Billingham Town FC
THE BEDFORD BUGLE
HEAVY GOING (BOGGY IN PLACES) - 19th April, 2018
Edition number nine is a hybrid of thoroughbred and thorough sporting history! After a few weeks rest/rehabilitation, the blinkers are back on though I’m not entirely sure they’re worked because this article is a little off track....It’s football related and yet it’s not! Four days in Ayrshire and a visit to Hampden Park amongst other venues, opened my sporting horizons. From the antiquated Somerset Park, the home of Ayr United to quick glimpses of St Mirren & Rangers then on to Hampden Park as workers prepared for the Scottish FA Cup semifinals weekend. Ironically, both The Honest Men & The Buddies look set to win their respective divisions while Rangers go yet another season without a major trophy. Last time I was in Glasgow, Rangers were top dogs as Celtic fans protested outside Parkhead, berating the owners because the club sat in mid table mediocrity. After a brief spell at Hampden, while Celtic Park went under a face lift, the Bhoys slowly regained the initiative and judged on Sunday’s one sided derby, their supremacy doesn’t look like ending anytime soon! Back to the coast, past the opulent looking mansions and hotels, one will find the British Open golf course in Royal Troon, the tournament last held there in 2016 and won by Swede Henrik Stensson. And for good measure, we ended the day at Ayr racecourse, the home of the Scottish Grand National. The race used to be staged in the nearby town of Irvine - the name of the course unambiguous in terms of its location - Bogside! The racecourse had a chequered history where it was common for jockeys to lose their lives in an era where health & safety for the riders and the horses was nowhere near to the high standards of today. Bogside was unique... while the Glaswegian punters cheered and jeered, next door, the Nobel company produced ammunition for the armed forces. On one occasion, a horse got marooned for two days on an island that belonged to the munitions company. Having bolted, swam across two different rivers and spent the weekend in splendid isolation, the horse was picked up on the following Monday, safe and sound having passed the necessary security measures! Bogside closed in 1965 without much fanfare. Back to the future, Vicente goes for a three timer this Saturday - if he wins he will become the Scottish version of Red Rum. Parochial backers will no doubt give the rum a miss, preferring Scotland’s finest... no, not the whiskey but a pint of Bellhaven. And that leads me to a surprising sporting quiz question........
What does Billingham have in common with Northallerton, Thornaby and Durham apart from teams currently playing in division two?
Answer: They all had their own racecourse!
Now Billingham had me baffled! Where on earth did the Town have a racecourse? Thornaby was easy: Stockton - closed in 1981 - now the site of Teesside Park and home to the odd winner for a taciturn Lester Piggott (if you could understand him),but Billingham? Well it’s true - the site of the course was situated somewhere in the vicinity of Portrack and old Billingham. A century after the course closure (when Peter Martin & Steve Palmieri were wee boys), ICI works built over the land: ICI would also go on to own Bogside. The location of Northallerton’s course is a bit of a giveaway. If like me, you get the train to Northallerton and walk to Ainderby Road, the first street you come across is Racecourse Road. The lay tourist, expecting to see a course akin to Thirsk or Ripon will be wasting their time - Northallerton closed in 1880!!! Durham’s racecourse was situated alongside the river Wear and is now part of Durham Cities cricket ground & rowing club; The course closed in 1883. Other town’s that host non league clubs and extinct courses include Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland, Seaham, Sunderland and Darlington - even Hartlepool had one! People may say that most Northern League pitches are more suited to racehorses than humans these days. Then again, the majority of us have never had the pleasure of visiting Bogside. If one got stuck there like our intrepid galloper, at least one could have watched explosive entertainment... fights in the grandstand or mine production! Though neither sound particularly safe options! Northern League pitches it is then! Crook Town on Thursday night anybody?? Expect heavy going and the odd flash in the pan!! A win wouldn’t go amiss either! And back to Saturdays big race: if you fancy Vicente to win and reach the record books then 10/1 seems a fair price. Spaniard bandana wearing Fernando Vicente used to be a willy clay courter though he never won Roland Garros.... his namesake is unlikely to require headgear though as he ploughs through 4 1/2 miles on decent ground.
