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.

Surviving the knocks

Teesdale Park, Thornaby


After a long and succesful period as amateur club Stockton Athletic, the club disbanded in 1975 due to financial difficulties, and their ground was sold. More ground trouble forced the newly-named Thornaby to be relegated in 2006. The club has since found more success and stability with help from the local community.

Pitting teams against stars

Nissan Sports Ground, Washington

Washington FC
Boasting former England internationals as ex-players, the boys from F-pit made the step up to the Gateshead and District League in the forties. They currently play in the Northern League, occupying the ground of former rivals Sunderland Nissan, who disbanded in 2009.

A tale of one village

Mount Pleasant, Marske-by-the-Sea

Marske United

Charles Dickens visited the village of Marske-by-the-Sea to see the graves of Captain Cook’s parents. The turrets of the nearby Marske Hall, a short walk from Marske United’s Mount Pleasant, are said to have inspired some of his descriptions in A Tale of Two Cities.

Pool improvements

Bedford Terrace, Billingham

Billingham Town

Hartlepool United have invested heavily in Bedford Terrace for their reserve matches, with the pitch being relaid and given the exact dimensions of Victoria Park, as well as other backroom improvements. Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Pallister began his career at Billy Town.

Hebburn sent

Hebburn Sports & Social Ground, Hebburn

Hebburn Town

 Originally formed as Reyrolles in 1912, the club was part of the sporting outlet of a local fledgling engineering firm founded by Frenchman Alphonse Reyrolle. In 1989 the company was acquired by Rolls Royce. Another team called Hebburn Reyrolle now compete in the Northern Alliance Premier Division.

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.

One-man club

Boldon C.A. Sports Ground, Boldon Colliery

Jarrow Roofing Boldon

Known as The Roofers, the founder is also the manager, chairman and treasurer and built the stadium himself from scratch. The floodlights were built from poles used in the South Shields mining pits.

With a little help from my friends

Moor Lane, Salford

Salford City

Bought by the ‘Class of 92’ ahead of the 2014/15 season, new co-owners Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville are aiming for Championship football within 15 years. They currently play in the 8th tier of English football.