It had been just over a year since our last Colls jolly boys outing. In the last few years they had become a regular feature of the summer with trips to Sunderland RCA, Coventry Sphinx, Holyhead Hotspur and Glantraeth. Unfortunately I wasn’t following the club for the earlier matches so had only been to the Glantraeth match which was fantastic… but nowhere near as good as Whitley Bay. This trip will live long in the memory by all at Colls and will be talked about for years.
Being the busy body that I am, I had been nagging club secretary Emil to put me in charge of trying to find somewhere for us to go for our big trip. I asked a handful of Welsh sides and a couple other more obscure ones before I turned to Facebook and asked the world of ground hopping for some help. It was half way through May that Lee Stewart messaged me saying that Whitley Bay were keen to play us and I suddenly got a bit giddy.
All that was left to do now was ring the secretary at Whitley Bay, beg our secretary and chairman to say yes as well as our manager. Four hurdles, but after a day they were all cleared and the fixture had been arranged. There were some grumblings about the cost of the coach and the length of the day which carried on until about a week before the match, but we got there in the end and it was certainly worth it.
The take up on seats for the Whitley Bay fixture was just as strong as the previous season at Glantraeth. You could argue there were more hardcore members of the Colls Crazy Gang on this journey which saw us hit the North East sunshine in fashion.
It obviously took us a while to get up to Whitley Bay in the coach and a stop at Wetherby services was needed. All was going well until we noticed that the Durham Cricket team’s coach was parked alongside ours when we pulled up. Immediately Gaz Carson and I set about the whole building trying to track down the cricket team hoping that we would find Paul Collingwood. It didn’t take long. The former England all-rounder was stood in the queue in WHSmith purchasing a newspaper when we barged in and asked for a photograph.
As we waved goodbye to the Durham side – who were probably pleased to see the back of us – we pressed on to Whitley Bay. Just ten miles from Newcastle city centre, Whitley Bay is a town and seaside resort which was basking in sunshine. The town was known as Whitley until 1890, when the locals decided they should rename it due to the confusion with Whitby which sits further down the coast. Apparently the final straw came when a resident died in Edinburgh and his body was transported to Whitby instead of Whitley. Consultation with residents followed and the town was renamed Whitley Bay.
I hadn’t done much research into what there was to do in the town, but after laying the kit out in the changing room I was off into the town centre with Zach and Rob. The players had already been for a walk down to the coast and were on the way back by the time we set off. The most notable building in Whitley Bay is the Dome at the Spanish City having been the subject of the Dire Straits song Tunnel of Love. The Spanish City opened in 1910 as a smaller version of Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach and it is where Sting is claimed to have spent many evenings wasting time when he should have been studying for his A-Levels.
We decided to head down to the beach for half an hour before traipsing back to the ground. Hillheads Park is found next to Whitley Bay Ice Rink which has been used for many occasions over the years including lots of music concerts. The likes of AC/DC, The Cure, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Kylie Minogue, Oasis, Pet Shop Boys, Sting, The Stone Roses and Take That had all performed here when the venue was the place to be before the Newcastle Arena was opened in 1995.
Turning around the corner at the Ice Rink the Collieries fans were busy drinking outside the bar at the football ground. The Seahorse was our base for the afternoon and we took over the beer garden next to the main road. Sunderland fan Jamie who I had been to the Stadium of Light with a few years back arrived soon and he soon got into the spirit of things pledging his allegiance to Colls for the afternoon because our midfielder Brad Cooke supports the Black Cats too.
Ten minutes before kick off we all went through the bar and into the ground. I had indulged in a cheeky little kick around on the pitch when we arrived, so I knew that it was in pristine condition and this was matched by a fantastic ground. It seemed odd watching our team at Whitley Bay who had become one of the most successful non-league sides in recent years, winning the FA Vase three times in a row between 2008 and 2011.
The present football club was founded in 1950 and was known as Whitley Bay Athletic. However, there has been a football club in the town since 1896 when a former Brazilian international captain Liam Patrick Mattimore set up Whitley and Monkseaton FC.
We set up camp behind the goal that we were attacking and sat back and relaxed. It started off really well.
Whitley Bay took the lead after just two minutes.
A corner was floated in from the left hand side and was partially cleared by the Colls defence. Unfortunately, Leon Ryan was on hand to smash the ball through a crowd and into the back of the next from the edge of the box. It looked like it was going to be a very long afternoon for us, but credit to the Colls players who soon settled and took the game to their hosts.
Collieries won numerous corner kicks, but they were unable to cause any problems for a well organised Whitley Bay defence.
Josh Harris pulled off a fantastic save to prevent Whitley Bay from going 2-0 in front on 20 minutes. A close range shot from Thomas Bott forced an instinctive reaction from Harris who parried the ball over the crossbar.
There was some promising build up play from Colls throughout the afternoon, but they were unable to get past a strong Whitley Bay defence on most occasions. When they did find a way though, the goalkeeper Mark Cook dealt with everything thrown at him. On 36 minutes, Jake Patton received the ball in the middle of the box, opting to lay it off to Matty Boland who fired the ball inches wide of the right hand post.
Whitley Bay came close to doubling their lead on 39 minutes when Josh Harris failed to deal with a corner kick. He spilled the ball and it fell to Craig McFarlane who lifted the ball over Harris towards goal. Gaz Carson was on hand to clear the ball off the line with a smart header.
At half time I went for a pint which would get me through the second half. I had been drinking since we set off from Atherton and I had no intention of stopping, after all, that is the aim of our annual jolly boys outing.
The second half saw Colls have more of the ball and the majority of chances. Attacking down both wings the problem was the quality of the crosses; again with Whitley Bay managing to deal with them all. On 64 minutes, Ben Hardcastle was fed through and found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Cook. A rather tame effort once again saw the goalkeeper come out on top.
At the other end, the home side should have scored again when Chris Reid worked space well on the edge of the area. His shot flashed just wide of substitute goalkeeper Danny Taberner’s post.
With 16 minutes remaining Whitley Bay made it 2-0. A low shot from Thomas Bott was hit fairly straight towards Taberner, but he didn’t get his body behind it and it slipped through his legs. It was cruel on Colls, who in my obviously biased opinion didn’t deserve to be 2-0 down.
Looking to pull a goal back Matty Boland fired wide again before James Brooks turned well and blazed his shot just over the bar. Again, a through ball saw Colls one-on-one with Cook on 83 minutes but Jake Patton also failed to score when in a decent position.
The match finished and I was summoned to the away changing room to collect the kit. It won’t go down as one of my favourite non-league experiences and thankfully I was soon in the safe refuge of the bar which had been our friend all afternoon. Food was put on for all the players and we stayed for around an hour until the coach arrived for us.
The journey back was always going to get messy, but what followed was something that none of us will ever forget. Credit to the coach driver who in fairness could have pulled over at any stage and refused to move. The 12 bottles of wine and crates of beer which were purchased at Wetherby Services on the way back were gone by the time we got back to Atherton, guzzled as we sang various songs about each other and the club. When we arrived back in Atherton we hit the town as a club and carried on until 02:00 before calling it a night. It was the perfect way to build team spirit ahead of a long season.
Where will we go next season? Who knows! But if you’re willing to host us, then let us know and you could have the Colls Crazy Gang stumbling around your ground in summer 2015.
For those of you who are curious, here is the previous years jolly boys outing: Glantraeth!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 155 miles
- ADMISSION: Included in travel cost of £10
- PROGRAMME PRICE: N/A