Non League Daily

CHAIRMANS BLOG: Hard work goes on after season end

The season may well have finished but Northern League chairman Mike Amos is still working hard.  Here is his latest blog 

May 19 2015

Russell Wynn, who runs North Shields TV, and Craig Dobson – responsible for West Allotment Celtic’s award winning programme and for the design of the new-look league magazine – are two of our brightest and most talented innovators. Great minds, we arrange to meet this evening in a pub in Wallsend.

There’s a problem: the train out of Darlington is delayed because of a trespasser on the line north of the station.

Then there’s another problem. The Metro gets as far as Manors, just out of Newcastle city centre, when the driver announces that there’s a “drunken trespasser” on the line ahead and that we’re going nowhere.

A few minutes later he says that the drunken trespasser is now on Byker viaduct, that the constabulary has been called to remove him and that we’ve all to get off because the train’s going back whence it came.

Forgive us our trespasses? Probably not.

Happily, the lads are still waiting (and on Coke.) Russ is particularly excited because he’s hoping to stream footage of North Shields’ presentation evening this Thursday live onto the league website – another Northern League first.
If that works, he plans to repeat the experiment with some of the presentations at the annual league dinner on May 29. All very clever, and a lot better than Coronation Street.

Knock-on effects of the earlier delay, I miss the train back, have to wait 35 minutes for another and nip into Sainsbury’s on the station for a sandwich. No joy: all they have is those damn-fool self-service tills and I’ve no idea how to work them. Where’s the technical department when you need it?

May 18 2015

A couple of bits of good news – three if you include that my annual report is now past 5,000 words and growing apace. Shame that I no longer stand up, Olivier-like, to deliver it.

The really good news is that Marske United and the magnificent Moss Holtby have again won yet again come top in the national non-league programme awards – the fifth time in eight years, I think, and second in the other three. It’s an incredible achievement.

Moss, a new and very proud dad, reckons that he’s now taking a back seat so that someone else can hold the blue and tallow baby. We shall see.

West Allotment Celtic, who won the league’s own competition, were 19th overall. Penrith were the next highest Ebac Northern League club, in 30th place. Alnwick Town was the top placed second division programme and AFC Bournemouth named top in the “professional” game.

The other happy news is that my younger lad and his pals from Richmond Mavericks successfully completed their 27-mile marathon walk around seven of London’s football grounds to raise funds for the Nepal earthquake appeal. To date they’ve raised £2,783 for the British Red Cross and £400 for the Help Nepal Network.

A number of Northern League folk have helped towards that total, either on-line or by shoving cash in my hand. Owen wants greatly to thank them all. Still possible to donate at

May 14 2015

Many times it has been said that, for administrators, the close season is when things really start to get busy. Today there’s a ground inspection on Tyneside – of which more in a moment – followed by a gathering in Jarrow for the league’s proposed new chaplaincy team followed in the evening by a couple of meetings in Durham.

Someone at the chaplaincy meeting quotes George Orwell. “Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness and disregard of all the rules.”

That the evening meetings are of the league management committee is, of course, coincidental – especially regarding the last bit.

The inspection is at the request of South Shields, the fourth different potential home that we’ve looked at for them since they left Filtrona Park two years ago and moved in 20 miles away at Peterlee. This one’s very much more positive, 99.99 per cent certain and, shall we say, not unfamiliar.

A major announcement is expected in the Shields Gazette on Friday morning: perhaps it’s not talking out of school to say that the new home will be called Mariners Park. Scholars will need to decide whether there should be an apostrophe.

The meetings finish about 9 30pm with a generous and dignified valediction from Leo Osborn, our chaplain. Two-and-a-half hours before management committee nominations close and not a soul has been proposed. It looks like the Ebac Northern League is stuck with its chairman for a 20th successive season.

May 12 2015

Time to start on my annual report, anticipated by Northern League people as eagerly as a kid looks forward to Christmas. These days it’s taken as read, a euphemism which generally means not read at all. This one’s the 19th, together about 150,000 words. A large chunk of history.

Since it’s that time of year, a final reminder that nominations for the league management committee – including the chairmanship, should anyone be so masochistic – must be with Kevin Hewitt, the league secretary, by close of play on Thursday.

