - but it’ll be attached to a cord, just in case he loses it.
At 39, this may well be the last season of Stona’s long and prosperous footballing career. Should he reluctantly hang up his boots in the summer, Santa will provide him with replacement footwear for those cold midweek nights in the dugout.
Wants: A new ball Gets: A Kickmaster
Wants: Eternal youth Gets: Slippers
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Wants: Con Air on DVD Gets: Con Air on VHS
Simon Wilthew A new arrival, Simon has filled in admirably across the back when required - but still won’t get his dream present. Why? If Santa had that kind of power, he’d keep Fearne and Holly for himself. Wilthew will just have to make do with that annoying ginger bloke instead. Wants: Holly Willoughby, Fearne Cotton Gets: Keith Lemon
Ian Dunn Captain Dunny is one of the club’s reliable mainstays - but his disciplinary record puts paid to any chance of a visit to Peppa Pig World in Hampshire. Before you ask, yes, that is a real thing. Wants: Peppa Pig paraphernalia Gets: A three match ban
Christmas morn: The unwrapped material goods around the tree in the Allotment family household
The tenacious midfielder has performed well whenever called upon for Allotment, but rarely has he demonstrated any of the traits associated with his idol - fictional drug lord Tony Montana. Perhaps he can rectify this on a games console, in the comfort of his own home.
Reidy has occupied every central outfield role on the pitch at some point this season - bar the one between the sticks - but refuses to embrace his Dion Dublin-esque versatility. His impressive performances in September and October have convinced Santa that he deserved that doll he probably didn’t want.
Big things are expected of Hutch, another recent returnee from injury. The prolific Tweeter isn’t a fan of Sunderland’s David Meyler. But, with the Irishman on loan to Hull and still in the public eye, Chris will have to make do with a more low-profile figure of hatred on Tyneside.
Wants: To be Tony Montana Gets: Scarface: The World Is Yours (Xbox)
Michael Bell Belly has started the season in relatively good form, particularly when deployed in a more attacking role. With his tactical nous and a prospective degree to boot, Paul Stoneman will be looking nervously over his shoulder. Wants: A Sports Development with Coaching degree Gets: Player-coach job at Allotment
Wants: Alan Shearer signed shirt Gets: Alan Shearer Power Play doll
Wants: David Meyler’s mounted head Gets: Peter Reid’s mounted head
David Henderson The wily attacker has only just returned to Allotment after an injury lay-off, but has showed flashes of promise since coming back. He’s only on the naughty list by virtue of his beard. Santa doesn’t like competition.
The former Walker Central man has remained loyal to Allotment since signing for them in the summer, despite his limited first-team opportunities. However, the man upstairs doesn’t pick the team, so Shaun will have to make do with his very own personalised training top.
Wants: Beard Gets: Beard trimmer
Wants: Some first-team action Gets: Newcastle United sweatshirt
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s r e l l i F g n i Stock
GOOD Clean sheets Matching shirts and socks Sultans of Swing: Very Best Of Dire Straits
BAD A Sky Tyne and Wear video compilation
Wilf Kielty The Tony Pulis look suited assistant manager Wilf in warmer months. But, with the cold snap setting in, Allotment’s number two will desire something a little thicker than a cap to heat his hairless head. To that end, Santa got him one of the many woolly West Allotment hats from the Command Centre. Wants: A warmer hat Gets: A West Allotment hat
The Celtic right-winger is as humble off the pitch as he is hardworking on it, desiring only his basic footballing wage. His performances in November justify at least another £2.50’s worth of chicken and bread.
Dorma has been in clinical form of late, and will put a high goalscoring milestone right at the top of his wishlist. Father Christmas didn’t need to gift him any goals, but bestowed upon him a better way to celebrate finding the target. Expect to see the occasional robot, aeroplane or somersault in the coming months.
