Terrace Thoughts 19, 22/02/19

The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States was held on Friday, January 20, 1961 at the eastern portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The inauguration marked the commencement of John F. Kennedy’s only term as President and of Lyndon B. Johnson’s only term as Vice President. Kennedy was assassinated 2 years, 306 days into this term, and Johnson succeeded to the presidency. But that inauguration speech, or a particular part of it, continues to resonate today: And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

An old friend mentioned this quote to me a few weeks ago, musing about how it could be re-interpreted or modified in some way to reflect what may be the roots of the ongoing issues at Fortress Victoria. And I know that some folk believe that all is rosy; on the contrary, I don’t know, performances have improved, but I still worry.

So let’s look at that full passage from JFK’s speech: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”.

Sure enough, if you change country to Pools, you can have some fun with the replacements for you – references to prior Chairmen and managers are obvious, but what about now? How do you fit as a supporter? What do you do for the club – hurl abuse or applaud? Have you paid your HUST subscription? Will you buy another season ticket?

I guess that we’ve all worked at places where some folk contribute little but maximise their personal gain: that’s the way of the World, sadly.

Moving on before I upset anyone, in recent weeks I’ve been looking at other clubs and their Trusts, in part because ‘we’ (the club and HUST) can learn from them and, in part, because Pools could one day resemble Berwick Rangers or Darlington. By continued relegations or some form of phoenix.

And so, through the magic of the keyboard, I now seamlessly move from Washington DC to Willington, County Durham.

Willington AFC is a club for which I have some affection and I look at their attendance levels and then look at our own and ask could our attendances go so low? And how do clubs with such limited revenue streams survive or grow – without the help of some Sugar Daddy? The club is currently in the Northern League Division Two – a league currently dominated by our old friends at Billingham Town FC – and plays at Hall Lane.

Results and attendances this season include:

04/08/18 Willington v Durham City 0 – 1 Division 2 Attendance 122

18/08/18 Willington v Birtley Town 1 – 1 Division 2 81

22/08/18 Willington v Heaton Stannington 3 – 2 Division 2 103

05/09/18 Willington v Northallerton Town 2 – 3 FA Vase First Qualifying Round – Replay 125

08/09/18 Willington v Billingham Synthonia 2 – 2 Division 2 103

15/09/18 Willington v Thornaby 2 – 0 Division 2 103 (one wonders – was it the same 103 hardy souls?)

22/09/18 Willington v Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 2 – 2 Division 2 80

03/10/18 Willington v Crook Town 1 – 1 Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup First Round 228 (a bumper crowd!)

06/10/18 Willington v Bedlington Terriers 4 – 1 Division 2 110

12/10/18 Esh Winning v Willington 0 – 5 Division 2 84

20/10/18 Willington v Northallerton Town 0 – 1 Division 2 100 (This eight days after Willington won 5-0 away to Esh Winning)

31/10/18 Willington v Esh Winning 1 – 0 Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup Second Round 95

03/11/18 Willington v West Allotment Celtic 2 – 0 Division 2 85

07/11/18 Willington v Durham City 4 – 1 Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup Second Round 101

16/11/18 Willington v Tow Law Town 2 – 1 Division 2 267

01/12/18 Willington v Crook Town 4 – 1 Division 2 140

05/01/19 Willington v Redcar Athletic 4 – 3 Division 2 101 (This after a 5-1 win at Durham City!)

09/01/19 Willington v Heaton Stannington 0 – 0 (6-5 on pens) Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup Quarter Final 155

12/01/19 Birtley Town v Willington 1 – 3 Division 2 102

19/01/19 Willington v Jarrow 1 – 3 Division 2 105

So despite a relatively successful season, and putting on some entertaining performances, the attendances (other than for (very) local derbies) remain disappointingly small and constant; how lucky are Pools by comparison, where relatively little success brings with it significant gate increases? And the Hall Lane ground claims a capacity of 7,000 with seating for 350……

The club was established in 1906 (two years before Pools, if you ignore West Hartlepool Amateur FC) and joined the Northern League in 1911. They finished as runners-up in their second season and won the league in 1913–14. In 1925–26 they won the league again, and in 1927–28 they reached the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup, losing 2–1 to Cockfield in a replay. They won a third Northern League title in 1929–30, and in 1938–39 they reached the final of the Amateur Cup, losing 3–0 to Bishop Auckland at Roker Park, Sunderland.

In 1945–46 they reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time but lost to Bishop Auckland. In 1949–50 they reached the final of the Amateur Cup for a second time, this time defeating Bishop Auckland 4–0 at Wembley Stadium before a crowd of 88,000. The following season they got to the FA Cup first round but lost 3–0 to Rochdale. They reached the first round of the FA Cup again in 1973–74, losing to Blackburn Rovers after a replay. And I was at that 0-0 draw – 24 November 1973 – and remember very little about the football – but I do recall standing on gravel like terraces with the swirling wind blowing all sorts of grit and similar into the eyes and hair – and listening to all the locals (who had imbibed suitable quantities of the local ale – albeit that I didn’t understand the relevance at that young age), offering opinions with humour and cynicism in equal measure – and as a wee kid I thought that they were great.

A wonderful experience and a memory that I cherish 46 years later.

And it is memories like this which cause me some grief when I hear stories of young (and not so young) Pools players being excessively abused at Pools.

Has the ‘Terrace wit’ of old been replaced by little more than caustic abuse? I tend to think so – but why? Is it changes in the dynamics of the supporters? Is it symptomatic of our changing times? Or is it because the ‘football family’ as it was is long gone? Comments on the HUST Facebook page would be welcomed!

Anyway, Rovers won the replay 6-1.

After finishing bottom of the Northern League Division One in 1982–83, Willington were relegated to Division Two. The club struggled in the second tier, finishing bottom of the league in 1983–84 and 1991–92, and only finishing in the top ten five times in twenty-two seasons. After finishing bottom again in 2005–06 they were relegated to the Wearside League. They continued to struggle, finishing second from bottom in their first two seasons in the league, and then bottom in 2008–09 and 2009–10.

In 2013 Willington AFC was promoted back to the Northern League Division Two.

The 2017/18 campaign saw Willington AFC have their best Northern League points tally for 42 years (1976). So ‘Happy Days’, relatively speaking.

I’ve struggled to find many links between Pools and Willington – and would be happy to be corrected – but I can’t see any ex-Willington players who have moved onto Pools. The club has had a number of players who went on to play in the football league, including Joe Banks (Spurs), George Tweedy (Grimsby Town), Billy Ashurst (Notts County), and Ray Pointer (Burnley).

The only clear links with Pools seem to be in the area of management – famous managers include (amazingly) Malcolm Allison, Alan Durban, Eddie Kyle, Alan Murray, Alan Shoulder and Stan Cummins

Eddie Kyle – the new Honorary President of HUST – so how about a pre-season between Pools and Willington with the proceeds being shared between HUST and Willington? And sooner rather than later given my age!

Pip Pip

John

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