Whisper it not in West Allotment, but today’s match between Ashington and Seaham Red Star is the first time I’ve been north of the Tyne all season. Mind, Northumberland has four fewer Northern League teams than it had at this time last year.
It’s also the first time since the Spring that I’ve headed from Newcastle Central up to the Haymarket bus station, Northumberland Street as crowded as ever with buskers, pavement artists and “down with this sort of thing” protestors.
Racism and imperialism appear to be today’s chief targets. None demands “Ashley out”, but they’re probably on a bus to Manchester.
For once buses and trains almost dovetail, even allowing time for a lap of Ashington town centre. Once the place was said to have more clubs (wasn’t it 60-odd?) than anywhere else in the land, more recently – if the terrace chant is to be believed – to be full of pubs, bookies and chip shops.
Now every other commercial outlet appears to be a hairdresser or beauty parlour, or a pulchritudinous permutation of the two. A bonny state of affairs, as perhaps they’d say in NE63.
Seaham were the last visitors, six years ago, to Ashington’s much-loved but crumbling Portland Park ground, winning 4-2 in front of a tumultuous crowd.
Brian Robinson, the Colliers’ secretary at the time, says that he has a confession. “We just made the attendance up,” he says. “1966 came to us because it was the year the Charlton brothers won the World Cup.”
Probably it was well over 2,000, he adds, but 2,000 was their safety limit. I was there on that memorable night. “I’d never have guessed,” I tell him.
For Gavin Perry, the current secretary and newest member of the Ebac Northern League management committee, its his 67th game of the season. By Sunday evening he’ll be on 70 – “two Sunday games here and then Newcastle women at Druid Park.”
A 3-1 win edges Ashington into the top half of the first division table, keeps Seaham in the bottom three. The crowd’s not announced, but it’s probably about 1,800 fewer than the year Jack and Bobby won the World Cup.
*Two final thoughts. Firstly, warmest congratulations to Dunston UTS on a wonderful FA Cup win against Chester City. Maybe it was the biggest game in the club’s history after all, Malcolm.
Secondly, back to butterflies. From the heights of Tow Law, where at this time of year they’ve usually had their first snow, club secretary Steve Moralee wings an image taken before today’s match of a cabbage white taking a breather on the goal net. Can the first cuckoo be far away?