Chester le Street Schools' District Football
The formation of a Chester-le-Street district team was decided at the first annual meeting of the association held in July 1950. The first fixtures played were against the Sunderland, Gateshead, West Stanley and Bishop Auckland associations. Venues for the matches were:
v Sunderland at Usworth
v West Stanley at Pelton
v Gateshead at Langley Park
v Bishop Auckland at Langley Park
Unfortunately, West Stanley turned down a request for a game and Gateshead did not, as yet, run a junior section!
Trials for schools in the east section of the league were held at Chester-le-Street (The Greens) and west section trials were held at Washington welfare ground. These trials were held on 16th December 1950. No more than four boys could be put forward for trials from any school and it up to the selection committee to decide the final squad. The first team manager of Chester-le-Street Boys was Mr Stan Lewis (Langley Park). A 'trainer' (Mr Hall - Glebe) was also appointed.
The question of a meal after district games was brought up and it was agreed that a maximum charge per head for the meal should not exceed one shilling and sixpence. The practice of providing a meal, usually pies and peas, after a district match for boys and teachers was maintained well into the 1970's
So the great tradition of district football in Chester-le-Street had begun!
District football for the next few years consisted of home and away matches against a limited number of teams. Primary district football was in its infancy and it seems that, other than Chester-le-Street, only West Stanley, Sunderland and Lambton & Hetton were operating.
Each season for a number of years, east and west section trial matches were held with a coming together of the best boys for the final trial. This system was in place until the break with Washington schools in 1970. In 1964, Durham County Schools FA introduced a knockout cup for district teams called the Harrison Memorial Trophy.
An interesting account of the introduction of the Harrison Trophy for district teams written for our annual meeting on 9th July 1964 makes interesting reading.
"This season saw the introduction of a Primary Schools' Association County Cup Competition (The Harrison Cup). As preparation for our first round match, we played East Stanley in a friendly match and, in poor conditions, we were thoroughly beaten. To the selectors, the writing was on the wall as they realised that the team was not up to its usual standard. However, in the Harrison Cup, we managed to beat Derwent Valley association (which really was a school side) and then we played Durham. The game was played at Usworth and ended in a draw. In the replay, Durham were worthy winners although it has to be said that our team had made a big improvement. Durham progressed to the final where they were beaten by Seaham - the first winners of the Harrison Cup"
The success of a school or association team is dependent on the quality of player available in that particular season.
The secretary's report to the annual meeting on July 11th 1969 reads:
"Our league eleven had a rather disappointing season. After the league trials, it was realised that many of the squad were not up to league standard and a successful eleven would be difficult to find. One or two boys from whom we had expected something positive just did not come up to expectations. The result was an early exit from the county cup and defeats in the friendly matches we had arranged"
Having parted company with Washington schools in 1970, this was the first season under the new structure of Chester-le-Street Schools FA and the first district team containing boys from the Chester-le-Street area only.
Weekly training at Chester-le-Street Youth Centre, under the guidance of Mr Tom Baker and Mr Frank Johnson, was a new innovation. Many happy weekly training sessions were spent there, although conditions were cramped but it was the best on offer at the time.
In season 1970-71, the team (below left) recorded impressive victories against, among others, Kelloe and Jarrow, Hebburn & Felling (including a certain Chris Waddle). This resulted in us qualifying for a two-legged final against Sunderland, who were by far the biggest association in the county.. The team, which included three under 10's, Stephen Kendal (Kibblesworth), Stephen Reid (Barley Mow and Jim Craggs (St Cuthberts), travelled to play the first leg at Broadway School. Also in the team was Willie Askew (Lumley) who enjoyed a long and successful professional career, including a spell at Newcastle United.
