The Northern League has two divisions which sit at step five and six on the non-league pyramid. With seven out of the eight previous FA Vase winners being members of Division One it is considered the best step five league by many supporters up and down the country. The league covers County Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Northern Cumbria and the Northern half of North Yorkshire. Another indication as to how strong the league is that many teams choose not to take promotion to step four when they finish in the top three of Division One and are eligible to move up.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONS SINCE 2000
1999/00 - BEDLINGTON TERRIERS
2000/01 - BEDLINGTON TERRIERS
2001/02 - BEDLINGTON TERRIERS
Bedlington's story is one of a rise to the top and total domination of the Northern League between 1997/98 to 2001/02 when they won the title five times in row followed by 2nd, 3rd, 3rd and 2nd placed finishes. They would of been relegated in 2006/07 only for Newcastle Blue Star to take promotion which gave them a reprieve. The club joined the Northern League in 1982 - they were struggling at the bottom of Division Two in 1993 and there was a real prospect of the club folding. In stepped local businessmen Dave and Keith Parry who took over and the club took off. As well as the five league titles the club also beat football league side Colchester United in an FA Cup First Round game in 1998 and they narrowly lost the FA Vase final to Tiverton Town in 1999. In 2006 the club veered on the edge of extinction but pulled through and in 2010 hit the headlines again when US Billionaire Robert Rich invested in the club. After relegation last season The Terriers will be back in the Northern League Division Two for the first time since 1994.
2002/03 BRANDON UNITED
United spent three more seasons in Division One but were relegated in 2006 and have finished mostly in the bottom half of Division Two.
2003/04 DUNSTON FEDERATION BREWERY
2004/05 DUNSTON FEDERATION BREWERY
One of the strongest clubs in the league -Since 2005 they have finished 3rd, 7th, 6th, 6th, 4th, 7th, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 6th and 11th last season. Their record in the Vase over the past 6 seasons in amazing reaching the QF twice and the 5th round twice as well as the famous campaign of 2012 when they beat West Auckland Town at Wembley. They were unbeaten for the first 39 games of the 03/04 season only to lose the final 40th game.
2005/06 NEWCASTLE BLUE STAR
Bluestar unfortunately folded in 2009. The club won the FA Vase in 1978 as members of the Wearside League. Joined the Northern League in 1985 - the 2006 title win was their first but the club were not promoted due to their Wheatsheaf Ground not reaching ground grading regulations. The club finished 11th in the next season but moved up to the Northern Premier League Division One (North) where they won the play-off final in 2009 and would of been promoted to the Northern Premier League Premier Division. From 2007 the club ground shared at Kingston Park home of Newcastle's rugby union team. At the end of the 2007/08 the club had asked for voluntary relegation but withdrew the request.
2006/07 WHITLEY BAY
The Seahorses are another one of the strongest sides in the division but they have struggled over the past three seasons finishing 10th, 15th and 16th. From 1998 to 2000 they were members of the Northern Premier League with a highest place 11th finish in the Premier Division in 1994. Four time FA Vase winners in 2002, 2009, 2010 and 2011
2007/08 DURHAM CITY
The Citizens will play in Division Two in the forthcoming season after relegation at the end of the last campaign. The club took promotion in 2008 and won the Northern Premier League Division One (North) at the first time of asking. At the start of the 2009/10 campaign the then Football Conference stated the club would not be allowed to progress up the pyramid any further due to the playing surface at New Feren's Park pitch being artificial. - How times have changed now with Maidstone United and Sutton United now being members of the Vanarama National League. On hearing this information the club's main sponsor pulled out and the club turned to local younger players to fill the team. They lost their first 28 games with just two wins all season finishing on 0 points due to a six point deduction for playing an ineligible player. Due to disputes with their landlord the club left their ground in 2015 and now currently ground share with Consett.
2008/09 NEWCASTLE BENFIELD
Only formed in 1998 as Brunswick Village and only members of the Northern League since 2003 the club won the league and cup double in 2009. The Lions have finished 5th, 4th, 12th, 21st, 14th, 10th and 18th since their title win.
2009/10 SPENNYMOOR TOWN
2010/11 SPENNYMOOR TOWN
2011/12 SPENNYMOOR TOWN
Spennymoor Town dominated Division One from 2009/10 through to 2013/14 only finishing 2nd in 2013 when the reformed Darlington 1883 won the title and took up promotion. Despite winning the title three times in a row in 2010, 2011, and 2012 the club did not seek promotion until the 2013/14 season when they finished runner's up as above. The league title in followed again in 2014 and they moved up to the Northern Premier League Division One (North) where they won the play-offs in 2016 and will be in the Premier Division for next campaign.
2012/13 DARLINGTON 1883
The phoenix club formed from the ashes of Darlington FC ran away with the league title amassing a points total of 122 over 46 games. They have since been promoted twice and will be members of the Vanarama North division for 2016/17.