SEASONS IN THE SUN OR SINGING IN THE RAIN? - 6th April, 2018
Previous Bugles have had a regular theme and this one is no different! Weather.... or to be precise... rain and I can’t blame the Russians this time! A quick visit to Bedford Terrarce on Wednesday 4th April highlighted two things. 1) although waterlogged, the pitch is holding up quite well with just a few puddles on it. 2) the car park has taken a right battering and is mostly under water. Town don’t play at home again until Saturday 21st April against Chester-Le-Street and hopefully, by then, the above problems will have eased. Our next game isn’t until the 14th at Willington so many of us will be twiddling our thumbs, watching Carry On Film marathons or watching other Northern League games (if on!). The League have requested another extension to avoid a fixture pile-up and the FA will have little option but to accept their request. Town now face Alnwick on the 5th May and could yet face Blyth on the 12th or during midweek in between those two dates. It amazes me how often we find ourselves in this situation. There has been plenty of debate on non league zone about this subject and it’s an old chestnut of mine as well. At the beginning of the season, when the sun shines and optimism is high, Town would expect to play most midweeks up until October. It can be a challenging period for any club; invariably, players are on holiday during August and then the cup games kick in especially if drawn early in the League Cup/ DCC//EM Trophy. To avoid fixture congestion at the end of the season, the powers at be at NL HQ should seriously think about avenues that are available to them. 1) Other step 5/6 leagues start in July - in some cases clubs have already played 2/3 league games even before the NL has started. 2) Extend midweek league fixtures from October to the end of November. Again, cup competitions could dictate but there will be spare weeks where Town could fit in at least 2/3 league games. 3) If sides are knocked out early in the said cup competitions, the league could look at matching those clubs and arranging future fixture changes. The league do this when teams exit the FA Vase and FA Cups but could do the same for the midweek cup competitions. Football is a winter game and yet little football gets played in Winter! I’d rather watch non league football wearing shades than taking an umbrella! And singing isn’t my strong point!!!
SOMETHING OLD - SOMETHING NEW - SOMETHING BORROWED - SOMETHING BLUE! - 4th April, 2018
With only a month of the Northern League season to go, we take a look at the likely opponents Town will face next season - either those who face relegation from division one or promotion from either the Wearside League, Northern Alliance or North Riding League respectively. First we start with the relegation candidates.
The whipping boys of division one, noises coming from Synners is that the club are already making plans for next season. Many people felt, including myself that Synners were in a moribund state and close to extinction! Wrong! Although information is sketchy, they have already arranged with Norton to play another season at Station Road. Also, former Spennymoor Town manager, Jamie Pollock could be taking over the helm. If true, then expect them to be competitive once again!
The Wearside club came close to resigning from the Northern League during the summer but ploughed on, making it known that resources were at a premium. Predictably they have struggled but managed to put Guisborough in their place recently with a 3-0 win. However, that victory has only papered over the cracks but under the circumstances, Washington can be proud of their efforts. Left their home ground and currently play at Sunderland Nissans complex.
Now this would be a major shock if Bishops were to be relegated and at the moment, they’re fighting with Jarrow Roofing for a place in division one next season (Penrith appear to be safe). For years they wanted to progress up the pyramid but never had the quality to achieve their lofty aims. After our vase win last season, Bishops went on a relentless run in the FA Cup so their current predicament raises serious questions on what has gone wrong. A terrific ground, padded seats, and a great view - Bishops would be a welcome addition to division two.
Potentially three close derbies next season if Roofing were to be relegated and Boldon CA get promoted and join Jarrow in division two. Roofing were and probably still are funded by businessman Richie McLoughlin - the club named after his own company. Roofing’s ground may not win any aesthetic awards but if next door neighbours (literally) Boldon were to be promoted then it could help raise the profile of all three said clubs.
A hike across the A66 but Penrith, like Bishop Auckland have impressive stadiums. They usually flourish at this time of year but Jarrow Roofing do have three games in hand. Thrashed Washington 7-1 on Saturday.
