Category: General

The town of Ashington, the Colliers and footballing links with Sheffield

By Scott Messenger

Ashington AFC and Sheffield FC are probably the two most historic clubs in the Northern Premier League East Division. Ashington, formed in 1883, are one of the oldest clubs in the North East and spent eight seasons in the Football League during the 1920’s after being founder members of the Third Division North. Sheffield FC are the world’s first football club, formed way back in 1857. In 2004 they were awarded the FIFA Order of Merit. Only one other football club holds that honour…..Real Madrid!

Despite the long history of both clubs, they had never met until the League clash in December when Sheffield ran out 4-0 winners at the Home of Football Ground. Although the two clubs haven’t got any footballing links between each other, the town of Ashington and its football club, the Colliers, have a number of links to Sheffield’s two professional clubs, United of the Premier League and Wednesday of the Championship.

The most famous person linked to Ashington and Sheffield Wednesday is former England World Cup winner Jack Charlton. After his long playing career with Leeds United and England ended, Big Jack went into management. After four years managing Middlesbrough, Jack was appointed manager at Sheffield Wednesday in October 1977. The Owls were bottom of the Third Division (League One these days) when he took over, but he steered them to midtable safety by the end of the campaign. After his second season saw the Owls finish once again in midtable, Big Jack’s Wednesday secured promotion to the Second Division (todays Championship) in 1979/80 with a third place finish. After finishing tenth in their first season back in the second tier, Wednesday went agonisingly close to promotion to the top flight in the 1981/82 season, missing out by just 1 point. After another midtable finish the following season, and an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion (2-1 at Highbury), Jack announced that he would be leaving Hillsborough despite pleas from the directors to stay. Jack would return to Middlesbrough in 1984 as caretaker manager, before taking over the managers job at Newcastle United in 1984/85. He would then go on to manage internationally, transforming the Republic of Ireland and leading them to qualification for Euro 88 and World Cup’s Italia 90 and USA 94.

During Big Jack’s spell as manager at Hillsborough, one of his key signings was an Ashington lad from Newcastle United. Charlton signed full-back Ray ‘Bomber’ Blackhall for around £20k in 1978. Ray was an integral part of Wednesday’s promotion winning side and played in the famous 4-0 Boxing Day win over local rivals Sheffield United in 1979, later named the ‘Boxing Day Massacre’. Bomber would make 115 appearances for the Owls, scoring once, before moving to Swedish side IK Tord. He would later play for Mansfield Town, Carlisle United and Blyth Spartans before retiring from football, later becoming a Police Officer in the Metropolitan Police.



A more recent Ashington born footballer to represent the Owls is goalkeeper Chris Adamson. After starting his career at West Bromwich Albion, during which he had loan spells at Mansfield Town, Halifax Town and Plymouth Argyle, Chris made the move to Hillsborough in 2005 and made 12 appearances during his two seasons with the Owls. He would later move on to Stockport County and Hereford United, before retiring to become goalkeeping coach at his former club Mansfield.




After beginning his footballing career at Ashington AFC, defender Dave Walton made the switch from Portland Park to Bramall Lane in 1991, signing for Sheffield United aged just 18 years old. Unfortunately he never managed to break into the first team, and after two seasons in the reserves he moved to Shrewsbury Town. After over 120 appearances, scoring 10 goals, he joined Crewe Alexandra for a then club record fee of £500k. He would go on to make 155 appearances for the Alex before joining First Division (now Championship) side Derby County. Unfortunately his time at Pride Park was ravaged by injury and he left after one season to join Stockport County. He then returned to Shrewsbury Town before retiring.

Other ex-Ashington AFC players that went on to represent one of Sheffield’s professional clubs include Peter Spooner, who played for Ashington in their final season in the Football League in 1928/29, before joining York City and Bradford Park Avenue. He made the move to Sheffield United in 1933, playing 17 games and scoring twice for the Blades.

Forward Brian Joicey started his footballing career at Portland Park, moving on to Blyth Spartans, North Shields and Tow Law Town before joining Coventry City. He moved to Hillsborough in 1971, scoring 48 goals in 145 games for the Owls over five seasons.