The first leg was a disaster, with Sunderland running out convincing 3-0 winners. It was, indeed, a dispirited Chester-le-Street squad that returned home that morning. The second leg at Lumley School a week later proved to be completely different. Chester-le-Street tore into Sunderland from the kick off and, by midway through the second half, had erased the three goal deficit and were unlucky not the win outright. Extra time was required and, sadly for us, it was Sunderland who grabbed the all important goal to land the trophy. Teachers and parents were disappointed yet proud of the achievements of the team in a match that will forever live long in the memory
The season after, the same two teams contested the Harrison final with the first leg of the final at Broadway in Sunderland. Chester-le-Street played well, as they had done all season, and came away with a 2-0 lead. This, of course, gave them confidence to believe that they could go on to win the trophy and that may have been their undoing, Playing the second leg at Lumley School, it was Sunderland who turned the tables and ran out 2-0 winners. Extra time was played and, again, Sunderland scored the all important goal to win the trophy as they had done the previous season. What a disappointment that was! However, the matches were a credit to both teams and was all that is good about district football. Team manager, Tom Baker (Chester-le-Street) and Ron Gormley (Sunderland) enthused about these finals for many years afterwards
Season 1971-72 saw the first of the annual tours to Manchester at Easter for 20 years followed by weekends in Scarborough in October for nearly 30 years. Contacts were made in the Manchester area and, on the last Thursday of the Easter holidays, an excited group of boys and teachers set off by coach
The squad was first accommodated in the Hartley Royal Methodist College (photograph on right) and there were almost as many teachers as there were boys - district football was well supported by staff in those days! Teachers included Maurice Richardson (Red Rose, Alan Pearson, John Meek (Barley Mow), Emmesron McMillan, Tom Baker (Kibblesworth), Frank Johnson (St Cuthberts), Ollie Willis (Lumley), Norman Wilson (Bullion Lane), George Staines (Pelton Roseberry) - see photograph on right
The tour became a highlight of the season and is fondly remembered years later by those who attended. Two night's accommodation, three matches, a conducted tour of at least one league ground and a visit to watch a match on the Saturday (and one on the Friday evening if Stockport County were playing at home. Accommodation at the Methodist College was followed by a stay at the Rudyard Hotel in Stockport, which was the base for a number of years
The Rudyard is well remembered by Peter Ward who attended Pelton County School and played for the district team in seasons 1974-76
'I remember our trips to Manchester and staying at the Rudyard Hotel along the A6 in Stockport. I drove past the hotel every day on my way to training when I was playing for Stockport County'
Although the football was great, lifelong friendships were forged along the way and relationships among our own staff were strengthened
Following 20 years of touring the Manchester area, a change of direction was called for and, instead of using the tour as an end of year treat, we decided that the October half term might just be better in cementing relationships between the boys and parents. Scarborough was the preferred destination and we have played a match on the Saturday against Scarborough followed by a match on the Sunday against our close friends from North Tyneside, who have also made the trip the Scarborough for many years. Families were also invited, which didn't happen on the trip to Manchester but these visits have been very successful and provided lasting memories for parents as well as boys (see photograph on left)
District football continued to flourish with success achieved in almost every season from the perspective of winning trophies. In the 'old days', there was only the Harrison Trophy to play for (starting in season 1963-64) but other competitions were introduced - Derwent & Medomsley Knockout Cup (1983-84), County 7 a Side leading on to a national competition organised by ESFA (!993-94) and the Indoor 5 a Side (1991-92). The success of Chester-le-Street in these competitions can be seen on the relevant pages
Chester-le-Street have run a district team since the formation of our association in 1950. It is difficult to compare the quality of teams now with those in the early days.. As mentioned earlier, there are now more competitions to take part in compared to years ago so, possibly, the team which won the Harrison trophy in 1964 could have been as good a team as we have ever had. However, the 1999-00 team would have taken some beating. Winning the ESFA national 7 a side at Wembley was the icing on the cake but they also won every county competition they took part in - the Derwent & Medomsley Cup, the Tyne/Wear Cup, and the Indoor 5 a Side (photograph on right)
In writing this article in 2018, it is with sadness that we have decided to cut back the amount of district football we will be playing in 2018-19. We will not be playing in the Harrison Trophy but will take part in one-off competitions throughout the season, with the possibility of playing the occasional friendly. The reasons for this are varied but, from a time years ago when, if a boy was chosen to play for the district team, it was a great honour and there were no other distractions to playing on a Saturday morning, there are now other attractions on Saturdays, allied to club football being played on a Saturday and those boys good enough to be attached to an academy having that commitment also. Years ago, teachers were queuing up to manage the district football team. Not so now. The workload of teachers nowadays is so much greater than years ago and teachers are hesitant about committing themselves to regular football on Saturday mornings. The photograph, bottom right, is of the very successful 2015-16 district team, which was almost as successful as any team we have ever had
However, we look forward to playing in exciting 9-a-side, 7 a side and 5 a side competitions and will still strive to make Chester-le-Street as competitive as they have been for the past 60 plus years