At Long Last
Horden, our destination this weekend, is a small ex-mining village on England’s northeast coast.
A rare place to be when the winter winds howl in off the North Sea but we didn’t care!
To be honest, it was a relief just to be seeing a football game again after nine barren weeks. There is only so much I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! that anyone can watch without a bit of football to break it up.
The last time we saw a game, the kids hadn’t even started ‘Trick or Treating’ and now, here we are just a week away from Santa Claus’ annual Hop from the North Pole.
We’ve suffered from a combination of a local bus strike that lasted five weeks, train strikes that have lasted around eighty-four years and of course, the seasonal rain, ice and snow-laden pitches.
All of which has left this particular Hopper feeling very antsy and ready to ‘get back out there’.
We ‘almost’ broke our duck last weekend with a trip to Ryton & Crawcrook Albion, but despite passing an earlier pitch inspection, the game was called off just as we arrived in Crawcrook.
It kind of summed up the last nine weeks…
With us being out of practice, we stayed local and with Horden being just eight miles to the southeast, it was an ideal place to restart our travels…
Our journey started leisurely, with a stroll to the bus station to catch the 11:22 X1 to Peterlee, arriving twenty minutes later.
Peterlee is a town that lies just to the west of Horden and because it was so close, we decided to stay here for our pre-match pints.
A short stroll from the bus station is The Three Stories pub and this was where we headed.
The Three Stories
From the outside, it was hard to tell it was a pub. The windows were decorated for the festive season and managed to look more like a shop, or amusement arcade.
Once inside it was a much-improved place.
The Three Stories is one large room with many tables and chairs and strategically placed supporting columns that break it up a little.
A pool table and an impressive darts area are situated at the far end while TV screens are liberally scattered around the walls, with a large pull-down screen on the wall opposite the bar.
We ordered a pint of Inch’s cider and a Moretti for a very reasonable £6.95 and took a seat.
After having a second reasonably priced round, we left to head back to the bus station for the second leg of our journey.
We caught the 13:13 number 208 bus to Horden, arriving a little over ten minutes later.
Horden Bound, Marra!
Horden is a small ex-mining village on the northeast coast.
With a population of around 8,000, it lies twelve miles south of Sunderland and seven miles north of Hartlepool.
Until its closure in 1987, Horden was home to one of the biggest mines in the country and a miner is proudly featured on the football club’s crest to this day.
According to Wikipedia,
“Horden has an Anglo-Saxon name that comes from an old word ‘horu’ meaning ‘dirty’ with the ‘den’ part of the name referring to the dene or valley. Horden is first mentioned in the eleventh century as ‘Horeden’ when there is also mention of a ‘Horetun’ (dirty farm).”
A harsh way for a place to gain its name, maybe, but the advent of the huge colliery in 1900, certainly helped it to live up to the billing.
As is true with most of the football teams in the northeast of England, the coal industry had a huge impact on the towns and villages they represent and Horden is no exception.
Horden is home to another one of northeast sculptor, Ray Lonsdale‘s masterpieces.
‘The Marra’ is a sculpted depiction of a miner with a hole in his chest, representing the heart being ripped out of the local community with the closure of its major industry.
The term ‘Marra’ is a term of friendship or endearment used in this part of the country in the same way as people in the Midlands may say ‘duck’, or Pete Beale calling people ‘treacle’ in Eastenders. (A term I still use on my Londoner daughter-in-law in jest.)
Because of the mining heritage, some places may look grimly industrial to visiting outsiders but as an outsider myself, now living in the northeast, I can confirm that the natives are a friendly bunch and there are some incredibly beautiful areas up here, too.
The people are also what makes the Northern Football League such a great place to watch football.
This is football in its truest, purest form, completely without ego or pretence.
Twenty-two players who just want to play football for the joy of it, exactly as it should be.
Horden Community Welfare AFC – Welfare Park
We arrived at Welfare Park around 13:30 to find the gates open and nobody around to take our money.
We entered the ground and while Mrs Hopper took a seat in the stand, I did my walkaround to take photos, starting at the same end we had walked in from.
The east end of Welfare Park is bereft of any structures and is basically, just a path leading around to the south side of the ground.
The main car park is behind the goal at this end of the ground.
The east did afford us a view of the North Sea, which is about three-quarters of a mile away to the east.
