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Geordie Hopping

Geordie was a villian.

Geordie Crump was a villian
Geordie Crump was really hard
Geordie Crump did sliding tackles
In Windy Nook school yard………ouch
But I had too much skill for him
Nutmegged him once or twice
But for making a mug of Geordie
I paid a hefty price.
While waiting for a corner kick
Geordie punched me in the ribs
Then ran his boots right down my shins
I spent a week with Doctor Gibbs.
So I quickly learned my lesson
And to save my looks and pride
I refused to play in school yard games
Unless Geordie was on my side.

John Oliver (1943- )




Tuesday 16th April Uhlsports Hellenic League k.o.:- 7.45pm

Premier Division

Highworth Town                             2

Bradley Clark 26, 43,

Wantage Town                                 4

Richard Clayden 59,

Tom Melledew 62 (pen),

Stuart Cattell 64,

Ben McCready 79 (pen),

Referee:-                                  Attendance:- 110


The Elms is probably James’ favourite Hellenic League ground. Tonight, he was there with dad and brother Mike for a clash with title favourites Wantage Town. The game was being sponsored by some chap that James had met at Shrivenham, when we were both there,  earlier in the season (Wednesday 22nd January 2014 Uhlsports Hellenic Floodlit Cup – 3rd Round:- Shrivenham 2 Tuffley Rovers 1, attendance:- 22), and it was a case of free drinks all round as soon as we entered the club house. At half time we were invited to join in the sandwiches, tea and biscuits!


It was a balmy evening, but cool, and Wantage had brought a noisy bunch of travelling ‘ultras’ with them. I use the word ‘ultras’ advisedly as, certainly, none of them looked much into their teens for all their bluster and bravado!

It all started so well for the home side. They dominated the first half and went in at half time, two goals to the good. Whatever was put into The Alfredians half-time cuppa, it certainly did the trick. They took the game by the scruff of the neck and with the slope in their favour, they swept away the host’s two goal advantage and established one of their own. One  more victory will assure them of The Hellenic league title and with it, promotion to The Southern League.


Wednesday 16th April 2014 Chromasport &Trophies United Counties League

Knock-Out Cup Semi-final k.o.:- 7.45pm

Huntingdon Town                          5

Ben Seymour-Shove 14,

Jacob Joyce 26,

Declan Rogers 66, 74,

Stuart Eason 86,

Boston Town                                   0

Referee:-                             Attendance:- 66


Ahead of the big’hop; in the north-east, I chose a relatively local fixture and met up with Jack, from Lowestoft, who had made the long journey over to tick Jubilee Park off his list of United Counties League grounds!


Jubilee Park is not one of my favourite football venues. It has considerably improved over the years to the point where The Huntingdonshire FA hold some of their cup finals there. There is now a proper club house and a couple of Meccano stands have been installed down one side. But ……… it is still a very cold ground. The wind cuts like a sjambok and howls across the wide open spaces. It is not a place to be for a match on an icy January evening.


Tonight’s visitors were Boston Town and both teams were flying high in the league, but this was a semi-final of The League Knock-out Cup. Boston brought Daryl Clare with them. He plays for them, but is also a coach. In his heyday he commanded sums of up to £250,000 in transfers between non-league clubs and was the terror of many a Conference defence!

This evening, Huntingdon took efficient control early on and established a commanding two goal advantage by half-time. In the second half, three further goals were added and Boston Town were unceremoniously dumped out of the competition. Deeping Rangers await in the final.


Thursday 17th April 2014 EBAC Northern League  k.o.:- 7.30pm

Division 1

Dunston UTS                                  2

Andrew Bulford 31,

Danny Craggs 60,

Hebburn                                          0

Referee:- Simon Clayton          Attendance:- 148


‘Nulli secundus’ – Second to none!

The fourth and final leg of the Northern League ‘hop’ to commemorate 125th anniversary of the league, doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but there were dozens of hoppers at tonight’s match. I had picked Dave up from Darlington Railway Station and we had parked our bags at the guest house in South Shields, before deciding on this match rather than Brandon United or Whickham, who were also playing at home this evening! I had already been to both of those grounds, whilst Dunston was new territory!


The ground was lovely on the eye in the warm, early evening sunshine. Programmes were only 50p each, there was tea and coffee and pies with mince meat inside them, which appear to be a local speciality! I was impressed, as I was throughout the ‘hop’, with the neat and tidy appearance of the stadia and the friendliness of the officials. This evening, they were only too happy to provide printed team sheets before the start of the match.


