West Allotment Celtic
Find out more about our roots and heritage. Our passion for this North East club and our plans for the future...
1908 TO PRESENT
THE STORY SO FAR
The history of football in the community of West Allotment goes back into the early years of the last century. Indeed, the first organised club to represent the village competed in the Byker & District League as early as 1908/09. Various clubs came and went over the ensuing years but the formation of the West Allotment Primitive Methodists (PMs) team after World War I was the key step leading to the creation of the present-day club. The PMs competed in the Forest Hall & District Churches’ League with reasonable success until 1928.
In 1928, the PMs began to feel the bite financially. Deeply-rooted in a coal-mining community and with the industry in turmoil following the General Strike, trying to maintain a local club was extremely difficult. So, facing ever-increasing debts, the decision was taken to wind-up the Primitive Methodists team and create a new club. That new club was effectively a merger of the old PMs team and West Allotment Juniors, another local club where it made sense to close-down, join forces and re-emerge stronger. So, the 1928/29 season saw West Allotment Celtic commence operations in the North Shields & District Churches’ League. Playing at Holystone and using old stables as changing-rooms, the club didn’t meet with instant success. However, eventually the League Cup was won in 1934/35 to provide Celtic with their first significant trophy.
A move to the newly-created Tynemouth & District League in 1935 saw the club begin to become more of a force. Yet the initial signs were not promising, with Celtic losing 5-1 at Old Hartley Star and 2-1 at home to Earsdon Road Villa in their opening fixtures. To the relief of those from West Allotment, it didn’t take long for the players to find their feet. In fact, so good was the recovery that a ten-point gap between Celtic and the top of the table was closed before the season ended.
The club then had to face Whitley Bay & Monkseaton Reserves in a play-off for the title and unfortunately the decider went the way of the seasiders. Remarkably, Allotment also finished in a play-off position in the following two seasons too – and, in each case, lost the decider!
The decision to move to a higher-grade of football was made in 1938 and the club joined the Second Division of the Northern Amateur League. Now playing at the aptly-named Farm Ground, which was to remain “home” until 1968, supporters helped to dismantle a cowshed in Heaton and move it, piece by piece to West Allotment where it was reassembled at the ground. The shed was not for spectators – it provided the players’ changing facilities! The club earned instant promotion (after a play-off, of course!) but World War II put a stop to any further progress.
The club recommenced operations in 1946/47 and, slowly but surely, progress was made. Added to a solid nucleus of “old heads”, an influx of excellent players from the Juniors Section, started after the war, created a blend that was far too strong for Allotment’s rivals and the club enjoyed an unprecedented run of success from the mid-fifties onwards. The championship was won on four successive seasons between 1956-60, with the NFA Amateur Cup added in 1957 and the NFA Minor Cup captured in 1958.
Unlike some of their rivals, the club decided to remain loyal to the Northern Amateur League rather than move to a higher level of competition. However, the bulk of the team did move on and the club lost the winning habit, leaving it to face some dire and mediocre times during the 1960s. In fact, the club was stagnating so badly, in a league that was struggling to retain a competitive number of teams, that closure was a real possibility for a while. Fortunately, that spectre was dismissed with the introduction of new blood into the club towards the end of the decade and, once again, the on and off-field strength began to be developed. The club also moved to Backworth Welfare in 1968, consigning the ponds and mud of the Farm Ground to memory.
With the astonishing goal-scoring exploits of Benny Williams (his 400th goal for the team was scored in just his 412th appearance!) supported by strength in all positions, the team won the NFA Amateur Cup again in 1975 and were always amongst the title-chasers. However, the championship remained tantalisingly out of reach until 1982, when Allotment won a nail-biting play-off by the odd goal in seven against Annitsford Welfare. When the title was retained with ease the following season, the decision was taken to move up a grade for the first time since 1938.
The 1983/84 season saw Allotment begin their Northern Alliance career and make their debut in the FA Vase. The first honour at the higher level arrived in 1985 when Ponteland United were beaten in the Alliance Challenge Cup Final at St.James’ Park, Newcastle. The first of Allotment’s eight Alliance titles arrived soon after, in 1987, after two nail-biting play-off matches with Gosforth St.Nicholas. The club continued to maintain high standards following that success, never finishing lower than sixth in the Northern Alliance and winning seven further titles.
Particularly noteworthy was the hat-trick of titles between 1998-2000, won under the management team of Ken Scott and Billy Hays. In 1997/98, the team won twenty-four successive league matches on the way to clinching the championship. That successful duo was followed by another in the form of Terry Mitchell and Brian Latty, who maintained the exacting standard set by their predecessors. Terry and Brian led the club to championship success in three of the four years they were in charge, as well as guiding Allotment into the Northern League. There were also many cup successes and some exciting runs to the later stages of the FA Vase.
Ever since Terry Mitchell left Allotment to join the professional ranks at Hartlepool in 2005, the club has experienced a topsy-turvy existence on the pitch, the low points being relegations to Division 2 of the Northern League in 2010/11 and 2016/17. Yet, counter-balancing these downswings, the club has regularly punched above its weight and even enjoyed occasional days back in the spotlight, such as when promotion was achieved in 2013/14, one year after Allotment had won the Ernest Armstrong Cup for a second time. Paul Stoneman and his management team were behind those successes and Paul was back at the helm during 2016/17 when the incumbent manager, Jon McDonald, unexpectedly left the club. Unfortunately, Paul was unable to prevent the club slipping to relegation and he left the club at the end of the season. He was replaced by Paul Bennett and Andrew Wood, who took over the team management role for a second time following a previous spell in charge during 2009-11.
Faced with a complete rebuilding job, with minimum funding, Paul and Andrew did very well to steady a club rocking badly. Over fifty players were used during the 2017/18 campaign; yet, despite some extended runs without a win, the management steered the club well clear of any danger of relegation back into the Northern Alliance. Then, just as things appeared to be settling down, both Paul and Andrew were forced to leave the club due to work commitments.
So, as the club celebrated its 90th birthday, it started a new season under new management once more. The “cavalry” had arrived in the shape of Alan Gate, Jay Bates and Gary Somerville. Alan had worked with the club under Bennett and Wood, whilst Jay and Gary arrived after handling management duties at Seaton Delaval Amateurs. The trio worked wonders to not only build a team from scratch but make it an exciting one to watch. A sixth-place finish gives great confidence that a promotion push might be on the cards during 2019/20; certainly, that is the aim. The positive vibe is reinforced by an increasing army of junior and women’s teams that play under the West Allotment Celtic badge and widen the club’s spread across all age groups and gender.
In 2001, the club moved to Whitley Park in Benton after having acted as tenants at Hillheads in Whitley Bay from 1995. Allotment were to stay in Benton until the end of the 2016/17 season, when a major rise in the rent priced the facilities beyond the means of the club. Following a frantic period of activity during the summer of 2017, the club found another new home, this time at Druid Park in Woolsington, formerly the base of the long defunct Newcastle Blue Star club. This explains why the club currently plays so far from West Allotment itself - it was a life-saving move required to ensure the very existence of the club; indeed, the club tendered its resignation from the Northern League, so desperate was the situation. Yet, typical of the club throughout its history, it found strength in adversity and found a way forward.