Wants: £20 a week Gets: £20 a week and a tikka sandwich
Tony Lancaster Santa hasn’t seen much of Tony since mid-October, when the winger was waylaid by a troublesome knee injury. A new knee was outside of Santa’s budget, but at least some new jogging bottoms will keep Tony’s old knee warm throughout the winter. Wants: New legs Gets: New leggings
Liam Hudson Allotment’s centre-forward has overcome injury after injury already this campaign, but has bagged a handful of goals since returning. Hudson looks threatening whenever he remains upright. Santa has transformed Liam from a menace to a machine with a new pair of Total 90s. Wants: Army boots Gets: Football foots
Despite playing out on left wing, Deano leads the club’s scoring charts, having bagged 14 goals in all competitions so far this season. Although his goalscoring form is nothing short of scintillating, Lee won’t receive the former Emmerdale actress - “the one from Dancing On Ice” as Santa is well aware of his relationship status. Instead, the fitness-conscious footballerrecieved a year’s supply of Bachelor’s Pasta ‘n’ Sauce.
Wants: Roxanne Pallett or Abbey Clancy Gets: A year’s supply of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce
Wants: Some playing time Gets: Substitute appearances. And a Furby.
Paul Hogg According to the rules, Hoggy cannot stand alongside Wilf and issue instructions from the technical area at the same time. Santa and the Northern Football League don’t quite see eye to eye, so it looks like the Allotment coach may have to take a back seat. Literally. Wants: An FA rule change Gets: A camping chair
Wants: Goals Gets: A better goal celebration
THREE MILES WEST WINTER 2013
Signed from Cramlington in February, Jed is still waiting for his chance to shine at Allotment, but has remained commendably faithful to the club. Santa has had a word with Stona about getting him a well-deserved runout, and has thrown in a Furby for good measure. All nineties children love Furbies.
E FI V P TO
GOALS THAT THE CAMERA JUST MISSED
Not all of Celtic’s goals this season has been chronicled by the camera, for one reason or another. Here’s a rundown of the best goals committed to living - rather than digital - memory.
5. DEAN LEE Tow Law Town, 17th November 2012 The fourth goal in a 5-1 rout, Dean’s delicate chip over the onrushing ‘keeper would have made quite a picture, were it not for the darkening skies in County Durham affecting the bridge camera’s aperture. Nevertheless, the strike was Deano’s fourteenth of the season - and arguably one of his best.
4. DAVID HENDERSON Tow Law Town, 17th November 2012 The fifth goal in the same game was missed for the same reasons. By the time Henders had come on as a substitute, the camera was back in the bag, owing to poor light. The darkness didn’t affect the wily attacker, as he stepped inside two defenders in the area, before lofting the ball over the goalkeeper’s head.
3. IAN DUNN Jarrow Roofing, 3rd November 2012 Allotment were thumped by Jarrow Roofing, with the Sky Tyne and Wear boys looking on. However, Celtic’s solitary goal - a fantastic long-range strike from Ian Dunn - didn’t make it into Sky’s highlights package. As the captain himself bemoaned on Twitter: “It was the only good goal of the game!”
2. JOHN PENDLEBURY Ryhope Colliery Welfare, 20th October 2012 Stoneman’s men were trailing by just one goal to league leaders Ryhope as a corner was cleared towards Penders. Instead of delivering the ball back into the danger area, he unleashed a howitzer from thirty yards that cannoned in off the underside of the bar. Nobody expected it - least of all the cameraman.
1. IAN DUNN Newcastle Benfield, 10th October 2012 At the start of the season, few would back Dunny to score from ten yards, let alone twenty-five, yet two of his long-range efforts have made this list. The captain unleashed a piledriver from distance to put Celtic on their way to a 3-0 victory. Will there ever be undeniable proof of the captain’s barely believable strikes? Only time will tell.
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JUSTOnside PICTURES, JAPES AND SPURIOUS STORIES FROM THE ALLOTMENT GRAPEVINE
IS FORMER NEWCASTLE LEGEND
STEVE WATSON SIGNING FOR ALLOTMENT?
Is that Marc with a ‘k’ or Mark with a ‘c’?
For the last time, it’s Derek. With a ‘c’.
MASTER OF THE UNUSUAL GIVEN NAME No.
If we’re all just specks of residue in an expanding and relentless cosmos, which runs concurrently with and against an infinite number of universes that we cannot begin to understand, does it really matter where I head the ball?
