The 2010/11 campaign is Allotment’s seventh in the Northern League and the second under the management duo of Paul Bennett and Andy Wood. Despite being left with just two players from the previous regime of Gary Middleton and Neil Winskill, Paul and Andy had a dream start to their reign; beginning the 2009/10 season with five successive wins. Not surprisingly, that pace could not be maintained, as the campaign effectively became a nine-month sifting process, with 53 different players making at least one appearance for Celtic. Now that they have had time to develop a strong base, Paul and Andy aim to kick-on and will be looking for an improvement on the fifteenth position in which Celtic finished the 2009/10 campaign. The management team is used to success, having led Walker Central to two successive Northern Alliance titles before switching to Whitley Park, and are very keen to taste it at Northern League level too.
Prior to earning promotion in May 2004, Allotment competed in the Northern Alliance. Yet, immediately upon jumping up to the Northern League, the club romped to the Second Division championship and won the Craven Cup too, under the inspirational management of Terry Mitchell. The club was rocked by the departure of Terry in early October 2005 as he was offered the opportunity to head-up the Youth Academy at Hartlepool United. He was replaced by his assistant, Brian Latty, who did well to keep the club on an even keel until his own increasingly onerous work commitments led to his departure at the conclusion of the season and subsequent replacement by the aforementioned Middleton and Winskill partnership.
The history of football in the community of West Allotment goes back into the early years of the last century. Indeed, the first organised club to represent the village competed in the Byker & District League as early as 1908/09. Various clubs came and went over the ensuing years but the formation of the West Allotment Primitive Methodists (PMs) team after World War I was the key step leading to the creation of the present-day club. The PMs competed in the Forest Hall & District Churches’ League with reasonable success until 1928.
In 1928, the PMs began to feel the bite financially. Deeply-rooted in a coal-mining community and with the industry in turmoil following the General Strike, trying to maintain a local club was extremely difficult. So, facing ever-increasing debts, the decision was taken to wind-up the Primitive Methodists team and create a new club. That new club was effectively a merger of the old PMs team and West Allotment Juniors, another local club where it made sense to close-down, join forces and re-emerge stronger.
So, the 1928/29 season saw West Allotment Celtic commence operations in the North Shields & District Churches’ League. Playing at Holystone and using old stables as changing-rooms, the club didn’t meet with instant success. However, eventually the League Cup was won in 1934/35 to provide Celtic with their first significant trophy.
A move to the newly-created Tynemouth & District League in 1935 saw the club begin to become more of a force. Yet the initial signs were not promising, with Celtic losing 5-1 at Old Hartley Star and 2-1 at home to Earsdon Road Villa in their opening fixtures. To the relief of those from West Allotment, it didn’t take long for the players to find their feet. In fact, so good was the recovery that a ten-point gap between Celtic and the top of the table was closed before the season ended. The club then had to face Whitley Bay & Monkseaton Reserves in a play-off for the title and unfortunately the decider went the way of the seasiders. Remarkably, Allotment also finished in a play-off position in the following two seasons too – and, in each case, lost the decider!
The decision to move to a higher-grade of football was made in 1938 and the club joined the Second Division of the Northern Amateur League. Now playing at the aptly-named Farm Ground, which was to remain “home” until 1968, supporters helped to dismantle a cowshed in Heaton and move it, piece by piece to West Allotment where it was reassembled at the ground. The shed was not for spectators – it provided the players’ changing facilities! The club earned instant promotion (after a play-off, of course!) but World War II put a stop to any further progress.
The club recommenced operations in 1946/47 and, slowly but surely, progress was made. Added to a solid nucleus of “old heads”, an influx of excellent players from the Juniors Section, started after the war, created a blend that was far too strong for Allotment’s rivals and the club enjoyed an unprecedented run of success from the mid-fifties onwards. The championship was won on four successive seasons between 1956-60, with the NFA Amateur Cup added in 1957 and the NFA Minor Cup captured in 1958.
Unlike some of their rivals, the club decided to remain loyal to the Northern Amateur League rather than move to a higher level of competition. However, the bulk of the team did move on and the club lost the winning habit, leaving it to face some dire and mediocre times during the 1960s. In fact, the club was stagnating so badly, in a league that was struggling to retain a competitive number of teams, that closure was a real possibility for a while. Fortunately that spectre was dismissed with the introduction of new blood into the club towards the end of the decade and, once again, the on and off-field strength began to be developed. The club also moved to Backworth Welfare in 1968, consigning the ponds and mud of the Farm Ground to memory.
With the astonishing goal-scoring exploits of Benny Williams (his 400th goal for the team was scored in just his 412th appearance!) supported by strength in all positions, the team won the NFA Amateur Cup again in 1975 and were always amongst the title-chasers. However, the championship remained tantalisingly out of reach until 1982, when Allotment won a nail-biting play-off by the odd goal in seven against Annitsford Welfare. When the title was retained with ease the following season, the decision was taken to move up a grade for the first time since 1938.
The 1983/84 season saw Allotment begin their Northern Alliance career and make their debut in the FA Vase. The first honour at the higher level arrived in 1985 when Ponteland United were beaten in the Alliance Challenge Cup Final at St.James’ Park, Newcastle. The first of Allotment’s eight Alliance titles arrived soon after, in 1987, after two nail-biting play-off matches with Gosforth St.Nicholas. The club continued to maintain high standards following that success, never finishing lower than sixth in the Northern Alliance and winning seven further titles.
Particularly noteworthy was the hat-trick of titles between 1998-2000, won under the management team of Ken Scott and Billy Hays. In 1997/98, the team won twenty-four successive league matches on the way to clinching the championship. That successful duo was followed by another in the form of Terry Mitchell and Brian Latty, who maintained the exacting standard set by their predecessors. Terry and Brian led the club to championship success in three of the four years they were in charge, as well as guiding Allotment into the Northern League. There were also many cup successes and some exciting runs to the later stages of the FA Vase.
In 2001, the club moved to Whitley Park (also known as the Blue Flames Sports Ground) in Benton after having acted as tenants at Hillheads in Whitley Bay since 1995. Whitley Park is also the home base of the Northumberland Football Association.