The Death of a Spennymoor Knight



The obituary that appeared in The Times on 28th January 2010 was so short that even avid readers of that erstwhile publication may well have either missed it, or else passed over it quickly, judging it as ‘unimportant’. It simply informed readers: ‘The Rt Hon. Sir Percy Cradock, GCMG, died after a short illness on 22nd January 2010, aged 86 years. Funeral Service at St Mary’s Church, Twickenham, Wednesday 3rd February 2010 at 1.30pm, followed by cremation’. Why should anyone care? These are the reasons why…

Percy Cradock was born on 26th October 1923 into a family of small farmers in Byers Green, and became a fervent Labour supporter. He won a scholarship to Alderman Wraith Grammar School and, after spending the wartime years in the RAF, was the first from his family to go to university.

At St John’s College, Cambridge, he won all the prizes, got double starred Firsts in English and Law, and fell under the spell of Arthur Waley’s Translations from the Chinese, later becoming an Honorary Fellow of the College. In 1950 he was elected president of the Cambridge Union, which has, since its founding in 1815, developed a worldwide reputation as a noted symbol of free speech and open debate, beating his Conservative opponent Norman St John Stevas into second place. Cradock’s victory is said to have owed less to his politics than it did to his reputation as the Union’s best speaker by far. Later, he would write a history of the Union.

He stayed on at Cambridge for a time to teach Law, then, having been called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1953, he left Cambridge, married Birthe Marie Dyrlund, and joined the Foreign Office as a late entrant in 1954. Subsequent to that he served as: First Secretary, Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], 1957-61, Hong Kong, 1961, Peking [China], 1962; Foreign Office, 1963-66; Counsellor and Head of Chancery, Peking, 1966-68; Chargé d’Affaires, Peking, 1968-69; Head of Planning Staff, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1969-71; Under-Secretary, Cabinet Office, 1971-75; Ambassador to German Democratic Republic, 1976-78; Leader, UK Delegation to Comprehensive Test Ban Discussions at Geneva [Switzerland], 1978.

He was then posted back to Beijing, this time as British Ambassador, succeeding Sir Edward Youde, and he led the negotiations on the Hong Kong Joint Declaration which prepared for the handing back of the Province to its owners, the Chinese Government, earning himself the soubriquet ‘Maggie’s Mandarin’.

On his previous appointment to Beijing he had been caught up in the Cultural Revolution, witnessed the burning of the British Chancery and had even been forced to run the gauntlet of rioting mobs. This time he led the British team during difficult, often tense negotiations over the better part of two years; though by the time the Joint Declaration was signed in December 1984, he had been appointed Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and was working from a desk in Number 10 once again. A year later he was also appointed Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, duties which he continued to fulfil until his retirement from government service in 1992. In 1993 he was made a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, a body of advisors to the reigning sovereign.

After his retirement, Cradock, who had always been pro-Chinese, became the most outspoken critic of Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, and of his liberalising policies, which he insisted would force the government of the People’s Republic to take strong action to reign in personal freedoms when it took back control on 1st July, 1997.

He was the author of a long article published in ‘Prospect’ on 20th April 1997 with the title ‘Losing the Plot in Hong Kong’, in which he wrote scathingly of ‘…the story of a bad mistake, which has left Hong Kong worse off in terms of protection and democracy than it need have been’. He went on to say ‘It has gone unacknowledged, as government errors tend to do, and has been almost buried under the powerful emotions stirred up by the loss of our last great colonial possession and the inevitable political-cultural clash…’

So this Spennymoor born man, who served his country to the best of his ability, as an advisor, both to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and to her Prime Minister; who was awarded the GCMG (Cross of St. Michael and St. George) in 1968; raised to KCMG (Knight of the Cross of St. Michael and St. George) in 1980 and finally to KGCMG (Knight of the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George) in 1983, passed away on 22nd January after a short illness, at the age of 86.

Knights have always been regarded, since time immemorial as men of courage and valour. We humbly record the passing of one of our own – the death of a Spennymoor Knight.

