Paper wings


Brandon United

From Waste Paper to Northern League Champions: The Rollercoaster Ride of Brandon United

Brandon were originally the works team of a waste paper company named Rostrons, which seems like it could be a spin-off of The Office. Based in County Durham a little way south of Durham, the town of Brandon has a rich coal mining history, which is reflected on the club’s new crest which bears a shovel and pickaxe crossed behind a mining helmet. It’s a village that dates back to medieval times, and what follows is several hundred years of strange and confusing lordships, Royal lessees and something called a whim-gin. Founded in 1968, they have since worked their way through Sunday and amateur leagues and eventually into the Northern League, gaining promotion in 1983 and remaining there ever since.

They have won the FA Sunday Cup, reached the FA Cup first round proper on two occasions – the first coming on their first ever FA Cup appearance where they were knocked out by Bradford City at Spennymoor United – and they also reached the FA Vase quarter finals, all coming during a spell of dominance in the 1980s which also saw them become Northern League Division Two champions. Paul Dalton, a member of that successful Brandon side, went on to be signed by Alex Ferguson for Manchester United and later commanded a quarter of a million pound transfer fee when Plymouth bought him from Hartlepool (my trusty inflation calculator tells me that’s worth over half a million in today’s money). He’s immortalised at Plymouth’s Home Park with an image of him, alongside other Argyle greats, adorning the walls inside the stadium.

Since then, Brandon’s home at Welfare Park has seen some tumultuous times; from the 3000-capacity stadium’s record attendance of 2,500 in an FA Sunday Cup game to relegation to the Northern League Division Two, where they are today. Since their relegation to the second division in 2006 following financial troubles that threatened the future of the club, Brandon have finished in the bottom three 6 times, including a rock bottom finish in 2014/15 and escaping relegation by a single point in 2017/18.

But if there’s a club that knows anything about turning fortunes around, it’s Brandon United. Four years after finishing 6th in the Wearside League in the 1981/82 season, they got promoted, worked their way up through the Northern League Division Two, become champions, got promoted to Division One and finished an impressive 10th, coming in 7th place by the 1988/89 season. 1998 saw them finish second-bottom in Division Two, five years later they were Division One champions after losing just four games all season. It’s been a long slog in Division Two for Brandon having been there since 2006 (their longest ever spell in this division), but if history in this league has taught us anything it’s to never write them off.

Tom Neal, Non-League Snapshots

Twitter: @NLSnapshots


Non-League Snapshots is a groundhopping video and photo blog that aims to tell the stories of lower league clubs around the country and the world. Tom Neal was raised in Redcar and now lives in London working in sports broadcasting after he realised he was absolutely never going to make it as a professional footballer.

Photo courtesy of Streets Paved With Goals.

International relations

Mile End Stadium, London

Sporting Bengal United

Formed to encourage Asian football in London, Sporting Bengal are unusual in that they are operated by the Bangladeshi Football Association, who use the club to select players for the national team. The club had two representatives in the Bangladeshi national side at the 2010 South Asian Games, which they hosted. Bangladesh won the gold medal at the games, beating Afghanistan 4-0 in the final.

In 2005 they became the first of only two Asian teams to have competed in the FA Cup, alongside London APSA (now named Newham FC). They are also the first Asian team to have reached the 3rd round proper of the FA Vase.

In 1996 a team of Bangladeshi players based in London toured Bangladesh and there was a realisation that many talented players were being overlooked, so a selective team was established along with the UK branch of the Bangladesh Football Association to govern it.

Up for the cup

Holland Park, London

J.L. Rovers

Competing in the Middlesex County League, J.L. Rovers have ambitions of becoming the first Japanese team to compete in one of the most prestigious competitions in world football: the FA Cup. They were formed 18 years ago, becoming the only Japanese side registered with the Football Association.

Formally known as J-Gaia until 2015, Japan London Rovers are an amateur side who have high ambitions. They have already won the Maeda Gakuen Cup and achieved third place in the international Euro J Cup tournament, a championship for European-based Japanese football clubs. They chose the name ‘Rovers’ to invoke “the journey in search of battle and glory.”

They compete in Holland Park in West London, not far from the ruins of Holland House. In the future they aim to act as a community club for the Japanese population living in Britain’s capital, and have ambitions of growth in all aspects.

Continents United

Borough Sports Ground, Sutton

Sutton United

The Borough Sports Ground, whose blue seats were donated by Chelsea, has seen many famous cup ties in the past, including one with Don Revie’s Leeds United. Further afield, Sutton United share their name with a team in The Gambia after the famous amber and chocolate kits were donated to them in 2008.

Long traditions

Horden Welfare Park, Horden

Horden Colliery Welfare

Horden have a long FA Cup tradition, reaching the first round on five occasions. Footage of their second round home loss to Newport County in the 1938/39 season still exists, which shows a large and enthusiastic crowd and some robust defending.

No place like home

The Brewery Field. Spennymoor

Spennymoor Town 

Spennymoor have played at The Brewery Field since their formation in 1904, which is on the site of the old Tower Brewery. They took the place of former tenants Tudhoe Rugby Club. who had formed five years previously. They had formed as Evenwood Town; the town of Spennymoor were represented by Spennymoor United, whom they faced on five occasions in the FA Cup, losing three and drawing two.

In 2005, Spennymoor United merged with Evenwood Town after both clubs suffered difficulties which put their futures into doubt.The name was changed to Spennymoor Town and they were accepted into the Northern League Division Two for the 2005/06 season. The words ‘United A.F.C.’ were removed from the ground’s iron sign following the merger.

The club continues to grow and Brewery Field has had numerous upgrades since 2005, with new floodlights, dugouts, dressing rooms and a new tunnel being added. There are also plans to replace the clubhouse which burnt down on Christmas Day 2003 and marked the beginning of the end for Spennymoor Town.