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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Shildon AFC

Dean Street, Shildon, County Durham DL4 1EZ
Telephone: 01388 773877
Nickname: The Railwaymen
Northern League

Note Shildon AFC can trace its origins back to 1880 and the formation of Shildon Town AFC to play what were then known as “ordinary matches” (or friendlies). In 1892 the club amalgamated with two other local clubs - Shildon Heroes & Shildon Rangers to become Shildon United FC. The club folded due to financial problems in 1900 but was reformed the same year, this time as Shildon Athletic.

Like the Football Club, Dean Street began life in the late 1880s as the South Durham Athletic Ground. It incorporated a cycle track and, like many grounds of that era, was surrounded by steep grass banks (loved by grounds enthusiasts of today, but hated by those that write grading regs), that are still in evidence.

Shildon dropped the ‘Athletic’ suffix in 1932 and by that time the cavernous grandstand, with its unusual pitched roof, along with the turnstiles had been in place for almost a decade. In 1983 £45,000 was spend on the dressing rooms and clubhouse that are situated beneath. Today it is still in reasonably good shape and affords a tremendous view, despite a few holes in the roof when I visited in October 2005... not to mention a lot of bird droppings! Floodlights came to the ground as recently as 1987, and were switched on by Alex Ferguson who brought a Manchester United side along for the occasion.

The Centenary match against Leeds United was played in 1991; and in 1994 another £11,000 was spent on floodlight upgrading. An FA grant helped dressing room refurbishment in 1999, and a new grandstand roof (£3.500) and hospitality portakabin (£11,000) were funded by insurance claims, which followed gale and fire damage.

Tragedy hit the club in February 2004 when 26 year old player, Lee Hainsworth, who had been with the club for six years was killed in a road accident on his way to training. The club renamed their Brown Street stand, a large covered shelter opposite the main stand, in his memory.

A classic Northern ground and an essential visit for any grounds enthusiast. DB