By Mark Carruthers
Ebac Northern League club West Allotment Celtic have lived a nomadic life for over half a century – but that all comes to an end on Tuesday night.
For the last three seasons, they played their “home” games at Druid Park, seven miles from their original North Tyneside base.
Backworth Welfare, the Northumberland FA’s Whitley Park HQ, Whitley Bay’s Hillheads ground Newcastle Benfield’s Sam Smith’s Park have also hosted Allotment during their time away.
An agreement to groundshare with Northern Alliance club Forest Hall was agreed last year and Allotment finally get to host their first home game at their new permanent base when they face Thornaby on Tuesday night.
The historic occasion will be the latest high in a rollercoaster period for the club, who almost went out of business as recently as 2017.
A dispute over the cost of their former Whitley Park home took them to the edge in a season that also ended with relegation into Division Two.
Foundations put in place by former manager Paul Bennett in the months that followed were built upon when current managerial team Jay Bates, Alan Gate and Gary Somerville took over ahead of the 2018/19 season.
Promotion looked likely over two seasons curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic – but Allotment finally ended their four-year absence from Division One when they were promoted as part of the Football Association’s restructure of the non-league system.
Now, with their return home just hours away, chairman Jim Wilson admitted that the overriding emotion would be one of relief.
He told The NLP: “We have had so many false starts to get in here, we had to play at Newcastle Benfield for a short time last year, but we are here now, and we are here to stay.
“It is taking shape, we had to do one or two other things when we were unexpectedly promoted this summer.
“We have covered standing areas, we have the PA system in place and almost sorted and all we have to do is the other hard-standing area, which we have plans to do before the end of March.
“We would like to think we will have all four sides with hard-standing areas as soon as possible – but we have to walk before we can run.
“It’s just doing the essentials for now, but we will get there.
“Seeing the lads run out on Tuesday night will be emotional, although it’s more of a relief than actually being emotional.”
Allotment received an immediate test of their step five credentials when they opened up their season with a short trip to promotion contenders North Shields on Saturday.
A heartening performance saw them push the Robins over an action-packed 90 minutes and came away with a credible 1-1 draw.
Wilson admitted staying in the division is the primary aim this season and hailed the work undertaken by the management team during their time in the dugout.
“I would be happy just to consolidate and ensure first division survival,” he explained.
“Jay, Gary and Alan have done a magnificent job since they came in and we are absolutely delighted for them.
“The lads that are playing for them are following them everywhere and that’s testament to their ability as coaches.”