Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crook Town

Crook Town AFC is a football club from the former mining town of the same name in County Durham. The club was formed in 1889 after a merger of Crook FC and Crook Excelsior FC. The town’s cricket club took over the running of the new club as they entered the Bishop Auckland and District League.

Matches were played at Millfield; which was the home of Crook Rugby Club at the time. As the rugby matches took priority, some games were moved to the Dawson Street cricket ground.

After finishing as runners-up in 1895-96, as the club moved to the Bankfoot Sports Ground on Peases Westthey joined the Northern League for the following season. In 1898 Town purchased Millfield and moved back in full time.

‘The Black and Ambers’ came close to relegation to the newly formed Division Two on a couple of occasions before lifting their first major honour in 1900-01.

Darlington and Bishop Auckland were defeated in the FA Amateur Cup to set up a final against Kings Lynn. The final at Harwich & Parkeston’s Dovercourt home ended in a draw. Crook won the replay 3-0 at Portman Road, Ipswich.

Town became Northern League champions for the first time in 1914-15, before defeating to reach the second round of the FA Cup in 1926-27 after defeating Workington, but falling to Southport. Crook won their second Northern League championship in the same season.

However, after an investigation into the payment of amateur players, Crook were suspended by the Durham County FA. The club spent the 1928-29 season in the Durham Central League after being reconstitution.

The club were accepted back into the Northern League after one season away, but then elected to join the North Eastern League for the 1930-31 campaign under the name of Crook FC after turning semi-professional.

Stockport County and Aldershot were defeated in the same competition in 1931-32, before Leicester City ended the run with a 7-0 win at Filbert Street in the third round. The club’s spell paying players nearly led to bankruptcy, so they returned to amateur status and rejoined the Northern League under their original name in 1935.

Town struggled on until the outbreak of War as the Northern League was suspended. In 1943 Hole in the Wall Colliery and Peases West Welfare merged to form Crook Colliery Welfare. They took Town’s place in the Northern League in 1943, before adopting their name in 1949.

The 1950’s were to be a far happier time for football in the town.

A third Northern League title was lifted in 1952-53 before wins against Walton & Hersham, Hitchin Town and Walthamstow Avenue saw Town through to the 1954 Amateur Cup Final at Wembley against local rivals Bishop Auckland.

The game in North London ended 2-2, before another four goals failed to separate the sides at St James’ Park, Newcastle. The second replay was held at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough; with Crook finally lifting the cup following a 1-0 victory.

Future Newcastle United manager and former playing hero Joe Harvey cut his managerial teeth at Millfield in the 1954-55 season before taking his first Football League job at Barrow.

A run to the quarter final of the Amateur Cup followed in 1956-57, before Town reached the semi-finals of 1957-58. However, the 1958-59 season was probably the greatest in the clubs mixed history.

Town were crowned champions of the Northern League while in the Amateur Cup they defeated Oxford City, Briggs Sports and Leytonstone before defeating Barnet 3-2 in the final at Wembley. The following season, the Black and Ambers reached the second round of the FA Cup before bowing out to York City.

Crook lifted the Amateur Cup for a fourth time in the 1961-62 season. Wins against Dagenham, Wimbledon and West Auckland Town set up a Wembley final against Hounslow Town. The match was drawn 1-1 before Town took the spoils with a 4-0 victory at Ayresome Park.

This success was backed up with a fourth Northern League title in 1962-63. The good times continued to roll at Millfield as successes against West Auckland Town, Walthamstow Avenue and Barnet propelled Crook to Wembley once again in the 1963-64 campaign.

A 2-1 win against Enfield at Wembley saw the famous trophy head back to the north east mining town for a fifth time, before Crook's honours board began to dry up. 

To enjoy some memorable Wembley moments, click here, here, here and here, as well as hearing about the halcyon days from keeper Ray Snowball, who won three Amateur Cup winners medals while at Millfield here.

