A team from Birtley took part in the first ever Northern League season, finishing next to last of the ten teams with nine points from their eighteen games. Among the other sides which participated in that inaugural season were Darlington, Middlesbrough and Newcastle East and West End, the two teams that later became Newcastle United. In 1895-96 Birtley joined the Northern Football Alliance, finishing 12th behind the reserve sides of Sunderland and Newcastle United in their opening campaign. Forced to withdraw in 1900, Birtley later joined the Wearside League, winning the first of their three titles in 1946.
The current Birtley side were founded in 1993, when they re-joined the Wearside League. The new team won their first major trophy in 1998 when they defeated Annfield Plain in the League Challenge Cup Final. Four years later they narrowly missed out on a clean sweep of the Wearside League’s three cup competitions, lifting both the Monkwearmouth and League Challenge Cups but losing in the final of the Sunderland Shipowners’ Cup to Jarrow FC. In the same year they merged with Birtley St Joseph’s Juniors, expanding the club to include junior sides from the ages of seven to eighteen while adding girls, ladies and reserve teams. This led to the award of FA Charter Standard Club status in 2004. Among the graduates of Birtley’s junior sides are Sheffield Wednesday’s Gary Madine, Chelsea’s Northern Ireland under-21 international Carl Magnay and Michael Mackay, who spent four years on the books of Hartlepool United.
Despite ending the town’s fifty-seven year wait for a league championship by lifting the 2003-04 Wearside League title, Birtley were unable to move up to the Northern League as their ground did not meet the required standard. Following the addition of floodlights and changing facilities, they won the 2006-07 Wearside League under the management of Davy Smith and Paul Foster, finally gaining promotion to Division Two of the Northern League. In their first season they finished eleventh and reached the quarter – final of the Northern League Cup.
During the 2008-09 season Birtley Town made their first appearance in the FA Vase. Given a bye in the First Round, they were drawn at home to Scarborough Athletic, the visitors winning the game 3-2 in front of a crowd of 240 at Washington’s Albany Park. They consolidated their position in the Northern League, improving their final league position to eighth with sixty-one points from thirty-eight matches.
Before starting their 2009-10 campaign, however, the club’s main sponsor pulled out, leading to an exodus of players and a season in which they lost thirty of their thirty-eight matches, winning four, drawing four and ending the season with a final goal difference of minus seventy-four. They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Billingham Synthonia, losing 3-1 in a home Extra – Preliminary Round replay.
Birtley opened the 2010-11 season with players and the management team of Scott Oliver, Richie Latimer and Owen Peterson turning out unpaid. A 6-0 defeat at West Auckland ended their interest in the FA Vase but the club improved their league position, eventually finishing thirteenth. After recent ground renovations the Birtley Sports Complex attracted its highest ever crowd of 292 for a friendly against Ryton and Crawcrook Albion held to raise funds for Cobaltore Onagawa, a Japanese non-league club whose community was severely damaged in the March 2011 tsunami.
Scott Oliver and Barry Fleming. Joint Managers
Scott is one of the brightest managers in the Northern League. Despite working under severe financial restrictions and with a constantly changing squad, he’s managed to turn Birtley into a midtable side that is always difficult to beat.
Barry is a Northern League stalwart, having previously managed Esh Winning, Washington and Ryton.
Paul Brown. Assistant Manager.
Known as one of the top coaches around, ‘Porky’ has worked alongside Barry Fleming for a number of years. Joined Birtley during the summer.
Lenny French. Goalkeeper
Another Northern League stalwart, Lenny won a Wearside League quadruple while keeping goal for Ryhope CW last season.
Martin Nugent. Defender.
Formerly with Jarrow Roofing.
Graham MacTaggart. Defender.
Full back signed from Division Two rivals Washington.
Andy McIntosh. Midfielder.
Last season’s player of the year.
Andy Innes. Midfielder.
Now in his second spell at the club.
Dan Smith. Midfielder.
Young midfield player and an excellent prospect for the future.
Gary Bailes. Defender.
A new signing at centre-half. Was previously with Alnwick Town and Ryton.
James Allsopp. Midfielder.
Central midfielder and another who was previously on the books at Ryton.
Steven Telford. Forward.
A local lad who big things are expected of this season.
Matt Telford. Defender.
Centre half and another of the young players forcing their way into the team.
John Martin. Midfielder.
Young player signed from local football.
Andrew Barclay. Midfielder.
An old-style box-to-box midfielder. Has a great engine.
Andrew Dobby. Midfielder.
Ex-Ryton. Plays on the left side.
Dan Smart. Forward.
Previously with local rivals Washington.
Owen Pieterson. Forward.
Left-sided midfielder or forward who played in the 1991 South Tyneside team which reached the National Schools final. Won a Wearside League treble with North Shields.