Who are we? We play on Tyneside in black and white striped shirts. Easy! We played an national side in 2012. Mmmm? We won the treble in 2012-13 and have already won a trophy in 2014-15. It has to be… ‘The Stan’. We asked the Heaton club’s official historian (and programme editor… and press officer) Kevin Mochrie to tell us about the club’s long history. Over to Kevin:
Although officially founded in 1910, recent research has discovered that Heaton Stannington were in existence by 1903 (and so no more than 10 years after the other local team that wears black and white) and playing at Miller’s Lane on the site of the current Fossway. The club name originates from its links with the Stannington Avenue area of Heaton. In 1903-04 they finished fifth in Division 2 of the Newcastle and District Amateur League. In December 1904 they resigned from the league and there is no further record of the team until 1910 which suggests that they might have folded.
The next match played by the Stan appears to have been on 24 September 1910 when they were beaten 4-1 by Sandyford. From at least 1913, home games were taking place at Paddy Freeman’s Park. The club played friendly matches until joining the Tyneside Minor League in 1913 and Northern Amateur League (NAL) Division Two in 1914. The club were elected to membership of the Northumberland FA on 10 September 1914, just over a month after the start of the First World War. The Stan stopped playing until 1919 as at a NFA emergency meeting on 24 November 1914 it was announced that the club were unable to take part in a cup replay ‘on account of not being able to raise a team as so many of their members had joined the army.’
The club spent the next 19 years in NAL Division One and gained their first trophies in 1934 and 1936 when they won the Tynemouth Infirmary Minor Cup and NAL Challenge Cup respectively. The first glory season came in 1936-37 when the club won NAL Division One, were Northumberland Amateur Cup winners and NAL Challenge Cup runners up. The reserves were also NAL Division Two runners up. For one season, 1938-39, the Stan participated in the Tyneside League and were runners up. By the 1930s the team were playing at the Coast Road ground which is now the site of Ravenswood School.
In October 1935, they started playing at Newton Park in High Heaton on the site of a recently filled in quarry. In 2007, the ground was renamed Grounsell Park in honour of the service given, both on and off the pitch, by Bob Grounsell.
High court ruling
The club were elected to the Northern League in 1939. They only managed one season before the league was suspended for the duration of the Second World War. It restarted in 1945 but Heaton Stannington were elected, until 1946, as a non-playing member as their ground was being used by the military. After 5 consecutive bottom three finishes, the club resigned at the end of the 1951-52 season and joined the Northern Alliance until 1956.
The next 16 seasons included involvement in the NAL, North Eastern League and the Northern Combination. In 1972 the club stepped up to the Wearside League and remained there for ten years. They were forced to resign in 1982 for financial reasons due to the club trustees, who had formed a limited company in 1968, putting the annual rent up from £400 to £1500. The company then tried to build a supermarket on the ground but the planning application was defeated. In 1983 the High Court ruled that the ground belonged to the football club and the company had to relinquish ownership.
The team were not members of a league during 1982-83 but then joined the Tyneside Amateur League (TAL) for one season and achieved only their second league title up to this point. The next two seasons were spent back in the NAL where they were champions in 1985-86 as well as wining the Northumberland Minor Cup. For the next 27 years the club were in the Northern Alliance, which became a three tier league in 1988 and saw the Stan placed in the Premier Division. After two relegations to Division One, the Stan achieved stability by spending nine seasons in the Premier Division.
The club won their highest level league trophy when they became Champions in 2012. Another highlight of the club’s recent past came just a couple of months later when the Gabon national team, who were about to play in the London 2012 Olympic tournament, sought an opponent for a warm-up game. Newcastle United old boy Nobby Solano was asked to help and, with just a couple of days notice during the close season, he approached Heaton Stan, who, despite a number of players (and the club historian, programme editor and press officer!) being away, they raised a team which gave an international side that included Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, then of St Etienne and now (2014) a star of the very successful Borussia Dortmund team, a good run out. The match drew a large crowd to Grounsell Park and the Stan’s very respectable performance seemed to inspire them because in 2012-13, they achieved a historic treble by not only retaining the title but by wining the Northern Alliance League Cup and the Northumberland Senior Benevolent Bowl.
For season 2013-14, after a gap of 61 years, the Stan returned to the Northern League. They were in the promotion race throughout the season and finished a healthy fifth. Grounsell Park now boasts new floodlights and a stand to complement the other facilities, including a bar serving real ale. The first trophy of 2014-15, the Shunde Worldwide Friendship Association Cup, was won in July when the Stan beat Shunde of China 17-2. Another highlight this season was the visit of Peter Beardsley and his Newcastle United Under 18s team, which attracted a crowd of several hundred to Grounsell Park.