“Buddy”, the Border Collie, took a keen interest in the match (see below). He featured in a recent issue of “Northern Ventures”, the magazine of The Northern League.


Hebburn, the visitors are already relegated from the first division, this season and will ply their trade next season in the league’s second tier. Despite their defeat, this evening, they contributed to a lively and entertaining match, with the hosts maintaining their seventh placed position in the division.


Friday 18th April 2014 EBAC Northern League       K.o.:- 11.00am

Division 2

North Shields                                 3

Kieran Wrightson 37,

Dean Holmes 53,

Dan Smart 80,

West Allotment Celtic                 0

Referee:- Craig Gilbraith        Attendance:- 1,312


“Messis ab altis” – Harvest from the deep!

At first sight the message above suggests a fishing connection. However, the harvest probably refers as much to the deep level coal mining for which this part of the country was once world famous. The Darren Persson Stadium in Chirton was a gem of a ground – once again in very good condition and spick and span. The Northern League doesn’t believe in new fangled ideas. There are no ‘premier’ divisions here and evening kick-offs are at 7.30pm and not 7.45pm. Equally, there are no promotion or relegation play-offs. You gain promotion on merit!


There was a huge attendance for today’s match. Admittedly, it was a match between the top two clubs in the second division, with North Shields already promoted as champions and the visitors hoping to seal a promotion place as runners-up. At the start of the second half, we sat in the stand, speculating on how many might be in the ground. When I eventually nipped off to find the official attendance, we had gained a consensus that suggested a figure of not more than around 750 spectators. There was stunned shock when I came back with the official attendance of nearly twice that figure!


He might have played centre-forward for North Shields (and Boldon Villa and Jarrow and worked down the pits as a coal miner, too!), but big Sam Bartram played in goal for twenty-two years for Charlton Athletic. Signed up by Jimmy Seed, Charlton Athletic’s iconic manager, for nothing from North Shields, he even gained a couple of England caps, which was far less than he deserved! He also featured in the 1956 fixture against Huddersfield Town at The Valley when Charlton trailed their visitors 1-6 with half an hour to go, yet managed to win the game 7-6! Shortly afterwards he left to take over as manager of York City!


As for the game, there was little more than a regulation victory for the champions. West Allotment Celtic were no match for them either in skill and, more particularly, desire. Three goals without reply constituted a fair reflection of play.


We had been warned about the North Shields ‘Ultras’ and they did, indeed, pack the steep terracing close to the nearside goal, but on the far touch line. They were noisy and irreverent, but they provided a positive contribution to the spectacle that unfolded and no doubt will be boosting the noise levels at first division grounds next season!


For the first match of the ‘hop’, the weather was bright and sunny, but chilly. Our packs of programmes were available and every club had provided one except Bishop Auckland. Harvey Harris, the Northern League ‘hop’ organiser, promised that they would be available ahead of Bishop’s Monday encounter against Crook Town. Some hoppers privately suggested that Bishop Auckland were not the best organised club in the league!


Friday 18th April 2014. EBAC Northern League     K.o.:- 2.39pm

Division 1

Whitley Bay                                   2

Andy Robertson 64,

Craig McFarlane 79,

Newcastle Benfield                      1

Craig Smith (og) 86,

Referee:- Stuart Campbell          Attendance:- 588


“Ludus est omnis” – The game is everything!

This was a wonderful ground. It looked as if it had been taken right out of the nineteenth century. Once again, it was spruce and beautifully maintained. It was a capacious arena as befits one of the giants of Northern League football, but once again, everyone was especially helpful and team sheets were provided before kick-off.


Bay have been enjoying a lean season by their standards. It doesn’t seem like yesterday when they were appearing in three consecutive Wembley Vase finals, but this season they are marooned in mid-table with nothing to play for at the end of a long season.


Their opponents, Newcastle Benfield, whom we visited on the second leg of The Northern League ‘hop’ back in October (Saturday 26th October 2013 EBAC Northern League Division 1: Newcastle Benfield 2 Morpeth Town 1 attendance:- 328), were similarly becalmed in mid-table, but the match had nothing of an end of season feel about it! There were no goals until after the hour mark, when Bay opened up a two goal advantage. Benfield pulled one back through an own goal by a Bay defender, but it was too little, too late.


