As some of you know, I am an anorak when it comes to football. I became eligible for membership of the “92 Club” about 3 years ago when I completed visiting all 92 football league grounds. since then I have turned my attention back to grass roots football and in particular my home town club of Spennymoor Town.
I used to watch Spennymoor home and away in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are currently near the top of the Northern League which is 9 steps below the Premiership. On Saturday 26th February, they were playing away at Consett AFC who were 2nd in the table before the game and Spennymoor were third. A top of the table clash.
Consett is a town of 27,000 people, high on the edge of the Pennines in northwest Durham. In 1841, it was a village community of only 145, but it was about to become a boom town. Below the ground was coking coal and blackband iron ore. Nearby was limestone. These were the three ingredients needed for blast furnaces to produce iron and steel
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Derwent Valley was the cradle of the British steel industry, helped by the easy availability of coal from Tyneside, and the import of high quality iron ore from Sweden via the port of Newcastle upon Tyne. However, following the invention of the Bessemer process in the 19th century, steel could be made from British iron ore (which was otherwise too heavily contaminated by phosphorus) and the Derwent Valley’s geographical advantage was lost, allowing Sheffield to become the leading centre of the British steel industry.
Now what is significant is that the Bessemer Process is connected with…..Spennymoor!
Consett is bleak at the best of times, and on a cold wet February day it is very inhospitable Still the game was on, so off I went to the game. It is probably 27 years since I last went to a game in Consett. Arriving some 15 minutes before the game, it was heartening to see the car park at the leisure centre which the football ground shares was full. Hopefully a decent crowd would be there.
The first thing I noticed was that there is only one entrance to the ground The last time I was at the ground there were at least 2 if not 3 entrances to the ground. The admission price is £5 and programmes £1. Far cheaper than the Premiership. Once through the turnstiles, there was a whiteboard with the team sheets written up for all to see.
The entrance takes you into the main stand which these days is the only stand. Last time I was here, there was a 2nd stand opposite the main stand. This has been completely removed and no trace of it is left to the uninformed eye. The ground is very big, but apart from the main stand in undeveloped. There is a lot of open space that could be better used, perhaps if the pitch were moved, the extra land could be redeveloped. It did take me some time to realise this.
The game started in very heavy rain. A very hard fought game between two sides chasing the league title. There was a bizarre moment in the first half though when the game was held up whilst the goal net was taped back up.
I don’t recall games at Old trafford being held up for this problem. Another difference from the Premiership games is that here, when the ball went behind the goal, the goalkeeper has to go running for it.
Can you imagine this at a Premiership game? Its lonely being a goalkeeper at Consett.
Halftime came with Spennymoor trailing 1-0. Time for a cup of tea and a visit to the facilities. Easier said than done. There is one snack bar in the ground, but it does a good cup of tea. I never sampled the chips or pies, but plenty of others did and they looked good.
Finding the facilities was easy enough. There was a helpful sign on the back of the home dugout pointing the way.
The facilities were a portacabin in the corner of the ground. The problem being that there was a locked door and no key. So the facilities became a wall up against which one could relieve themselves – just like the good old days at the Gallowgate End at Newcastle.
As the weather had been so bad in the first half, most of the 300 or so fans were in the main stand.This was a stand that must have been impressive in its hey day.
The stand unusually has standing behind the seats and has clearly seen better days. In the last picture above you can see the stand has been reduced in length at some time. The ground itself was built by striking steelworkers.
The second half of the game brought a respite in the weather. As a result, I ventured out of the stand to behind the goal, along with half a dozen Consett fans. There were far more Spennymoor fans behind the other goal. They were rewarded with 2 late goals and an away win for Spennymoor. It was also Consett’s first home defeat of the season.
There were probably as many Spennymoor fans there as there were Consett fans. A swift departure from the ground at full time to avoid the crowds? No, to get home for the quiz night at Ryton FC – 2 grounds one day.
Tomorrow I’m off to Chesterfield’s new ground the B2net Stadium