Another famous footballing name linked with Ashington and Sheffield Wednesday is Irish international Patrick O’Connell. He made 18 top flight appearances for the Owls between 1909 and 1912 before moving on to Hull City, Manchester United, Dumbarton and finally Ashington. He made 19 appearances in the Football League for the Colliers in the early 1920’s, and ended up becoming a coach at Portland Park. He would later famously go on to manage Real Betis, Sevilla and FC Barcelona!


Dear Supporters, Sponsors and Friends,

With the Christmas period a distant memory and the New Year upon us, now is a good time to provide an update on the club’s current position.


The current league position of tenth shows how the lads have consolidated well after a tough start to the season. Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Belper Town, shows how far we have come as a team in what was an immensely hard working and resilient performance to secure three points against a very good side.

Earlier in the season, manager Ian Skinner noted the need for improved consistency, acknowledging the team’s early struggles with a series of injuries among our defenders.

Despite these challenges, the lads have shown resilience and the ability to secure positive results, particularly against stronger teams in the league. Credit goes to Ian, Andy, the staff, and ultimately the players for the progress made.


We find ourselves in the final stages of securing quotes for necessary work to maintain our league status off the field. This process, which is complex and demanding, has been slowed due to the balance we must strike between our regular work and personal commitments. The work will commence in February, and we are confident it will be completed by the end of March deadline. We are also hopeful of attracting funding to assist us in installing LED floodlighting to reduce the heavy maintenance cost of the outdated system, for which we had a £2,100 repair bill only last month. Replacement would reduce our bills and improve our efficiency.


Regrettably, we are confronted with unprecedented off-field challenges with our facility. Like everywhere else, our own utility costs have escalated by over 150% in recent months, and expenses across all services provided to the club have surged. Despite raising our bar prices to counter these increases, our bar revenue fell by more than 25% in 2023, highlighting the cost of living crisis and plunging the operation of the building into a regular financial deficit.

To enhance our situation, we are endeavouring to increase clubhouse usage through various functions and events, having recently invested in a comprehensive booking system. We urge you to help amplify our efforts by sharing our posts promoting live football on SKY / TNT, function room availability and continuing your invaluable support in any way you can.

Commercial Activity

Attracting local sponsorship has been a daunting task. Like everyone else, the business community has been hit hard economically. We are immensely grateful to both those who have stood by us and joined us on the journey this season.

On a brighter note, the response to our crowdfunding appeal and various other activities has been extraordinary, and we’ve received fantastic pledges of support from several local Councillors for our ground improvements.

We were also delighted to bring Drew Tinsley and David Fish on board to help further our skills at the club.

As many know, we operate without a wealthy benefactor. Our club is propelled by a group of passionate individuals who volunteer tirelessly, often at the cost of their personal lives and wellbeing.

We thank you for your patience and encourage anyone who can assist in any capacity to step forward. We have noticed many innovative ideas and suggestions online; however, the implementation is hindered by our limited resources and time. We are in particular need of building our commercial and events planning team to complement existing work being done.

These are undoubtedly some of the toughest times in non-league football, a sentiment validated by the struggles faced by numerous clubs. Your unwavering support and active involvement are critical in navigating through these challenging periods. We deeply appreciate your continued commitment to our club.

Brian Shotton


By Scott Messenger

Exactly 105 years ago today saw the end of the Great War (World War 1) as the armistice was signed at Le Francport that ended the fighting between the Entente (the Allies consisting of France, the UK, Russia, the United States, Italy and Japan) and their last remaining opponent Germany.

In 1921, just three years after the end of the First War One, Ashington Football Club were elected to form the Football League Third Division North along with the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Lincoln City, Grimsby Town, Wigan and Stockport County.

As the Colliers squad battled against some of the best teams in the country during their eight seasons in the Football League, not many would have been aware that a number of the players had actually been on the battlefields of France and Belgium just a few years earlier.

