Who Let the Dogs Out?
If you mention Bedlington Terriers, you may think of the dog breed that looks like a hybrid of a poodle and a lamb.
In the northeast, you would be more likely to think of the Northern League football team of the same name.
We saw them playing at Horden CW AFC last week (Hopper Tales #87) and this week it was their turn to be in the spotlight.
For us, it was only our second game in the last ten weeks, so forgive any rustiness you may spot.
The weather was blustery with odd spots of rain but the temperature wasn’t too bad at all. The main concern on the day would be the wind. It felt like one of those days where the goalkeeper may boot the ball towards the halfway line and end up having to save his own kick!
So, let’s get on our way and see what today brings
Due to today being another relatively close one, our day began with a leisurely walk to the bus station for the 10:08 X1 to Newcastle.
We were fully expecting a chaotic journey with a bus packed full of last-minute Christmas shoppers. Pleasantly surprising then, that it didn’t feel any worse than a regular Saturday.
After arriving in Eldon Square at 11:12, we made the short walk to Haymarket bus station, which for all intents and purposes, is one big station with a road between them.
We had a twenty-minute wait for the connecting X22 bus to arrive at 11:30.
A perfect place for a spot of people-watching and even at this hour of the day, there was a drunken trio walking past singing Christmas Carols.
Newcastle is never a dull place to be.
The X22 deposited us in Bedlington at 12:05 and we made our way to a nearby cash machine.
Having checked with the club’s social media team in the days prior, Bedlington Terriers informed us that they only take cash, so please bear this in mind if you plan to travel there.
Bedlington is a small Northumberland town with a population of around 18,500.
It lies fourteen miles to the north of Newcastle and five miles from the coast at nearby Blyth. Ashington AFC (Hopper Tales #75) the scene of another one of our previous Hops, is five miles to the northeast.
There is evidence that Bedlington has been populated since the Bronze Age, with ancient burial sites excavated behind Front Street in the 1930s.
A world-renowned iron works formed the bedrock of the town’s economy until mining started in the area in the 1830s. Coal extraction remained the town’s largest employer until the 1980s, with the demise of the mining industry.
Bedlington is an ancient market town and market stalls still appear to this day although numbers have dwindled in recent years.
The market cross, which differs from others in the area, was erected in the 18th century and can be viewed below.
Of course, the town plays up to its association with the terrier of the same name and even the benches dotted around town have these dogs on the side.
I like it!
Football fans of a certain age may also remember former WBA and Newcastle player John Trewick.
With cash safely tucked in my wallet (yes, I remembered it this week!) we made our way back the way we had come and headed towards our chosen watering hole.
The Red Lion is just up the road from the market cross, opposite the roundabout. After safely negotiating traffic, we went in and ordered a couple of drinks.
A Kopparberg cider for me and a Punk IPA for Mrs Hopper cost £6.15. Like nearby Ashington, drinks are very reasonably priced here.
After sitting and looking at the menu, we decided to have some lunch here, too. I ordered ham, egg and chips, while Mrs H went with a chicken pasta dish.
Both arrived pretty quickly and were typical Wetherspoons fare. Not spectacular but also, no complaints. They also come with a drink included in the price, which made the value even better.
The only downside was our choice of table. We inadvertently sat by the back exit where smokers were constantly in and out letting in a cool draft.
Note to self, choose more wisely in future!
With full bellies, we left the Red Lion and headed off to Dr Pit Welfare Park, home of the Terriers.
For the typical person, the ground is located a fifteen-minute walk from the Red Lion.
This is only true if you don’t take the scenic route!
We walked down the A193 and turned left at the Northumberland Arms, down Vulcan Place. All good so far. This is when Mrs Hopper decided to not listen to me and we turned right down Gordon Terrace, instead of carrying straight on and turning right into Park Road.
Okay, okay, it was me who decided to turn right, shhh!
Anyway, after an extra five minutes was added to the walk, we found ourselves at our destination.
Bedlington Terriers – Dr Pit Welfare Park
The entrance to Welfare Park lies, fittingly enough, on Park Road and features a couple of turnstile gates and a pair of gates bearing the club crest.