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Football, SPORT

Victorious Moors Return Home…


The cup they cheered

Victorious Moors give fans something to cheer (Spennymoor Today)

There were no sad faces to be seen anywhere, as crowds never before witnessed in Spennymoor, even on the annual Town Gala Day, lined the streets to welcome home the heroes of Spennymoor Town FC, winners of the FA Carlsberg Vase, in what will almost certainly be its last staging at Wembley Stadium. For a club that regularly attracts an average attendance of about 320 for home games, the welcoming throng even made the 4,500+ Wembley supporters seem outnumbered. Everywhere, fans, many of them wearing the familiar black and white of the club strip, lined the streets to welcome their team – and their beautiful new silverware, and it could pose a very welcome problem for the club if they all decide to attend home fixtures next season.

The tour of the district on an open topped bus had started at the club’s Brewery Field home, and made its way through Tudhoe, Low Spennymoor, Kirk Merrington, Middlestone Moor and Binchester on route to Byers Green. On the return leg of its journey the people of Binchester and Middlestone Moor had a second opportunity to greet them, as they travelled via Whitworth Terrace, High Street, Oxford Road, King Street and Cheapside on their way to a Civic Reception.

Outside the entrance to Spennymoor Town Hall, no more than a few metres from the Wembley Club Shop kindly donated by Spennymoor Town Council, Mayor George Tolley was waiting to greet and congratulate the victorious team members, on behalf of a town that was simply overwhelmed by the occasion.

Media was in evidence everywhere: and their presence was not confined to photographers, although there were more of those than you could shake a lens cap at. Just to my left, outside the town hall, a television news reporter was recording his contribution ready for transmission later that day, and Bishop FM was represented by former Spennynews reporter Pauline Fothergill.

Ex Spennymoor United captain Dave Curry was present in the town centre, accompanied by a trio of lovely young ladies from Tudhoe Cricket Club – where, amazingly, play was stopped, not by rain, but so that players and spectators could applaud the team as they passed the ground!

Gavin Cogden, scorer of The Moors opening goal, commented: “Scoring at Wembley capped it all for me, but I wasn’t expecting anything like today. It brings home the reality of what we’ve achieved and how much it means to the town.” Manager Jason Ainsley was equally amazed: “I’ve never know so many people turn out to congratulate a team on winning a cup,” he observed.

Of course, when the cup in question is the “Holy Grail” of minor league football, that does tend to make a little bit of difference. Many members of Spennymoor Town Council have strong links with the club, and Mayor Tolley summed things up when he said: “I always wanted to go to Wembley with my home town club, and now I’ve done it. It’s absolutely unbelievable to see so many people waving flags and scarves.”

On display along with the coveted Vase, was the J. R. Cleator Cup won by The Moors at the start of the season. With two more cup finals awaiting them – The Durham Challenge Cup and Northern League Cup – it’s little wonder the whole town is held firmly in the grip of football fever.

High Street welcome

Home at last… to a mind blowing High Street welcome (Spennymoor Today)

Look what we've brought home at last!

Look what we’ve brought home at last! (Spennymoor Today)

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Moors Survive Late Scare to Win Vase


Spennymoor Town players ceebrate winning the FA Carlsberg Vase 2013

In what may prove to be the last final staged at Wembley, Spennymoor Town survived a late scare to win the FA Carlsberg Vase in front of 16,751 fans from Durham and Kent, the highest attendance for a Wembley Vase Final in five years. Tunbridge started briskly, and produced a moment of early danger when Stanford collected the ball inside the Spennymoor half with the match just six minutes old, and the Town defence opened up for him. He reached the area before firing in his shot, but Robert Dean in the Moors goal beat the ball away to safety.

That proved to be the only real threat Wells produced during the first period as the more determined Moors took a firm grip on the game, and it came as no surprise when they took the lead on 18 minutes. A beautiful cross clipped in from the right by eventual man-of-the-match Keith Graydon found Gavin Cogdon 15 yards from goal, and he powered an inch perfect looping header, beyond the reach of the diving Chris Oladogba, before peeling away to perform a celebratory hand-stand. Although the Wells keeper had been unable to do anything to deny the goal, he made an important contribution towards keeping his team in the game, and the score down to that single strike, with a series of fine saves. He was particularly alert when Cogdon made space for himself inside the box; and pushed another shot from Mark Davison around the post for a corner. Tunbridge defender Lewis Mingle almost accidentally increased Moors lead on the half hour, when he connected with Wayne Phillips’ deep cross at the far post and rattled the frame of his own goal under pressure from Davison.

