Saturday 2nd April brought a trip to a new ground and for once company on my ground hopping. I took the opportunity to visit a club who had only just joined the Northern League when I stopped going to see Spennymoor play regularly.
Rather than try to re tell the history of S*nderland RCA, I will quote from their website
Sunderland RCA FC started its life as Ryhope Youth Club. Its first season was in the Seaham & District League in 1963. The first game was against Seaham UDC at the Seaham CW ground, now home to Seaham Red Star, and it was a 3 – 3 draw. The first seeds had been sown three years earlier, in 1960, when the Ryhope Youth Club Centre opened in the Welfare Hall.
In 1965 the club moved to the Colliery Welfare ground and in 1971 changed its name to Ryhope Community Association. Competing in the Seaham, then Houghton & District Leagues, the club enjoyed success with eight cup wins and four league titles.
Rejected by the Wearside League because a Ryhope team already played in it, the club folded after the 1975-75 season. Re-formed three years later, the club joined the Northern Alliance in 1978 and won the League Challenge Cup at St James Park in Newcastle, in only their third season. Ryhope CA were also league runners up that year, even though they were reduced to playing on a school field.
After some persuasion, the ambitious club convinced the council to lease then some derelict land – Meadow Park was underway. Financial help was obtained from Sunderland and Tyne and Wear Councils and the Sports Council to build a football ground. The club members and community joined together to carry out the building work, resulting in the enclosed ground where football games are played and enjoyed today.
In 1982 the club was a founder member of the Northern League Second Division, achieving promotion as runner up in the 1983-84 season. Despite achieving a league placing of tenth the next season, survival proved difficult and the club was relegated in 1988.
In 1999 a new era commenced with the amalgamation with Kennek Roker of the Wearside League to form Kennek Ryhope Community Association. The seasons from 2003 onwards were tough, but for the season 2006-07, the club joined forces with Springboard Sunderland and a new era as Sunderland RCA FC began.
Progress continues to be made both on and off the pitch and after finishing fourth in the previous two seasons Sunderland RCA FC were promoted as runners-up to Stokesley FC in season 2009-10 – a great achievement.
The ground at Ryhope whilst being a very tidy place shows the difference in history and status between the two clubs. Whilst Spennymoor have all 4 sides of the grounds terraced and a new stand on one side and the whole of one end covered, Ryhope have a ground that just meets the minimum standards for the Skill Training Northern League.
The approach to the ground is somewhat unusual, being situated at the back of a modern housing development. You don’t expect to find the ground at the end of a cul de sac in a modern housing development. Finding the ground could be hard if you do not have sat nav. It is not signposted at all from any road.
When you arrive at the ground, several things are noticeable:
1. The sign proclaims S*nderland RCA are members of “the Arngrove Northern League”. What’s odd about that you ask? Well, Arngrove have not been sponsors of the league for sometime now. I’m sure Skill Training the current sponsors won’t be too impressed to see a previous sponsor being advertised
2. The sea is noticeable. The ground is situated up a bank from the North Sea.
3. The admission price is only £4. A pint of beer or a burger costs more at most Premiership grounds. A programme is only £1 and is a good read. Its probably a better read than most Premiership clubs’ £4+ “match day magazines”.
4. The ground is surrounded on two sides by a cemetery. The footballs regularly end up in the cemetery. Fortunately the neighbours on these two sides complain less than the neighbours on the other sides.
THE CEMETERY END
NETTING TO PROTECT NEIGHBOURS – NOT THOSE IN THE CEMETERY!
Into the ground, and the first image is of a small, but smart ground. There is no terracing, but a small strip of hard standing surrounds the pitch. The photo below shows the ground, the stand and the small covered terrace.
The main stand is somewhat unusual theses days in that it doesn’t have individual seats, but merely planks of wood fixed on the top of steps. There are not many stands left like these nowadays. There is one dug out left at the bottom of the stand. What happened to the other dug out I’m not sure.
These days, the dug outs in use are on the opposite side of the ground to the stand and the changing rooms. In fact, all club buildings are on the one side of the ground with a small but very friendly clubhouse being next to the changing rooms and the stand.
CHANGING ROOMS ON EXTREME LEFT, CLUBHOUSE IN THE MIDDLE
Like it seems, most non league area, the pitch at RCA is on a slope. Spennymoor played the first half kicking down the bank. As happens at most non league grounds, the fans move to stand behind the goal their team are attacking. There were probably as many, if not more Spennymoor fans than RCA fans at the game.
THE SPENNYMOOR MASSIVE
The game was a very competitive one, with several very physical challenges. The refereeing and the linesmen appeared totally deaf to the excessive foul and abusive language used by the players and officials during the game. Indeed early on, the Spennymoor manager launched a particularly foul tirade at the linesman, even though the linesman had done nothing wrong. Neither the linesman nor the referee took any action. If the language had been used in town on a night out, then a S5 Public Order Act or even worse would have followed.
There is no place for such language in the game. Well, actually after seeing what Wayne Rooney did on Saturday whilst playing for Manchester United @ West Ham, it seems the place is in the Premiership.
Spennymoor took a deserved lead on 24 minutes after a slick move resulted in a cross from the right wing and a simple finish. They doubled their lead in the second half with a neat lob over the RCA goalkeeper who made a habit of coming too far off his line.
It was a win for Spennymoor without them having to over exert themselves. This on a day when their two nearest rivals both lost. The title is getting closer to being retained at the Brewery Field for another year.
I mentioned at the start of this blog that I had company today. Michelle asked if she could come with me. Was it an act of penance for her making me go to IKEA on Saturday morning? It was good to have some company and she brought the sun with here. Michelle, if you read this, where is the next ground we are visiting?
RCA is a tidy friendly little club who are doing a fantastic job with a budget a fraction of that of some clubs in the league.