WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC FC
A BRIEF HISTORY
The 2011/12 season is Allotment’s eighth in the Northern League and the hope is that it is significantly better than the 2010/11 campaign. For last season was a disaster from start to finish, with the club having three different managers over the course of the nine months, unprecedented at a club that likes to give team officials enough time to build up a squad and implement a long-term strategy. Unfortunately, the unexpected early resignations of managerial duo Paul Bennett and Andrew Wood, after an indifferent start to the campaign, saw the equilibrium of the club upset and it was never regained. The installation of the reliable and vastly experienced Tom Wade failed to turn the season around and a protracted run of defeats saw his departure too. The reins were then taken over by current manager, Paul Stoneman, whose father also served the club well during the 1970s and 80s, Arriving very late in the season, Paul had very little time to revamp his squad and, with the team having been in freefall for months, he was unable to prevent the club suffering its first ever relegation in a history that stretches back over 80 years.
With the horrors of last season thankfully consigned to the history book, Paul is starting afresh and is determined to regain Allotment’s place in the top flight of the Northern League. He has assembled virtually a new squad for the 2011/12 campaign and helping him to oversee affairs, particularly important as he is going to serve as a player-manager, are Wilf Kielty and Paul Hogg. If the players can match the enthusiasm of the managerial team then one of those promotion places might just have the name West Allotment Celtic against it come next April – here’s hoping!
Prior to earning promotion in May 2004, Allotment competed in the Northern Alliance. Yet, immediately upon jumping up to the Northern League, the club romped to the Second Division championship and won the Craven Cup too, under the inspirational management of Terry Mitchell. The club was rocked by the departure of Terry in early October 2005 as he was offered the opportunity to head-up the Youth Academy at Hartlepool United. He was replaced by his assistant, Brian Latty, who did well to keep the club on an even keel until his own increasingly onerous work commitments led to his departure at the conclusion of the season. Brian was succeeded by the management team of Gary Middleton and Neil Winskill which, over the course of three seasons, gradually built up a very competitive and hard to beat team. However, the duo decided to depart for Ashington in 2009 and were replaced by the aforementioned Paul Bennett and Andrew Wood, The pair did extremely well to build an effective team virtually from scratch, many players having followed Middleton to Woodhorn Lane, but a surprisingly disappointing beginning to the 2010/11 campaign triggered the shock resignation noted earlier.
The history of football in the community of West Allotment goes back into the early years of the last century. Indeed, the first organised club to represent the village competed in the Byker & District League as early as 1908/09. Various clubs came and went over the ensuing years but the formation of the West Allotment Primitive Methodists (PMs) team after World War I was the key step leading to the creation of the present-day club. The PMs competed in the Forest Hall & District Churches’ League with reasonable success until 1928.
In 1928, the PMs began to feel the bite financially. Deeply-rooted in a coal-mining community and with the industry in turmoil following the General Strike, trying to maintain a local club was extremely difficult. So, facing ever-increasing debts, the decision was taken to wind-up the Primitive Methodists team and create a new club. That new club was effectively a merger of the old PMs team and West Allotment Juniors, another local club where it made sense to close-down, join forces and re-emerge stronger.
So, the 1928/29 season saw West Allotment Celtic commence operations in the North Shields & District Churches’ League. Playing at Holystone and using old stables as changing-rooms, the club didn’t meet with instant success. However, eventually the League Cup was won in 1934/35 to provide Celtic with their first significant trophy.
A move to the newly-created Tynemouth & District League in 1935 saw the club begin to become more of a force. Yet the initial signs were not promising, with Celtic losing 5-1 at Old Hartley Star and 2-1 at home to Earsdon Road Villa in their opening fixtures. To the relief of those from West Allotment, it didn’t take long for the players to find their feet. In fact, so good was the recovery that a ten-point gap between Celtic and the top of the table was closed before the season ended. The club then had to face Whitley Bay & Monkseaton Reserves in a play-off for the title and unfortunately the decider went the way of the seasiders. Remarkably, Allotment also finished in a play-off position in the following two seasons too – and, in each case, lost the decider!