INJURY UPDATE Tony Lancaster Tony Lancaster is edging ever nearer to full fitness, after physio Andrea Jameson confirmed that the winger’s body was finally beginning to accept his new right leg. The former Wark man took the radical step of amputating the injury-plagued limb in an attempt to prolong his playing career - and the gamble looks set to pay off. “It’s not quite there yet, but I’m starting to get the hang of this one,” gushed Lancaster. “The last one flew off during the half-time warm-up, so I’ve tied this one down with cable ties and sellotape.” The new limb is not perfect - it is a considerably different size, shape and colour to his left leg - but should enable Tony to make a number of substitute appearances in the coming weeks whilst his old leg is repaired.
JOHN PENDLEBURY The thinking man’s footballer
HARRY STILL KEEN ON CELTIC
In unrelated news, new signing Ibrahim Ibrahim will miss the remainder of the season, after losing a leg in an “unfortunate training ground incident”.
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DESPITE taking the reins at Queen’s Park Rangers over a month ago, Harry Redknapp has refused to rule out the manager’s job at West Allotment Celtic. “I know Allotment very well. I nearly signed a couple of players from there during my time at Spurs,” the wheelerdealer admitted. “It’s a great job, but Paul’s doing a good job there. It’s really not my place to talk about the job when somebody else is in the job. But I would be interested in the job.”
An evening with
STEVE HARPER A West Allotment talk-in with Newcastle United’s long-serving ‘keeper “I was going to walk in with a tin hat on and a fire extinguisher, just for the banter.” Newcastle United may be struggling at present, but Steve Harper was on top form from the very beginning of the talk-in at West Allotment Social Club. The veteran ‘keeper could have spent the night relaxing ahead of a vital week for the Magpies, but instead, the affable stopper spent his Thursday night entertaining fans, journalists, committee members and players alike. Gently prompted by St. James’ Park announcer Justin Lockwood, Harper regaled the room with rib-tickling tales and vivid character profiles of many United favourites, drawing upon his nineteen long and colourful years at the club. Stories about Joey Barton and his “loose flickering wire”, Big Sam’s long and high ball training (“Oh I do LOVE that”), and John Burridge’s sauna sit-ups regularly had the adoring crowd in stitches. However, none were as entertaining as Steve’s flawless impression of the late, great Sir Bobby. “He called me Paul for the first six months, but he never seemed to get me and Shay mixed up,” the stopper recalled. The show-stopping anecdote came courtesy of the unconventional sharing of showers - and one particularly cheeky Frenchman. “He’s in the shower this one time, Bobby, he’s shampooing, and he’s trying to rinse his hair. What he doesn’t realise,” he says with a knowing grin, “is Lauren Robert standing next to him.” The ever-animated Harper gets up and shows how his former colleague was standing - holding a bottle of shampoo over Sir Bobby’s head. The room erupts. “He’s trying to rinse it, and there’s bubbles pouring down his face. He must’ve been doing it for five minutes. “There’s something wrong with the showers”. Priceless.” Newcastle’s most loyal servant held Sir Bobby - and fellow legend Kevin Keegan - in very high regard, speaking warmly and at length about two of the best man managers he had played under. As a boy, Steve didn’t occupy the number one jersey - or any goalkeeper’s jersey for that matter. “I didn’t play in goal until I was 15. I played centre-forward until I was 17. When I was 15, the school goalie broke his leg and I went in goal, kept a few clean sheets, and thought “this is easier than running about”.”
“I went in goal, kept a few clean sheets, and thought “this is easier than running about”.” However, an untimely error in a County Cup game led Harper to reconsider his position, and he soon returned to the forward line, playing well enough to warrant a trial for aspiring side Ipswich Town. “I didn’t go. I thought, “I’m going to go back in goal”. Which turned out to be a decent decision.” Thereafter, the newly christened goalie played for local side Seaham Red Star. Once again, a cup tie would go on to define his footballing career - only this time, the stakes were higher. Harper started in an FA Cup Second Round second replay match against Maine Road F.C. “They’d drawn 1 - 1, then drew the replay 1 -1, and then I went down there, a bag of nerves, 17 years old - and we actually won 5 - 0.” The performance was witnessed by a Newcastle scout, and Steve went on to sign a contract under the watchful eyes of Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott.
