#9 v3 - Page 17

16 A CLUB TO BE PROUD OF? Thirdly, and most importantly in my eyes, we’ve got a wonderful history of non-league football on Tyneside, with the second oldest competition in the world, the Northern League, more than adequately represented by Newcastle based clubs. My beloved Heaton Stannington, currently 6th in Division 2 of the Northern League, is the fourth most senior club in Newcastle. I see no contradiction inherent in following Heaton Stannington, while fighting passionately to ensure the future of Newcastle United. On Saturday 1st February, the interminable rain of the previous few days meant Heaton Stannington’s away game against Stokesley was called off around 10.00. I had been offered a ticket for SJP, but it was completely off the agenda as far as I was concerned, as I was heading for my back up plan; Newcastle’s second most senior team, Benfield away to Consett in the Northern League first division. Travelling by bus, I spent some time traversing town while the derby to be proud of was unfolding; Borini gave them the lead when I stepped off the 38 on John Dobson Street and I climbed aboard the 46 outside the Central Station as Johnson doubled their advantage. Town was disturbingly quiet; as it must have been during World War I, the streets were almost denuded of able bodied men between 20 and 50. The bus, other than the driver and an old punk in a too-tight Buzzcocks t-shirt, was entirely populated by women who had been or were going shopping. The Metro Centre interchange saw an exchange of consumerists, including the baffling sight of an elderly lady in a Newcastle United scarf and overcoat, clutching two bulging Sports Direct bags; during a game. Against Sunderland; some things just confuse and bemuse me beyond all reason. As it became more obvious that Newcastle United could find no way back against Poyet’s team of quiet, sincere grafters on the pitch and would have to cede local bragging rights to the intelligent, reasonable, articulate lads showing discipline, discretion and good judgement off it, who represented Sunderland, I averted my eyes from twitter updates on my phone and took in the charming, inviting scenery of the Derwent Way. I really have no idea where I was when the third went in, as my arrival at Consett FC coincided with the full time whistle. A wind with teeth and sharpened, horizontal rain accompanied my walk to Belle View, the new home of The Steelmen, for the first time. I had been to their old ground Belle Vue on several occasions; in 1996 on my debut appearance, the game was fogged off at half time with the score 1-1 versus Murton. My last visit was in May 2013, to see the final game played there, when Spennymoor beat Benfield to win the Northern League Cup 2-1. Unlike that huge, crumbling but atmospheric venue, Belle View is compact and functional but, crucially, it has a 4G pitch that meant the game was never in doubt. Frankly, this is the future for amateur teams; providing such surfaces as standard would allow clubs to be open 7 days a week, creating revenue and