CLEATOR MOOR CELTIC
The average Town supporter maybe forgiven if they didn’t know where Cleator are based. Those that do know will be hoping that Cleator gain promotion into the North West Counties League. If Penrith were to be relegated then Town face the prospect of travelling to the far side of the Lake District at least twice. If Cleator were to join the Northern League then expect a competitive team.
For so long the perennial bridesmaids of the Wearside League thanks to the behemoth that is Stockton Town. After losing out to Jarrow last season, they face competition in Cleator Moor but have several games in hand. If Cleator were to win the league, and move into the NWC league then Redcar would be in a prime position for that promotion place but even then there is another potential rival who we will focus on next. In January, Redcar improved their floodlights and have been making preparations for NL football which would include a new seated stand.
Outsiders for promotion and look set to finish behind Cleator and Redcar (Hebburn Town Reserves not allowed promotion). Challenged Jarrow & Redcar for promotion last season and look set to fall short once again. With the prospect of Jarrow Roofing facing relegation, Boldon will be doing their utmost in the closing weeks if Cleator or Redcar were to slip-up. Town faced Boldon CA last season in The Durham Challenge Cup - Winning a close encounter 3-2.
I have to confess that I know little about their set-up and information on them is scarce. They applied for promotion last season from the Northern Alliance League but withdrew their application. I would imagine the club will be based on Team Northumbria’s initial principles - a team that consists of students.
Relegated from division two during 2015/16 season, Birtley opted to join the Northern Alliance League rather than the Wearside, possibly citing an easier opportunity in returning to the Northern League. Finished behind Killingworth and Newcastle University last season and once again, the students continue to be a thorn in Birtley’s side. Ground is up to standard so shouldn’t be any problems on that score.
Dominated the Teesside League for years and currently top The North Riding League. Last season, Boro Rangers were playing our reserves on the back pitch but could face the first team next season. Currently playing at Herlingshaw Centre in Ormesby, Rangers would need to ground share to fulfil ground graded requirements. A possible temporary move to Stokesley maybe an option but a ground of their own would need to be required in the long term.
Need a suitable ground...If Stokesley isn’t the option, the other possibilities could be Thornaby & Guisborough for Marske United continue to have issues with their pitch.
Whether home or away, against any of these clubs barring Bishop Auckland and Penrith, Town will be in their home colours!
If Boro Rangers do manage to ground-share, they will see it as a marriage made in heaven! For Town they would be welcome additions along with Synthonia & Redcar Athletic. More derbies, more fans and more income! No vows or promises of promotion from Town - meanwhile the new boys will enjoy the honeymoon period, but will soon find that the Northern League can be unforgiving! Whoever Town face next season, we look forward to it and welcome them all into division two.
FRIENDLY FIRE - 27th March, 2018
Are Northern League clubs shooting themselves in the foot? Or could it be a case of collective indifference? I’m talking about the time of year all players dread, and in some cases, the managers too - pre-season! Clubs do things differently - some attempt high profile fixtures with the benefit of gate receipts - some play teams of a lower level to gain confidence. But wouldn’t it be better, from a fans perspective, if some of these games were a little more competitive? In recent seasons, there has been mini tournaments around Hebburn/Jarrow/Jarrow Roofing area where the local teams play each other. Points are earned whether win, lose or draw plus extra points for goals scored. By all accounts, the tournaments are popular amongst those fore mentioned clubs with the chance of added finances via clubhouse revenue. How would it work? For arguments sake it could look like this.
Venue: Bedford Terrace Saturday/Sunday: Town, Thornaby, Synthonia, Stockton
Town v Synners and Thornaby v Stockton on the Saturday.
Winners of said matches play each other in the final on Sunday. 3rd & 4th place game to be played before the final: All teams win prize money, depending on position (Sponsor required)
A week or two later - a second tournament at Town but against teams known for good support.
Venue: Bedford Terrace Saturday/Sunday: Town, Northallerton, Marske, Guisborough.
