Saturday, 31 July 2010

Ashington AFC (England)

You're pretty sure you know most of the teams who have been in the English Football League down the years, right? You remember clubs like Halifax, York City and Kidderminster playing the the big 92, and have vague recollections of clubs like Barrow, Southport and Workington gracing the top four divisions. You've even got half an idea that names from the past like Nelson, Bootle and Bradford Park Avenue had a few brief season back in the day. But did any of you know that a team called Ashington Community AFC were once a third division club? I must admit that I didn't.

Despite having the year 1888 featured on their club crest for no reason that anyone is sure of, they were formed in 1883 in the Northumbrian mining town of Ashington, they moved around Northern-Eastern leagues like the east-Northumberland League, the North-Eastern League and the Northern Alliance until the historic day in 1921 when they were elected to the Football League, to become founder members of the new Third Division North. And there they stayed for eight seasons, seven of them rather reasonable, finishing as high as ninth in 1926. But 1929 saw them finish plum last, and they were voted out of the league by FA members, to be replaced by York City.

Since then they've been playing in a variety of local leagues, these days plying their trade in the Northern League Division One, the ninth tier of the English game, and the second oldest league in the country, after the main Football League itself. They play their home games in the 2000 capacity Woodhorn Lane, where they moved in 2008 after many years at their famous old home of Portland Park. The last game there, against Seaham Red Star attracted a massive crowd of 1954 nostalgic locals, while the first game at their new home drew a slightly less respectable 341.

Backroom spotters may be interested to know that the team known as The Colliers to their fans are led on the board by a chap called Ian Lavery, president of the National Union of Mineworkers. They've also had an England international playing in their ranks in recent years - although it was the double-Ashes winning cricketer Steve Harmison rather than a footballer, who played for them briefly as a teenager before he decided to change sports and become an international bowling superstar.

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