So far there hasn’t been a single “new” nomination. What’s the phrase about getting the government you deserve?
Tonight’s the North Riding Senior Cup final, my 101st match of the season, Guisborough Town v Middlesbrough at the KGV. Among the 450 crowd is last year’s Northern League young player of the year Danny Johnson, signed by Cardiff City from Guisborough last summer but released last week. Nice lad, he understandably looks a bit forlorn.

Temporarily at least, Town have also lost James Risborough – inexplicably known as Munch – to a Swedish club.
Boro win 2-0, the 54th time that they’ve had their hands on the trophy, but Guisborough have had a tremendous season and, clearly, are on an upward trajectory. Hounds at the Grounds man Tim Grimshaw, also among the crowd, is getting excited about finding a cocker spaniel named Jensen. “It’s because he likes Formula 1 racing,” Jensen’s owner explains.

It’s the last match involving an Ebac Northern League club this season and thus, as has become usual, the last of the daily blogs. Until August it’ll appear on what clever folk call an ad hoc basis. Those desperate for something to read can always ask for a copy of the annual report.

May 11 2015

Long the home of the Bishops of Durham, Auckland Castle has been born again. Inspired by Stokesley-born philanthropist and entrepreneur Jonathan Ruffer – such a thoroughly good guy that he’s one of the few actually to have been given a copy of Northern Conquest – the castle and the land around will become a focal point for town and region.

Two imminent events have strong Northern League connections, the first an exhibition on the rich history of Bishop Auckland FC – neatly called Birth of the Blues – which will run at the castle from May 22 – September 28. It launches next Thursday.

Among the many milestones in that rich history was the twice-replayed 1954 FA Amateur Cup final against Crook Town – 100,000 at Wembley for the first game, 60,000 at St James’ Park for the second and a capacity 40,000 at Ayresome Park for the third.

It was a sadness to learn today that Bishops inside right Les Dixon, scorer of the first Wembley goal, has died. He was 85, also lived in Stokesley and had played for Billingham Synners, Whitby Town and South Bank.

The second event, on June 3 at 6 30pm, is a talk by The Far Corner author Harry Pearson breathlessly called “Running for your life in Wild West Durham: a personal history of North-East non-league football.”

Harry – non-driver, good lad, great writer – is becoming increasingly familiar around the Northern League after jacking in his Guardian column. His reasoning is explained on his blog. “Trying to find something fresh to say about that babbling brook of hyperbolic bullshit which is The Most Exciting League in the World (TM) sucks the joy out of you. It’s a massive relief to listen to Jose Mourinho and not give a tinker’s.”

Harry’s talk starts at 6 30pm. Tickets are £6 and must be paid for in advance. Call 01388 743750. It’s followed by a “drinks reception” – it’s to be hoped they mean Bovril.

May 10 2015

Like many men, I start the paper from the back. It’s thus increasingly puzzling that in 30 pages of Sunday Sun sport, 96 to 66, there seems to be not a single word about yesterday’s great events at Wembley.

The headline “Reds honour bound to be better next season” hardly seems to refer to the Robins of North Shields and is, in any case, about Liverpool. The 72pt headline “Shields leading way as fish return inshore” is briefly more hopeful, might even be allegorical, but can swiftly be discarded.

Has Steve Brown wangled yet another holiday, and at the customarily inappropriate time? Has the Sunday Sun done what it did last week in our edition, and included the same four pages twice – presumably omitting another four?

It’s only over a second cup of coffee that I realise that, unheralded, there’s an eight-page pull-out in the middle of the paper and that Browny has, as always, done us proud. Mind, he doesn’t mention his oft-repeated prediction that the Ebac Northern League’s run of Wembley appearances would end in 2014-15.

Beneath the headline “Gutsy North Shields lift FA Vase”, the Sunday Times has a match report, too. Here’s the intro: “Professional football in the North-East of England may have endured plenty of barren years, in terms of collecting silverware, but at amateur level it thrives on a spectacular scale.”

No matter the misuse of the word “amateur” – not now, hardly ever – the guy has a point. Yesterday’s blog was mistaken, however, to talk of tall trees syndrome. We meant tall poppies. Why wouldn’t we be allowed to continue to thrive, and to be a template for the nation?


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