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From afar, Harper’s story looks to be one of Northern League rags to Premier League riches - but, as Steve himself pointed out, it wasn’t as simple as that. “I played out on loan at Gateshead when they were in the Conference, in the early days of being professional, so you could say I went from the Northern League into professional football, but then went to the Conference, then the next step being the lower leagues as well. So it is very much a progression.” Few players transcend the league system in such a manner, and the ‘keeper cautiously admitted that the current crop of superstars may struggle in the ninth and tenth tiers of English football. “Nowadays, the Premiership’s becoming a non-contact sport, so a lot of players would struggle in that respect.” On the other hand, Steve suggested that we would be “surprised how many players would be able to handle the physical side of it.” When pressed to name a former teammate who would potentially falter with the rough housing, the ‘keeper named an example that succinctly summed up his views on the matter. “I think Ginola might struggle with the physical element of the tackles in the Northern League,” he conceded - but with a telling proviso. “Whether anybody would be quick enough to catch him, I don’t know.” Despite making over 150 appearances for the Toon, Harper still vividly remembers his brief time in non-league football. “I probably only played about half a dozen games in the Northern League before I was picked up, so it’s very much a case of being in the right place at the right time,” the stopper admitted. That said, the boy from Easington clearly recalls the virtues of the Northern League. “It was a very tough league when I played in it back in the day.”
“I wouldn’t play in goal. But I would play centre-forward for you, definitely.” West Allotment occupied that very league, and Harper still remembers the one time he encountered the evening’s hosts. “I actually played against West Allotment Celtic twenty years ago. I played for the youth or reserve team and we beat them 4 - 1. I’ve got the video of it somewhere in my house, I’m sure I have.” What of the solitary goal that he conceded? “Wonder goal, West Allotment scored. No chance. Right in the top bin.” Unfortunately, only Steve has the video evidence, so we cannot confirm or deny his version of events. Harper could only recall that the fixture wasn’t hosted at Blue Flames - resident statistician Stephen Allott informed him from the rafters that it was played at Backworth Welfare - but has featured regularly at Allotment’s current home, Whitley Park. “I played in a reserve team game a couple of years ago, when I had a shot that bounced right in front of me, and actually reared up, hit me on the nose, and landed about 20 yards out. That’s how big a bounce it took.” Since then, United have invested heavily in their training facilities, and Harper was impressed with the outcome. “Now that they’ve done their pitch, by all accounts, it’ll be a lot better. You can play the right type of football on there. It’s a great ground.” Despite impressing whenever close friend and rival Shay
STEVE harper a career in brief
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1992-93 As a youngster, Steve shines in the few matches he plays for Seaham Red Star, and is soon scouted and snapped up by Newcastle United.
1998 Having impressed on loan at Gateshead, Hartlepool and Huddersfield, Harper makes his debut as a half-time replacement for Shay Given against visitors Wimbledon in late November.
Given was injured, Harper spent a large portion of his career warming the bench as United’s reliable number two - and credits Robson for his refusal to seek first-team football away from St. James’. “Bobby, like Keegan, could sell sand to the Arabs, the way he was. He was fantastic. ”No no, stick with us, son. You never know.” Then Shay played for five years on the spin.” Steve candidly admitted that, between 2001 and 2006, he wished he could have played more football - be it at Newcastle or elsewhere. However, an unfortunate incident with a future colleague would soon bring Steve back to the forefront of the first team. “It was only when Marlon Harewood smashed into Shay - after a rare bad touch from Marlon Harewood that really kickstarted my time here.” Having featured prominently for the Magpies in the past six years, that early sense of regret was somewhat diminished. “It was worth it. Since 2006, I’ve played about 120 or 130 games, and I played around a dozen games last season, which was a big bonus.” With his playing career drawing to a close, a figure as popular and loyal as Steve will have a wealth of options open to him within the game, and it is something that he will undoubtedly consider in the coming months. With former teammate Nolberto Solano earning his coaching stripes at Division One side Newcastle Benfield, is there any chance Harper could move into coaching - say, with another Northern League side like West Allotment Celtic? “I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see when football finishes, when I finish as a professional, see what opportunities are out there. I definitely want to stay in the game - as for what level that’s going to be, I wouldn’t rule anything in or out.” Harper soon went back on his word. Despite being an FA- approved referee, and officiating a number of games at school level, the veteran ruled out swapping the gloves for a whistle and an all black uniform. “Nah, I won’t be a referee. I’m too old to be a referee!” Peter Walton officiated in Premier League games well into his fifties, so we’re not buying that excuse. One final avenue that Steve did seem keen on was a continuance of his playing career at a lower level - albeit in a slightly different capacity. “I’d play outfield, I wouldn’t play in goal. I would play centre-forward,” the ‘keeper beamed. “When I finish as a professional goalkeeper, you will never ever see me with a pair of goalkeeping gloves on again.