Town v Northallerton and Marske v Guisborough on the Saturday. Again same format as the previous tournament.
The question would be timing, availability and the chance to still capture high profile fixtures. For Town, it has been against Hartlepool United and that type of fixture would still be the priority of the club. The obvious time to hold the tournaments would be at the end of June or beginning of July - ideally in July to give the players the chance to train beforehand. The benefits behind the tournaments are manifold - competitive fixtures for the fans, local opposition bringing supporters, income from clubhouse and the ability to drink inside the ground, prize money, and silverware at the end of it not to mention bragging rights after Town stuff Synners etc! I know last season’s home friendlies against Whitby and Spennymoor brought income at the gate but it was like watching paint dry! Maybe such an undertaking would need a lot of planning - but wouldn’t it be great, especially if we had an Indian summer? Families could camp out on the training pitch behind the goal - Barry Oliver could tell stories to the kids over the camp fire, Paul Beddow could cook on a barbecue, Neil Martin and Kev McCabe in the stocks while I will bring my music/Dj skills....ok....maybe not the latter! Surely, in these difficult times, clubs need to treat the summer as an ally - because this winter did nothing for most clubs unless your team played on an artificial surface!
DIG IN FOR VICTORY - 22nd March, 2018
Everybody who follows Town doesn’t need me to go over old ground and discuss woes from the past... There is only so much Prozac to go round if I decided to write an essay so don’t panic (anybody read that in a Private Jones voice?); there will be little fifth columnist talk here... so the message to manager James Hunter, his coaching staff and to the players is this: Keep Calm And Carry On for Carless Talk Costs Lives (okay a bit melodramatic but you get the gist!). While the Supporters Trust battled to get their club back, understandably, some supporters were concerned with the morale of the team during the schism. Since James Hunter took over the reigns, results have been mainly positive - the 4-1 win at Whickham and a 2-1 defeat of Tow Law highlight the progress made. Unfortunately, since the supporters took over the club, Town’s results, barring the 6-1 win against Jarrow have been bitterly disappointing. So how much does off the field activity actually affect players or does stability, inadvertently create a comfort zone mentality? It maybe a tad early to over analyse right now - a couple of wins will soon put that theory to bed. What I do know is this: during the short time I have had contact with James is his ability to put his point across in an articulate manner. He’s not one to shirk a difficult question, possibly a trait learned from Barry Oliver and he won’t sugar coat a situation so that supporters just hear propaganda. The positive thing right now is that James doesn’t have the time to reflect too much on recent defeats with fixtures coming thick and fast. In all team sports, you hear players and managers talk of learning more from the game in defeat rather than in victory. All sport is about mentality; talent only gets you so far! So James heads into Thursday nights game against Easington with plenty to ponder on. In all fairness, a combination of injuries, unavailability and the weather haven’t been conducive to winning matches. Once James selects his eleven, it’s up to the players to cross that white line and show some resolve, earn the right to play and grind out results. Everything is now in place for the team to succeed, with stability assured for the rest of the season. Time to put on our tins hats and go to Easington and put it right up em!! If we go on a run I will be happy to hear ‘stupid boy’ in my direction!
A UNITED BILLINGHAM - 9TH March, 2018
Stronger Together was the motto of the previous regime. The new era brings in a replacement - United We Stand. And yet from afar, observers or onlookers are talking about a United Billingham within a different context.
The debate was raised on the non league zone forum last year, and again a few weeks back, a new post on the same subject emerged. Discussion about an amalgamation between Town and Synthonia within Billingham itself has been somewhat muted.
The main support for a new joint venture appears to come from fans of other clubs who see Synthonia’s plight and Town’s recent problems as an intrinsic indication for change. I spoke to Graeme Goodman, Synthonia’s programme editor and photographer before our 0-0 draw back in April, and it was his view that the town could no longer continue with two clubs.
Around ten years ago, there was talk of the two clubs merging with the aim of becoming a conference side (National League) but supporters, particularly the Town contingent were against this concept.
