Strikes Are Back
It’s been a little while but the train workers are striking again. The remedy for this for any groundhopper is to find a local club that you haven’t yet visited. For us, that just happens to be Newcastle Blue Star.
Blue Star currently ply their trade in the Northern Football Alliance League – Premier Division. Their opponents are also based in Newcastle, making this an intriguing derby game in the city.
Both clubs clearly take their inspiration from other clubs. In Bue Star’s case, it’s obviously Newcastle United. They play in the famous black and white stripes and have the well-known blue star of Newcastle Brown Ale on the front of their shirts.
You may remember that logo featured heavily on Newcastle United shirts for some time, including the halcyon days of Kevin Keegan’s time as both player and manager there.
Meanwhile, their opponents, Newcastle Chemfica, lean towards a more exotic connection – Portuguese heavyweights Benfica.
They take the red colour of Benfica shirts and have also adopted the spread eagle logo of their crest.
Now it was time to go and see which club could look the most like their famous counterparts on the pitch!
Newcastle Blue Star – Journey and Pre-Game
Needless to say, there isn’t a great deal to say about this part of the day.
An unusual thing for a Saturday in the Hopper household, a lie-in. With our destination only being a couple of bus rides away, we took full advantage and didn’t set off until 11:30.
Normally, we pop into Greggs or Mcdonald’s in Newcastle for our breakfast but we didn’t even do that this week. Mike Ward will be aghast to hear that we still got our pastry fix though. Instead of waiting until we got to Newcastle, we popped into our own local Greggs…
I have heard it said that wherever you are, on average, you are never more than ten feet away from a rat. I’m starting to think this may be true of Greggs shops too!
Our bus was late but not to the point that it would affect our getting there on time.
Armed with steak bakes, we claimed aboard our bus and munched away on the fifty-minute trip to the Toon, arriving at 12:30.
We left the bus at our usual stopping point outside the Laing Art Gallery on John Dobson Street. For some reason, I’ve never really taken any notice of it until today.
It’s actually quite well presented and if art is your thing, I’m sure it’s well worth a visit if the outside is anything to go by.
The Journey – Stage Two
Once in Newcastle, we headed towards Grey’s Monument, a significant landmark in Newcastle’s city centre. It is a statue erected in memory of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834.
Yes, the same Earl Grey that the tea is named after!
From near the monument, we caught the #1 bus to Scotswood in the west of the city. At least, that was the theory.
In reality, it took us closer before dropping us off at another bus stop after the driver said he had made the mistake of not changing his sign and gave us his apologies.
No worries, the next #1 bus was soon upon us and took us the rest of the way.
If you walk on past the Scotswood Social Club, the next left brings you to the home of Newcastle Blue Star. We arrived about an hour before the 14:30 kick-off, despite the slight delays.
Newcastle Blue Star – The Stadium
The thing that had drawn me to come here today was the stadium. It certainly punches above its weight at Level Eleven, or Step Seven in the football pyramid.
This was immediately obvious as we came to the path that leads down to the ground.
As you get near to the ground, the first thing to draw your eye is the club name emblazoned across the main entrance facade.
The second thing of note is the interesting use of shipping containers around the place. All are painted the same colour as the fence that goes around the stadium perimeter.
The first one you see sits perched above the fence on top of another container and announces the match fixture. The other side of it, we will get to once inside…
Pay at the Gate
Entry to the Scotswood complex is via cash or card at the turnstile and is priced at £3.50 per adult.
We had a chat with the friendly gateman, who also just happened to be a groundhopper. Unfortunately, he said no programmes, teamsheets or pin badges were available.
Something the club might want to think about changing maybe?
Pin badges are always popular with groundhoppers and a teamsheet could be made available for a small charge. This would provide more revenue for the club and print-on-request reduces waste to zero and maximises profit.
Once inside, I told Mrs Hopper to make herself comfortable in the big marquee that houses the club bar. While she was getting the drinks in, I did my customary circumference of the ground.
Around the Ground
Like many non-league grounds, Blue Star’s home shows a lot of ingenuity and DIY-manship. (Is that a word?)
Aside from the shipping containers, there is decking and huts and a general feeling of a well-maintained and steadily growing stadium.
Starting off to my left, I came across the other side of the shipping container that is used to proclaim the fixture. It has cleverly been turned into a viewing balcony that people can stand on for a more birds-eye view of the game.
A Newcastle Blue Star England flag proudly hangs from the railing.
A nice smooth tarmac path surrounds the pitch and I followed it around to the south end of the ground. Here there lies little, other than another couple of repurposed shipping crates, presumably used to store club equipment.
The west side of the Scotswood ground consists of two nicely made stands. The first is a metal terrace with a roofed covering. Everywhere is a uniform colour which helps to make all the little mismatched stands have a sense of uniformity despite the differences.
There is a gap between this and the seated stand that starts at the halfway line.
With a capacity of 139, this is a neat little stand and has the Newcastle Blue Star team name emblazoned across the roof that covers it. Named the Alan Smith Stand, the home and away dugouts are located on either side of it.