1999 Steve breaks into the first team in Shay Given’s absence, appearing 29 times throughout the 1999-2000 season.
“Bobby was fantastic. “No no, stick with us, son. You never know.” Then Shay played for five years on the spin.” Ever. That chapter of my life will be over! But I would play centre-forward for you, definitely.” Here’s hoping that Paul Stoneman picked up his contact details as well as his autograph. The club would like to thank Steve Harper and Justin Lockwood for taking the time to assist the club in its fundraising efforts. Our thanks also go to Steven White for photographing the event, and to all those who attended the talk-in.
2009 After 16 years as one of the Premier League’s best backup ‘keepers, Steve is finally handed the number one jersey, and breaks a number of club records in the Championship.
Harper becomes United’s longestserving player in August, having stayed with the club for 19 long years.
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The model professional Former Celtic manager Terry Mitchell on his past at Allotment, the more recent past at Gateshead, and his future in professional full-time coaching In non-league football, managers come, go, and often come again. They offer full-time commitment on a part-time wage, combining their love of the game with a second vocation in order to pay the bills. Most managers remain on the semiprofessional carousel, but, on occasion, a supremely talented coach will transcend the boundaries and make it into the professional ranks. It’s even more gratifying when one of those coaches cut his teeth with your local team. Terry Mitchell arrived at West Allotment in 2002, with managerial experience at the now-defunct Newcastle Blue Star under his belt. By the time he accepted an offer to become Director of Youth Development at Hartlepool United, Terry had presided over the club’s most successful period in modern times, winning three consecutive titles, two promotions and the Craven Cup. Seven years on, Terry was - until one week after this interview - plying his trade in the Blue Square Premier with the ever-improving Gateshead. As Assistant Manager and First-Team Coach to Ian Bogie, Mitchell had made it to the big leagues - but has fond memories of his time in the tenth and eleventh tiers with Allotment. “I got the chance to work at a fantastic football club that’s very, very well-run from top to bottom, with great support from a fantastic committee. I’ve got to say a big thank you to them.” Mitchell is often credited by longtime fans as the man responsible for the glory years, but the highly decorated coach was quick to ensure that others received credit for the club’s glory years. “We had really
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good success at the club. It wasn’t just me, though - it was down to the good backroom staff that I had, and great support from the committee, on and off the field.” The best season turned out to be Terry’s last in charge. Mitchell’s newly-promoted men showed the Northern League just what they were made of in 2004/05, winning Division Two outright and earning a second consecutive promotion - and added the Craven Cup to their trophy haul. “When we went up, a lot of people were saying that we wouldn’t be able to play football in the second division of the Northern League, it’d be tough. With the style of football we played, we wouldn’t get success,” explained Mitchell. “So we blew that straight out of the water. We had really good players that always wanted to play football and we got great success with the league and cup double. We took that style of play into the league - I think we scored over 100 goals that year - even though people said it wouldn’t work. So that was definitely a highlight.” Of those good players, Terry was reluctant to name standout performers, suggesting that it would be “disrespectful to the other lads”. He did, however, extol the virtues of former Heed hitman Michael Chilton. “On the attacking front, obviously Michael Chilton scored 66 goals in the championship year. I’ve always said that a goalscorer is key to any team, and when Michael came he was outstanding in that period.” That said, the former manager was also keen to point out that supporting players, such as Dean Douglas and David Potts, “did their bit” for the team. “There were so many good players. We brought in a lot of good players,” he insisted. On the coaching front, Terry has done it all - from taking Saturday morning classes with nine year olds at St. Thomas More (myself included), to working with Newcastle United’s academy players, and finally to training senior professional footballers. Mitchell has the UEFA A License, the FA Academy Managers License and the FA Youth Coaches Award, and has had to put in the hours to get where he is today. “I’ve had to work my way up right from the bottom to near the top, into professional football,” he explained. “It was always my ambition to coach in professional football.”