The decision to move to a higher-grade of football was made in 1938 and the club joined the Second Division of the Northern Amateur League. Now playing at the aptly-named Farm Ground, which was to remain “home” until 1968, supporters helped to dismantle a cowshed in Heaton and move it, piece by piece to West Allotment where it was reassembled at the ground. The shed was not for spectators – it provided the players’ changing facilities! The club earned instant promotion (after a play-off, of course!) but World War II put a stop to any further progress.
The club recommenced operations in 1946/47 and, slowly but surely, progress was made. Added to a solid nucleus of “old heads”, an influx of excellent players from the Juniors Section, started after the war, created a blend that was far too strong for Allotment’s rivals and the club enjoyed an unprecedented run of success from the mid-fifties onwards. The championship was won on four successive seasons between 1956-60, with the NFA Amateur Cup added in 1957 and the NFA Minor Cup captured in 1958.
Unlike some of their rivals, the club decided to remain loyal to the Northern Amateur League rather than move to a higher level of competition. However, the bulk of the team did move on and the club lost the winning habit, leaving it to face some dire and mediocre times during the 1960s. In fact, the club was stagnating so badly, in a league that was struggling to retain a competitive number of teams, that closure was a real possibility for a while. Fortunately that spectre was dismissed with the introduction of new blood into the club towards the end of the decade and, once again, the on and off-field strength began to be developed. The club also moved to Backworth Welfare in 1968, consigning the ponds and mud of the Farm Ground to memory.
With the astonishing goal-scoring exploits of Benny Williams (his 400th goal for the team was scored in just his 412th appearance!) supported by strength in all positions, the team won the NFA Amateur Cup again in 1975 and were always amongst the title-chasers. However, the championship remained tantalisingly out of reach until 1982, when Allotment won a nail-biting play-off by the odd goal in seven against Annitsford Welfare. When the title was retained with ease the following season, the decision was taken to move up a grade for the first time since 1938.
The 1983/84 season saw Allotment begin their Northern Alliance career and make their debut in the FA Vase. The first honour at the higher level arrived in 1985 when Ponteland United were beaten in the Alliance Challenge Cup Final at St.James’ Park, Newcastle. The first of Allotment’s eight Alliance titles arrived soon after, in 1987, after two nail-biting play-off matches with Gosforth St.Nicholas. The club continued to maintain high standards following that success, never finishing lower than sixth in the Northern Alliance and winning seven further titles.
Particularly noteworthy was the hat-trick of titles between 1998-2000, won under the management team of Ken Scott and Billy Hays. In 1997/98, the team won twenty-four successive league matches on the way to clinching the championship. That successful duo was followed by another in the form of Terry Mitchell and Brian Latty, who maintained the exacting standard set by their predecessors. Terry and Brian led the club to championship success in three of the four years they were in charge, as well as guiding Allotment into the Northern League. There were also many cup successes and some exciting runs to the later stages of the FA Vase.
In 2001, the club moved to Whitley Park (also known as the Blue Flames Sports Ground) in Benton after having acted as tenants at Hillheads in Whitley Bay since 1995. Whitley Park is also the home base of the Northumberland Football Association.
WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC FC
PEN PICTURES 2011/12
AIDEN AMES (Goalkeeper) – Aiden made 116 appearances for Allotment between 2004-07 and has now rejoined the club for a second spell between the sticks. Aiden’s other clubs have included Team Northumbria, Prudhoe Town and Killingworth. (Date of birth: 22 July 1985)
GLENN FORD (Defender) – Formerly part of the successful Ponteland United side in the Northern Alliance, centre-half Glenn has joined Allotment for the 2011/12 season. (Date of birth: 09 August 1984)
JOHN PENDLEBURY (Defender) – Joined Allotment in February 2011 and showed much promise despite the struggles of the team in the fight against relegation. A hard-working and combative presence in defence. (Date of birth: 04 June 1986)
MARC DUMMETT (Defender) – Marc made two appearances for Allotment early in the 2009/10 campaign during the reign of Paul Bennett but soon left to contribute to Ponteland United’s success in the Northern Alliance. He has also represented Dunston UTS and is a useful addition to the Celtic squad. (Date of birth: 23 December 1986)
STEPHEN LITTLE (Defender) – Central defender Stephen is another new face at the club, having previously played for Annfield Plain and Killingworth. (Date of birth: 23 June 1987)
MARK HALL (Defender) – Another new signing for the club and will be looking to book one of the places at the centre of defence. Mark has previously played for Cramlington Town and Shankhouse. (Date of birth: 15 January 1991)
PAUL HAXON (Midfield/Defender) – Paul is another player returning to Allotment, having made seven appearances during the 2009/10 season. He was on the books of both Newcastle United and Scunthorpe United as a junior. He has also turned out for Morpeth Town (where he won the NFA Senior Cup), Bedlington Terriers and South Shields. (Date of birth: 05 November 1986)
LIAM McIVOR (Defender/Midfield) – Liam is a versatile player who is comfortable at left-back or in the centre of midfield. He has played for Newcastle Blue Star, Ryton and Ponteland United. (Date of birth: 22 July 1983)
IAN DUNN (Midfield) – Originally signed from Walker Central during the summer of 2009, Ian has now made well over sixty appearances for Allotment and is a regular goalscorer too. (Date of birth: 24 April 1982)
ROY GORDON (Midfield) – Experienced player who has represented North Shields, Consett and Annfield Plain. (Date of birth: 19 October 1981)
MOHAMMED ABDULLAH (Midfield) – Yet another new face in the Allotment squad, “Mo” showed a lot of promise in the close season matches before picking up a knee injury. (Date of birth: 01 January 1985)
MICHAEL BELL (Midfield) – Michael won the Under-19 National Schools Cup with Northumberland and is a very promising close-season signing for Allotment. Michael has also represented Ryton and Shankhouse. (Date of birth: 17 June 1991)
DEAN LEE (Midfield) – Another close-season capture for Allotment, Dean has previously turned out for North Shields and Annfield Plain. (Date of birth: 26 February 1983)
MARTIN SOULSBY (Midfield) – Youngster who has a very bright future in the game and Allotment are pleased to have captured his signature for the 2011/12 season. (Date of birth: 05 February 1994)
GARY GROVES-FORBES (Midfield) – Experienced central midfielder who has also played for Gretna, Washington, Ryton, Brandon United and Dunston. (Date of birth: 10 April 1971)
TONY LANCASTER (Striker) – Signed in March 2011 from Wark, Tony is a pacy wide-man and scored his first goal for the club at home to Newcastle Benfield. (Date of birth: 08 April 1985)
GARY DAY (Striker) – Another close-season capture for Allotment, Like the Manager, Gary is another player whose father also represented Allotment. (Date of birth: 07 April 1990)
MARK MINTO (Striker) – Mark has had two spells with Allotment and has proven to be an industrious worker and very useful goalscorer. Last season was blighted by a serious foot injury picked up during the close season and he will be raring to go in 2011/12. (Date of birth: 28 October 1985)
PAUL SWITHENBANK (Striker) – Paul is a versatile player who has represented Morpeth, Ashington and Esh Winning during his career to date. (Date of birth: 17 June 1987)
PAUL GIBBS (Striker) – Paul is a defender’s nightmare, using his height and strength to great effect. He is not always the most stylish of players but has the priceless knack of consistently being in the right spot to bury chances. (Date of birth: 17 June 1979)
PAUL CHAPMAN (Striker) – Paul scored on his debut at home to Bishop Auckland at the back end of the 2010/11 season and looks to have bags of potential. (Date of birth: 13 September 1990)
LIAM HUDSON (Striker) – Signed from Ryton during the close season, Liam is a pacy forward who will provide options up front. (Date of birth: 13 July 1988)
PAUL STONEMAN (Team Manager) – Appointed in March 2011 after playing for South Shields throughout the 2010/11 campaign. Paul has extensive knowledge gleaned from his days as a professional with Blackpool, Colchester Utd and Halifax Town and will continue playing for the team too. (Date of birth: 26 February 1973)
WILF KIELTY (Assistant Manager) – Wilf has been around the local non-league scene for many years, both as a player and in a management role, giving notable service to North Shields.
PAUL HOGG (Coach) – Paul is a UEFA-licensed coach, for which he started studying whilst in the British Army. Apart from representing the forces, Paul gave almost ten years of service to North Shields as player, coach and manager. He has also managed Annfield Plain and is currently working with the Newcastle United Foundation.