We paid the £6 per person entry fee and made our way inside. Unfortunately, no programmes or teamsheets were available but I was advised that we could get a pin badge from inside the clubhouse.
While I did my walk around the ground, Mrs Hopper went to get the pin badge.
We entered at the north end of Welfare Park.
To the right of the turnstile, is the clubhouse, which has an open upstairs balcony.
A great place to have a couple of pints while watching the game and a few people were doing just that.
Also at this end of the ground, is the infamous electronic scoreboard, in the northeast corner.
This was a donation from American billionaire, Robert Rich. At the time, in 2010, Rich was the world’s 488th richest man.
After tracing his family back to the area he was bestowed the honorary title of Lord of Bedlington as a present from his wife. This got him interested in the area and he decided to put something into the club as a gift.
He became a shirt sponsor, put in an undisclosed amount of cash, and shipped an electronic scoreboard costing £30,000 across the Pond.
Although people associated with the Terriers might have thought their dreams had come true, Rich’s interest died off and when he was told the club had a £15,000 loan due, he told them they were on their own.
So, the aspirations of Bedlington Terriers moving swiftly up the leagues with the financial backing of Rich, was a short but heady dream.
The scoreboard remains but is no longer in operation and hasn’t been for some years. The sharp-eyed among you will see that it still bears Rich’s business logo.
Between the scoreboard and the clubhouse, a net was hung behind the goal to help keep the ball from straying too far.
This side of the ground wasn’t exactly spectator-friendly.
A broken path covered in moss and tree roots bubbling up from below ran past the broken team dugouts.
I’m not sure if I technically should have been walking up here but nobody told me I couldn’t, so…
The path did get a little easier to navigate once past the dugouts and the trees.
There was one little flash of colour, as a Terriers flag was pinned to the wooden fence that separates the ground from the houses beyond.
Though even this looked a little bedraggled.
With the eastern side negotiated successfully, I moved around to the southern end.
Again, there was little in the way of a footpath, with a large patch of unruly grass being the mainstay of this end.
There was an interesting fence feature at this end where it curved around the goal.
What looked like it may once have been a net that mirrored the one at the north end was lying across the fence.
Mrs Hopper Returns… Laughing
While I was still at this end of Welfare Park, Mrs Hopper returned from a successful badge hunt.
‘Nothing remarkable in that, so why is he writing about it?’, I hear you ask.
Well, with her American dialect being somewhat different to the local one, when she asked the lady in the bar for a pin badge, it was pretty damn amusing for her to return after some rummaging, with a bin bag. 🤣
Luckily the matter was sorted out and we got our collection updated with a rather smart Terriers badge costing £3.00.
(For anyone interested, the bin bag remained behind the bar…)
We moved around to the west side of Welfare Park, which is where the main spectator area is located.
The stand on this side looks at first glance like one strangely shaped structure. On closer inspection, you can see that it is three conjoined stands.
The first part is a seated area holding around sixty seats, some of which appeared to be broken, unfortunately.
The middle part was more of a terrace, with a space for disabled spectators at the front and a bench on the back row.
The terrace was painted in the club’s colours of red and white.
The final piece was another small seated area and the overall appearance gave it a quirky look that I liked.
Wikipedia lists the ground as having a capacity of 3,000 with 300 seats. I have my doubts about the accuracy of this but if you know better, please reply in the comments.
Beyond the stand(s) were a couple of portacabins that housed the snack bar, club shop and toilets.
Left in the Dark
While Mrs Hopper grabbed us each a cup of coffee, I braved the puddle in front of the men’s toilet.
Once inside, I turned the light on, then realised I had tried to turn on the heater. Realising my mistake, I pulled the longer chord for the light and… nothing.
I closed the door and found myself in pitch blackness. I left the door slightly open, leaving just enough light to get business done and hoping that the wind would leave my dignity intact.
Luckily for everyone walking past, the wind was my friend for a short while.
Please note, there are toilets in the clubhouse too but this involves going back through the turnstile and in from the other side.