Moving into his third season assisting on the other side of the Tyne, Terry was loving life at the Blue Square Premier club. “I loved being the manager, but I’ve really enjoyed this role as well. I’m doing the coaching, which I really like doing, so that’s the key,” Ian Bogie’s former right hand man admitted. “I’d love Gateshead to be in the Football League, that’s my ultimate aim.” Unfortunately, Terry won’t be part of any prospective promotion. Despite playing a vital role in establishing Gateshead as a Blue Square Premier side, the well-respected coach was relieved of his duties, along with Ian Bogie, with Gateshead sitting in 14th place just six points away from the projected target of the play-off places. The statistics bandied around - six wins in 22 games, four games without a win, etc. conceal the fact that the Heed have racked up more draws than defeats, and are still very much in contention for promotion to the Football League. Speaking prior to his dismissal, Terry highlighted the progress that Gateshead had made as a club in a very short space of time. “It was great progress,” Terry recalled. “When I first came to the club, we finished twentieth. Before I was there, we were part-time, but Ian did a great job getting them into the league, and they finished twentieth. Two years ago, we finished fourteenth, and made about ten points’ progress, then last season we got to eighth, and made another fourteen points of progress.” In a footballing culture that is quick to commend or condemn based almost entirely on recent form, this alternative set of statistics may well be forgotten, but fans and players alike have expressed their gratitude and sadness at Terry’s departure. He has the qualifications, the ability and the commitment required to manage a Football League club - and it’s something that the coach wouldn’t rule out in the future. “Everybody should be ambitious, and I’m no different to any other coach. I’ve still got a real burning desire to get into the Football League - either as a coach or as a manager. That’d be fantastic.” Even now, Terry is still a very keen follower of Allotment’s fortunes. “I’m always looking for their results. I think I might’ve been (to Whitley Park) once this season. I try to get there as much as I can, but obviously the job means there’s not much time now.” If West Allotment can earn six consecutive promotions, the committee could entice Terry back - but if Paul Stoneman gets Celtic into the Football League within the next decade, he’ll have the job for life. Images
© NFP Soccer.
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A retrospective chat with
DEAN LEE Harry Slavin reflects on his first interview with a Northern League footballer Back in September, a couple of anxious characters shuffled their way into a West Allotment Celtic training session and stood around aimlessly for a few minutes as they deciphered the best way to approach the team in order to pose a few trivial questions to a couple of the staff and players. The budding journalists were eventually put at ease when they were approached by manager Paul Stoneman who had been informed of their impending arrival. While Paul was unable to field any questions due to an impeccably timed prior arrangement, the pair were able to get word to Dean Lee that they wished to interview him at the end of the session, if he didn’t mind. As one of the ‘budding journalists’ I can admit that, despite having all the questions already prepared and having made sure my phone battery was at capacity in order to record any length of conversation, I was incredibly nervous. Even I realise how bizarre this sounds but a couple of things transpired to throw me into this state of fear, previously only ever reserved for Tyne-Wear derbies and calling my parents when strapped for cash. The first thing to cause me panic was my lack of experience in face-to-face interviews. I had been on the other side of the process when prospective employers and universities had wanted to interrogate me on my apparent skills and knowledge. That was different. I had also carried out a number of interviews as Sports Editor of my university paper but those had been conducted by phone or email. That was different too. In those previous discussions I would’ve had a computer screen to conceal my pensive facial expressions or a mobile phone to mask the glaze of sweat appearing on my forehead. If I showed any sign of weakness here there would be no hiding it. Dean would cotton onto it straight away, exposing me for the amateur I truly am and the jig would be up. While I was already shaken at the prospect of hosting my first ever interview in person, the fear was intensified by another train of thought; my previous experience with footballers. It has always been said to me “never meet your idols”, and if there is anything I have learnt since moving to Newcastle four years ago, this little grain of wisdom should always be adhered to. Whether it was approaching Andy Carroll and Nile Ranger in a nightclub or attending a meet and greet with Faustino Asprilla, the experience always tended to leave me with an uneasy feeling that my icons would rather have been bathing in a tub full of £20 notes than having to deal with the noisy little Scotsman in front of them. In fact, if it wasn’t for a chance meeting with the ever-enthusiastic Shola Ameobi in a city centre bar, my faith in footballers would have completely evaporated by now. While Dean Lee wasn’t a Premier League footballer, his form at the time of the interview would have allowed him the arrogance of any professional sportsman at the top of his game, scoring in 7 of Allotment’s opening 10 fixtures and netting in four consecutive games.
