Hall Lane, Willington. The heart of County Durham, and a heartland of non-league football. It’s one of the loveliest venues in the Northern League. It’s not so much about the team, which tends to struggle at the lower end of Division Two. It’s not even about the stand, nor the surroundings, either of which can be bettered elsewhere. But somehow, it’s a place where everything comes together. From the club’s name, proudly emblazoned on the roof, to the trade at the tea hut; from the memories of great deeds of old to the current team of dedicated volunteers rebuilding a club that was threatened by the twin evils of vandalism and apathy; somehow, it just feels right.
This visit came early in the 2016-17 season when Willington entertained Billingham Town. The away team won it 2-0, showing signs of the encouraging season they would go on to have as their 50th anniversary approached. For Willington, the plaudits came off the field – highly rated in the Onion Bag blog’s annual awards, and picked out as one of the best places to catch a non-league fix.