2013/14 SPENNYMOOR TOWN
2014/15 MARSKE UNITED
The last two champions have been Marske United who won the title in 2015 only through Shildon's unexpected 1-1 draw with Bedlington Terriers in their final game of the season where a win for Shildon would have seen them crowned champions. The two sides swapped places in 2016 and Shildon were title winners for the sixth time in their history - the first time since 1940! For Marske United it was the first time in their history they won the Northern League title.
As well as these teams the league contains many giant names of non-league's past such as Bishop Auckland, West Auckland Town and Crook Town.
Bishop Auckland won the FA Amatuer Cup a record 10 times in 1896, 1900, 1914, 1921, 1922, 1935, 1939, 1955, 1956 and 1957 as well as being runner's up in 1902, 1906, 1911, 1915, 1946, 1950, 1951 and 1954. Many fans of the old Enfield FC club will remember visiting The Bishops Kingsway ground for an eventful FA Trophy 3rd round tie in 1994 - As a 16 year old lad from North London it was the furthest North I had ever been at the time. The club moved out of Kingsway in 2001 and ground shared at a number of clubs until 2010 when they moved into their new ground called Heritage Park. After a disastrous 2005/06 season in the Northern Premier League Division One they were relegated back to the Northern League - their best finish since has been sixth place in 2012/13.
The 1954 Amateur Cup final between Crook Town and Bishop Auckland is credited as the longest cup final ever with over 200,000 in attendance over the three games played. The final at Wembley ended 2-2 AET with the replay ending 2-2 AET at St James Park with Crook winning 1-0 in the second replay at Ayresome Park.
The club also played in front of a massive crowd in 1976 when they were the first English club to tour India - a game of 100,000 watch them lose 1-0 to the Indian national side. Crook's home ground is the "The Sir Tom Cowie Millfield Ground" - the club averaged only 102 people for their league games last season. It would be good to see them having a decent season for 2016/17 and attracting a few more fans to their historic ground.
Click on the link to see an excellent set of photographs of the ground from one of my favourite websites @theonionbag1 - Crook Town FC
EBAC NORTHERN LEAUGE 2016/17 CONSTITUTION
CHESTER-LE-STREET TOWN - promoted from Division Two
RYHOPE CW - promoted from Division Two
SEAHAM RED STAR
SOUTH SHIELDS - promoted from Division Two (Champions)
WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC
WEST AUCKLAND TOWN
South Shields had a tremendous season being crowned champions of Division Two with an average league crowd of 765 at Mariners Park - there were many attendances over 1,000 - 1,827 saw their local derby against Hebburn Town. They played away from their ground in 2013/14 and 2014/15 at Peterlee but thankfully have since moved back and now move back to Division one they left in 2013.
Ryhope Colliery Welfare FC will be making their debut in Division One of the Northern League after winning promotion last season. They had been long term members of the Wearside League up until 2012/13 when they were promoted to the Northern League after incredibly winning all four competitions the league had on offer being the League Title, Sunderland Shipowners Cup, Monkwearmouth Charity Cup and the League Cup for two seasons in a row. They finished second at the first time of asking but instead of promotion to Division One they were relegated back to the Wearside league due to ground grading issues. They finished second and got their ground sorted and were promoted back up finishing sixth and then last season being runner's up to South Shields.
BEDLINGTON TERRIERS - relegated from NL D1
BLYTH TOWN - promoted from Northern Alliance
DURHAM CITY - relegated from NL D1
NORTON & STOCKTON ANCIENTS - relegated from NL D1
RYTON & CAWCROOK ALIBON
STOCKTON TOWN - promoted from Wearside League
TOW LAW TOWN
The league bid farewell to Birtley Town and Stokesley Sports Club at the end of last season. Birtley had been members since 2007 when they were promoted from the Wearside League - they move to the Northern Alliance for the 2015/16 campaign. Stokesley SC return to the Wearside League they left in 2006 - they did spend two seasons in Division One in 2010/11 and 2011/12.
Stockton Town join after winning the Wearside League for four seasons in a row - they have carried out a number of improvements to their Bishopton Road West ground over the last year. They will be looking forward to their local derby games against Norton and Stockton Ancients - just over two miles separate their grounds.
Billingham Town and Billingham Synthonia are closer with just over 1 mile separating the two grounds - another real local derby to look forward to for fans.
Blyth Town, like Stockton Town, are another club who have been knocking on the door of promotion winning the Northern Football Alliance in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It's not just Newcastle United who play at St James Park (as well as Exeter City) - just over thirty miles north of The Toon Army's famous ground Division Two Alnwick Town have played at their St James Park since 1900.
So, from 1890 when Darlington St Augustines were the first champions of the league which included Middlesbrough and Newcastle East End along with Newcastle West End who merged to form the famous Newcastle United only a few seasons later, the league is still going strong and has tremendous interest not only locally but nationally from many football fans.
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