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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

Willington AFC

Hall Lane, Willington, County Durham DL16 0QF
Telephone: 01388 764216 (Secretary)
Wearside League
Website: None

Note Wandering around a practically deserted Hall Lane prior to an FA Vase tie against Darwen it was hard to imagine 10,000 in the ground for the visit of Bromley in the Amateur Cup way back in 1953. Nevertheless, the ground still had a distinctly nostalgic feel to it, echoing a distinguished history that has seen the likes of the enigmatic Malcolm Allison, and former Derby County star Alan Durban as managers in more recent times.

Originally founded in 1906 as Willington Temperance, Hall Lane has been home to the club since 1911, having previously played at the West End Ground. The club were beaten Amateur Cup finalists in 1939 but the 1950s were Willington’s heyday and Hall Lane saw little development until after the club’s Wembley Amateur Cup triumph in 1950. Then they gained revenge over 1939 conquerors and County Durham rivals Bishop Auckland, watched by an incredible 88,000 spectators! 

The low stand on the far side, with the club name emblazoned across its fascia dates from soon afterwards. The clubhouse was erected in 1969, and new dressing rooms followed on the near side of the ground were in 1971. The first floodlights followed two years later. These were improved when the Vane Tempest Colliery donated a set on its closure in 1992.

The requisite grass bank (essential for a classic Non League ground) is behind one goal; whilst a newer prefabricated cover is behind the other. Although the latter is no doubt welcomed by Willington’s small but loyal support it appears rather incongruous and does unfortunately detract from an otherwise characterful ground. DB