There’s no team in black and white that’ll bring you more pleasure this season. Support your local club: ‘Follow The Stan’! You’ll find their fixtures and other information here
I often wondered why they were called Heaton Stannington, especially as I lived in Stannington Avenue. for over 20 years (1938 – 1960). Does anyone know what the connection actually was? Did one of the founders of the team live in Stannington Avenue?
The following extract from an article I wrote on the origins of the club will be of interest to you:
‘There are two competing explanations for the origin of the club’s name although they both relate to Stannington Avenue in Heaton. The brief history provided for the centenary celebrations in 2010, and previously used for the inside programme cover, states that the Club name came about as the result of the amalgamation of two Heaton football teams one of which originated from the Stannington Grove or Stannington Avenue area of Heaton. According to the Penrith versus Heaton Stannington programme for the Northern League match played on 25th September 1949, when the club was formed in 1910 a name had to be decided on. Having appointed a secretary who lived in Stannington Avenue Heaton, the club decided to combine the two names.
In the early years there were a number of other local teams who were also named after Heaton Streets including Heaton Avenue and Heaton Rothbury who both played in the Northern Amateur League Division One 1911-12.’
I hope this helps.
Heaton History Group’s Peter Sagar has written a report of a momentous season for the Stan:
Going Up: The Story of Heaton Stannington’s promotion season 2021/2
After the disruption caused by Covid-19, July 2021 came around with Heaton Stannington looking to improve on their recent record, by gaining promotion to Northern League Division One under their new manager Dean Nicholson.
Heaton Stannington had been officially formed back in 1910, although they had effectively been in existence since 1903.
The Stan were elected to the Northern League in 1939, but only managed one season before the league was abandoned as the Second World War raged. Happily it was restarted in 1945, but it was not a happy time for the club as they resigned at the end of the 1951-2 season after 5 consecutive bottom three finishes. It was to be 61 years before Heaton Stannington made it back into the Northern League.
Starting in 2013, this was to be a much happier experience for the Stan. In their first season back, 2013-4 they finished a very creditable 5th, before finishing 9th and reaching the FA Cup for the first time the following season.
Heaton Stannington continued to be in contention for most of the rest of the 2010’s as the official Heaton Stannington website recounts:
“Season 2015-16 saw the Stan again finish 9th and they also reached the semi-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup against Blyth Spartans. In 2016-17, the Stan surprised many by just missing out on promotion in the 2nd last game of the season, coming 4th after winning 11 games in a row starting in January. In 2017-18 & 2018-19 they were again in the promotion race until the 2nd last match, ending 5th and 4th respectively. Due to covid, the 19-20 season was declared null & void with the Stan still challenging for promotion in 5th place after 28 games. Last season was also abandoned with the Stan in 11th place having played 12 games. The Stan lost out on 1 of the 3 promotion spots for 21-22 which was based on average points per game over the last 2 seasons putting the Stan in 6th place. ”
With Covid finally seeming to be on the wane, how would Heaton Stannington fare on the resumption of Northern League Two?
Background – new manager
In June, long-serving manager Derek Thompson stood down after 19 years, when he had almost led Heaton Stannington to glory on numerous occasions just to fall short. Would new manager Dean Nicholson fare any better?
A shaky start
The early season gave very little hint of what was to come later when the leaves turned yellow and red and the evenings began to draw in.
Indeed the first five games only yielded seven points – mid-table form at best; victories over Birtley Town and Washington, a draw at home to Carlisle City and defeats by Crawcrook and Ryton Albion and Tow Law Town.
The golden autumn began slightly early for the Stan when they began to pick up victories regularly, with comfortable wins in the second half of August against Blyth Town, Willington and Bedlington Terriers. So it was that Heaton Stannington went to Boldon CA in late August as league leaders. It was to be what was described as a ‘pulsating match’.
Eleven minutes in and Heaton were two up, yet by just after the half hour mark the scores were all level at 2-2. It was to get worse. In the fourth minute of injury time at the end of the first half Boldon CA got a third to almost unbelievably go in at half-time 3-2 in the lead. All was not lost however, as the Heaton Stannington website records, Heaton “equalised on 58 minutes, a Hopper shot was deflected for a corner. McAndrew took the corner, to the far post for Esdaille to head back into the middle for Hopper’s overhead kick to fly into the net. 3-3 ”.
