Saturday 16 September 2023

Whitley Bay - Hillheads Park

Whitley Bay FC
Hillheads Park
Hillheads Road
Whitley Bay
Tyne & Wear
NE25 8HR

0191 291 3637

Ground Number: 1222
Saturday 16th September 2023
Whitley Bay 3-1 Newcastle Benfield
Northern League D1


The club was established in 1897 as Whitley & Monkseaton, changing their name to Whitley Bay Athletic in 1950 before taking up their current name eight years later. The club played in local leagues at first, joining the Northern Alliance in 1950 where they won the title in 1953 & 1954. In 1955, they joined the North Eastern League before being elected to the Northern League following three tricky seasons in 1958. The first season saw them struggle but in 1960 they finished as runners-up to West Auckland Town. They went on to win the Northern League in 1965, 1966 and 2007. After a 4th place finish in 1988, they were elected to the Northern Premier League. A 5th-place finish in their debut season was a great start in Division 1 and by 1991, they had won the title which earned them promotion to the Premier Division. They spent four seasons here, their best finish of 11th coming in 1994 in what at the time was a step 2 league. The following season though, they were relegated after a second-bottom finish. Five seasons were spent back in Division 1 before they were relegated back to the Northern League after a bottom-place finish at the turn of the millennium. Despite their third Northern League title and three third-place finishes after that, they did not apply for promotion back to the NPL. In fact, they remain there to this day, having another third-place finish in 2012 and a 4th place finish last season which was their best since.

Whitley Bay had a couple of great FA Cup runs at the start of the 90s. Their best run came during the 1989/90 season. They beat Horden Colliery Welfare, Willington, Spennymoor United, Barrow and Southport. Then came remarkable victories over Football League sides Scarborough and Preston North End. Their run ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat at Rochdale. They also reached the FA Amateur Cup Semi-Final, losing 2-1 against Hendon at Sunderland in 1966. A good run in the FA Trophy in 1986 saw them reach the 3rd Round. However, it is in the FA Vase that they have seen their greatest success, winning it four times, making them the competition's most successful club. They beat Tiptree United 1-0 in 2002 to record their first win in a game played at Villa Park. It was then three successive victories at Wembley Stadium. They beat Glossop North End 2-0 in 2009, Wroxham 6-1 in 2010 and Coalville 3-2 in 2011.

Local cup wins include twelve Northumberland Senior Cups, two NPL Division One Cups and two Northern League Challenge Cups. Their record attendance of 7,302 at Hillheads Park came against Hendon in the 1965 FA Amateur Cup Quarter Final. They also attracted 17,048 to St James' Park, Newcastle when they beat North Shields in the 1953 Northumberland Senior Cup final. Their record attendance holder is Bill Chater with 642 with 307 goals making Billy Wright the record goalscorer. He scored 51 goals during the 1964/65 season. Their record transfer income came when they sold Kevin Todd for £10,000 to Berwick Rangers.

Whitley Bay is a seaside town in Tyneside. It formerly governed as part of Northumberland and has been part of Tyne and Wear since 1974. It is part of the wider Tyneside built-up area, being around 10 miles east of Newcastle upon Tyne. Two notable landmarks are the Spanish City (a domed building on the seafront) and St. Mary's Lighthouse, the latter on a small island near the town. The population is just under 37,000. From the late 19th century and into the 20th century, the adverse effects of the decline of local coal mining and dependent industries in the area were ameliorated by the emergence of Whitley as a seaside holiday resort. The opening of the North Tyne Loop railway line in 1882, connecting the coastal villages to Newcastle, benefited the tourism industry. The line, now followed by the present Metro system, included a new railway station in the centre of the town, and another at Monkseaton. Both stations remain in use as Metro stations. Whitley Bay remains a popular holiday resort, with a caravan park operated by Parkdean Resorts for both holidaymakers and holiday homeowners.