After the break, a revitalised and reshaped Tunbridge came out firing on all cylinders, and almost capitalised on a fumble by Dean, but the Spennymoor stopper reacted quickest, and regained the ball before any of the Wells men could take advantage. Dean did well moments later when Perry Spackman hooked the ball in from the bye-line. This time he turned it safely over the bar. From the resulting corner, Spackman connected with a powerful header, which went wide.

At the other end, Cogdon continued to cause problems for the Wells back four in his search for a second goal, and a neat swivel and shot inside the box was well saved by Oladogba, then Cogdon latched onto a loose ball six yards out, but was denied by Mingle’s block. Davison also had another chance, but headed wide from Graydon’s cross, then the midfielder had a go himself – a free-kick inside the area following a back pass, that went high and wide.

Then, with 12 minutes left, the Kent fans went wild with delight, when a cross from the right wing was clawed away by Dean, but only as far as Stanford, who sent his first-time volley into the unguarded net from 12 yards to level the scores, with Dean helpless. But their delight was to prove short-lived, and when Lewis Dodds ran at the defence three minutes later, a clever lay-off found Graydon unmarked inside the area, and he made no mistake, smashing home what proved to be the winner to bring the Vase back to the North East for the fifth successive year, and win the man-of-the-match prize of a bottle of champagne for himself, with just nine minutes of normal time remaining. Spennymoor defended manfully and in the dying minutes of the match, survived a vociferous Tunbridge penalty claim for a possible handball against Stephenson, and had to repel a series of long ball attacks from the Kentish men, who, with the clock ticking down, were desperate to keep their hopes, and those of their supporters, alive.

Moors captain Danny ‘Bobby’ Moore, who had played a true captain’s part in spite of injury, when he left the Moors dugout to stand pitch side and urge his team on, was followed by captain on the day Chris Mason when he led the victorious Moors up the Wembley steps to the Royal Box for the presentation, and the two captains ensured Moors fans went home enraptured when they held up the Vase for them to see.

Teams: Spennymoor Town (Manager Jason Ainsley): Robert Dean; Kallum Griffiths: Chris Mason: Lewis Dodds: Leon Ryan: Stephen Capper: Joe Walton (Andrew Stephenson, 73): Keith Graydon: Mark Davison (Michael Rae, 75): Gavin Cogdon: Wayne Phillips (Anthony Peacock, 65) Subs not used: Steven Richardson; David Knight (GK)

Scorers: Gavin Cogdon (18) Keith Graydon (81) Man-of-the match: Keith Graydon

Booked: Lewis Dodds (83)

Tunbridge Wells (Manager Martin Larkin): Chris Oladogba; Jason Bourne (c); Lewis Mingle; Joe Fuller (Tom Davey, 57); Scott Whibley; Perry Spackman; Jon Pilbeam (Richard Sinden, 85); Andy McMath; Andy Irvine; Carl Cornell (Jack Harris, 57); Josh Stanford Subs not used: Andy Boyle; Michal Czanner (GK)

Scorer: Josh Stanford (78)

Booked: Perry Spackman (65)

Officials: Referee: Michael Naylor (Sheffield & Hallamshire FA)

Assistant Referees: Ian Hussin (Liverpool FA) Dan Robathan (Bedfordshire FA)

Fourth Official: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire FA)

Attendance: 16,751

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Wise Men and WAG’S


We are told that “wise men travelled from afar”, but until now we have not known a great deal about them. We can now reveal that there were two (modern day) wise men, and their names were John and Tony. This is their story…

If the thought of about 5,000 fans making a round trip of more than 500 miles to be amongst the estimated 16,700 spectators at this years FA Vase final seems a little daunting, spare a thought for John Oxenham. The sixty year old, a member of Spennymoor’s highly respected Clem’s Fish Restaurant family, originally came from Hartlepool (Teesside) but moved to Spennymoor as a two year old. He emigrated about twelve years ago, due to work commitments – to Moscow, but on Friday (May 3) he happily flew 1,800 miles to watch his home town team play at Wembley, and will fly back to Russia on Sunday. John admits that he only returns to England a few times a year for “special occasions”, but adds “A trip to the home of English football with my home town team certainly falls into that category”. John still follows The Moors through his good mate Billy Beasley, on the official Twitter feed, as well as through the club’s website. He thinks the Wembley trip can be put down to the hard work of Manager Jason Ainsley and the players, and isn’t afraid to say so: “Reaching Wembley is an exciting day out for the fans. It is an outstanding achievement by Jason Ainsely, the club manager, and the boys, and will be remembered for a long time”, he insists.