Attitudes have softened since then but as it stands, unsubstantiated rumours are that Synthonia could well fold at the end of the season although I would imagine Town wouldn’t just become a benevolent charity and a change would have to make financial sense for both clubs.
One of the fore mentioned observers has been our former league chairman and intrepid journalist Mike Amos. His daily blog can be an illuminating read and over three separate days, Town were the focus of his attention.
Amos, who I have only spoken to on the odd occasion, was once good friends with my Great Uncle who passed away over a year ago. In fact, he thought so highly of him he wrote the odd article; one in particular springs to mind - a racehorse with the same name as my Great Uncle who was a useful handicapper. Apt, considering Alf was an astute dominoes player and an avid Yorkshire cricket fan although I’m not entirely sure that Alfred Hutchinson knew Alfred Hutchinson won races at York!!
So myself, and Amos have a journalistic interest in sport and our paths have never crossed until now. Amos decided not to attend the Jarrow game recently in fear of interference but Amos would be welcomed warmly and I know our chairman, Paul Beddow would like to meet him for a chat. His cryptic comments with regards to Richard Bloomfield made interesting reading and I for one, would be enchanted to meet Amos for an in depth conversation.
Amos could be surprised to find that his take on recent events at Town, may not appear as they seem. However, he wished Town good fortune and fortune would indeed, be most welcome. Who knows, maybe the powers at be at Town and Synthonia could look at ways of helping each other without having to resort to a unification. The Town needs a footballing boost - let’s see what happens in a month or two. Amos has at least, provided food for thought! For now, United We Stand remains!
3G OR NOT TO BE - 7TH March, 2018
So the beast from the east has decimated the northern league fixture program. I don’t know what it is about Russia, but they always force something in our direction; if it’s not sending aircraft or ships near our airspace/waters (even alleged poisons), then its the cold, biting winds from the Siberian tundra.
Although we can cope with the war games, unfortunately, Britain has no answer in dealing with the worst snowfall since the 2010/2011 season. After defeating Bishop Auckland with a last minute winner (3-2) during the last week of November, Town didn’t play another game until the new year, losing 0-2 to a talented Norton & Stockton Ancients side. The traditional Boxing Day derby with Synthonia didn’t take place until April, as the white stuff laid on top of the hallowed turf for six weeks.
Fortunately for ourselves, we are heading towards spring and unlikely to encounter such conditions again unless the mighty Motherland has her say again! Jama and his squad are going to be incredibly busy during the closing months of the season. With the Heaton Stannington and Chester-le-street games to be rearranged, Town already have further midweek games to come against Crook Town and Durham City respectively.
And as the snow melts away, leaving waterlogged pitches throughout Durham, then Saturdays fixture at Easington Colliery must be at risk to the whims of Mother Nature. It’s times like these that the perennial question of artificial surfaces crops up for debate. Currently, all non-league clubs are allowed to implement them but if say Sutton United won the National League and gained promotion, then the football league would refuse their entry into division 2.
Durham City had a similar problem when they climbed up the pyramid and were denied entry into the Northern Premier League (rules have subsequently changed since then) which contributed towards their current predicament. The chairman, after investing heavily on players, quit the club, leaving the management to field a team full of teenagers and after being relegated, they later requested to join the Northern League, further relegation and the loss of their home ground. Football can be incredibly cruel at the low end of the pyramid.
While Stockton Town and Consett continue to flourish, benefiting from the revenue procured from their 3G, poor old Durham ground share with Willington, with no return to their home city on the horizon. Green grass of old, or green synthetics? As long as Britain continues to have mild winters, then its grass all day long, but 3G pitches make financial sense and there will come a time, when they become cheaper to install, the idea of playing on grass could be a thing of the past.
This will horrify traditionalists but conversely will delight chairman and treasurers if it keeps the bailiffs away from the gates. Luckily, at Town, we have an outstanding pitch but if the option of a viable 3G surface became available, then it would be incredibly hard to turn it down. For the potential financial benefits, far outweigh any prejudices. Let’s hope the Great Bear (euphemism and no relation to Billy), keeps the beast, in the east, for good! The battle for a Balaclava is no longer required!
