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Saturday 26th October 2013 ko 16.00

Northern League Division One

TEAM NORTHUMBRIA 3 (Luke 7 Riley 21 Watling 55)

WHITLEY BAY 4 (Chow 16 27p 53 65)

Att 396

Entry £5

Programme £1

Badge NOT AVAILABLE

Parking 50p

It says something about the proximity of Team Northumbria to West Allotment that notoriously impatient hoppers were happy to wait for the car park to clear! It was less than a mile from Whitley Park to Coach Lane and as I arrived I spotted a queue of hoppers grumbling about paying 50p to park.

On one hand it IS only 50p, a trifle but the argument some hoppers make is that
in times of ever-increasing fuel prices, paying anything to park is an imposition. Not that the club could do anything about the charge in this instance, but that argument is something GroundhopUK have taken on board.

Being the football team for Northumbria University, the ground has had to adapt to the needs of both the University and those of the Northern League. The stand is low-slung and prefabricated, and oddly enough didn’t quite satisfy the ground grader so the club were forced to construct a stand to give capacity for an extra 12! Bureaucracy gone mad!

I was surprised that club had absolutely no merchandise on sale, not even that mandatory item on the groundhop, the metal and enamel badge. The explanations didn’t cut the mustard,  “They’re a student side, they’ve not really a real club,” was mentioned, that and the club’s use of a burger van for catering was another missed opportunity for revenue. If the club are paying their subs, and are playing in a Step 5 League then they are the same as everyone else.

If you stand in front of a clubs’ groundhop planning meeting and ask what catering the clubs will do, the default position is always burgers. Its easy, and the clubs think they’re popular. Once possibly, but throughout a day, or weekend they soon grate. The burger van is a way for a club to contract out the catering, its one less thing to worry about in their eyes, but when the van owner usually only pays the club around 10% of the takings it becomes a case of the club paying someone to take away the hop game’s biggest source of profit. The club would have been far better off borrowing a camping stove and doing a curry or chilli. Berinsfield of the North Berkshire League, who are off pyramid, did that and made a massive profit. http://wp.me/p1PehW-23o It can be done, if the will is there.

That, and the thin programme made the staging look perfunctory, and as I moved to pitchside with my cup of tea I could hear the comments, “Well let’s hope the game’s better than this….” It proved to be the game of the day!

If Whitley Bay was in the Midlands, then they wouldn’t be playing at Step 5. Their support, and standard of play over the last few years has been phenomenal. They won the FA Vase three times on the trot from 2009 and their support is always in the hundreds. They boosted the crowd by at least 150, and added colour and atmosphere.

That didn’t seem to worry the students who took an early lead through David Luke, and from that point the battle the students faced was whether they could score more goals than Paul Chow! The Bay forward is something of a legend, having scored over 200 goals for the club, and he was the difference between the two teams. Put simply, every time the students scored, Whitley Bay fed Chow and he put the ball in the back of the net.

You couldn’t take your eyes off the game for a minute, it was as good on the pitch, as the staging off of it had been poor. The game raised everyone’s spirits, and soon the stream of humanity began walking to the final game of the day.