Arngrove Northern League Division One
1st December 2007
(Revisiting Ground no.90-1st visit Newcastle Utd 1v0 Berwick Rangers, 10th October 2002)
This is the first of a few revisits that I have planned over the next month or so, the Blue Flames Sports Ground at Whitley Park has been home of West Allotment Celtic since 2001, after the previous six years cohabiting at Whitley Bay’s Hillheads ground.
This ground is based in Benton; my first and only visit so far was to mark the official opening of the headquarters of the Northumberland FA, whose offices are located here along with the adjoining Blue Flames Conference & Leisure Centre.
West Allotment is a small village east of Newcastle, Celtic were formed in 1928 when the community’s original team West Allotment Primitive Methodists (formed 1908) merged with the local junior side, playing at the clubs first ground at Holystone where old stables were used as changing rooms. A successful period playing locally throughout North Tyneside lead to the decision to play at a higher grade, the club joined the Northern Amateur League in 1938, now playing at the Farm Ground, where this time the sites main feature was a cowshed, which was dismantled in nearby Heaton and moved bit by bit by the supporters and rebuild at West Allotment, again used as changing rooms.
The club languished in the NAL and were near to closure, until moving to new quarters at Backworth Welfare in 1968; the club progressed through the 1970’s and finally made the step up to the Northern Alliance in 1983-84 where they became the best side in the league, champions on eight occasions; including a hat-trick of titles between 1998-2000.
The club debuted in the Northern League in 2004-05, winning Division Two and adding the Craven Cup in their first season, the club have quickly established themselves in the Northern League, this season they’ve struggled a bit, but the results have improved in recent weeks and Allotment have started to slowly move away from the bottom three trap door.
The grounds Blue Flames name originates from being the former site of the British Gas Sports Ground, the ground has seen some major changes since my last visit, bringing it up to level 5 standards. There is open grass standing areas on three sides of the ground, with the main spectator’s area all congregated on the near side, this comprises of a main stand which is to the left of the pitch, this is split into two sections to give way to the players tunnel in between, the stand has approximately 100 plate style seats in club colours of white with green trimmings. When entering the ground at the payment cabin there’s a covered stand to your immediate right with the clubhouse to your left, all these amenities are on a hill with the pitch below so your view of the game is excellent, especially on another cold day like today when you can go inside the clubhouse and press your nose up to the window and still see the game while you get a warm.
This was my second match of the afternoon and the main feature; I had earlier dipped my toe into the Northern Alliance to watch Heaton Stannington, which is only a 5 minute (hop) drive away, I had seen 7 goals earlier but I had to settle for only seeing one more, as Billingham Town took maximum points with the only goal coming midway through to second half. A draw maybe would have been a fair result as Allotment had plenty of opportunities, especially in the second period, however it was Town who took their chance with a goal from Stephen Flockett on 69 minutes, following in to head home after keeper Morton did well to save the initial shot. Town could have put the game to bed 10 minutes from time, when the keeper fouled giving away a penalty, but he made amends saving the spot kick from Steven Huggins, Billy Town dropped deep in the last ten minutes to protect their lead and comfortably seen the game through to take the three points back home to Teesside.
Although this isn’t a new ground for my list, I made this revisit a ‘must do’ as I was yet to see the main tenants West Allotment Celtic playing at this venue, this is the clubs fifth home after Holystone, Farm Ground, Backworth Welfare and Hillheads, so a lot of grounds for Allotment and one I’m sure that they can call home for many years to come.
Blue Flames Sports Ground – Matchday Web album(16 pictures)