A nice hot cup of coffee was waiting for me when I re-emerged and it went down nicely as we prepared for kick-off.
The playing surface at the Dr Pit Welfare Park consists of natural grass and is surrounded by a sturdy rail fence. There are a total of ten floodlights, with five on each side of the pitch.
The players enter the pitch from the northwest corner, where the dressing rooms are amusingly labelled ‘The Kennels’.
Bedlington Terriers – Dr Pit Welfare Park Gallery
Bedlington Terriers Tidbits
The Bedlington Terriers club were founded in 1949 as the Bedlington Mechanics.
They entered the FA Cup for the first time in 1959, before disbanding four years later.
The club was reformed as Bedlington Colliery Welfare in 1965.
In 1980, the club’s name was changed to the Bedlington Terriers name they have now.
In 1982, they were founder members of the new Division Two of the Northern Football League.
The club’s most successful period began in 1993/94 when they won the Division Two title. They won a remarkable five consecutive Division One titles between 1997/98 and 2001/02.
They became the last Northern League team to defeat a Football League side in the FA Cup in 1998/99 when they defeated Second Division Colchester United 4-1.
This game also saw Welfare Park’s record attendance of 2,400. They lost in the Second Round, with a 2-0 defeat at Scunthorpe United.
The same season saw them narrowly beaten 1-0 by Tiverton Town in the FA Vase Final. This game also gave them the distinction of being the last northeast team to play under the Twin Towers of the old Wembley Stadium.
In 2011 they achieved their record score, with a 15-0 victory over Stokesley in the NL Division One.
The club suffered financially and struggled to repeat its successes before 2010 saw the brief investment/interest from Mr Rich.
The Terriers were relegated in 2015/16 and have remained in Division Two ever since.
Bedlington Terriers – Pre-Game View of Dr Pit Welfare Park
It was quite disappointing to see a few local youths come in by jumping over a fence and trying to avoid paying the £3.00 concessions entry fee.
They will be the ones moaning if their community club has to fold for financial reasons.
One of the volunteers saw them sneak and told them to go and pay.
Seeing as he didn’t follow them to the gate, I have my doubts about whether or not they took his advice.
Bedlington Terriers v FC Hartlepool – The Game
Coming into today’s game, Bedlington sat in third place.
They had played just four games since the middle of October, including last week’s draw at Hordon CW AFC.
Their single home game in that period saw a 3-2 victory over Esh Winning. The two away games saw them gain a 1-0 victory over Boldon CA and a 1-1 draw at Thornaby.
Meanwhile, today’s midtable opponents, FC Hartlepool have played seven games in the same period, with three wins, three losses and a draw.
Both of their two previous games were at home, earning a point against Billingham Synthonia, and a 1-3 defeat against Blyth Town prior to that.
My pre-match prediction was a 2-0 win for the Terriers.
It took just eight minutes for the home team to take the lead.
A free-kick from the left was headed into the bottom corner of the net by Jack Roys.
The wind played its part in a game that struggled to get going in the first forty-five and it took until near the halftime interval before Bedlington made it two via a close-range effort from Matthew Nelson.
Half Time – Bedlington Terriers 2 v FC Hartlepool 0
So, by halftime, we had already reached my predicted scoreline and I was hopeful of more goals to come.
A quick check of the scorelines from elsewhere showed me that Stoke were drawing 0-0 at home to Millwall and I told one of the Bedlington volunteers I had been chatting to that it would stay that way… it did!
Meanwhile, Newcastle were losing 1-0 at Luton, much to the chagrin of today’s linesman who had asked someone in the crowd to let him know the score. The Magpies are pretty much everyone’s favourite team in these parts, even match officials.
The visitors had one of their better spells of the game in the ten minutes or so leading up to the third goal of the game.
After all the pressure from Hartlepool, it was the Terriers who got the goal via another close-range effort from Nelson again.
That third goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and it was pretty much game over at that point.
The fourth goal was a beauty from the edge of the area from Ben Franklin and I managed to (mostly) capture it in the video below.
