On brink of extinction, West Allotment dug deep and
HOW does a club pull themselves back from the brink of extinction?
West Allotment Celtic know only too well, because they have teetered over the precipice and somehow clawed their way back.
It’s 16 months since a dispute over the Northumberland FA’s decision to impose a significant increase in the rent at the club’s Whitley Park home almost brought a sad end to their 90-year history.
The dispute dragged on, negotiations continued, West Allotment were getting closer and closer to being consigned to the history books.
Finally, there was a breakthrough and the club managed to find a new home at Druid Park, former home of Newcastle Blue Star.
Chairman Jim Wilson was a key figure in prolonged negotiations over their old and new homes and he admitted the club are still trying to recover from their recent struggles.
He explained “The club were extremely close to folding as our landlords decided to significantly increase our rent.
“This was a shattering demand from an association, who are supposed to be in place to promote grassroots football, on a club approaching its 90th year.
“The main challenge has been trying to recover finan- cially from the payment of £5,000 we received from our former landlords for the purchase of our grandstands, which had cost £40,000 in 2000, after they originally disputed our ownership of them.
“The club then had to spend money bringing our new home at Druid Park up to standard to play Northern League football.”
Slowly, but surely, West Allotment started to rebuild on and off the pitch.
Last season, armed with a new-look squad, the club finished just below mid-table in the Northern League’s secondtier.
Behind the scenes, the junior section was being developed, providing coaching for boys and girls of all ages.
For the first time in the club’s history a women’s team was formed.
Progress is being made and it has been a real club effort, but challenges remain.
Committee member Stephen Allott believes in establishing a fanbase in Druid Park’s surrounding area and expressed his desire to return to the club’s natural home on North Tyneside.
“There is no doubt we are struggling to establish any sort of fanbase in Woolsington and this cannot be a surprise given how far it is from our home territory.
“Druid Park has been a lifeline and will almost certainly be the club’s base for the fore- seeable future, and for that we are very grateful; however, there is no doubt we’d all love to return to a new base somewhere in the Allotment-Shiremoor-Backworth-Earsdon area.
“Having our own base is the key to being able to increase the cashflow into the club and in making it sustainable.
“We could attract supporters to Whitley Park on occasion – witness the 500+ versus Cray Wanderers in the FA Vase a few years back – so there is potential, despite the proximity of the likes of Newcastle Benfield and Heaton Stannington. “We’ll keep on looking.” The first team have caught the eye with some impressive results including a Brooks