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Hon. secretary's Report 2009-10


Hon. Secretary’s Report for Season 2009-10

It never seemed to end but we got there eventually! A difficult winter meant that the end of the season did not reach the well-organised finale that we would all like. Our arrangements for finals are made well in advance – indeed at the very beginning of the season. It is very disappointing if we cannot meet our own deadlines. Whatever the weather I believe we should be able to bring our finals in on time and make them a fitting occasion. All those who have been competition organisers know the problems caused by a few schools whose attitude to fixture compliance does not reach the required standard. We seem to rehearse the arguments year after year about wanting players to play football but also wanting to move matters along to time. This was the first season that it was not always possible to produce a programme for a final because the necessary information was not to hand – even on the day of the final! We can and must do better I feel. It is in the hands of the Executive Committee and competition organisers to ensure that we meet the highest standards.

Those high standards were once again met by the performances of our County teams. Our U18s, as current national champions, were bitterly disappointed to fall at the first hurdle of the newly-constituted ESFA national trophy in an away match to Humberside. Playing such an important match so early in the season means that the team cannot be so well-prepared as under the previous system when we would not have played national rounds until after Christmas. However, under the leadership of Andy Costello and Chris Anderson, the team picked itself up and was undefeated in the East Division of the Northern Counties competition and so topped the table and reaped the benefit of a home draw in the NCSFA semi-final. This match was played at Blyth Spartans and we were given a bit of a shock by a strong Cheshire team and lost 1-2 after extra time.

Kris Wilkinson (Heaton Manor) was outstanding all season and was rewarded by a late call-up the ESFA England U18 team. He featured well in the Centenary Shield games and made a very worthwhile contribution to the England team.

Our Under 16 County Boys’ team was under new management. Chris Bland and Andy Blight took to their new roles with gusto with a series of selection events and coaching sessions throughout the season. Because of a bye and a withdrawal they did not enter the National Inter-County Trophy until quite late on. In the throes of the bad weather the match eventually was played against Durham on the 3G pitch at Blakelaw. A thrilling tie saw us win on penalties. This was followed by a very good win away to Humberside and suddenly, and rather bizarrely after just 2 games, the team found themselves in the national semi-finals and one match away from a final at Hillsborough.

The semi-final was kindly hosted by Newcastle Utd at the Academy Ground and a flowing, exciting match saw us lose 2-4 to a Greater Manchester side who went on to easily defeat Suffolk in the national final.

The Under 16s results in the Northern Counties competition fluctuated somewhat. After their final game they seemed to be out of the running to go through to the semi-finals – although there was a mathematical chance of this happening. And happen it did. At the end of the East Division matches Northumberland and Durham were equally placed in every way – so a play-off match was needed. Another close game saw us beat Durham again. We travelled to Lancashire for the semi-final and came away with a clear 3-0 victory. The final, at Croft Park, was an excellent occasion but Cheshire were to prove our nemesis again as we lost 1-2 after extra time. But this was an excellent season for both the players and the management team.

Our Under 16 Girls’ County team was again well led by June Lomax, supported by Michael Hutchison. They started with their normal resounding win against Cumbria and then had to wait an age to play their next game against big rivals Durham. A tensely fought match ended in a 0-1 defeat. So, once again the girls had to travel to Merseyside (or should we say Everton Ladies?) for their semi-final. And once again they put up a tremendous fight but eventually lost 2-4. The girls also suffered another narrow defeat in the first round of the national competition – 0-1 away to West Yorkshire who were the reigning national county winners.

Our thanks go to all the team managers who give so much time and energy to ensuring that Northumberland’s is a name to respect in inter-county football.

Appointing referees of the right quality to inter-county matches has always been a headache. Nowadays the ‘school teacher referee’ seems to be a rare bird indeed. It was a great relief when Michael Oliver, Referee Development Officer for Northumberland FA, agreed to become involved in appointments. He and I have developed a very good working relationship and it has been very encouraging to see the calibre of, mostly, young referees who have been involved in schools’ football at County level this year – for County matches and for finals. Of course we are also very grateful for the support that still comes from our stalwarts – like Andy Mitchell and Dave Martin – throughout the season and at all levels.

Michael’s input is symptomatic of the relationship that we have with Northumberland FA. They are always supportive and we continue to work well together with Jim Drysdale regularly attending Executive Committee meetings.

Again I must pay tribute to the work undertaken by members of the Executive Committee and, in particular, the work of Chris Newman and Peter Tracey. Chris’s ‘treasuring’ is as immaculate as ever and he is also heavily involved with arrangements for all County matches and events – and manages to drag his body around the field refereeing too! Peter’s contribution to girls’ and U19 football is unstinting – both these areas of our work go from strength to strength and Peter’s efforts should not be underestimated. Certainly his patience is tried at times and a more considerate attitude to fixture compliance by a few – and it is a few - would make his life a lot easier. Other competitions that have developed well in recent years are the Under 14 and Under 15 Leagues. Paul Steanson has taken over the running of these competitions and done a splendid job. Thanks also go specifically to Andy Littleton for his work as Minute Secretary – another task willingly done that lightens the load for the Secretary.

The Executive Committee has met monthly under the astute leadership of Chairman Ray Smith with a core of people who rarely miss a meeting. Teachers throughout the County should be aware of, and grateful for, the work they do. Another extra thank you to all Executive members who have taken responsibility for organising competitions and bringing them to a timely conclusion.

A list of competition winners is attached – congratulations to all. For the first time it was possible to follow the development of competitions on our website ( and also to find up to date information about all aspects of the County SFA’s work. This has been an excellent addition and makes immediate communication possible. This communication only works if people use the site and the site is kept up to date. Although it was only our first stab at it I am pleased that we were able to develop a site that was, indeed, regularly updated and informative. I would like to this to become everyone’s first port of call for any query about schools’ football in Northumberland and perhaps, before not too long, this report will not appear in a Handbook but only on the web? So please advertise the web-site to all involved and interested in schools’ football – especially the players.

Well done and thank you to teachers and others throughout the county who help make schools’ football the good product it is. Our centenary season beckons (2011-12) and plans are in place to recognise and celebrate this event. Hopefully the season to come will be one that builds on current successes, learns from things that were than less than perfect in season 2009-10 and prepares us well for those worthy celebrations.