One of the most interesting stories was that of goalkeeper Thomas Newton. Born in Ryton, Thomas had just signed for Swindon Town when the war broke out. He served as a private in the Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. He was the Regiments first casualty on active service when he suffered an injury while disembarking the SS Bellerophon at Le Havre in the early hours of 17th November 1915. About a year later on 13th November 1916 he was wounded in action and taken prisoner by the Germans. After the war he joined Portsmouth before joining the Colliers in August 1924. He made is debut at home to Chesterfield as Ashington won 2-1 in front of 5,000. He earned his first clean sheet just 2 days later as Ashington beat Doncaster Rovers 2-0, but unfortunately the Colliers run of good form didn’t last long and he was dropped after a 7-1 defeat at Bradford Park Avenue, replaced by Ralph Ridley. He played 16 games in total, leaving Ashington to join Crawcrook Albion.

Another goalkeeper, William ‘Bill’ Bradley, joined the Colliers in September 1927, and made his debut in a thrilling 5-4 home defeat against Lincoln City. Born in Dunston, William joined Portsmouth before signing for Newcastle United just before the war. When the war broke out, he joined the Tank Corps and the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving as a gunner. He eventually made his Newcastle debut on November 1st 1919 in a 1-0 win against Preston North End. He even played in the 1924 FA Cup final as Newcastle United beat Aston Villa in front of almost 92,000 at Wembley Stadium. After joining Ashington, Bill made 36 League and 1 FA Cup appearances over two seasons before moving to North Shields.

Another Ashington player to have served in the Royal Garrison Artillery was Francis ‘Frank’ Chipperfield. After spells at Leeds, Lincoln City, Middlesbrough and Carlisle United, Frank joined the Colliers in 1923, making his debut in a 4-0 defeat at Wrexham. He would go on to make 173 appearances in the League and FA Cup for Ashington over 6 seasons, scoring 9 goals.

Left back Stephen Buxton, who played in Ashington’s first football league game, a 1-0 win at Portland Park against Grimsby Town with 9,000 in attendance, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Great War. Before the war he had played for Brentford and Oldham Athletic.

Right back/left half Thomas ‘Tommy’ Henderson joined Ashington from Workington after spells at Newcastle United and Southampton. He served as a private in the Durham Light Infantry during the Great War, where he was wounded in action in France. He made 45 League and FA Cup appearances for the Colliers, scoring 3 goals.

Ashington born outside right Matthew Hopper had two spells at Portland Park. Hopper served aboard a minesweeper in World War One. After a brief spell at Ashington after the war and before the Colliers joined the Football League, Hopper joined Lincoln City before moving on to Millwall. He later made the move to Coventry City before returning to Ashington in 1927, making his debut in a 2-2 draw at home to Bradford City, claiming an assist for the second goal. Making a total of 21 League and FA Cup appearances for the Colliers, he scored his only goal for the club against Southport in a 3-1 defeat at Portland Park.

Ex-Manchester United half back Frank Knowles made his Ashington debut in a 6-1 defeat away at Grimsby Town in 1921. The First World War broke out just as he was beginning to establish himself at Old Trafford. During the War he served in the Royal Garrison Artillery and whilst training at Aldershot played for Arsenal in the London Combination. After the war he had brief spells at Hartlepool United and Manchester City before making the move to Portland Park. He would later go on to play for Stockport County, Newport County and Queens Park Rangers.

Wing half Willy Pigg joined the Army in 1915 at just 17 years of age and was twice wounded during active service. Making his Ashington debut in a 2-1 away win at Crewe Alexandra in October 1921, Pigg made 104 appearances in League and FA Cup for the Colliers, scoring once. He left Ashington in 1924, joining Queens Park Rangers, where he spent two seasons before making the move to Carlisle United.

Albert Tubb was a right half who joined the Colliers from Northern League South Bank, making his debut in a 3-0 home win against Walsall in March 1923. During the Great War he served as a sergeant in the Northumberland Fusiliers. While he was at South Bank he reached the FA Amateur Cup final, getting a runners-up medal as they went down to a 5-2 defeat to Bishop Auckland after extra time at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park. He left Ashington in June 1925, making the move to Barrow.