Mike tucks, with great relish, into a particularly tasty looking Whitley Bay burger


Friday 18th April 2014 EBAC Northern League      K.o.:- 6.30pm

Division 1

Ashington                                            7

Glen Taylor 12, 34, 90+1

James Taylor 39,

James Novak 60,

David Carson 70,

Dean Briggs 87,

Crook Town                                      3

Marc Ellison 42,

Robbie Bird 59,

Matthew Weirs 89,

Referee:- Paul Newhouse            Attendance:- 597


The final match of the first day of the ‘hop’ took us out to Ashington. It seems really strange never consulting a map book. The little red bible contains the postcodes of all the non-league clubs and before each game, we just fed in the information and sped on our way. We had no idea whether it was north, or south or east or west!

I never had the chance to visit Ashington’s previous stadium at Portland Place in the middle of the town. That was supposed to be an edifice of some distinction, although a little tarnished towards the end. The new arena at Woodhorn Lane is a soulless affair. There is covered standing area down almost the entire length of one side and a stand for perhaps a hundred and fifty spectators on the opposite side. It has the feel of a prefab house from the early fifties, put up in a hurry and not expected to last!


Half way through the first half, a horse somehow got into the ground and for several minutes ran amok on the tarmac area behind the far goal, before being gently shepherded back out of the ground. That probably provided much of the first half entertainment!

In the second half, the away side, Crook Town, subsided. They weren’t thrashed, they always appeared to be in the game. Indeed, the best two goals came from Crook Town. In the end, they shipped seven and it could have been ten. They did score three, however, and could have had one or two more!


Saturday 19th April 2014  EBAC Northern League      K.o.:- 11.00am

Division 2

Jarrow Roofing BCA                              1

Andy Appleby 13,

Heaton Stannington                              0

Referee:- K. Beckett                       Attendance:- 350


Two grounds are adjacent to each other at this juncture, Jarrow Roofing Boldon Community Association FC, to give it its full nomenclature and Boldon Community Association FC, who play in The Wearside League. It was all a little confusing. On my last visit (Saturday 26th March 2005 FA Vase Semi-final 2nd leg: Jarrow Roofing BCA 0 Didcot Town 1, attendance:- 1,100), I didn’t even notice that there was a second ground so close!


A sign in the club house – what would Jimmy Savile have made of it?


This was a ground in need of a little love and affection. It had a somewhat dilapidated look about it, without the feel of olde-worlde charm with which some grounds are able to hide their deficiencies.

Both the home side and their visitors, Heaton Stannington, still harboured hopes of promotion, but it was Jarrow who were the better placed and today’s narrow victory snuffed out the dying embers of Heaton Stannington’s fading hopes. This was Stannington’s first season back in The Northern League since 1951/52 and only their eighth, in total, since the league’s foundation back in 1889. They had some trouble over installing floodlights (I have made two visits to  their ground, but I have yet to see the floodlights!), but everything is now in order and their place in the league, after a highly successful season, is no longer in jeopardy.


The game was won with an early goal to the home side, and thereafter, despite a dour struggle, neither side was able to unlock the other’s defence.


Simon and Dave (nearest the camera). Dave had the dubious pleasure of my driving him to all the fixtures. Simon went on the coach!


Saturday 19th April 2014 Wearside League     K.o.:- 2.30pm

Sunderland West End                             1

John Coomber 86 (pen),

Harton & Westhoe CW.                          0

Referee:- David Carr                       Attendance:- 44


I have no idea what the quote says, although ‘procerus’ is a muscle at the top of the nose!

This was my only deviation from the ‘hop’. I had already been to Washington Nissan’s ground, when Sunderland Nissan played there, so Dave went off with Martin and I betook myself to the Pennywell district of Sunderland for an afternoon Wearside fixture.

I had actually seen Sunderland West End when they played a pre-season friendly at Crook Town (Thursday 25th July 2013 Pre-Season Friendly Crook Town 5 Sunderland West End 0 attendance:- 82). Speaking to some of their supporters there, it seemed that they had big plans for an assault on a Northern League place. When I got to Ford Quarry, I realised how false those hopes were! However, speaking to the officials, as I wrote the teams down, it seems that plans are in progress both to erect floodlights and to enclose the ground, but not in the immediate future!


This wasn’t a particularly appetising game. West End made a habit of over-elaborating their attempts on goal. Several times, they contrived to miss the target from eminently favourable positions, hitting bar or post when the net loomed! It was one of those games which should have had plenty of goals, but was settled by a penalty barely four minutes from time. Even then, speculation was rife amongst the small band of hoppers present, that this could be another spectacular and costly miss! In the event, it proved to be the winner for the home side!

Below, a banner commemorating a local sixteen year old youth who died playing football nearby. He had no particular connection with West End, but the club have raised a great deal of money, including £10,000 for the air ambulance, on behalf of the trust fund.


