A belated post about my trip on Boxing Day to see well half a game.
Its many years since I’ve been to Shildon. In fact I have to say that Shildon was the first town I visited, well when I say visited, I mean lived in. When I was born my parents lived in Shildon and therefore so did I for the first 2 –3 years of my life. There was only 1 thing that spoilt those early years in Shildon. This was having this criminal as a neighbour!
Its somewhat ironic I write this blog post today as its potentially the last time Darlington FC will be in existence. One of the big reasons behind their huge financial debts is the White Elephant of a 25,000 seater stadium he built and moved the club to. Now what is wrong with this you ask, well Darlington have averaged circa 2,000 crowds for many years and the town only has a population of 97,000 so it was never going to be filled! The rates and other operating costs of the new grounds have crippled the club. Oh and the club do not own the ground!
If you see this man, beware, he is a convicted thief, and has a track record of dishonesty offences as well as destroying a proud football club.
Anyway, back to my ground hopping. The Skill Training Northern League tend to kick off matches early on bank holidays. So I travelled down from the Tyne Valley where I was spending Christmas being pampered by Michelle, to get to Dean Street for the 11am kick off. I arrived there at 11am only to find the ground closed. It was very windy, so had the match been called off? No, the truth was it was a 1pm kick off not an 11am kick off d’oh!
A rapid rearrangement of my plans meant a shopping trip in Bishop, then to the game. The only problem was that the 2 hour delay meant I could not stay to watch the whole game as my pass out from Michelle expired before the end of the game and I’m not brave enough to disobey her as she would ground me and make me sit on the naughty step.
No seriously, I had commitments back on Tyneside that afternoon. Arriving at the ground, the first thing to notice was the great chip shop next to the ground. The portion of chips they serve was far more than even I could manage. A good businessman as he ensures he is open to kick off time for all Shildon games.
The turnstiles are only at one end of the ground. Over the years, it seems the number of turnstiles have been reduced and you can see the bricked up entrances. For the first time in a long time, I had to queue to get into a non league game. Not that the crown was huge (circa 340) but I think the all arrived at the same time as me. The admission price a massive £5.
Two views of the turnstiles – from the outside and inside.
The ground at Shildon is rather basic and until a few years ago only consisted of the main stand and no other development. The main stand now has a new roof and bucket seating and opposite this is a small covered stand rather like a long bus shelter. This ily exists because when Bishop Auckland were in the Northern Premier League and wanted to ground share they had to build this to comply with the rules on covered accommodation in that league. These days, the stand is named after Lee Hainsworth a 26 year old player who was killed in a car accident on the way to training back in 2004.
The main stand is large and distinctive. Within the stand are the dressing rooms, bar etc. To either side of the stand is a concrete walkway and the remains of steps of terracing.
On one side of the main stand is a portacabin hosting the club shop and a hospitality suite. Sadly my £5 did not gain me admission to the hospitality suite.
One of the joys of watching football at this level is you see things you would not see at Premiership games; for example would you see a young child on a scooter inside Old Trafford?
Where apart from amongst the peasant in Sunderland would you find a spectator sat on a chair on the roof of his garden shed to avoid paying the £5 admission fee?
The game itself was spoilt by the wind and by a referee who seemed to know all the rules, but none of the spirit of the game. The wind was blowing the length of the pitch
and as you can see from the picture above had an effect on the corner flag. Spennymoor went a goal up early on, but by half time it was 1-1. I left at half time and as a result missed Spennymoor’s winning goal.
Footage of the game is available here
This comes courtesy of a great website Northern League Football Premiership Passion and thanks must go to Hayley who attends and films so many Northern League games.
Quality security at this ground. If you look closely in the 2nd picture below, you will see the security fence is not actually even attached to the wall to the right of the gate.
I think the netting in the first photograph is in case Shildon ever get to play at home to Aston Villa with Emile Heskey in the side or Chelsea with Fernando Torres or any of the current Sunderland AFC side.