The northern end of Scotswood is devoid of structures and is merely the tarmac path and the perimeter fence beyond it.
This brings us back to the side we entered from on the eastern flank of the ground.
At the other end of the east side is another seated stand. This one is called the David Walton Stand. Like its counterpart on the other side of the pitch, it is fully covered and has a capacity of 114.
Beyond this is the large marquee/social club where a nice cold pint was awaiting me.
When we walked into the ground, I noticed a very strange artefact sitting on a pedestal outside the entrance to the marquee.
How many football clubs around the world have a rusted bomb given pride of place?
I am intrigued to know the significance of this if anyone has the answer for me? Please leave a comment below if you know the answer.
Outside the marquee, picnic benches have been placed that allows you to sit and have a pint while watching the game. It’s fair to say a good number of the crowd at today’s game were doing just that.
Meanwhile, the inside of the marquee holds plenty of tables, a bar and a hot food facility. Having had a relatively late breakfast, we didn’t bother with food but I’m assured it is good and reasonably priced.
At £4 per pint, the Madri lager was quite expensive but tasty. and we sat at a table enjoying the build-up to the game.
We knew it was time for kick-off when twenty-two players, match officials, substitutes and coaches came trooping through the marquee and onto the pitch outside.
Quite a unique players’ tunnel, that!
Newcastle Blue Star – Stadium Gallery
Newcastle Blue Star – Pre-Game View of Scotswood Sports Centre
Newcastle Blue Star v Newcastle Chemfica – The Game
Thanks to Blue Stars’ excellent website it was easy enough to find their recent form, Chemfica’s, not so much.
Blue Star have won their last eight games in the league and cup, four of which have been in the league.
During this spell, they have scored twenty-nine goals and conceded just six.
They currently sit atop the Premier Division of the Northern Alliance League and will be very hopeful of gaining promotion to the Northern League Division Two at the end of this season.
For their city rivals, the record is a little murkier. All I can tell you is that they sit in eighth place in the division, have won eight, drawn four and lost nine of their games this season. Going into this game, they had a goal difference of minus three.
Although there were no programmes or teamsheets, there was a big board up in the marquee that listed the two line-ups.
Blue Star got the match underway and it took less than a minute for them to have the first chance of the game.
Dean Holmes turned and shot inside the box but unfortunately for the home side, he dragged his shot wide of the post.
It was Holmes again shooting in the sixth minute following a good run from Nelson Ogbewe. Chemfica goalkeeper Reece Monaghan made a good save to deny Blue Star at the expense of a corner.
We were fifteen minutes into the game before Chemfica got their first shot on target. It was a comfortable save for Blue Star’s Sean McCafferty though.
One of the best near-misses of the half came when Blue Star centre-back Curtis Coppen hit the post. He faked a shot, dragged the ball away from his marker and let off a low shot that struck the upright before snaking across the goalmouth and clear of danger.
Blue Star Hit the Post.
While Blue Star was clearly looking the better of the two teams with some neat passing and approach play, Chemfica were resolute in their defending and were having the occasional chance of their own.
In the 28th minute, Chemfica had one of those chances on the counter. McCafferty was able to thwart Euan Potts’ strike and pushed it behind for another corner.
Five minutes later, Star’s Dan Lanning drove forward and was unlucky to see his volleyed shot skim off the top of the crossbar.
Around this time we left our vantage point on the metal terracing, deciding a seat in the Alan Smith Stand sounded better.
Just a couple of minutes later, Blue Star took a 37th minute lead.
Following a short corner on the far side, a cross came over to the far post. Blue Star’s number nine, Lanning, rose highest and put the ball back across the face of the goal. This led to an easy, headed goal for captain Gary Ormston.
1-0 Newcastle Blue Star!
As the half wound down, a rainbow formed at the south end of the ground and lingered for quite some time. We hadn’t had any rain at Scotswood yet but it was clearly in the vicinity and would hit hard in the second half.
The last action of the half was a bizarre booking for goalkeeper McCafferty.
Offside had been given and McCafferty placed the ball to take the kick only to be told by the referee to move it back a bit.
He moved the ball back but not far enough. He moved it back again and was about to take the kick when the referee came trotting over brandishing a yellow card. Absolutely no effort to waste time that I could see and even the Chemfica coaches were laughing at the ludicrousness of it.
I hope it’s possible to appeal this kind of nonsensical booking.
Half-time – Newcastle Blue Star 1 v Newcastle Chemfica 0
A pretty dominant first-half performance for Blue Star but only one goal to show for it. This meant that Chemfica were still very much in the game and would be looking to put up a better showing in the second forty-five minutes.
I scanned the half-time scores from around the country and saw that my team’s recent good form was still intact. Stoke was facing a decent Norwich team and drawing 0-0 following on from good wins at Sunderland and at home to Blackburn before another good draw at Middlesbrough.
It seems like Alex Neil is starting to turn the juggernaut around and next season, Stoke City might be worth keeping an eye on at the other end of the table.
The Second Half
Meanwhile, back here at Scotswood, the players were out on the pitch and the away side got us back underway.
It took them just four minutes to get the second goal of the game.
