The Northern Alliance Story So Far

Like most of Europe’s other top leagues, the Northern Football Alliance started its winter break after the weekend’s round of fixtures. Non-league football watcher and Percy Main fan Ian Cusack’s take on the season to date:

The Northern Alliance is a bit like La Liga; not for us the vulgar bonhomie of festive football, with handshakes on the terraces and the swapping of hip flasks by rubicund men in freshly unwrapped sweaters. Instead, we withdraw and contemplate on the highlights, or otherwise, of the season so far.

Glenn Roeder is a good man; I liked him as a player for Newcastle and I had no objection to him coming in as boss after the fiasco that was the Souness Administration. While Roeder successfully got Newcastle playing football in the latter half of the 2005/2006 season, including highlights such as Shearer breaking Milburn’s scoring record, the 4-1 annihilation of the Mackems and a 7th place finish that seemed scarcely possible when we’d lain 15th in late January, the job of permanent boss was too big for Roeder. Admittedly he was the second Newcastle manager to win a European trophy, when the 2006 Inter Toto Cup was secured when Auxerre beat Livorno (don’t ask), but league form was atrocious and he resigned in May 2007 after a particularly dire 2-0 home loss to Blackburn, stating “it’s been a bloody awful season,” a sentiment we at Purvis Park can empathise with as the 2011/2012 campaign reaches its midpoint with us having lost 32 players since September; a frightening turnover by any standards. Frankly, when the home game against Harraby Catholic Club was called off on the Friday night before the scheduled 17th December fixture, we all cheered as it meant we’d not be beaten that weekend!

So, who’s hot and who is not in the rest of the Alliance? At the top of the Premier Division, Heaton Stann lead Carlisle City by a point, with Killingworth in 3rd, with Harraby Catholic Club down in 7th but with games in hand always likely to be a threat. At the bottom, Murton are struggling, but so too are Ponteland United; not in a relegation spot yet it’s true, but the reigning champions lost 8-1 at home to Whitley Bay A and 6-1 at Reyrolle in successive weeks. Things look ominous for them.

Pos Club
1. HEATON STAN 14 10 2 2 32
2. CARLISLE CITY 14 10 1 3 31
3. KILLINGWORTH 16 9 2 5 29
4. ASHINGTON 15 7 4 4 25
5. SHANKHOUSE 15 8 1 6 25
6. WHITLEY BAY A 14 7 3 4 24
7. HARRABY 12 8 0 4 24
8. SEATON DEL 14 7 1 6 22
9. BLYTH TOWN 13 7 1 5 22
10. HEBBURN REY 13 6 3 4 21
11. STOCKSFIELD 15 5 2 8 17
12. PERCY MAIN 17 3 5 9 14
13. WALKER CENT 17 4 2 11 14
14. PONTELAND 17 3 3 11 12
15. RUTHERFORD 14 4 2 8 11
16. MURTON 16 3 2 11 11

Down in Division 1, the big story has involved the sad demise of Wark; the Tyne Valley Club were 3rd in the Premier only 2 seasons ago, but they’ve lost players, committee and backing, so they chucked it, as did perennial strugglers Newcastle East End as new manager Tosh Burke was unable to raise a team, echoing the frustrations of previous boss Anth Doyle. The result being, following the disappearance of both Berwick United and Stobswood in pre-season, as well as Peterlee’s defection to the Wearside League, the division is operating with a scarcely credible total of 11 teams. It is unclear whether the Alliance will operate the usual 2 up, 2 down policy, as 16-14-14 is rumoured to be next season’s preferred Alliance structure (currently it is 16-11-16); that would be great for D2 teams wanting to come up and D1 teams not wanting to go down, especially Chemfica whose record at their new Newcastle University Coach Lane base (not the Cochrane Park one) is played 9, lost 9, though they did draw 0-0 with Newcastle University on the adjoining pitch to their own. At the top, Amble United are well set for promotion, as are the non-nonsense Wallsend Town outfit, though the table is lopsided in the number of games teams have played.

