One year ago, Horden CW played their last game at their historic Welfare Park home prior to eviction due to a dispute with Horden Parish Council. Since then, the town’s club – representing the proud Durham mining community since 1908 – has been absorbed into another club and now plays as Darlington Reserves using a pitch in Darlington, 28 miles away. Just one player made the move with the club, and many feared that football in the town was heading for the history books.
But there’s a fierce local pride in a long footballing history in Horden. England internationals Stan Anderson and Colin Bell were among the local lads who first chased a ball around the alleys behind rows of terraced houses. Scoured by wins off the North Sea, Welfare Park has been the town’s football ground the club’s foundation. It might be almost 80 years since the newsreel cameras filmed a packed Welfare Park for an FA Cup tie against Newport County, but there’s still a burning desire to keep the game alive in the town.
That’s where the new-look Horden Community Welfare comes in. Following news that the old club was moving to Darlington, several of the people who had been involved decided it was time to start afresh and establish a new team for Horden, bringing Saturday football back to the town and ensuring that the old ground was not left to decay through lack of use. And, one year after that last game, the paperwork is almost complete.
Graeme Wetherell, club secretary, said: “Right now we’re just waiting for the Parish Council. We’re waiting to get a license signed so we can go back to Welfare Park. We’ve done almost everything we can – we’ve started fundraising, we’ve got sponsors in place, we’ve even got the strips ready. Once the license is ready, we can go and apply for more grants to support the club.”
The plan, initially, is to play in the Durham Alliance League. It’s Saturday football, but a step down from the old club’s Wearside League status. This isn’t due to a lack of competitive players; it’s a practical way of ensuring that travel costs to play games in Whitehaven and Cleator Moor don’t blow a hole in the fledgling club’s finances before it can get properly established.
It’s very much a local project. An online appeal to help find equipment for a matchday canteen brought a rapid response from well-wishers in the town, while Wetherell and his colleagues, chairman Chris Cain, treasurer Ryan Cuthbert and team manager Bobby Bowes are familiar faces in Horden football. That has played a big role in persuading the Parish Council to look beyond the problems that soured relations with the previous club and show some faith in the new team.
“We’ve always said that if we can’t get a team back into Welfare Park, there’s no point in doing it at all,” Wetherell added. “We’re all from Horden and we all want the team back in the town.
“The Parish Council accepted us pretty well, especially considering all the problems of the last couple of years. I think they can see that we’re all local lads trying to get a local team together. The players, the manager, the committee – everyone’s going to be local to the Horden and Peterlee area.”
Recent years have not been kind to Horden and neighbouring communities in East Durham. Once a footballing hotbed, with a fistful of teams punching above their weight in the Northern League, Wetherell now likens it to a ‘black hole’.
“Team have been dropping out all over,” he said. “We’ve lost Peterlee, Murton, Shotton Comrades from the Northern League, then Blackhall and Thornley at lower levels. There’s only Easington Colliery left in the Northern League and Wheatley Hill in the Durham Alliance. That’s why it’s important to us to keep that football history alive around here.”
And it’s not just about the past. Having nurtured some great talents in the past, the new Horden CW would love to see future generations have the chance to play the game.
“Bringing the youth teams back to Horden is a real personal aim for me,” Wetherell said. “I was running the youth teams before and I want to get back to that. It’s all about keeping our history going and making sure that the next generation has its chance to play the game.”
Horden Community Welfare is still looking for support, and well-wishers can contribute via the team’s online appeal at https://www.gofundme.com/horden-fc. Any amount, large or small, is welcome as the club looks to get a famous footballing name back on the pitch again.