Once this thriller under the warm late summer South Tyneside sun was over Heaton Stannington embarked on a miraculous run as the leaves began to turn yellow and red, before falling off the trees. Between the draw at Boldon on 28th August and the defeat at Chester-le-Street on 18th December Heaton Stannington won 14 out of the next 17 league games, drawing the other three to take 45 points from a possible 51.
This run included a 7-0 victory over Bedlington Terriers, a 9-1 win over Brandon United and an 8-3 victory over Washington.
At Christmas Heaton Stannington were a long way ahead at the top of the table and even at that early stage of the season, looked like shoe-ins for the title.
Faltering in the new year
The new year 2022, like the new year 12 months before, was ushered in under the grim shadow of Covid-19, as the Omicron variant ripped through society and people rushed to get their booster vaccination, while getting used to undertaking Lateral Flow Tests. It was to be an equally difficult few months for Heaton Stannington, although there were the occasional reminders of the golden autumn that had just been.
The new year began with a visit to North Shields in the Senior Cup. North Shields would win the Northern League Division One title later in the season and so the 6-2 defeat served as a reminder of just what work Stan would have to do to do well in the higher league. That was assuming that they got there in the first place…
A 2-0 home win against Jarrow in the league followed on 8th January, but five points were dropped in the next two games, a 1-1 draw away at Sunderland West End and a disappointing home 1-0 defeat to Ryton and Crawcrook Albion.
Then the form picked up, with what was perhaps the result of the season a 1-0 away win at Carlisle City, due to an injury time winner from Mc Bryde causing huge delight among the large Heaton following, including a busload of supporters. This was duly followed by a solid 3-1 win against Tow Law Town. However, the heights of the golden autumn were still not being reached.
This was to be emphasised by a run of games, which would see Heaton’s title challenge really start to falter for the first time since the great run had begun the previous August. On 12th February 2022, they lost 2-1 away at Willington before falling to a disappointing 3-2 defeat at home to Boldon the following Saturday, meaning that they had lost two home games in a row. Although this was followed on Friday 25th February with a routine 5-2 home win against bottom club Durham City, there would then come the worst performance of the season, a dismal 3-0 away defeat at Redcar Town, after which it was reported that manager Dean Nicholson kept the players in the changing room for an hour.
What had looked like a procession to the title in previous December, was now looking a much more difficult task. A 2-0 home win against Billingham Synthonia did seem to get things back on track, but Heaton had only one far from easy home game left and a lot of tricky away games to come.
Rivalry with Easington Colliery
For many months it had seemed that the only team who could stop Heaton Stannington from winning the title would be Easington Colliery, who were due to play the Stan at home on Saturday 5th March, with the return at Grounsell Park five weeks later on 9th April. However, the game at Easington was called off due to the weather, which meant that Stan’s games with Easington would be their third last and last league games of the season. These would be the games that would surely decide the title and the much coveted single automatic promotion place.
Heaton Stannington had a couple of disappointing results in the run-up to the first encounter with Easington, drawing away at Brandon on 2nd April, a team they had walloped 9-1 at home the previous October, followed by a bad defeat at Horden CW on 5th April. This meant that Easington came to Grounsell Park on the second Saturday in April only six points behind with four games in hand. It might be a cliché, but it really was a must-win game for Heaton Stannington.
It started well for Heaton Stannington, with a goal after only two minutes. However, the joy for the Heaton fans who made up almost all of the crowd of 532, was to be short-lived as firstly, key centre-half Laquan Esdaille went down with an injury and then Liam Anderson scored his 25th goal of the season for Easington to equalise. Half-time came with the game finely balanced at 1-1.
Early in the second half, it looked like Heaton’s chances of the title had truly disappeared and that the title would surely be heading down the east coast to the old mining village of Easington as Ethan Ord headed them in front on the 56th minute. It was still 2-1 to Easington as the game entered its last ten minutes and as things stood then, Easington were only three points behind, with four games in hand. It was looking grim for Heaton… After all, this was a game they really had to win.
Then a glimmer of hope appeared on the 83rd minute as McBryde sent Leighton Hopper down the left and his cross was dummied by Dean Holmes leaving the advancing McBryde with the opportunity to score high into the top right hand corner of the net. However, one goal was still needed for the vital win and although it looked like it might come with a fine shot from Hopper on the 88th minute a great save from the Easington keeper meant that the game entered injury time still finely balanced at 2-2.