Blue Star won the ball high up the pitch and the ball was played through to Lanning. He coolly slipped the ball past Monaghan and it felt like that would be the catalyst for more goals from the home team.
2-0 Newcastle Blue Star!
It was not long after the second goal that the heavens opened and made play challenging for both teams.
The rain was probably the main reason that the action dropped off a bit from here on in. It came down like a monsoon season shower in India and I’m thankful it had finished before we had to leave.
Plenty of effort and endeavour separated the 49th minute goal from the next real action nearly twenty minutes later.
Ogbuwe did well on the right flank to slot the cross between two Chemfica defenders and into the danger area. The ball was cleared as far as the edge of the area where Ryan Carr put in a fine shot from twenty yards.
The ball was heading for the top corner until Monaghan pulled off a good diving save that possibly looked better than it actually was. Definitely be one for the cameras had Mr Lineker and his crew been on hand to capture the moment.
Good save, nonetheless!
Last Ten Minutes
The 82nd minute saw a shot by Oliver Ure from the edge of the area comfortably saved by Star’s McCafferty.
Another great chance for Blue Star in the 85th minute.
A Chemfica attack left them exposed to the quick counter. The ball was brought forward quickly by Luke Carr and he timed a fine through ball to Lanning. Lanning took it in his stride and kept ahead of the defenders rushing back before unleashing his shot which was superbly tipped over the bar by Monaghan.
No cameras were needed this time, that was a great save!
As the game wound down, Chemfica probably had their best spell of the game and they will consider themselves unlucky not to have scored.
These chances occurred as we were starting to walk around the ground towards the exit as we both needed to visit the toilet before catching the bus. This meant we didn’t get a great view of what was going on at the other end of the pitch. Chemfica looked to have two or three good opportunities in a short spell of time near the end of the game.
Overall though, this was a comfortable win for Blue Star against a hard-working Chemfica who never gave up.
The scoreline was probably a fair reflection of the game, too.
Some good performances but my man of the match goes to Dan Lanning of Blue Star. A goal, an assist, hit the bar and had a fine shot tipped over and looked like a constant threat.
Full-time – Newcastle Blue Star 2 v Newcastle Chemfica 0
Attendance – 139
Entrance Fee – £3.50 (pay at the gate via cash or card)
Programme – N/A
Newcastle Blue Star – Match Highlights
Whilst there are no official match highlights, I did come across this video from the Charlie Talks Football YouTube channel. It shows quite a few of the highlights and a little insight into today’s game.
The downside to a successful season is the number of fixtures a team has to play. Between now and May 6th, Blue Star have a minimum of thirteen fixtures still to fit in. This includes ten league fixtures, the Challenge Cup Final and the Benevolent Bowl Final.
They are also still competing in the League Cup and that’s the fixture they play next. An away trip to Alnwick Town on Friday 24th of March.
This is followed by the Challenge Cup Final against Seaton Delaval at the Daren Persson Stadium in North Shields on the 29th of March.
They get back to league action on April 1st with another home game against Whitley Bay Reserves.
Next up for Chemfica is another away game against Newcastle Independent on the 25th of March.
I enjoyed my trip to the west end of Newcastle and the Blue Star ground.
There are quite a few similarities between Scotswood and Craik Park, home of Morpeth Town. It has the same DIY but well-maintained feel about it, plus the large marquee. Morpeth Town is currently playing four levels above Blue Star, which gives you some idea of the potential of this ground.
I was talking to a regular visitor to Scotswood on the bus to the game and he told us there are plans afoot to improve the ground even further. Obviously, I can’t confirm this but he said they were planning to move the marquee behind one of the goals and build a new stand in its place.
If true, then Blue Star will have a ground to be very proud of!
Even if they gain successive promotions, it will easily rival some of their counterparts in the Northern League Division One.
With the famous black and white stripes and that blue star logo, I’m sure they would start to attract a few more Newcastle United fans along to their games as they get more successful.
Newcastle Blue Star – After the Game
As the whistle blew for full-time, we made our way out through the gates on the east side of the ground.
The bus stop is immediately opposite the exit from Scotswood and couldn’t be any easier.
We had a short wait of about ten minutes before the #1 bus back into the city centre appeared. Before long, we were getting back off in the area of Grey’s Monument, before walking to the usual bus stop for home on St. Nicholas Street.
Our bus arrived at 17:10 and we were back in our town by 18:00.
Having pre-ordered pizza and chips for dinner, we called in to collect, before hurrying home with our yummy goodies.
Our parrot was very surprised to see us back home this early and barely had time to shove the last of his partying friends out the back door before we got in.
Next Up For Hoppers Guide
Next up for us is a ground I have been itching to go to ever since I first saw photographs of it.
With that iconic corner terrace, Workington AFC’s Borough Park is a must-see for any serious groundhopper at some point.
This coming Saturday is my point!
Although the club now competes in the Northern Premier League Division One West, it used to be a member of the Football League. They were even managed by the legendary Bill Shankly once upon a time!
They were voted out of the League in 1977 to be replaced by Wimbledon but that ground remains an iconic one and I’m excited to visit.
Onto the next!