West Allotment Celtic: Keeping Local Football Alive

Last season was a disaster for West Allotment Celtic: three managers in nine months and a first ever relegation for a club that was founded in 1928. This season – Allotment’s eighth in the Northern League – has been one of consolidation, Paul Stoneman’s side currently eighth in Division Two with seven games to play. “A canny first season,” chairman Roland Mather recently told the The Sunday Sun. Mather should know: he’s been involved with the club for over half a century and followed his father into the chairman’s role.

Despite the semi-exotic name, West are firmly rooted in the east end of Newcastle, the club itself the product of a merger between two local sides, the Primitive Methodists and West Allotment Juniors in the wake of the financial hardship which followed the 1920s General Strike. The club badge still features a pit wheel; in the 1930s, the players’ changing facilities were provided by a converted cowshed, brought in pieces from Heaton and reassembled at their old Farm Ground. There were four Northern Amateur titles in a row in the late-1950s, 400 goals in 412 games from the legendary Benny Williams, a run to the last-32 of the FA Vase, eight Northern Football Alliance titles, a Challenge Cup win at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, and a Nothern League Division Two championship, won at the very first attempt in 2004-05. Since 2001 the club have played their home games at Whitley Park (Blue Flames Sports Ground), which they share with the Northumberland FA and, occasionally, Newcastle United Reserves.

Manager Paul Stoneman made over two hundred appearances for Blackpool, Colchester United and Halifax Town, winning the 1991-92 Division Four play-offs with the Tangerines, while coach Paul Hogg also works on soccer schools and skills courses run by the Newcastle United Foundation. Even with such strong foundations, financial concerns are never far away in grassroots football, particularly in the kind of economic climate that harks back to the club’s foundation. Only one of the current committee members is under 60 years old and Allotment – a part of the community for more than eighty years – are actively looking for local backing. There are still four home games remaining for Stoneman’s young team, the next against Ryton and Crawcrook Albion at 3pm on March 31st (regular admission is just £4 for adults and £2 for under-16s). For other offers of support, commercial manager Jonny Thompson can be contacted through the club’s website. “There’s a lady in her 80s who raises £8 every week around her sheltered accommodation for the letter draw,” says Mather, “but we need more help, of any kind, so we appeal to anyone interested to get in touch.”

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