Other sports in the town include the Whitley Warriors who play Ice Hockey in the NIHL Division 1 North, the 5th tier of Ice Hockey. They played at the highest tier for much of their history. Whitley Bay Rockcliff RFC play rugby in the regional leagues. People born in Whitley Bay include journalist Kate Adie as well as former footballers John Cornforth, Graham Fenton and Peter Ramage. Joint writer of Auf Weidershen Pet, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and Porridge (amongst other things) Ian La Frenais was also born in the town. The brilliant adult comic, Viz, is also based in the town.


Back in mid-August when I booked this trip, Whitley Bay was my first choice for my Saturday afternoon game. Plenty of hoppers had been there and it looked like a great ground with a really good programme shop. They also had a fascinating history which I'd enjoy researching. This was unless a tempting tie came up in the FA Cup and I did briefly consider a trip to Morpeth Town v Southport. However, it was a bit out of the way meaning that I might have to give up my morning game. It was also a 3G pitch and so in the end, I decided to save it for when the weather was iffy. A great deal was got on the National Express coach and also on the room with fellow hopper Colin opting to come along for the trip.
From my morning game, it was just over a five-minute walk to the bus stop and a 20-minute wait for the bus. It was starting to chill off a bit and the warm bus was appreciated. Colin got off at Monkseaton to go to his game at South Shields. It was on to Whitley Bay for me and the pleasant Fire Station Wetherspoons. I had a chicken wing basket meal with a bottle of Angry Orchard and then a pint of Old Rosie. I left just before 2 and headed to Home Bargains. There I got a few bits including some obscure cider. It was then to the ground with me getting there at 2.30. £8 entry, a look around the club shop then to the bar for a pint of Cold River.
Whitley Bay were in 5th place whilst Newcastle Benfield were 9th. Since going out of the FA Cup, Whitley Bay were unbeaten. In fact, their last league defeat was a 6-0 hammering by West Allotment Celtic on 1st August. In recent times, they'd won 2-1 at Seaham Red Star, 3-0 at Tow Law Town and beaten Bishop Auckland 5-1. They'd also drawn 1-1 at Redcar Athletic. Newcastle Benfield were in mixed-league form. Since a 7-1 hammering at Bishop Auckland, they had beaten Penrith 4-0 and Tow Law Town 2-0. They'd also drawn 3-3 with North Shields and lost 3-0 to Carlisle City. It was a game with few clear-cut chances. But there were some very enthusiastic youngsters from Benfield getting behind their team. Superb support but sadly for them, Whitley Bay scrambled home a goal from a free kick on 28 minutes. Newcastle Benfield looked decent on the break and on 60 minutes they equalised, a shot from the edge of the area, fairly central by Connor Walker. On 74 minutes, a deflected Ben Richardson free kick restored Whitley Bay's lead. Richardson got his second on 87 minutes, a lovely lob from the edge of the area for 3-1.
Half time had seen me raid the club shop. I'd fancied a hoody as the temperature had dropped and so the Whitley Bay one at £20 was decent value and helping the club. I also got a CD and a fridge magnet despite not having a fridge nor a CD player. A filing cabinet and a DVD player would suffice. I left just before 5 with it being 20 minutes to the station. I was in a good mood as Wycombe had beaten Blackpool 2-0. It was an easy journey back and I typed my morning blog on the way. I was back at my room at 6.25, dropping my bags off and having a rest before leaving half an hour later. Colin had managed to lose his ticket for the second day running and that combined with a fair bit of waiting around meant we didn't get to Wallsend until 8.20. It was a 10-minute walk to the Ritz where we had a drink first and then food, in my case a Katsu curry. I'd really wanted the real thing but there weren't many decent places. It was then back to the station for a long wait for the Metro. We were back in our room by 11, watching Match Of The Day before bed.


HILLHEADS PARK is a great ground and one of the more characterful around. There are steps of terracing all around and a large main stand holding around 500. There is also some covered terracing opposite. The bar, club shop and programme shop are all excellent and there's also a tea bar. There's a reasonable amount of parking or the town with buses is 20 minutes away. This also has a decent Wetherspoons. 

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