But another lifelong Moors supporter has travelled even further! Tony Wilson, 58, grew up on York Hill Estate in Tudhoe Grange and has flown more than 3,400 miles from Dubai to watch his heroes play at Wembley in the FA Carlsberg Vase final. Tony left the area to work in the oil rig industry, and has worked all round the world – including spending the last 14 years in Dubai. He regularly attended Spennymoor Town matches in the 1970s and 80s with his friend Peter Maddison. When Spennymoor gained their quarter-final win over West Midlands side Gornal Athletic, he vowed to return for the cup final if they got there. And he has kept his promise. His friend Peter, 56, remembers: “We used to knock about together and we’ve always kept in touch.“He’s a big Spennymoor and Sunderland Football Club fan and he’s kept in touch with them from afar via the internet. “We used to go and watch Spennymoor and he’s from the town so it’s in his blood.” Mr Wilson flew into London on Wednesday (May 1) and will fly back to Dubai on Sunday (May 5).

Mike Rowcroft, a director of Spennymoor Town, said: “We’ve had requests for tickets from Spennymoor fans from right across the country, but the level of support shown by these two men is absolutely incredible.”

When you think of WAG’s (players Wives And Girlfriends, it’s normally women like Victoria (Beckham) and Colleen (Rooney) that come to mind most easily, but Spennymoor Town’s WAG’s are going to enjoy broadly similar perks, though not on such a lavish scale perhaps, courtesy of a Fishburn company, Javelin Engineering. Thanks to the generosity of two directors of the company, Martyn Wallbank and Trevor Brown, the girls, who had expected to have to pay their own expenses when they travelled to London in support of The Moors, are going to enjoy a free stay in the capital. They already knew that Football Association rules meant they could not submit a claim via Spennymoor Town for their costs. Martyn and Trevor have donated £1,500 to cover the WAG’s bill. Martyn said: “Spennymoor’s achievement in reaching the FA Vase final is fabulous. When we heard about some of the FA rules regarding expenses, we just wanted to do our bit”. They also thoughtfully added the hope that Spennymoor came home with some additional silverware. Suzanne Cogden, wife of Town striker Gavin, Eve Park, 21 year old girlfriend of Chris Lawther, and Aimee Biglin, Lewis Dodds’ gf, are amongst those to benefit from the act of generosity. Suzanne hailed it as “a lovely gesture”; Eve said: “We’re really grateful; it’s a nice surprise, and we’re really looking forward to it.” and 28 year old Aimee said: “The girls were planning to book themselves into various hotels, but this means we can all be together.” 

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Howay The Moor!


That’s the shout that should be ringing out, loud and clear, around Wembley Stadium this afternoon at 3;00pm. It will come – very willingly – from the throats of the army of local residents, expected to number near 5,000 as Spennymoor Town FC – The Moors – emerge from the tunnels into what we hope will be the Wembley sunshine, to play their part in this years FA CARLSBERG VASE FINAL. It’s undeniably true that their opponents, Tunbridge Wells FC, will have a far greater number of supporters present than will The Moor, but there are two reasons for this. The population of Tunbridge Wells, 56,000, is nearly three times the 20,000 that the former SW Durham mining town boasts, and they will travel a mere 70 miles to be at the stadium, whereas Moors supporters will be facing a round trip of over 500 miles, and two at least will be travelling much further than that! Website shows the distance from Spennymoor, Co; Durham to Wembley Stadium, London to be 256 miles. It’s actually 224 miles as the crow flies, but a crow would have to be pretty daft to follow Britain’s meandering road system, motorists have no other option!

Three members of the Spennymoor Town team will arrive at Wembley with differing viewpoints on the match. Gavin Fell,Spennymoor’s assistant manager tasted Wembley glory three times as head coach with Whitley Bay during a successful four-year term with the club. Now he’s hoping to bag his fourth Vase medal when Moors take on Tunbridge Wells. “I keep getting asked if I’m sick of going to Wembley,” revealed Fell, who also spent five of his playing years as a member of “The Crazy Gang” at Wimbledon. “But I’d quite happily turn out there every week, the place is just immense, so I’m definitely not bored. The three years with Whitley Bay were fantastic, we were breaking records left, right and centre; but this means just as much for me. It’s massive for the town:, it’s massive for the club.