Town ended the 1963-64 season as league runners-up; a finish that was copied the following campaign. Crook remained towards the top of the table until the end of the decade before they slipped down the pecking order as amateur football was coming to an end.

A period of disharmony also affected form and the management of the team, as the committee decided at one point that they should pick the team, as the club faced a couple of re-election battles. Manager Dave Carrick resigned in the 1974-75 season after saying his job became untenable.

The club made history in 1976, when Crook became the first English football side to visit India. A game against Mohan Bagan at Eden Gardens in Kolkata attracted a crowd of 100,000. The following season saw the team fight all the way from the FA Cup preliminary round to the first round, where they succumbed to Nuneaton Borough.

The 1976-77 campaign under player coach Brian Newton also saw a fine run in the FA Trophy as wins over Durham City, Bridlington Trinity, Whitby Town, West Auckland Town and Witton Albion saw Crook reach round three. They were knocked out at that stage after a replay to Slough Town.

After the brief upturn, Crook returned to being a lower middle table outfit after the departure of Newton to Bishop Auckland. Former Newcastle United striker Alan Shoulder having a spell as team manager. Eventually they were relegated to Division Two of the Northern League in 1988-89 after a few escapes from the drop.

The relegation occured in the clubs centenary season, as finances hit rock bottom and Crook continued to sack managers on an annual basis. Geoff Wade was the latest incumbent. He was replaced in October 1991 by Paul Adams.

After regrouping, Town won promotion as Division Two runners-up in 1994-95 with former Newcastle United striker Alan Shoulder taking over as team manager and the Main Stand being re-opened after safety works and improvements had been carried out. 

Sir Tom Cowie OBE, the former owner of his own transport business, and later life president of the Arriva Group as well as Sunderland AFC chairman, was made Club President in 1995 as the club looked to regain former glories.

Shoulder resigned in 1997 before returning a year or so later. In the summer of 2000 Shoulder departed once more, after a disagreement with the board of directors. Further managers came and went as fears grew that the club may not survive. 

A further demotion came in 2000-01. After another series of managerial appointments Alan Oliver found himself in the hot seat for the 2005-06 season. His side went on a fine FA Vase run, which saw wins over Ryton, Spennymoor Town, Winsford United, Billingham Town, Ford Sports Daventry, St Blazey and Arnold Town saw Crook reach the last eight.

Bury Town won the quarter final tie at Millfield in front of a crowd of 2,500. However, it had been the best season in many despite the team narrowly missing out on promotion. Oliver was sacked at the start of the following campaign.

Record appearance holder Dennis Pinkney stepped in for a second spell as manager. The club were in such a mess that he was forced to make a comeback at the age of fifty. Former Newcastle United and England defender Steve Howey had a brief spell in charge of the team.

More managerial mayhem followed, before Crook lifted the Division Two title in 2012-13 to regain their top flight status under manager Gary Pearson. The Black and Ambers were relegated in the 2014-15 season with the club in dire financial straights once more.

Crook finished the 2016-17 campaign in seventeenth place in Division Two of the Northern League under manager Tony Boakes.

Crook Town AFC will play in the Northern League Division Two in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Wednesday 26th January 2017

My trip around the southern towns of County Durham before heading to Stokesley to watch some North Riding Senior Cup action was going well. I was in particularly good form after departing from West Auckland after a pint and some real history.

A number 6 bus took me to the club at Watling Street, on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland, before changing for the Max 1, which deposited me in Market Place in Crook. The town seemed quite vibrant and not unattractive as I headed off for Millfield.

A short walk along West Road saw me by the closed gates of the wonderful old venue. Fortunately the view from a public path and banking gave me great views for my photography.

The Main Stand with its raised seating was a stunner. A sizeabkle covered terrace next to it was also real old school. The near end had a decent sized open terrace, while the other sides had a few open steps backed by grass banking. It reminded me of the home of Prescott Cables, which be viewed here, in many ways.

Once done I wandered back into the market square and then took the X46 service towards Willington. This wonderful area was definitely deserving of a future visit.

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