It was then that a moment of no small controversy occurred. In the second minute of injury time Heaton were pressing for the winner, when Walsh was fouled around the edge of the Easington penalty area. The Easington players were sure that the foul had taken place just outside the area and so there was some delay before Hopper was able to calmly step up and dispatch the penalty, to put Heaton 3-2 ahead. Still the drama wasn’t over. The Easington manager, a coach and a player were all sent off, as the passion spilled over. There was just time for the referee to blow the final whistle and Heaton had won a famous victory and were nine points ahead of Easington, who still had the four games in hand. Meanwhile further down the league Carlisle City also had a few games in hand, but surely they were too many points behind to be a threat…..
Carlisle City come up on the rails
After the late victory over Easington there came more good news as Easington surprisingly lost their midweek league game leaving them still nine points behind Heaton, with only three games in hand, as the Easter weekend approached.
So it was that a large travelling support went to Prudhoe for Heaton Stannington’s penultimate match against a sometimes formidable Newcastle University side. At half-time the game was still scoreless and the good news filtered through that Easington were, incredibly, three-nil down at home. It was also discovered that Carlisle were comfortably ahead.
Heaton had been given an early shock in the game at Prudhoe, with Regan having to pull of a fine save from but gradually gained control and in the second half, this was to prove decisive as a fine finish from Dean Holmes and a header from Leighton Hopper gave Heaton a deserved 2-0 win.
Meanwhile, although they had pulled a goal back, Easington still lost their game, meaning that they would have to win all their games, including their last game against Heaton Stannington by a large margin to catch Heaton. And indeed the title could be won as early as Easter Monday if Carlisle City and Easington drew that afternoon. Carlisle City had just won 4-1 and were clearly on a fine run of form…
It was not to be. Despite Easington being 1-0 up at half time, Carlisle ran out 4-1 winners. That ended Easington’s challenge, but at the same time emphasised just what a threat Carlisle were. This was heightened by the fact that while they were eight points behind, their next two games, the games in hand, were against lowly opposition in Esh Winning and bottom club Durham City. Carlisle City would surely win these two games…
They did. As the early dawn broke on the sunny Mayday weekend Saturday of 30th April, Carlisle City were just two points behind – but crucially with a vastly superior goal difference, mostly down to a 16-1 win against Durham City earlier in the season.
Yet Heaton’s fate still lay in their hands. All they had to do was to match Carlisle’s score ..
Last day disappointment
So it was that three coaches containing supporters and players of Heaton Stannington set off from a warm, sunny Grounsell Park at about 12.30 that vital day, knowing that Easington Colliery would be tough opponents, but that a win would bring them the Northern League Division 2 title.
It was clear once entering the ground that the Stan Army were there in large numbers, with estimates of over 200 being there to witness the game, around two-thirds of the crowd.
The game kicked off with Heaton kicking into a strong westerly wind, but hopes were high among the visiting fans that this would be the day when the Stan would finally get over the line into the promised land of Northern League One. It soon became clear that this game would be every bit as tough as would be expected against a side, who only three weeks earlier seemed to be themselves on the brink of a serious title challenge. So it was that play in the first-half swung from end to end as bad news from Carlisle filtered through, that Carlisle City were ahead against Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. It looked certain that Heaton Stannington would have to win to take the title that day.
Half-time came with there being no score and as the second half progressed, with Heaton now kicking with the wind, more bad news filtered through as Carlisle went two and then three-nil ahead. Then the afternoon went from bad to worse, much worse.
The official Heaton Stannington website put what happened next like this: “Easington’s 1st clear attack of the 2nd half saw Proctor make contact with a home player just inside the box. Easington’s Elliot scored the resulting penalty to go 1-0 up in 58 minutes against the run of play. In 62 minutes, Walsh replaced Proctor & started by passing to Holmes in the box who under pressure shot over. Apart from this, the goal appeared to have a negative effect on the Stan & this was reinforced in 65 minutes when Easington scored again. A home attack initially saw Regan clear with his feet then Hall cleared again but the ball went back to Guy whose long-range effort was sent into the back of the net.”
It seemed like the dream of automatic promotion and perhaps indeed promotion itself, was over. However hope was revived after 70 minutes when Mc Bryde got a goal back. Heaton still needed two goals to claim the title, but after all, only three weeks earlier, they had been behind by the same 2-1 score against the same opposition, up to the 83rd minute and still triumphed in the end. So Heaton poured forward, but it was only in the 90th minute that an Easington hand ball in the area gave Leighton Hopper the chance to equalise from the penalty spot, which he duly did.
A frenetic injury time followed, including goalkeeper Regan going up for a Heaton Stannington corner, but it was not to be.