Spennymoor Town’s captain Daniel Moore, who fractured his ankle in an earlier league match against Ashington – one that brought an end to his hopes of playing at the national stadium, as well as ending Town’s hopes of catching league leaders Darlington 1883 – says he will “crawl” up the Wembley steps to lift the FA Vase if they win Saturday’s final. “I’ll make it – nothing will stop me going up there if we win,” Moore said. “I’m sure the lads will put every effort in, not just for me but for everybody involved.” Meanwhile, Manager Jason Ainsley has said he wants Moore to lead the players out at the national stadium, despite the 29 year old, who has played in every round of The Moors run to the final, being unavailable to play. “He’s our leader; he’s our captain, and he’s made a big contribution to everything we’ve achieved,” Ainsley added. “It’s gut-wrenching for the lad, gut-wrenching for the team, but we’ve got to make sure we lift the cup and Danny is still an important part of it all.”

Local lad Lewis Dodds wants to give the travelling Spennymoor army the best possible memories of their day at Wembley. Lewis, an ex-Sunderland midfielder, won a few England Youth caps at various levels, and has played alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney. An attendance of over 14,000 is expected for the game – a huge crowd for an FA Vase Final – and Dodds says it will be the pinnacle of his football career, alongside his appearances for his country. He made his international début in the Nordic tournament, which was played that year in Denmark, On that occasion he was rooming with Wayne Routledge, and was captain during the tournament, which England won. Lewis recalls, “I was only fifteen, so I had to get out of school to be involved. That was my first memory with England, and it was great experience for me”. Lewis adds “I’m from Spennymoor, so all my mates come along to watch matches and I often go out for a couple of beers with them after the games. For a local lad it’s a dream come true to play for Spennymoor Town at Wembley. Lewis’ uncle also played in goal for Spennymoor. He played in the Semi-Final of The FA Trophy 35 years ago, when they lost over two legs against Leatherhead, so the club means a lot, not just to Lewis, but to his family. He’ll be looking out for his two children in the crowd, but will still be keeping his mind on the job at hand, and be concentrating on the game.”

In case there’s still any doubt as to exactly where our loyalties lie, let’s make it absolutely clear, in black and white – which just happens to be The Moor’s colours

H O W A Y*  T H E  M O O R ! E M 

*the word “Howay” is part of the Northumbrian dialect, and means “Come on”


FIRST ROUND: Bridlington 1-5 Spennymoor; SECOND ROUND: Spennymoor 5-1 Newcastle Benfield;

THIRD ROUND: Spennymoor 2-0 Billingham Synthonia; FOURTH ROUND: Spennymoor 3-1 Lordswood;

FIFTH ROUND: Spennymoor 4-2 Bemerton Heath Harlequins; SIXTH ROUND: Spennymoor 3-1 Gornall Athletic;

SEMI-FINAL: Guernsey 1-3 Spennymoor; Spennymoor 1-0 Guernsey (Spennymoor won 4-1 on aggregate)

FINAL: Spennymoor 2-1 Tunbridge Wells (at Wembley Stadium)

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Out of the Ashes…


They say that some good comes from everything that happens, and perhaps that’s true. It’s certainly true that if 2005 was a black year for football fans in the town, it was also the year that heralded the birth of the team who would keep football – both in the town, and at The Brewery Field – alive and kicking: and would go on to win the highly coveted Holy Grail of minor league teams – The FA Carlsber Vase. Behind the scenes, several people were working hard to get the club back on track. United supporters formed an independent group with the intention of running the club as a supporters trust, with a meeting held (naturally enough) in the bar of The Penny Gill, in Cheapside, with Spennynews (the local volunteer run newspaper) represented by their chief reporter. After all, it’s thirsty work, putting a football club back together!

But another group of people were also interested in floating a new club. Not only had 2005 signalled the sad demise of our beloved Spennymoor United; it had also marked the end of the road for another football club, albeit one based, not in Spennymoor but from the neighbouring Bishop Auckland area. Evenwood Town, members of the Northern League also folded that year. So the two clubs merged into one, submitted their plans for the continuation of football in the town to Spennymoor Town Council, owners of The Brewery Field, and were accepted, with the approval of the Football Association, into Northern League Division 2 – the lowest division of the three tier league.

