For one day only, Waddle was back on a Northern League ground. Not Chris Waddle, the former Tow Law Town prospect who became an 80s pop crooner and international football star. Not this time. His son Jack, though, still plays for Waddle’s last English club, Worksop Town. Although his Dad couldn’t make the trip up to his native North-east for today’s Vase tie against Newton Aycliffe, Jack turned out for the Tigers.
For Newton Aycliffe, it’s the kind of fixture that would have been hard to imagine a few years ago. Worksop, despite a string of problems with finances and home grounds, have always been one of the stalwarts of the Northern Premier League, even managing a few seasons in Conference North. Newton, by contrast, reached the Northern League as recently as 2009 having folded and reformed in 1993-94. While Worksop’s history includes nine trips to the First Round Proper of the FA Cup – and one to the Third Round in 1956 – Newton Aycliffe won its first ever senior cup earlier this year, beating West Auckland to claim the Durham Challenge Cup.
Changing fortunes, and Aycliffe still on the rise. The tidy Moore Lane Park ground, a multi-sport site shared with the town’s cricket and rugby clubs, may not have been thronging with life, but the 151 who turned out saw a dominant first-half performance leave the Tigers lacking in bite. It was 4-0 inside half an hour and stayed that way to the end. Newton Aycliffe were helped by two penalties, but always had far too much for Worksop. Paul Garthwaite pulled the strings – and scored both of the goals from open play – while penalty taking duties were shared between Dennis Knight and John Campbell. Waddle and his Worksop team-mates never got close.
“You’re nothing special, we lose every week,” lamented the away contingent; Aycliffe’s ‘ultras’, a ragged chorus of lads who might have come straight from the junior teams, responded with several chants that did not exact resound with the innocence of childhood.
For many, that’s the problem with Newton Aycliffe. The team struggles to attract much support from a decent-sized town, despite making steady progress on and off the field. The current management and players have acquired a reputation – in many cases dating back to boss Peter Dixon’s successful yet turbulent time at West Auckland – for overly aggressive football and gamesmanship. Notoriety follows the club around: reports include a pre-season friendly abandoned at half-time, and a ‘full and frank exchange of views’ between a red-carded player and an opposing fan at a recent Northern League game. Some argue that this is why the club struggles to attract support.
Yet on this evidence, the problems are overstated. The day began with an impeccable commemoration of Remembrance Sunday; a pause for contemplation as the Last Post rang out (the bugler than scampered back to her regular role in the tea hut) observed by all in the ground. The home bench was populated by committed, passionate football men rather than the rabid foaming beasts of Northern League legend. The game, although never enormously competitive since Aycliffe were on top so quickly, went off in a good spirit. Maybe this is a club that deserves another chance from some of those who have written it off, especially when things seem to be on the up at the moment.
Moore Lane Park, Newton Aycliffe, England
Nov. 12, 2016. FA Vase Round 2
Newton Aycliffe 4 (Garthwaite 2, Knight, Campbell) Worksop Town 0