By now, it seemed a few beers had been consumed on the balcony and there were plenty of amusing dog noises being barked out.
The game was wrapped up in the 90th minute when Nelson completed his hat trick and earned himself my Man of the Match award in doing so.
I’m sure he will be delighted…
Full-Time – Bedlington Terriers 5 v FC Hartlepool 0
You can read a full Match Report here, if and when one becomes available.
Attendance – 71
Entrance Fee – £6.00
Programme – N/A
Next up for Bedlington are two away fixtures to round off 2023.
A visit to Blyth Town on Boxing Day is followed by a trip to Sunderland West End on the 30th.
They are scheduled to start 2024 with a home fixture against Brandon United but with that club’s future up in the air, it may well not happen.
If not, their first fixture of the New Year will be a reverse fixture against today’s opponents, FC Hartlepool.
FC Hartlepool have an incredible five consecutive home fixtures lined up next.
Starting with Redcar Town on Boxing Day and Washington on the 30th. (EDIT: FC Hartlepool won this game 2-0)
These games will be followed with the visits of Billingham Town (5th), Bedlington Terriers (9th) and Easington Colliery on the 13th of January.
Promoted as recently as last season from the Wearside League, Hartlepool will seek to consolidate and improve on their current position at the Grayfields Enclosure during these games.
Bedlington Terriers – Thoughts
Dr Pit Welfare Park needs some love and, typical of most clubs at this level of the pyramid, money is the issue.
It has a great character and quirkiness about it but there are some essential improvements needed.
A light in the toilet is an easy fix. Reattaching the netting behind the goal and power-washing the path behind the dugouts would all make a difference without breaking the bank.
Beyond that, there is a tremendous clubhouse that should be a great draw to anyone coming to Terriers games. A handy snack bar next to the stand and yet another friendly bunch of volunteers and staff.
If you have never visited a Northern Football League ground, please try to.
Get involved in conversations with the locals. They are more than happy to chat with you and tell you all about their club or just chat about football in general.
We love it around here!
We also managed to get the scoreboard working just one more time, especially for you our loyal readers.
Mr Rich and the Terriers
A documentary was aired by the BBC following the involvement of the billionaire American. You can watch that in the video below if your interest has been piqued.
Bedlington – After the Game
Following the final whistle, we got talking to a guy who was standing nearby and it turned out to be one of the people who run the Northern Football League’s official Twitter account.
Like us, he visits random grounds (within the NL), despite being a fan of North Shields and it was good to meet him and have a quick chat before we set off to catch the bus home.
As we left, we went out via the clubhouse and I took a quick photo as I hadn’t had a chance before the game.
It looked nice in there and it made me wish we had come earlier to sample a pint here and maybe have a game of pool or two.
I feel like my money is better being in the coffers of these non-league clubs than it is in the pockets of Mr Wetherspoon.
We walked back up Park Road, left into Beech Grove and the bus stop was right there.
The bus dutifully arrived a couple of minutes later and we began the ride home at 17:05.
Our luck held in Newcastle. After arriving around 17:40, it was only a short wait before the X1 pulled in and we got on board. Again, it wasn’t overly crowded and as rides back from Newcastle go, it was pretty calm and peaceful.
We got off in Houghton Le Spring and called in the Lidl supermarket to carry on a little Christmas tradition of ours. This is the one day of the year when Mrs Hopper and I throw off all our constraints and pile the trolley with anything that sounds good.
We then make pigs of ourselves with Christmas Eve snacking and long may this tradition last!
A final bus ride back to our home and we were through the front door just before 20:00.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
Next week, the plan is to head up to Boldon for the game between Boldon Community AFC and Ryton & Crawcrook Albion.
With the holiday season upon us, public transport isn’t always reliable and neither is the weather.
For those reasons, we are choosing to stay fairly local and it’s a good opportunity to tick off another Northern League ground, in our quest to visit each and every one of them.
EDIT: Boldon’s game was called off and we headed to Sunderland West End’s Ford Quarry Hub. There was no blog from this trip as the ground is just a 3g cage.