They Are out of Our League


Big Monkey Business congratulations to Darlow A66 on winning the Evo Stik glue sniffers’ Northern Premier League.
A late surge saw them  finished the season  as champions with 104 points, 5 points ahead of their nearest rivals Blyth Spartans, scoring 106 goals in the process, which according to my maths is not quite a point per goal.

Ironically had Blyth done the double over Darlow A66 instead of the other way around Blyth would have been crowned champions. As a result Darlow A66 have been promoted to the Bananarama National League North, which is the division below The National League or, in old money, The Conference.

To give the Quakers their due, they have been promoted 3 times in four seasons, which is creditable but I think that even their most hardened fans would be the first to acknowledge that with a few exceptions the standard of opposition they have encountered over the last few years has perhaps not been of the highest calibre.

Next season will be a different proposition altogether. Tougher opponents like Kiddy, Stockport and FC Manchester spring to mind. Two games less to play in this league compared to the Evo Stik will mean some loss of revenue but this could be countered by increased crowd attendances.

The big news is that in keeping with their name Darlington  A66, they are moving back into the town and will, after much negotiation, ground share with Darlington Rugby Club at Black Meadows, which is adjacent to the A66. How apt.

Black Meadows is having a million pounds spent on it to bring it up to grade B football standard, with new car park and toilet facilities as well as increased seating. The rumour was that they were going to erect a new stand, widely believed to be the impressive East Stand from Feethams that allegedly is still in storage, either on Graythorp Industrial Estate or in David Hodgson's back garden. As it turns out the stand that they are going to re-install from Feethams is not the East Stand but the old Hartlepool popular end, The Tin Shed, which in fairness won't be that aesthetically pleasing to the surrounding area.

In the short term this ground share with the rugby club makes sense, particularly for increased crowd attendances and subsequent revenue, as fans are not having to hitch up their caravans to make the journey to Bishop Auckland, where they have played since they left The Arena.

Long term might prove more problematic for them, particularly should they be successful and look to regain Football League status. Despite the current investment in the rugby club, Black Meadows, even with goal posts instead of jumpers, would still not meet the relevant criteria for a Football League ground. As mentioned previously in this magazine it surely would make sense to relocate to The Arena as tenants and ground share with Mowden Park, who currently occupy the site, but I am unsure about the politics of such a move. One Darlo A66 fan told me they'd have more chance of ground sharing with ,Pools.
"Black Meadows, even with goal posts instead of jumpers, would still not meet the relevant criteria for a Football League ground"


Talking of Lazarus clubs, I see that  Boston, formerly Boston United, now of National League North, clinched a play off place which, if all goes well, could see them back in the National League, so well done to them. They finished five places behind league champions Solihull Moors. Great name that.

Sadly FC Halifax, formerly Halifax Town, just missed out by one point and were relegated from the  National League, and next season will be playing the likes of Darlo A66 in the National League North. If it is any kind of consolation to them they do have a date with Grimsby Town at Wembley in the FA Trophy final in the coming weeks.

Torquay, who for a little while sat in the bottom four of the National League and looked like having the same fate as FC Halifax, managed, not unlike Pools, to put a good run together and retained their league status by a comfortable margin.
Chester City likewise kept their heads above water in The National League. I much prefer calling it The Conference.

Stockport finished just above mid-table in National League North. It is truly sad to see a club of this size languishing in this league.

The best story of all, or should I say the best fairy tale of all, is that of Hereford FC, formerly Hereford United. As of today (April 30th) they, by finishing as league champions, climb out of the fifth division of non-league football and into the league above as part of the long haul back to Football League status.

Despite numerous setbacks they have managed to get back to Edgar Street and they now enjoy the fifth-largest attendances in the whole of the non-league pyramid, and with a very impressive average gate of 2,998. Not bad when you are competing against Tranmere, Wrexham and Grimsby, and larger than some League Two sides.

Not unlike FC Halifax, they too are making the trip to Wembley in May when they face Morpeth in the FA Vase.

I always had a soft spot for the Bulls, as many years ago, after a fire at Victoria Park had destroyed among other things Pools’ strips, Hereford assisted by donating kits to help Pools out in their hour of need.

It would be great to see many of the aforementioned clubs back in the Football League along with the likes of Lincoln City, Tranmere, Bradford Park Avenue and not forgetting the Heed, and taking the places of Crawley, Stevenage, Wycombe, and Yeovil, as well as MK Dons.

It just goes to show that if even if the worst happens and your club goes bust or is relegated to the lower echelons of non-league football, there is life after League Two.

Chin up, York!