These players were some of the fortunate ones that survived the Great War. We thank them for not only representing our great club, but for putting their lives at risk to defend and protect Britain and its allies many years ago. We must remember them and the many others that made the greatest sacrifice back then and in the many conflicts all over the world since.


By Brian Bennett

Supporters and friends of Ashington FC successfully completed their annual walk to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK on Saturday.

The group set off from St James’ Park in Newcastle and after calling in at fellow Ebac Northern League clubs Heaton Stannington, Newcastle Benfield and Bedlington Terriers along the way, arrived at Woodhorn Lane during the half time interval of Ashington’s home match against Tow Law.

The group – ‘Wor March for Men’ – have now raised over £20,000 in six years – and this year Colliers manager Ian Skinner walked part of the route with them: “I had some coaching commitments in Portugal last week and when I got back, I checked my diary to see if I could join in with part of the walk,” he said, “It fell quite kindly and linked in with my little lad’s swimming so I managed to get to Newcastle Benfield and met the walkers there. I said I would walk as far as I could until such time as I needed to get to Ashington to prepare for the game (against Tow Law) and I got as far as The Three Horse Shoes – so I did about 17 and a half kilometres with them.”

He continued: “The fans have been brilliant to us this season. They have backed us and supported us in big numbers and I just thought if I could support them in any little way, I would. That was the thought process behind it – I took the family dog along with me – and I enjoyed it to be honest. Prostate Cancer UK is a great cause and what our supporters and friends have raised in six years is magnificent.”


By Brian Bennett

One of the organisers behind an annual event to donate funds for Prostate Cancer UK has said that they will carry on indefinitely with their annual walk.

On Saturday (October 8), over a dozen supporters and friends of Ashington Football Club will walk 23 miles from Newcastle to Woodhorn Lane, the home of Ashington FC.

And for Mark Dickinson, one of a number who will be starting their sixth consecutive walk, it will be another ‘fantastic day.’

The group will set off on their ‘Wor March for men’ shortly before 7am from St James Park at Newcastle, calling in at Ebac Northern League football grounds Newcastle Benfield, Heaton Stannington and Bedlington Terriers along the way before resting up their aching muscles as they hope to complete the task before taking in Ashington’s home match against Tow Law Town.

“It’s a fantastic day,” said 49 year old Mark, “the camaraderie is always top class and anyone who wants to join us are more than welcome. Some of the group will get blisters on their feet but that is insignificant because what drives us on is the amount of people who have prostate cancer.”

The group will do the walk, knowing that they will have raised over £20,000 in six years: “We have already collected £19,000 in five years and projected donations for Saturday are already through the £1,000 mark, so we are delighted with that,” he added.


Aidan Brett (YBIG team manager), Liam Murray (founder of YBIG and captain), Pat Charlton and Carina O’Brien (Vice-Consul General of Ireland for the North East of England representing the government of Ireland).

By Brian Bennett

The ‘You Boys in Green’ from Eire won the Jack Charlton Memorial Cup which was held at Ashington’s Woodhorn Lane ground on Saturday.

The match – which was preceded by the playing of the National Anthems of both countries followed by a minutes silence – saw EnglandFans FC hold a half time lead but the YBIG hit back in the second half scoring twice to lift the Trophy which was presented by Jack’s widow Pat, who was the guest of honour.

The game was arranged to celebrate the life of Jack – a World Cup winner with England in 1966 – who sadly passed away in 2020.

Aidan Brett, manager of YBIG said afterwards: “I was delighted with the win but to be honest it was more important to have two groups of fans enjoying a lovely game of football with great character and friendship. It was a good encounter and the result could have gone either way with both goalkeepers Guy Morton (England) and Darren Brady (Eire) pulling off some fine saves. However the score can be very much secondary as it’s about the spirit of football.”

He continued: “Pat Charlton is such a lovely lady and it was fantastic to celebrate the life of such a great man as Jack who we’ve so much respect for. Certainly he’d have loved it today.”

