Monday 16 January 2023

Watching Football at the Bus Stop Arena

Along one side of the pitch, there are a series of bus shelters and where the bus timetables should be instead they’ve listed the team line-ups.

Kingsley Park is undoubtedly one of those non-league grounds that could easily be filed under ‘quirky’ and its assortment of old bus stops are certainly the real deal. One of them still has its old stop number printed on it and a sign telling you which number to call if you spot a fault. I assume that’s with the bus shelter though and not the referee!

Double-deckers may no longer call, but this assortment of bus shelters now housed at the home ground of Ryton and Crawcrook Albion have clearly been put to good use as a covered area for supporters to stand under when the weather makes a turn for the worse. Not only that but this mini bus station of sorts also provides a certain uniqueness to a venue that would certainly seem a little less imaginative without them.

Nowadays based in the Northumberland village of Crawcrook on the southern banks of the river Tyne about 9 miles west of the centre of Newcastle and currently known as Ryton and Crwacrook Albion, Ryton FC were founded in 1970 in the Village of the same name next door. The club currently ply their trade in Northern League Division Two at step 6 of the non-league pyramid. Truth be told, they are not a club of any real note even in North East non-league circles but the offbeat dwelling they call home certainly makes them an intriguing proposition for any groundhoppers visiting this rather splendid area of the North East.

Using public transport it takes about 45 minutes from Newcastle by bus to reach Kingsley Park. However, only a 30-minute walk from the ground is Wylam train station on the Newcastle to Carlisle line and for anyone leaving the car at home the beautiful village sat amongst a rolling hills countryside that you glimpse when alighting the train is all part of the charm of this part of the region. 

Albeit with still some artistry in parts, whereas Crawcrook and Ryton come a little closer to offering your atypical former pit village grit and dowdiness, Wylam offers an elegance very few of its coal mining counterparts can match. But with an almost step back in time feel about them Crawcrook and Ryton still offer much appeal to the visitor. To give more praise to Wylam though I can tell you from experience that it offers an excellent pub crawl with one establishment even offering authentic Thai cuisine to go alongside your pint of ale. Wylam is also the former home of its namesake brewery whose craft beers and real ales are well known throughout the wider region.

Back at the local football ground, Kingsley Park of course offers more than just a few old, albeit thought-provoking, bus shelters even if it is overall the basic affair you come to expect from such venues at this level. Other sheltered areas, indeed not as creative, include a small covered stand behind one of the goals which, although has a few plastic seats on the back row, mostly consists of benches. I guess the fact that the aforementioned stand looks a little ramshackle only adds to the charm, however. There is, of course, also a clubhouse and one which I must say is rather smart inside whilst the on-site ‘scran van’ serves the usual basic array of food you’d expect at a non-league ground of this nature at more than reasonable prices. We all know, however, that really it is all about those bus stops!

My recent sojourn to these parts saw Wearside based Washingon FC the visitors to Kingsley Park with officially 197 spectators present. That figure when read out over the tannoy, however, brought much bemusement to those underneath the bus shelters with many, me included, adamant there could be no more than half that number in attendance.

Albeit not my forte I did not see any pin badges on offer but the other must have for many a groundhopper was definitely available and I gladly picked up a paper printed programme for £1.50 alongside my £5 entry fee.

The visitors who found themselves 1-0 down at the break were two behind after just 8 minutes of second-half action. 2-0 was how the game ended as despite spending most of the second period in their own half the hosts were able to hold on for the win. Both sides started the day near the bottom of the table but the travelling contingent were in a far more precarious position and defeat had done nothing more than cement them in second bottom position. 

I guess for Washington the wheels were coming off whilst for Ryton and Crawcrook Albion the wheels on the bus were very much going round and round again. Sorry, but after a wonderful, albeit windy, afternoon at what I’ve renamed the bus shelter arena I couldn’t help but finish with a few bus puns! All aboard!

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