Saturday 19th April 2014 EBAC Northern League    K.o.:- 6.00pm

Division 2

Birtley Town                                              3

Damon Reaks 14,

Mattie Lowrie  73,

Cameron Nichol  81,

Chester-le-Street                                     1

Robert Draper  71,

Referee:- M Ryan                             Attendance:- 329


I was back on the ‘hop’ in Birtley for the final game of the day. We had been warned that there wasn’t much at the ground, but they did have the excellent mince pies and mushy peas to go with them. It was so good that I went back for a second helping!

This was a comfortable victory for Birtley Town, but I was unimpressed by one home fan in the stand who made a determined effort to rile one of the away fans and then, when he succeeded, half way through the second half, started bleating on about ‘free speech’. He was lucky he didn’t get a free bunch of fives!


Sunday 20th April 2014   A special visit to the ground of Harton & Westhoe:-


Dave and I were staying in Westhoe Road in South Shields and so, before setting off for the first game today, we went to find Harton & Westhoe’s ground. They were the team playing (and losing) at Sunderland West End, yesterday. We were pretty impressed with their ground. There were floodlights and  cover along one side, with an impressive club house on the far side of the pitch. I will have to come back and see them play!DSCN3599

Sunday 20th April 2014   EBAC Northern League    K.o.:-12 noon

Division 1

Consett                                                     0

Durham City                                           1

Ricky Fenwick 73,

Referee:- Barry Gordon              Attendance:- 411


Consett, who have only moved to their new ground this season, were the only ground on the ‘hop’ with a plastic surface. I had been to their beautiful old ground at the end of last season (Monday 6th May 2013 EBAC Northern League Division 1: Consett 1 Marske United 2 attendance:- 138). Sadly, the old place was crumbling and the maintenance costs must have been horrendous. The new ground, with its 4G pitch and Meccano stands, has nothing of the allure of the old Belle Vue Park, but would be able to pay its own way in letting fees.


This was definitely not the best game of the weekend. Two sides from mid-table slugged out a war of attrition with only one goal to show for all their efforts.


Durham City, another Northern League club with a plastic pitch, took the honours and the points and I bought a book “Northern Goalfields Revisited” by Brian Hunt. When I got home, I found that I already had a copy! If anybody would like to purchase  a copy ……………


I’ve yet to find a bar which sells real ale at any of the clubs we have so far visited!


Sunday 20th April 2014 EBAC Northern League     K.o.:- 3.00pm

Division 2

Ryton & Crawcrook Albion                              1

Dean Sinclair 71,

Whickham                                                         1

Matthew Atkins 33,

Referee:- Mr John Harper                   Attendance:-  473


This was another revisit from last July (Monday 22nd July 2013 Clayton Cup Group Round:- Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 2 Wallington 1 attendance:- 56) and the only change was in the atmosphere. Gone was the optimism of the new season. All that was left behind was the fear and the threat of relegation and, indeed, of losing their place in the league!


The club programme told us that the previous ground record attendance was 220 and that they were hoping today’s crowd would break that record. The attendance of 473 absolutely smashed that record to smithereens!


Whickham, today’s visitors were pretty comfortably placed in eighth position. The hosts prop up the entire second division and there seems very little possibility that they will escape the dreaded drop!


The stadium has a ramshackle and piecemeal appearance. It is as if somebody had let Mr Heath Robinson in to build a football ground and given him free rein. For all that, it has a certain rustic charm. Even the pitch is rustic. It undulates and slopes and you can imagine that cattle graze there in between fixtures.


Kingsley Park, Stannerford Road, Crawcrook


In both of the photographs above and below, you can see why Graeme always remarks “bus shelters” whenever the ground is mentioned. The former bus shelters give some respite from the elements high up on the near side of the pitch. They even have wooden bench tables to provide seating.


In the background, the horses graze in the field adjacent to the ground. On the pitch, the hosts fell behind to an early Whickham goal and all their forlorn hopes lay in tatters. Even an equaliser, twenty minutes from time, failed to dispel the gloom!


There is always the possibility of a quick return from The Wearside League next season, á la Ryhope CW.