Englandfans FC boss Garford Beck – whose squad came from various parts of the country – was hoping for a change in fortunes after his side had lost three previous games against YBIG – but it wasn’t to be and he said:  “We got our noses in front through Toby Dawkins on 21 minutes and had a couple of other chances – but so did the visitors as well. Our goalkeeper Guy Morton kept us well in the game with two good saves and we went into the break 1-0 up but second half the YBIG wanted it more than we did. For a fans match it was very competitive and the standard was good. They (YBIG) are a much younger team than ours and it told in the end as they looked the sharper and deserved to win.”

Liam Murray – who founded YBIG in 2005 said: “It’s good to be over here in Jack’s home town of Ashington. It was pretty special to meet Pat and their son and it was great to be taken to see the house in Beatrice Street where Jack used to live.”

Ms Carina O’Brien – the Vice-Consul General of Ireland for the North of England representing the government of Ireland said: “After seeing the pictures of Jack on the walls inside Ashington FC resonates so much as an Irish person. It takes me back to a very special time in my life as a person who followed and grew up in the Charlton era of football and it was quite emotional.”

She continued: “Jack Charlton was a very special man to us, personally, professionally and in our country and it was great to come to his home. It’s been an all round great-feeling day, a proud day for the people of Ashington, a proud day for English people because he was an English hero. Jack did win the highest accolade in the world in football and it was a very proud and privileged moment for Irish people here today.”

The proceeds from the match were being shared between the Jack Charlton Disabled Anglers Association and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.


By Brian Bennett

Two sets of football fans from England and Ireland are to contest a charity match at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday July 9 to honour one of Ashington’s favourite sons.

EnglandFans FC will take on ‘You Boys in Green’ from Eire to celebrate the life of Jack Charlton, one of England’s 1966 World Cup heroes and adopted son and legend of Republic of Ireland, who sadly passed away in 2020.

The match – for the Jack Charlton Memorial Cup – was to have been staged earlier but was deferred due to the Covid19 pandemic and organisers are hoping that the event will attract a bumper attendance.

Kick-off is 3pm and admission will be £5 for adults with children allowed in free and all gate proceeds will be shared between the Jack Charlton Disabled Anglers Association and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

Jack’s widow Pat will be Guest of honour at the game whilst Ms Carina O’Brien – the Vice-Consul General of Ireland for the North of England representing the government of Ireland – is to attend along with Jeff Barnes the President of EnglandFans FC, David Carrick the Chairman of the Jack Charlton Disabled Anglers Association and former professional player Andy Woodward.

Garford Beck – the founder and team manager of EnglandFans FC – said: “Jack passed away on July 10, 2020 so the fact that the match is taking place on July 9 means it will be held virtually two years to the day.”

He continued: “We have played ‘You Boys in Green’ on three occasions – in the Diplomatic Cup and two international friendlies – and have lost all three so we have a bit of a score to settle with them! Our friends from the Republic of Ireland, are really up for this game and anticipate bringing a sizeable support with them.”

He went on: “As well as paying homage to one of England’s greatest players in Jack Charlton, it promises to be another memorable event with, we hope, a sizeable crowd in attendance.”

In the dugout alongside Mr Beck will be his assistant and former secretary at the Woodhorn Lane outfit – Ashington based Brian Robson who said: “It’s an absolute pleasure to hold this event at Ashington FC to celebrate the life of Jack Charlton and I’m really looking forward to it especially with the game being on my doorstep.”

A full colour souvenir programme will be available to purchase on the day.

Pictured (Left to right): Brian Robson (Assistant Manager, EnglandFans FC) and Garford Beck (Manager, EnglandFans FC)


By Brian Bennett

One of the organisers behind a drive to raise funds for Prostate Cancer via an annual walk said they will continue with the event ‘as long as people want to do it.’

North Seaton based Stevie Baptist has now completed five walks in as many years alongside colleagues labelled as the ‘Wor March for Men’ and the group are heading towards a grand amount of  £20,000 for Prostate Cancer UK – which includes this year’s total which was in excess of £4,000.

