Saturday brought my first visit of the season to Spennymoor’s Brewery Field ground for their opening game of the 2012-2013 Ebac Northern League. The game was between last season’s league Champions (Spennymoor) and last Season’s Division 2 Champions, Team Northumbria. At the end of last season, Team Northumbria beat Spennymoor in the semi-final of the League Cup. However, already this season, Spennymoor had beaten Team Northumbria to win the JR Cleator Cup. The Northern League’s equivalent of the Community Shield.
Albeit, this was Spennymoor’s first league game, they had also played an FA Cup tie at home the previous Saturday beating Scarborough 1-0.
The first image of the ground after entering the turnstile was that it looked very tidy, having had a coat of paint on the walls. The pitch also looked the best I have ever seen it in 40 years of attending the Brewery Field
However, it was not instantly visible where the major improvement had taken place. The Tees Crescent side of the ground had at one time been condemned, given the crumbling terraces, grassy bank and general unsafe standing area. This comes about as a result of years of neglect following the demolition of the old stand on that side.
That side looked like this in March 2001
Now in August 2012, it looks like this
Quite a change I would say. This is a big improvement for any football club, not least one who only get around 300- 350 people at a home game. These improvements mean there is now proper disabled access to the ground. The refurbishment of the turnstiles on the Tees Crescent side of the ground enable the club to introduced segregation if it were to be needed.
The developments on this side I understand have not yet finished. There are to be new dugouts on this side of the pitch and if planning permission is granted, then there is to be a new covered terrace.
Credit has to be given to chairman Brad Groves and the committee and volunteers at the club, and even the fans who have come along and helped with the improvements. The future looks exciting for the club. One only has to look at the commercial packages the club have put together and the number of main sponsors, programme and ground advertisers etc. the club have. Details of these are on the club website
These improvements are even more impressive when one considers that they have not been done at the expense of the team. Spennymoor have won the northern League for the last 3 years. There is however, significant competition in the Northern League with many well run clubs who are able to challenge at the top of the Northern League.
Another thing to note about football at this level is how cheap it is. Admission is only £6 per game. Replica shirts cost as little as £15 for an adult size top. Compare this with £50 for a premier league club’s replica shirt.
The game itself was a rather one-sided affair with Spennymoor dominating the game without ever seeming to get out of 2nd gear. They were 2-0 up by half time in the August sunshine. A penalty at the start of the second half made it 3-0 and allowed Spennymoor to ease up and still win comfortably. I must however mention that the goalkeeper, Robert Dean did make a couple of good saves in the second half. I understand Team Northumbria were missing a number of key players, but even allowing for this, they were made to look very ordinary by Spennymoor. Hopefully this Spennymoor performance will be repeated often throughout the season.
One of the things that make football at this level so enjoyable is how friendly and approachable everyone at the club is. One is always made to feel welcome. Can you imagine the directors walking round the ground chatting to spectators during the game at St James’ Park? No, I meant outside of the corporate boxes! Well every game, Mike Rowcroft and other committee members are doing this at Spennymoor.
One thing that did cause me to raise an eyebrow on Saturday was the newly refurbished toilet block on the Tees Crescent side. The Gents toilet is clearly signed and easy to enter. However, when one looks for the ladies and disabled toilets, it seems they have to climb the fence and relieve themselves in someone’s garden