The Demise of Newcastle Blue Star
Two years ago I was standing and watching Newcastle Blue Star play Darlington Railway Athletic in the Northern League Division 1. It was to the end of the season and Blue Star were set to finish a lowly eleventh after such highs from the season before. That year saw the team secure the double, winning the Northern League Division 1 and the Craven Cup, which is a cup competition for the forty two teams in the two Northern League Divisions. However that was their last season in the league, as they were ‘cherry picked’ to take part in the Unibond North Division 1, the league above.
To make this change happen, the club had to make vast changes. The traditional ground, The Wheatsheaf (pictured above), which was used by Blue Star since 1970, was deemed not good enough for the league and they moved to the nearby Kingston Park Stadium, also used by the rugby union side, Newcastle Falcons. This was incorporated by the announcement that Dave Thompson would become the club’s new chairman and owner, who had links with the Falcons. Managers were changed, the successful Eric Tait left and the club brought in the former Northern Irish international Tommy Cassidy was brought in from Workington Town.
However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. As I duly witnessed on Saturday 29th September (I remember as it was the same day as Portsmouth beat Reading 7-4) with basically nothing else to do. I decided to watch Blue Star play at Mossley AFC, which is a good three hour drive to a small town in Greater Manchester. Newcastle Blue Star lost the match 2-1, which was after a shocking performance by the team. But what was more concerning was that there were about two fans making the way down. Me and my dad, the rest were either part of the club (most of whom I knew) or the players. That has been a problem for Blue Star ever since the promotion to the Unibond league, to quote Dave Thompson on Monday.
“We are in the middle of the worst credit crunch the world has ever seen, and 80 people were turning up.”
That is the tip of the problem. The team I have supported since a child, with my family involved in the club since the 1970s (I have images of the team’s FA Vase success in 1977) are in huge financial difficulty. Newcastle Blue Star needed 100k for before 17:30 today (Thursday 14th), otherwise go into administration and be relegated back into the league I keep mentioning, Northern League Division 1. This would have ruined a simply brilliant season of achievement, which saw the team reach the playoff finals and win amazingly 4-1 over Curzon Ashton to be promoted to the Unibond Premier Division. This, alongside the other local side Durham City, who were also recently promoted, would mean that the two promoted teams, two years ago, were in the same division, the Northern League. Instead they would face the likes of FC United of Manchester, Boston United and Bradford Park Avenue.
But the possibility of demotions give them them the prospect of playing Ryton Albion, Dunston Federation and Consett. Hardly money grabbing ties.
Worse still, if they don’t find any sponsorship money by Friday, then there is a chance Newcastle Blue Star won’t even play those teams. They could fold completely. Disappear off the football map and possibly start a precedent of other non league clubs in similar situations to do the same.
But how can a club doing so well be in so much trouble? I mentioned earlier that there are very few fans. In fact the official press statement considers that the average attendance is a meagre 161. But when we compare this to other teams in the same division, it is 13th best from 21 teams. With the worst being Woodley Sports with the average attendance of 121. The league’s average attendance is 242, but it is boosted massively by the huge average by Halifax FC. This taken away, Blue Star’s will be neared to the leagues average.
There is an impression then that this is not the main reason, otherwise Woodley Sports will have been long gone. The club are facing a backlash from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, a grand total of £65,000. The club can’t afford it, the chairman has gone, the club are in dire trouble right now.
I don’t want to see this club go down, either into administration or folding completely. This club means an awful lot to me and my family and to see them go would be devastating. I revert back to the match I mentioned at the start, I believe the game finished 2-2. The odd thing about that match, I enjoyed it. But since the team got promoted, I have felt more pushed to go to matches and its got to the stage I don’t want to go. The atmosphere has gone, it is not the same anymore. It’s a terrible shame still, I have a heart in this club. My granddad is a lifetime chairman who worked his socks off for Newcastle Blue Star, as did my dad who spent way too much on the programme, he won programme of the year four years in a row, he cared about it. I’ll be lucky to see them play again in August.