The south side of the ground is also bereft of any interesting features for the most part.
Three of the ground’s six floodlights are located on this side.
It’s only as you approach the west end that we see something a little different.
A shallow terrace that stretches from roughly level with mid-way between the penalty area and the halfway line and extends behind the goal and around to the northern end of the ground.
Behind the goal at the west end, the terrace runs the full length and is bordered by a grass verge and a row of neatly pruned trees that form a hedge.
The north side of Welfare Park is the hub of matchday activity.
It contains the dressing rooms, a small room serving hot and cold drinks with a TV and a one-hundred seater stand where Mrs Hopper was patiently waiting for me while munching on her sandwich.
This main building is what is left of the old stand that used to be here. The base remains with a new roof in situ where the seats used to be.
I was a bit sad to see that the old stand was no more but clubs have to progress and move on and there is little room for nostalgia in a business.
Horden Community Welfare AFC – Welfare Park Gallery
A Hot Drink
After completing my circuit of the ground, we asked if there was anywhere we could get a drink and were directed to go inside the building and turn right.
We followed the instructions and found ourselves in a small room with a window to the outside where food and drinks are served to people during the game.
We got chatting to the two lovely ladies behind the counter and one of them turned out to be the Horden CW manager, Jonny Payne’s mum.
Lovely lady, Jonny! 👍
We got two cups of coffee and a pin badge and took a seat to watch the end of the Ipswich v Norwich game on TV.
That’s when I remembered we hadn’t paid to get in and we told the ladies as much. Because we didn’t have any cash (yes, I forgot my wallet) they took the money there and let the gateman know that there were two extra people inside.
They also took the £2.00 for the matchday programme ‘Marras Mag’.
This was a twenty-eight-page effort printed on matt paper and packed full of information, including a history of today’s opponents.
There was a photograph on the wall of the room that showed the old stand before it was demolished. You can compare this with the one above to see how it has changed.
Horden Community Welfare AFC Tidbits
The football club we see in Horden today is a Phoenix club, re-born in 2017 as Horden Community Welfare AFC.
The original team in Horden, established in 1907, was known as Horden Athletic and transitioned over the years to become Horden Colliery Welfare until its final change in 2016.
The new side with the current name, playing once more at Welfare Park, started life in the Durham Alliance League. They won it at their first attempt, securing promotion to the Wearside League. In 2021, they were promoted again and gained entry to the Northern Football League Division Two.
The club nickname is ‘The Marras’ and as discussed earlier is a term used liberally in the Wearside area.
Former West Bromwich Albion striker, Bob Taylor began his career with Horden CW as a youth player.
Horden Community Welfare AFC – Pre-Game View of Welfare Park
Horden Community Welfare AFC v Bedlington Terriers – The Game
Coming into today’s fixture, both teams were at the right end of the League Two table and hopeful of promotion at the end of the season.
The weather has had a big impact on the Northern Football League in recent weeks and there have been a lot of postponed fixtures.
For Horden CW, this would be their fourth straight home league fixture. The previous three had resulted in victories against Prudhoe YC Seniors and Billingham Town and a pulsating 4-4 draw against Yarm & Eaglescliffe sandwiched between them.
Bedlington Terriers have won four of their last five games, most recently dispatching Esh Winning 3-2 at home on November 28th.
You have to go back to September 30th for the Terriers’ last loss, at Redcar town.
My prediction for today was a narrow 1-2 win for either team, but I plumped for the away side to sneak it in the end.
As expected, this game was a tight affair and it was made extra difficult by a strong wind that was blowing from the terraced end to the east end.
It was Horden who had the first chance to open the scoring. A cross from the left was headed against the bar in the eighth minute.
Five minutes later, it was Bedlington who should have scored. Through on goal, the striker shot straight at the keeper when it seemed easier to score.
What felt like it would be a game-defining moment occurred next.
A yellow card for Horden left-back, Kieran Campbell was followed just a couple of minutes later by a second card, this time red.
Surely Bedlington would take advantage of the extra man in such a tight game?
From the restart, it seemed the answer would be yes, as the Terriers hit the post. Horden weren’t making it easy though and for me, they played just as well with ten men as they had been doing with the full compliment on the pitch.