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probed about the team morale he was frank about the current situation. “If you get beat 7-1 then obviously it dampens the spirit, but the mood in the camp isn’t that bad.” An explanation was even offered for the disappointing scorelines, Lee concluding that the blame lied as much with the attackers as it did with the back four. “We just need to add more goals to the all round performance,” he admitted, “I look back at the Crook game and we didn’t take our chances, we just need to more clinical in front of goal.” While Lee fully recognised the poor form, it hadn’t deterred him from believing that Allotment were good enough to fulfil their pre-season targets, going on record with his goals for the rest of the season. “Hopefully the end goal is to get promoted,” he optimistically stated. “That was the target at the start of the season and I know there’ve been a few iffy results lately but the target hasn’t changed and the top three is where we want to be realistically and I think we can achieve that.” Dean Lee’s articulate and confident answers even had myself and Craig believing that a promotion push was nothing short of an inevitability, but unfortunately three months down the line we still appear to be waiting for it. I knew these stats only too well having researched the left winger as much as the internet would allow me before taking the trip down to Whitley Park, but still ill-prepared to go toeto-toe with one of the Northern League’s best and brightest. As it turned out, all my preconceived notions about Lee’s possible attitude and manner were obliterated within the first few seconds of meeting him. He walked off the training pitch and headed straight to meet us. After brief introductions the anxious pairing of myself and Craig were put at complete ease by Lee’s confession that he had never done anything like this before. Realising that the anxiety was mutual, the grip of fear loosened and I began to go through the process, or at least what I thought was the process, of an interview with Allotment’s top scorer. I went through the questions with Lee to give him a chance before we recorded and already he was making things a lot easier by opening up and trying to inject is own brand of humour into the answers. With Lee’s laidback approach, I quickly found myself in the middle of the easiest interview I had ever carried out and when we finally got around to discussing Allotment – the season they so far and the role he had played in it - the former North Shields man was unsurprisingly modest about his feats up to that point. “There’s quite a few goals there which I’ve been trying to add to my game so long may that continue,” he started, “but the three points is the most important thing to be honest – it’s not about individual performances – it’s about the three points at the end of the day.” Lee wasn’t for shirking away from the more difficult questions either. The interview came off the back of a couple of catastrophic results for the Division Two side and when
In fact, Allotment seem to be in a similar position as they were when I began the interview at Blue Flames – Lee is still banging in the goals having notched 16 now in 26 appearances, but Stoneman’s side have suffered demoralising defeats in recent encounters against North Shields and Northallerton Town. There are however a couple of significant changes that have happened since the interview. Firstly, one of the obstacles which Lee suggested hampered the side appears to have been overcome, as the form of striking duo of Liam Hudson and David Dormand has begun to ease the side’s overreliance on the left-winger’s goals. More importantly however, Dean Lee has restored my faith in footballers the world over, and for that I have to thank him, even if he does take baths in a tub full of £20 notes.
FAVOURITES Favourite team: Barcelona Footballing idol: Ronaldinho Pre-match meal: Cereal (Special K) Favourite film: Scarface
Celebrity crush: Abbey Clancy and Roxanne Pallett Away from West Allotment: Working and watching football on television Favourite goal: A strike against Team Northumbria to put Celtic 1 - 0 up
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THE DRAWING BOARD
West Allotment’s tactical formations - recent ? past, current present and prospective future
4-4-2 DORMAND HUDSON The old-fashioned British FINDLAY tactical staple is one of Stoneman and co’s LEE DUNN BELL McGLEN preferred formations. HUTCHINSON ALLEN REID LANCASTER Allotment have adopted this setup in 15 of their DUMMETT LITTLE STONEMAN PENDLEBURY 24 opening fixtures, with WILTHEW DOUGLAS relatively mixed success. Celtic have won five AMES of their games whilst BEAL playing in the traditional formation, defeating the likes of Thornaby, Selby Town and Alnwick Town, but have lost a further seven against tougher opposition. Allotment conceded seven to Ryhope, five to Thackley and four to Northallerton when playing with two attackers. In truth, Mike Bassett’s quintessential formation is best employed against less testing opposition, where Dean Lee can roam and Sean Reid can drive on from the centre of the park. With the right balance across the middle, Allotment could put their fluidity to good use - and notch up scores of goals in the process, without having to worry about conceding too many on the break.