Monday 21st April 2014 EBAC Northern League   k.o.:- 12.00noon

Division 1

Bishop Auckland                                                  8

Kieran Megran 25, 45+1,

Craig Hodgson 37,

Daniel Hawkins 43,

Christopher Lawson 48,

Daniel Brunskill 57, 63,

Glen Lane 70,

Crook Town                                                         1

Kyle Davies 58,

Referee:- Simon Clayton                          Attendance:- 434


When we got to Heritage Park, the home of Bishop Auckland, it appeared that Bishops really were as disorganised as their lack of programmes indicated! When we presented our pre-paid tickets, the gateman couldn’t let us in because no-one had told him how to record pre-paid ticket holders! Once we did get inside, the programmes had arrived and, furthermore, Harvey Harris made absolutely sure that everyone who had pre-ordered one, got their copy in a plastic bag. Then the club secretary, having informed me that there would be no team sheets, actually came and sought me out to provide me with one. I take back all I said about lack of organisation!


Some of the murals in Picasso mode which adorned the walls of the club house


Graeme joined us for today’s matches. He had been staying with relatives in Alnmouth and caught the train down to Newcastle, where Dave and I picked him up. Dave and I said our good-byes to Atholl House, where we had stayed for the past four nights,  Graeme’s train was on time and we travelled, sedately as ever, down to Bishop Auckland for the antepenultimate match.


Heritage Park is a fine new stadium which Bishop Auckland presently share with Darlington 1883. The playing surface showed signs of the wear and tear! Above you can see the uncovered seating behind the right hand goal. Below is the covered terracing behind the opposite goal.

Crook Town were the opponents, fresh from their heavy defeat at Ashington on Friday!


They suffered an even heavier defeat today, and, once again, they could have conceded even more goals! I was a tad surprised at the relatively meagre attendance for a club of such stature. On my last visit (Friday 8th November 2013 EBAC Northern League Division 1 Bishop Auckland 2 Morpeth 1 attendance 447), the attendance had been higher with hardly a hopper in sight!


Monday 21st April 2014 EBAC Northern League    k.o.:-  3.00pm

Division 1

Spennymoor Town                                          4

Lewis Dodds 13,

Keith Graydon 52,

Daniel Taylor  80, 90+2 (pen)

Team Northumbria                                       1

Ben Sayer 84,

Referee:- Mr P. Stalker                       Attendance:-  627


“Spe nemo ruet” – With hope, nobody will fail


This was another fine looking, traditional ground. Even bearing in mind that the stand on the far side to the one above had been burned down along with the social club in an alleged act of insurance fraud by a former owner, the stadium was still impressive. If, as expected, they are crowned Northern League champions, then they will grace The Northern Premier League next season.


Today’s visitors were Team Northumbria who are teetering on the verge of relegation to division two. A trip to the champions elect is hardly the most attractive fixture when you’re struggling to avoid relegation.


Don with his camera. He actually caught me on film with my wallet open!!!!

Team Northumbria competed very well for  most of this match. They had the best player on the pitch in Ben Sayer, who scored their only goal. Eventually, they were undone by the sheer power of the home team, but they surely didn’t deserve to lose by 4-1.


Monday 21st April 2014 EBAC Northern League    k.o.:- 6.00pm

Division 1

Newton Aycliffe                                            1

Kerry Hedley 4,

Shildon                                                          1

Ben Wood 69 (pen),

Referee:- S. Sugden                           Attendance:-  446


The final game of the ‘hop’ was at the tiny village of Newton Aycliffe, about five or six miles from Darlington. Their ground is in a complex of sporting venues which includes rugby and cricket. The  football ground is at the end of the other venues and a long walk from the car parks.


Martin, the cameraman, caught on film


Their stadium is somewhat sparse and certainly no better than second division Birtley Town. However, they are comfortably ensconced in the senior division and this evening, they were playing Shildon, who have a very outside chance of taking the Northern League championship. In his programme notes, the manager showed his colours stating that they were going to give Shildon a good run for their money!


And so it proved to be. The home side scored in the fourth minute and clung like limpets to their lead until Shildon prised an equaliser from the penalty spot twenty minutes from the end. Those dropped points probably took Shildon out of the title race!

After the game, Dave was decanted at a hotel in Darlington and Graeme at the railway station to catch his train back to Alnmouth. That left me to drive back to Northamptonshire and I made the 168 miles in just under two hours by 10.30pm, around the time that Graeme’s train was pulling into Alnmouth!


It had been a gruelling marathon of a weekend, but also hugely enjoyable. Harvey Harris is to be commended for all the hard work he put into ensuring the success of the ‘hop’. The clubs were welcoming and very helpful and even our cut-price guest house was a bargain. We couldn’t understand the Geordie accent of the proprietor but certainly, Dave enjoyed his full English breakfast each morning, whilst I enjoyed several tots each evening at The Stag, just down the road.

Would I go again?  You bet!!!!

Matches this season:- 203   New grounds this season:-  138

Matches this year:-  85         New grounds:- 52


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