Twenty-five minutes in, the Marra’s had another chance to score as a corner was saved low down at the far post by the Bedlington keeper. Two minutes later another header was saved by the keeper under his crossbar.
Bedlington hit the post from twenty-five yards on the half-hour mark before finally getting the opening goal in the 32nd minute of a topsy-turvy half, through Sam Dinsley.
Half Time – Horden CW AFC 0 v Bedlington Terriers 1
It was refreshing to check the halftime scores around the country and find that Stoke weren’t losing.
Of course, they weren’t playing until the following day but that’s not the point!
The sky was also starting to look pretty spectacular as the second half got underway.
The second half was a cagier affair than the first forty-five minutes and chances were fewer. (Or at least I didn’t make any notes…)
Horden’s ten men continued to work as hard as the eleven men of the opposition and they were rewarded for their valiant efforts as the game came to its conclusion.
The deserved equaliser came from Jack Pounder in the 87th minute, although Bedlington were still upset at a couple of questionable offside decisions from the ageing official on the far side.
At times, it did appear like his flag was going up as a random guess, as he was rarely in line with play. I have to say though, I think the one before the goal, he got right.
Despite the red card, the match had been played firmly but for the most part, fairly. Despite this, there was clearly a bit of tension between a couple of the players after the final whistle.
As they trooped into the dressing rooms, those tensions threatened to boil over and I later saw that a Bedlingon player, Will Dowling, was shown a red card. Presumably for whatever happened inside, although that’s just me guessing.
It was hard to pick out a Man of the Match but I would probably give it to the Horden right-back, Joe Osbourne. He was neat and tidy in possession and feisty in the challenge. Despite being on the short side, he was capable in the air, too.
Full-Time – Horden Community Welfare AFC 1 v Bedlington Terriers 1
You can read a full Match Report here, if and when one becomes available.
Attendance – 77
Entrance Fee – £5.00
Programme – £2.00
Next up for Horden CW is an away trip to Washington on December 23rd.
This is followed by a big local derby game back at Welfare Park against local rivals, Easington Colliery on the 26th.
Horden see out 2023 with another home game against Redcar Town on the 30th.
Up next for Bedlington Terriers is a home game against FC Hartlepool on the 23rd (hopefully, we will see you there!)
Boxing Day sees the Terriers visiting nearby Blyth Town before wrapping up their year with a trip to Sunderland West End on the 30th of December.
Horden CW AFC – Thoughts
Horden CW AFC is (I never get tired of saying this) another friendly Northern League club.
If you show up with a respectful attitude, pretty much anywhere you go will make you very welcome and answer any and all of your questions about their clubs.
Welfare Park is nothing spectacular but it has its own character. The terracing is starting to crumble in places and this is something that will have to be fixed at some point in the future.
Considering the amount of rain we have had in the area, the pitch held up pretty well. You can see from this photograph that it wasn’t a certainty for this game to go ahead, though.
One thing I would like to see the club address is the flimsy white fence that surrounds the pitch.
I realise that everything comes down to money at the end of the day but it feels like anyone leaning on it may accidentally find themselves falling onto the pitch along with part of the fence.
Or maybe I just need to lose weight!?
Bonus points for producing a programme and thumbing their noses at bigger clubs who no longer bother themselves to do so.
Horden – After the Game
Following the final whistle, we made our way out of the ground and made the short walk up South Terrace before turning left onto Sunderland Road to await our bus.
The #208 showed up dutifully at 17:12 and dropped us off at Easington Village Green.
We spent five minutes chilling (literally) in a broken bus ‘shelter’ that seemed to be violating the Trades Description Act of 1968 before the X1 rescued us a few minutes later.
Why do some people think smashing up things that help other people is fun? There are better ways to alleviate boredom, folks!
After a brief sojourn into Tesco for paracetamols, we were home by 18:15.
Groundhopping via public transport doesn’t get much easier than that.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
We plan to follow our trip to Horden with another Northern Football League Division Two team, and one that will be familiar to us, too… Today’s away team, Bedlington Town, will be next week’s home team.
We will be making the trip north, through the chaos that is sure to abound in Newcastle. A combination of Christmas shopping and Christmas partying should make our journey ‘interesting’.
That aside, we look forward to visiting another Welfare Park, thirty-two miles north of today’s ground of the same name.
Onto the next!