On Saturday 13 August 2005, the newly formed Spennymoor Town played their first league game, a home fixture against Darlington R.A, which proved to be a major attraction for townspeople, with an official attendance of 511, who watched and cheered as their Spennymoor Town gained a 3-2 home win – the first of many!The following Tuesday, The Moors carried on their winning ways, beating Guisborough 3-1. It was taken as a good omen that the first four home games under the new name, including an F.A Cup Preliminary Round match, attracted over 1300 people to The Brewery Field. Success seemed to come naturally to The Moors: in their first season they finished in a very respectable 8th position. But things behind the scenes were not so good. The club was literally torn apart by two big disagreements: one between the club and the fans; another, with far more threatening consequences, between the committee and the chairman. During the summer of 2006 the situation came to a head with the entire committee resigning their posts, and the club being taken over by Alan Murray. At this time, the club also tried to change its name back to Spennymoor United before the start of 2006–07 season, a proposal that has twice been rejected by the FA .

But unknown to the club and its supporters, worse was still to come. During the summer of 2007, Spennymoor Town Council served Notice of Eviction on the club, and it was only as a result of a lot of hard work, particularly on the part of chairman Alan Murray, Vice Chairman Alan Courtney and Secretary Jonathan Le Poidevin, that a new 25 year lease was agreed on 25 September 2007, which secured the future of the club.

In the previous year (2006) a management team of Jamie Pollock and Moors favourite Jason Ainsley was put in place. Together they put together a strong squad of players. After a slow start – no less than six of their first seven matches were away fixtures – a fact that resulted in a high number of draws, the squad went from strength to strength, and remained undefeated in the league from November, until the 7th April 2007, when they travelled to Penrith, backed by the support of over 150 travelling fans. Providing they won that day, and Seaham lost, Moors would be crowned champions. At half time, the news came through that Seaham were losing 3–1, and Spennymoor clinched the title when Tom Jones struck ther right note by netting an 87th minute winner. Jamie Pollock’s summer departure saw Spennymoor United legend Jason Ainsley promoted to team manager, a position he has held ever since.

The Moors first season back in the 1st Division of the Northern League resulted in them finishing in a highly creditable mid-table position. They also enjoyed success in a few memorable cup games, defeating opponents from higher leagues, including Garforth Town and Brigg Town. They narrowly missed out on a Durham Challenge Cup final against Sunderland, losing the semi-final 1-0 to a 120th minute winner at Gateshead.

The 2009–10 season was another huge success, leading to them being crowned Northern League Division One Champions, with 100 Points, a feat they surpassed the following season, when they won the league with 103 points. Despite winning the league in three consecutive seasons (2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12) the club did not apply to be promoted. The FA Vase was probably their biggest disappointment of the year. The Moors lost a home Vase tie against fellow Northern League side Ashington in the third round – a rare occurrence these days. The Durham Challenge Cup provided consolation, with The Moors defeating Gateshead Reserves 3-0 in the final at the Eppleton Centre in Hetton to bring the trophy to Spennymoor for the first time in fifteen years. The league title was only secured in the last game of the season at home to Vase finalists Dunston UTS. The Moors had not topped the table once during the season and to clinch the title by winning the last 8 games in a row was considered a great achievement.

By this time The Moors were the second biggest supported club in the league, and with numbers still increasing year after year, are close to becoming the biggest with an average of 320 fans for their home games throughout the season. The Brewery Field has undergone major refurbishment by the clubs current Board, led by businessman Bradley Groves, and further improvements are currently ongoing to turn the 106 year old stadium into one of the best facilities in the North East. It currently boasts a 300 all seater grandstand and a covered stand to accommodate around 2,000 spectators. There is still a long way to go, but the club is not only in the right hands, but is heading in the right direction. Work is also expected to commence soon to build a new Social Club, replacing the one destroyed in the 2003 fire.