BELL Allotment’s alternative tactic looks conservative to the McGLEN REID LEE ALLEN DUNN LANCASTER naked eye. In practice, the formation yielded 22 goals HUTCHINSON HENDERSON in eight games, and boasts a far superior difference to the West Allotment Celtic side that frequently plays 4-4-2. - a vast 20 goal margin. Stoneman’s charges put DUMMETT LITTLE STONEMAN PENDLEBURY seven past Billingham Town and five past Tow Law with WILTHEW DOUGLAS just one lone striker. Puzzling? Not when the balance within Allotment’s quintet of midfielders is considered. AMES Michael Bell and Sean Reid thrives in more advanced BEAL roles, providing a vital link between the midfield and the frontline by virtue of their technical and aerial abilities. hrow a born goalscorer like David Dormand or the hardworking Liam Hudson into the mix, and you have a setup that, on paper at least, looks a little less cautious. That said, Allotment have still shipped a hefty number of goals of late, despite playing with five across the midfield, conceding six at home to Shields, and another four when hosting both Northallerton Town and Darlington RA. The formation is only ever as good as the performances, which have been inconsistent of late.
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This formation is something of a rarity on BELL ALLEN DUNN these shores in general REID HENDERSON and is an even rarer sight DOUGLAS DUMMETT in the Northern League. McGLEN LEE With the side struggling WILTHEW STONEMAN LITTLE to string together a good run of results, and standard formations yielding mixed AMES results, the coaches tried BEAL to inject a little bit of continental style into the side, using the League Cup as a testing ground. The use of wingbacks and three centrehalves worked well for Napoli, why not West Allotment? In practice, Celtic’s secondstring side struggled to adapt to the system, as the players seemed unaccustomed to the unusual formation., as midfielders and defenders alike drifted in and out of position. Fortunately, a below-par Chester-le-Street side were unable to take full advantage of the confusion. Allotment ultimately won the game 2 - 1, but only after bringing Reid, Lee and Bell onto the pitch and reverting to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation. As a result, the 100% success rate is more than a little misleading. In the players’ defence, Northern League clubs have had to play two games a week since the season started, vetoing the possibility of explanatory training sessions. Even the Maradonas and Cavanis of this world would struggle to prosper in such a scenario. As such, the 5-3-2 will remain little more than a brief curiosity, rather than a sweeping tactical revolution.
4-3-3? In all the chopping and changing of October, one formation remains consigned to the West Allotment playbook. The 4-3-3 originated on another continent, was fostered within a different footballing climate, DUNN BELL ALLEN and has slowly but surely migrated to the United REID QUINN Kingdom. Pioneered by Rinus Michels’ Ajax side of the early 1970s, the formation is preferred by Europe’s elite clubs - including Chelsea, Manchester DUMMETT LITTLE STONEMAN PENDLEBURY City and Arsenal. Its ever-growing popularity has WILTHEW DOUGLAS even pervaded tier ten of the English league system - and don’t Allotment know it. Towards the end of AMES BEAL November, Celtic were put to the sword by two sides embracing the attack-minded setup. First, despite employing the 4-5-1, Allotment conceded six goals to a rampant North Shields side. Playing with two forwards didn’t change the outcome against Northallerton Town, who still put four goals past Ryan Beal and his defence. Allotment have just as much attacking potential within the squad as their free-scoring rivals, and, thanks to the timely returns of Henderson, Hutchinson and Lancaster, are well-stocked going forward. Whilst the likes of Lee, Hudson and Henderson would undoubtedly benefit from the tactical reshuffle, the formation would live and die by the performances of the three central midfielders. If Dunn’s all-round work rate is matched by his counterparts, Celtic could feasibly make it work. The prospect of tiki-taka football at a non-league level would have fans flooding to Whitley Park every Saturday. Wouldn’t it? An Allotment fan can dream. LEE HUTCHINSON
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