FA VASE LINKS - 2nd March, 2018
It’s over a year ago now when Town’s FA Vase run came to a valiant end to eventual finalists, Cleethorpes Town. Memories of away day victories at Bishop Auckland, Ashton Town and Bottesford Town are still vivid. But this season’s competition still has links to Billingham Town’s recent history.
For three seasons in a row, managing under severe financial restrictions, Carl Jarrett and Mickey Dunwell guided Town to division one safety, often when relegation looked a certainty! And both managers of their respective current clubs will face each other in the FA Vase semi-final when Marske United host the first leg against Stockton Town. Both men have performed heroics in mustering two talented squads and I honestly believe you could toss a coin to decide the outcome.
I wonder if their experiences at Town left an indelible mark on their respective managerial careers. They did conjure a mini vase run together while at the helm, defeating Whitehaven and South Shields before Glossop North End won 4-2 at Bedford Terrace on a cold November afternoon. The atmosphere was buzzing that day when Town came from 2-0 down to pull it back to 2-2; the main stand was literally shaking and Dunwell scored one of the goals.
Glossop, similar to Cleethorpes, have subsequently climbed the pyramid and if Stockton or Marske go all the way, then maybe league titles could be the aim in the future followed by promotion into the Northern Premier League North.
Demand for tickets will be of Willy Wonka proportions and whatever their secret formula is, we wish both teams the best of luck. Also both sides have talismans who enjoyed personal success while playing at Bedford Terrace. Stockton’s lethal marksman, Jamie Owens stayed at Town even though he had substantial financial offers from the likes of Darlington but the luring power of Shildon, eventually took him to Dean Street. At Marske, Glen Butterworth has fulfilled the potential he initially showed at Town while he was a youngster, under Jarrett’s guidance and both lads will play a significant role in guiding their team to Wembley and ultimate glory.
So when cup final day comes on BT Sport, I can point to the television and say, he played for Town! He managed Town! He coached for Town! Once a Blue always a blue I say!!
FAITH AND FELLOWSHIP - 22nd February, 2018
Back in August, on the opening game of the new league season, when optimism was high amongst Town’s travelling supporters, Ash Lavan demolished Ryton & Crawcrook Albion with a four goal salvo that left Ryton fans eulogising Town as future league champions.
Trying to analyse or document what has happened since then, particularly off the field would need the skills of Tolstoy in War and Peace mode. But here is the abridged version - there was a war, a brutal civil war, and now there is peace, thanks to the sheer determination, endurance and the will of the supporters.
The Billingham Town Supporters Trust, in liaison with former manager Barry Oliver and incumbent chairman Paul Beddow, set the ball in motion to save a club that had recently celebrated its half centenary and yet, potentially, faced financial ruin. FAITH, the clubs motto wouldn’t be enough to guide St Cuthbert’s sails into calmer waters but belief was certainly a starting point along with plethora amounts of desire.
There is plenty of hard work still ahead, not helped by unchartered minefields, however, it was fitting that under new leadership and renewed optimism, that Ash Lavan would play an integral part in another demolition job; this time Jarrow were on the end of the strikers rapid-fire! Another four goals to his name (some debate as whether one was an own goal),along with further strikes from Elliott Beddow and Joe Kerridge forced Jarrow to raise the white flag, a far cry from the reverse fixture which needed super sub Lavan’s divine intervention to score the vital goal in a one-nil victory.
By all accounts, there was a rousing pre-match speech in the dressing room followed by an applause from the players. At the end of the game, it was the turn of the supporters who duly reciprocated the adulations. The players and management staff deserved it, and in particular, so too did Ash Lavan.
August seems a long time ago now - nobody wants to see a repeat of the subsequent turmoil. Captain Beddow now expects every man, or woman to do his/her duty. If recent weeks are anything to go by, then resolve is a given!! For this ship isn’t ready to SINK, her crew are too battle hardened for such folly.... Town’s FAITH has a new sobriquet and ally, FELLOWSHIP.... And bless all who sail in her!
Tuesday 24th April
Ebac Northern League