Pos Club
1. AMBLE UNITED 13 12 1 0 37
2. WALLSEND TN 14 11 0 3 33
3. WALLINGTON 10 7 1 2 22
4. HEDDON 11 7 1 3 22
5. GOSFORTH BOH 14 6 2 6 20
6. CRAMLINGTON 11 4 2 5 14
7. NEWCASTLE U 8 3 1 4 10
8. CULLERCOATS 10 3 1 6 10
9. MORPETH SC 12 2 1 9 7
10. CHEMFICA 12 1 2 9 5
11. FOREST HALL 11 1 0 10 3

In Division 2, Gosforth based Red House Farm and South Shields outfit Harton & Westoe are well in contention for the top two places, but Wallsend Boys’ Club Seniors are riding high as well. It is good news that all 5 new teams (Alnwick Reserves, Alston, Bedlington Reserves, New Fordley and Whickham Lang Jacks) are holding their own, but spare a thought for poor Cramlington United, who are 8 points adrift at the bottom, having only won a single game; their victims, Northbank travelled all the way over from Carlisle to lose that one!

Pos Club
1. RED HOUSE 15 11 3 1 36
2. HARTON & W 13 8 4 1 28
3. WALLSEND BC 15 9 3 3 27 (3 points deducted)
4. HEXHAM 12 6 5 1 23
5. NORTHBANK 11 8 1 2 22 (3 points deducted)
6. ALNWICK RES 12 7 0 5 21
7. ALSTON 15 6 3 6 21
8. WIDEOPEN 16 5 5 6 20
9. NEW FORDLEY 17 6 2 9 20
10. BEDLINGTON R 13 6 1 6 19
11. LANG JACKS 13 4 3 6 15
12. WILLINGTON Q 12 4 2 6 14
13. N SHIELDS ATH 16 4 1 11 13
14. SEATON BURN 14 3 3 8 12
15. SWALWELL 14 3 3 8 12
16. CRAM’TON U 14 1 1 12 4

On top of their league commitments, there are the Alliance’s 5 cup competitions for teams to compete in: three divisional trophies (Challenge, Combination and Amateur as we look down), the George Dobbins Memorial League Cup for all teams and the Bill Gardner Memorial Trophy, for those who lose in the first round of the League Cup. The League Cup is down to the last 8, with 6 Premier and 2 First Division clubs left in it, with the games scheduled for January (as if!!). In the Challenge Cup, Heaton Stann face Carlisle City in an intriguing semi-final, while Percy Main’s conquerors Harraby must travel to Whitley Bay. In the Challenge Cup, the semis see Gosforth Bohemians host Wallsend Town in a struggle ideal for sociologists everywhere, while Amble United go to Newcastle University. In the Amateur Cup last 4, Whickham Lang Jacks face Bedlington Terriers Reserves and Willington Quay Saints host Harton & Westoe Colliery Welfare, in what must be the game with the two teams who have highest amount of letters in their names in the league. The Bill Gardner Trophy semis haven’t been drawn yet, but the last 4 are: Bedlington Terriers Reserves, Newcastle University, Wallsend Town and Wideopen & District.
As well as the Alliance cups, Premier Division sides from Northumberland are in the NFA Benevolent Bowl, along with Prudhoe Town of the Wearside League (it’s a complicated one to explain). It’s at the last 8 now. The First and Second Division teams join with the Corinthian League, the Tyneside Amateur League and the North Northumberland League to play in the NFA Minor Cup, which is now at the last 16, with 9 Alliance teams left in it. As regards teams in the Durham FA, Hebburn Reyrolle face Brandon British Legion in the semi-final of the County Trophy, while Whickham Lang Jacks fly the Alliance flag in the Durham Minor Trophy second round. In Cumbria, Harraby are in the quarter final of the county cup. If asked I’ll let you know how it all pans out as season’s end!

For more of Ian’s work, check out the superb Payaso del Mierda blog or follow him on twitter here.

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One Response to The Northern Alliance Story So Far

  1. Andy Hudson says:

    Great update; cheers!

    It highlights the problems that teams have in non-league; even if they can financially survive, they still have to raise a team each week.

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