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The Great Fires of Spennymoor 1


With Spennymoor Town F.C. about to walk onto the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium for the final tie of the FA Vase on Saturday 4th May, we look back at the event that brought about the demise of their predecessors at The Brewery Field…

The supporter who carelessly threw a cigarette butt behind a fruit machine at the Spennymoor United Social Club at the Brewery Field on Christmas Eve 2003, began a chain of events that would eventually destroy the town’s long-established football club, and leave the Unibond League they were members of, in chaos. The Brewery Field, once owned by B. P. Junor’s Tower Brewery, had been the home of Spennymoor United since 1904, They had played there in the North-Eastern League, the Northern League, and finally in the Unibond League. North-east sides had never had an easy time of it in the Unibond League, mainly due to their geographical isolation from the other clubs in the league, who were all located across the Pennines in the North-west. Gateshead came close to extinction, Blyth Spartans experienced severe financial difficulties, and Bishop Auckland, in 2010, lacked a ground of their own, although they finally managed to remedy that situation. They once ground-shared at The Brewery Field, an arrangement that was terminated amidst accusations that the club’s fans were ‘litter louts’ and that nobody connected with The Bishops ever cared enough to clean up after them, although to be honest, fans of the two teams had always had a healthy loathing for one another.

But until the early years of the new millennium, Spennymoor United had seemed to be one of the more stable minor league clubs, with ground facilities well above the average of their peers, mainly thanks to the support of local councillors, as well as businesses like Thorn (who supplied and fitted the floodlighting at the ground as a show of their support for the town and its football club) decent crowds – even a strong away following – and income from a social club that was well placed for local housing, although that proximity also proved to be a cause of annoyance to local residents. United won promotion to the Unibond League’s Premier Division in 2002-03, but early on Christmas Day in 2003, a serious fire gutted the social club building. It took five appliances two hours to bring the blaze – which both police and fire investigators later agreed had been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette – under control. For some reason still either unexplained or undiscovered, the building was not insured, and only the smoke covered shell of the club remained standing a year later, the only physical evidence that the building had ever existed.

The loss of the social club’s facilities was a severe blow to the team’s finances, and was probably one decisive factor amongst many when, in January 2005, the club’s owner, businessman Benny Mottram, announced his intention of standing down, following a long-running dispute with Spennymoor Town Council. Mottram had insisted the lease on the ground was illegal because a former member and clerk had signed it; the council said the contract was held in escrow, which made it legal. Supporters not well versed in the intricacies of property law, could only scratch their heads in disbelief that any of this could be happening at their club. For their part, the council stated that they had put £200,000 worth of grants, sponsorships and loans into the club, and had never charged more than a nominal rent of £20 a week. Many members of the council were fans of the game, too, they pointed out, and had a lot of respect for the team, and for the prestige its on-field successes brought to the town.

As the club’s problems, on and off the field, mounted, crowds dwindled, until, after being heckled by supporters, both during and after a defeat by Bamber Bridge in February, the owner stormed out of the ground in high dudgeon. About a month later, manager Graham Clark also left for good – after a 5-1 Good Friday thrashing at Gateshead in a game that proved to be one of the last Spennymoor United would ever play.

Already in serious trouble for failing to fulfil fixtures, with Mottram even blaming one non-appearance – a Sunday match at Witton Albion – on the religious convictions of two of his players, both of whom were Catholics, The Moors were left in the impossible situation of having to play 10 games in 23 days with a seriously depleted squad. Every missed game led to fines and points deductions being piled one on top of the other, until by mid-April, it was obvious that Spennymoor United would never be able to complete their season, leaving the Unibond League with a massive headache. They eventually decided to expunge Spennymoor from the season’s records completely and annul all points won by teams against them, which was a little hard on league leaders Workington Town, who thereby lost six points and missed out on being champions, with the title going to Farsley Celtic instead. Under the circumstances, no one was very surprised when Workington appealed. A further complication arose from the fact that there had not been a quorum at the meeting that had reached the decision. The Unibond League were left with egg on their faces, and had to not only postpone the semi-finals of their Premier Division play-offs, but also had to publish two different league tables – in one of which Spennymoor United’s record remained intact; the other with it expunged – until a further meeting could be held.

When the new meeting took place, it reached the same decision as the previous one. An appeal to the Football Association followed and football’s ruling authority decreed that Spennymoor’s unplayed matches be treated as 0-0 draws, but with all three points awarded to their opponents. This meant that the league had still another set of champions – Hyde United.

Farsley Celtic and Burscough (who missed out to Prescot Cables on entry to the play-offs in the third and final version of the league table) made a joint, but unsuccessful, legal attempt to overturn the ruling. Workington fared better. Denied automatic promotion as champions, they made it safely through the play-offs, eventually beating Farsley 6-5 on penalties in the final. Rossendale United were reprieved from relegation from the Unibond First Division when Spennymoor United were formally expelled from the League on 24 May, 2005.

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