The participants covered a distance of 25 miles setting off from South Shields Football Club and walked back to Ashington FC via stops at North Shields FC, Whitley Bay FC and Blyth Spartans FC. They arrived during the half time interval at the Ashington versus Newcastle Benfield match in the Ebac Northern League and were warmly applauded for their efforts by the fans as they took a bow on the pitch: “On the day, the conditions were windy but dry,” said Mr Baptist, “we just do our own time and to be honest the banter keeps us going.”

He continued: “We are delighted to be on the verge of the £20,000 mark and we have already begun discussions about what route to take next year – and we’ll continue to do the walk as long as people want to do it.”

Seren Evans, Head of Events and Community Fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “We’d like to give a massive thanks to everyone for their tireless efforts over the past five years and an incredible fundraising sum of around £19,000.”

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and the Covid-19 pandemic has made living with a diagnosis only harder. Thankfully, the support of everyone involved in ‘Wor March for Men’ and so many other wonderfully generous people has allowed us to continue funding research into better tests and treatments, to stop prostate cancer being a killer.” “When the future is uncertain and the choices are tough, we stand for men with prostate cancer. We thank all those involved with ‘Wor March for Men’ for going that extra mile.”


By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC’s home match against Guisborough Town was called off on Saturday morning – after Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc on areas of the Woodhorn Lane ground.

Large parts of fencing were blown down whilst the home dugout – which had been secured to a concrete base – was lifted over the pitch barrier before resting near the main clubhouse entrance.

Ashington Football secretary Gav Perry said: “The Chairman and I arrived at the ground at around 7.30am to assess the situation after being informed of some damage within the ground but at the time we were not aware of the extent of the damage. On seeing the home dugout beside the turnstiles some 30 meters from where it should be, we immediately realised that the damage was going to be more than we initially expected. On a wider inspection of the ground, several sections of fencing were damaged including a 25-meter section being completely down as well as damage to the away dugout. We immediately knew that the safety of players, volunteers and spectators was our number one priority and that the game would not be able to go ahead in the afternoon.”

He continued: “As the winds were still very strong, it was impossible to fully assess the damage and works which would be needed, so we returned on Sunday to get a full picture of this. We have put the wheels in motion for some temporary measures to ensure we can continue to play matches at the ground, whilst permanent repairs are identified and planned in. We have also had several offers of support from our magnificent fans to support us with any clear up and repairs and we are hugely grateful for this. We will be in touch with those making offers of support as soon as we identify when we can get the repairs undertaken.”

Following Saturday’s postponement, Ashington have been informed of two fixtures changes. The home game against North Shields has been brought forward from March and will now be played on Tuesday January 4, 2022 whilst the clash with Guisborough Town at The dwmedia Stadium has been rescheduled for Saturday March 19. Meanwhile Ashington have been drawn away to Bishop Auckland in the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup after being given a bye in the first round. With the tie to be played in the midweek preceding February 19 it means the two sides will face each other twice in five days as they are due to meet in their Ebac Northern League first division clash at The dwmedia stadium the following Saturday.


Ashington AFC have supported the Wansbeck Valley Food Bank for a number of years now and once again are looking to help boost their supplies by running a food drive at our next home game against Guisborough Town on Saturday 27th November.

On the day, we will act as an extra collection point for the Food Bank and take in donation to forward on.

The Wansbeck Food Bank run a “reverse advent calendar” on the run up to Christmas, accepting donations to further support those families at need over the festive period in addition to the support they give throughout the whole year.

Donations of tinned or dried foodstuffs plus toiletries are essentials which everyone need, and are always gratefully received, whilst Christmas treats are also an added bonus for those who may need to use the service.

If any of our supporters feel that are in a position to make a donation, we will have a drop off area available at our game on Saturday 27th November, and we will then deliver the donations to the Wansbeck Valley Food Bank in the days after the match.

More information on the Wansbeck Valley Food Bank can be found on their website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Wansbeck Valley Food Bank is a Registered Charity No. 1177303