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Saturday 10th March 2013 ko 11.00am

Northern League Division One

CELTIC NATION 1 (Allan 86)


Att 409

Entry £5

Programme £1

Badge £3

The hobby of groundhopping owes the Northern League and General Secretary Mike Amos a debt of gratitude, as it was they in 1992 invented the organised groundhop, staggered kick-offs over a day or days to attract the groundhoppers. The idea has grown, and this season there are set to be at least 11 such events, including 3 more where it all started, in the Northern League who are celebrating their 125th anniversary. Or put another way, after 17 years, the Northern League Hop is back on the calendar!

The first game back was an intriguing one. Celtic Nation are based at the former Railway Club in southern Carlisle and used to be called Gillford Park. They played at the ground next door to the Rugby League club, Carlisle RLFC. When the rugby league club were merged into Barrow RLFC following the introduction of summer rugby and Super League, the football bought the ground and moved in. More machinations were to follow when Gillford Park gained sponsorship from Frank Lynch, an American millionaire with the idea of setting the club up as a team for the Irish and Scots community. The name was changed and Celtic FC’s strip of green and white hoops adopted.

Its obvious that significant investment has occurred. Many at the game were convinced that Celtic are now full-time, a brave if not fool-hardy step, 5 promotions from the Football League. Moreover moves were afoot to move the club to a groundshare at the inferior Raydale Park, Gretna. That was blocked by the FA, but many wonder now whether the whole point of Celtic Nation is to be a Trojan Horse, to get Celtic FC into the English pyramid via the back door. Ostensibly the club’s ambitions are to get into the Football League as quickly as possible, but that’s an ambition seen many-a-time and always seems to end in tears.

From my perspective it was a pleasure to attend a hop where I had no involvement in its organisation. Mike Amos has handed over that responsibility to Harvey Harris for the 4 125th Anniversary hops and I saw this day as a means of enjoying some good football, to pick up some tips for GroundhopUK events, and to catch up with friends.

A bonus was the appearance of photographic maestro Stuart Clarke at these 3 games. He remains a massive influence on the pictures I take, even if I’m not up to the use of a Bronica camera, or using a darkroom! It will be fascinating to see what he produces. If you’re not aware of his work, have a look at this.


Poor Harvey had 2 problems to deal with straight away. Firstly the coach arrived late at its pick-up point in Penrith, then Whitehaven failed to deliver their pre-booked programmes to him to make up the packs. These packs have become a staple of most hops, as many there will regard a programme as a prerequisite of their attendance. Whitehaven’s error, and the coach’s tardiness (it arrived 5 minutes before kick-off) meant that the programme packs weren’t distributed until the Whitehaven game. It produced a few grumbles, and a minor windfall for Celtic Nation as some, me included, bought an insurance programme just to be sure!

What few expected was just how good Bishop Auckland were, or perhaps how disappointing Celtic were. Make no mistake, the visitors’ coach, once it cleared the car park (!) will have had a miserable journey back along the A66 through sheer disappointment. They should have won this at a canter, and only a neat flick from Jon Allan, from a corner together with a goalkeeping error prevented a famous away win.

By the time that goal went in though, many travellers were at the exits. The approach road was narrow, and the coach was blocked in. Suddenly the 45 miles to Whitehaven looked longer than it did!