Northern League Day fixture: Birtley Town vs Horden CW
This is where I spent Non League Day, the inspiration for everything that’s taking place on April 9th. Anyone who has travelled from Newcastle to London on the train has passed within ten yards of this ground. You may not have noticed it, disguised as simply playing fields – but that should now change.
The ground was a target for vandals; any work completed was swiftly destroyed. A recently installed fence should alleviate this problem and allow for further ground improvement. Along one touchline is a small, all-seater stand with the dug-out tucked between this and a covered standing area. Plans are in place to build a clubhouse, with volunteers being asked to help out over this coming summer. The tea hut is a window out of the changing rooms, set just back from the pitch. If you are after a pre-match pint then the William IV pub is a five-minute walk up Durham Road from the ground.
Birtley are one of the poorest clubs in the Northern League system. On the eve of the 2009/10 season their sponsor failed to provide promised money, almost all of their players left and their pr-season plans were left in ruins. Money trouble had caused problems during the previous season and the management team departed with Northern League stalwarts Scott Oliver and Owen Peterson taking over the duties. They played that season using over 90 players and finished rock bottom with just sixteen points.
This season has been different. Birtley have one of the best pitches in the league, testament to drainage work completed last summer. They have a more settled squad and if they hadn’t have been unlucky with players leaving to join clubs who could pay them a little money, or injuries at key times of the season, then they may be challenging the top six. Instead they sit in mid-table.
Key to their success is the manager Scott Oliver, a keen tactician who is continually improving his young squad of players. If Birtley can keep Oliver and get even a little bit of money into the club, they could very well be a Northern League Division 2 team to watch next season.
On Northern League Day they play Horden Colliery Welfare at the BSC with a 3pm kick-off. The visitors are managed by ex-Hartlepool United legend Brian Honour and their youthful team try to play a slick passing game. Birtley won the game at Horden by a score line of 1-0. Revenge will be in the air and it’ll be interesting to see how Oliver lines his team up for their final home game of the season.
If you’re at a loose end on Northern League Day then go to one of the friendliest clubs I’ve been to this season. Go to Birtley Town.
If you’re travelling on the A1 you should exit at junction 63 (Chester-le-Street). If you’re travelling from the south you should take the second exit; if you’re travelling from the north you should take the fifth
exit. Travel on the A693 and turn right at the first roundabout following signs to Birtley and the A6127 (Durham Road). As you drive up Durham Road you’ll pass Birtley Leisure Centre on your left (a Motorhome showroom is on your right). Turn left just after, at the disused garage, and parking is available through the gates.
Things are just as easy by public transport with a number of buses connecting Birtley to Newcastle and Gateshead town centre.
Many thanks to Andy Hudson for providing this ground guide. For more of Andy’s travels around the Northern League and beyond, head on over to his blog, Gannin’ Away.