On brink of ex­tinc­tion, West Al­lot­ment dug deep and

Sunday Sun - - Football - Mark Carruthers

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

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