With Carlisle completing a 3-0 win against Ryton and Crawcrook Albion, it was the Cumbrian club who took the title, on goal difference from the Stan, a fact that was only too evident in the downcast expressions of both players and supporters as the team trooped off the pitch at the end.
Could Heaton Stannington recover physically and psychologically in time for the play-off semi-final against the now familiar rivals of Easington Colliery, just four days later, the coming Wednesday?
A large crowd poured into Grounsell Park on Wednesday evening 4th May, for the play-off semi-final against Easington Colliery on a lovely late spring evening. There were changes from the previous Saturday with Jay Hornsby returning after a lengthy absence from the first team to left-back and Laquan Esdaille returning at centre-half.
It was clear from the first two or three minutes that this formation, especially with Dan Stephenson being freed to push forward was going to see a huge improvement. Early pressure was indeed rewarded after just nine minutes as Dean Holmes went clear and he was able to calmly lob the Easington goalkeeper much to the delight of the huge crowd.
Heaton were playing like their supporters knew they could and it wasn’t long before, following Burn hitting the bar and Hopper heading just wide, Stephenson robbed one of the Easington players near the halfway line, before advancing towards the goal and calmly slotting the ball past the advancing Easington goalkeeper.
The Stan were now well in control and it stayed that way, until half-time.
Easington posed more problems for Heaton in the second half, but it was still Heaton who looked more like scoring, especially Hopper, who hit a post after a trademark mazy run. Near the end there was still time for Dan Regan to make a particularly impressive save, which helped him to win the Man of the Match award. At about 9. 15 p.m., as the sky darkened over Grounsell Park, the referee blew the final whistle and accompanied by a huge roar from the new record attendance of 652, the Stan were through to the play-off final, the following Saturday against Tow Law Town.
Another huge crowd turned up and while the bulk of the huge play-off final crowd of 1 091 were on the Clubhouse side of the ground, supporters were also three or four deep on the dugout side of the ground. The record attendance of the previous Wednesday had been well and truly smashed and on a beautiful, warm, May Saturday afternoon, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, for a while…..just about everything. Firstly Dean Holmes went down on the clubhouse side with an injury that was to end his contribution to the game and then Liam McAloon put Tow Law ahead with a penalty. With Tow Law bullying the Heaton players, at half-time it looked like the long quest for promotion might yet end in failure.
The Heaton team that had performed in the first-half seemed but a pale shadow of that which had convincingly beaten Easington the previous Wednesday, but it was clear early in the second half that the Stan had upped their game and were now more than capable of dealing with Tow Law’s way of playing.
A deserved equaliser came on the 58th minute as Leighton Hopper superbly spilt the Tow Law defence to send Stephenson clear with just the Tow Law goalkeeper to beat. Stephenson slipped the ball expertly under the keeper and to a mighty roar from the Stan Army, Heaton were level.
The game ebbed and flowed, but Heaton were now definitely on top. They put incessant pressure on the Tow Law goal, but as the minutes ticked away, it seemed certain that the game would go to extra time … and perhaps even a dreaded penalty shoot out.
As the game entered injury time, so Heaton had a series of corners. Before one could be taken there was a delay as a Tow Law defender went down with an injury. The crowd were by now getting somewhat frantic.
Eventually the corner was taken and having been flicked on, there was captain Ryan Bailey diving forward to direct a perfect header into the top corner of the Tow Law goal. Cue mayhem.
There was just enough time for Tow Law to kick off and mount one more attack, before the referee blew the final whistle, a youthful pitch invasion ensued, lead by yellow-shirted members of the Heaton Hawks youth teams and it was all over.
Heaton Stannington had done it!
This was the season that truly established Heaton Stannington as a major part of the cultural life of Heaton and the surrounding areas, as attendance records were smashed over and over again, culminating in the astonishing crowd of 1 091 for the play-off final against Tow Law Town. Heaton Stannington proved themselves to be both a team and a club of which Heaton and the whole of east and north Newcastle can be very proud, if not indeed the city as a whole.
But what a season! It really was the archetypal roller-coaster of a season, as Heaton started slowly, before going on an astonishing run of victories, then seeing a run of patchy form see a fifteen point lead slowly chipped away until the disappointment of the last day.
And then, as if that wasn’t enough, there would be redemption in the play-offs, culminating with a 94th minute diving header to finally clinch promotion.
But at the end all that really mattered was that when Heaton Stannington kick off the new season on 30th July, they would kick off, not in Northern League Division Two, but as proud members of Northern League Division One.
Heaton Stannington were going up!
Peter Sagar 2022