The History of the League
The Northern Alliance was formed in 1890 and although it was at one time absorbed by the North Eastern League and on another occasion closed down through lack of entries it is still in existence over 114 years later; The founder-members in 1890-91 were Birtley, Bishop Auckland, Elswick Rangers, Gateshead North Eastern Railway, Rendel, Sunderland ‘A' and Whitburn.
Newcomers in 1891-92 were Mickley, Shankhouse, Southwick, Sunderland Olympic and Willington Athletic, with Birtley, Bishop Auckland and Elswick Rangers dropping out. Further additions in 1892-93 were Ashington, Blyth, Newcastle United' A' and Seaham Harbour. The turnover in clubs during the first ten seasons was high, but regular members included Gateshead North Eastern Railway, Hebburn Argyle, Jarrow, Newcastle United 'A', Rendel, Sunderland 'A' and Willington Athletic. The Northern Alliance was dominated by Sunderland' A', who won the championship on five occasions during the first six seasons between 1890-96, the exception being 1892-93 when Shankhouse were champions. And Shankhouse had to wait until the 2004-2005 season for their second title triumph.
Membership during the first decade was as follows:
During 1896-97, Axwell Park became the first club to resign in mid-season. In 1902-03, the' A' sides of Football League clubs Middlesbrough (who had joined in 1899-1900), Newcastle United and Sunderland transferred their allegiance to the Northern League. Newcastle United' A' finished no lower than in second place during their last six seasons in the Northern Alliance, in which period they achieved three championship wins. As replacements, the Northern Alliance admitted Annfield Plain Celtic, Ashington, Consett Swifts, Dudley Wanderers, Mickley and Stanley. Morpeth Harriers (now Morpeth Town) won the championship in 1902-03. Newcomers in 1904-05 included North Shields Athletic, who won the championship in 1906-07 and 1907-08 before joining the North Eastern League. Other losses to the North Eastern League around this time were Hebburn Argyle in 1906-07 and South Shields Adelaide and Wallsend Park Villa in 1908-09.
At the end of the 1905-06 season, the Northern Alliance decided to exclude some of the Durham clubs to reduce travelling costs for the bulk of the membership. Clubs to leave for this reason were Consett Swifts, Leadgate Park, who joined the Northern League, and Stanley. Shankhouse also left the Northern Alliance in 1906. Newcomers in 1906-07 were Rutherford College and Scotswood and the Northern Alliance operated with 13 clubs.
Blyth Spartans joined the Northern Alliance in 1907-08 and managed two championship wins before transferring to the North Eastern League in 1913-14. Ashington joined the North Eastern League in 1914-15 after winning the Northern Alliance championship in 1913-14. The Northern Alliance closed down from 1915-19 because of the First World War. Clubs competing in the Northern Alliance just prior to the First World War included Bedlington United, Mickley, Newburn, Newcastle United 'A', Seaton Delaval and Willington Athletic.
When the Northern Alliance resumed in 1919-20, it comprised 16 clubs with several newcomers including Chopwell Institute, Consett Celtic, Felling College, Hebburn College, Lintz Institute, Prudhoe Castle and Walker Celtic, but one of the established clubs - Annfield Plain Celtic - were champions. Bedlington United joined the North Eastern League in 1920- 21 and were replaced by Preston Colliery (now North Shields), who moved to the North Eastern League themselves after only one season, along with Seaton Delaval. The Northern Alliance replaced these clubs by admitting Backworth United, Craghead United, Durham City Reserves and Hexham Town. Hexham Town disbanded at the end of the 1923-24 season and a new club, Hexham, was formed to replace them. Newcomers in 1925-26 were Chilton Colliery Recreation, who lifted the title at the first attempt.
At the end of the 1925-26 season, the Northern Alliance amalgamated with the North Eastern League, with the Northern Alliance clubs forming Division Two. This situation continued unti1935, when the North Eastern League’s Division Two was disbanded and the Northern Alliance reformed in 1935-36. There had been a number of changes in membership during the previous nine seasons and membership of the Northern Alliance in 1935-36 comprised Amble, Bedlington United, Consett, Hexham, Mickley, Newbiggin West End, Pegswood United, Scotswood, Stakeford Albion, Wallsend, West Wylam and Whitley and Monkseaton. Hexham were champions in 1935-36 and they then returned to the North Eastern League.
Membership was increased to 16 clubs in 1936-37 by the inclusion of Alnwick Town, Ashington Reserves, Blyth Spartans Reserves, Chopwell Colliery, Crookhall Colliery and Morpeth Town. Consett returned to the North Eastern League in 1937-38 but the Northern Alliance added Newcastle United 'A' and South Shields Reserves to their ranks. Newcastle United 'A' were champions in the1938-39 campaign. Soon after, the Northern Alliance closed down because of the Second World War. Five clubs - Ashington Reserves, Chopwell Colliery, East Cramlington Colliery Welfare, Mickley and Newburn - competed in 1939-40, before the Northern Alliance closed down until the 1946-47 season.
Membership in 1946-47 comprised 18 clubs, including many newcomers: Blyth Spartans, Burradon Welfare, Gosforth & Coxlodge, Hexham Hearts,]arrow, Lynemouth Welfare, North Shields Reserves, Prudhoe East End, Seaton Burn Welfare, Shilbottle Welfare, and West Sleekburn Welfare. Blyth Spartans moved to the North Eastern League in 1947-48 but placed their reserve side in the Northern Alliance. Former members Newcastle United 'A' and Shankhouse returned in 1947-48 increasing the membership to 20 clubs. But this was again reduced to 18 in 1948-49 when Burradon Welfare, East Cramlington and Prudhoe East Park left and only Cramlington Welfare were admitted. Cramlington Welfare were Northern Alliance champions at the first attempt and repeated this success in 1950-51.
In 1949-50, Barrington United were elected from the Northern Combination. Whitley Bay Athletic spent five seasons in the Northern Alliance from 1950 to 1955, winning the championship on two occasions before joining the North Eastern League. Heaton Stannington joined the Northern Alliance in 1952-53 after a spell in the Northern League.
Amble won the Northern Alliance championship for the first time in 1954-55 and then they began to dominate the league, winning the championship on four more occasions during the next six seasons, including a hat-trick between 1958-61. Amble's hat-trick of championship wins was the first since that of Sunderland ‘A' between 1893-96.
During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the Northern Alliance lost many of its regular members. Among the clubs leaving were Lynemouth Welfare in 1956, Shankhouse in 1957, Gosforth & Coxlodge in 1958, Hexham Hearts (who disbanded during the 1957-58 season), Cramlington Welfare and West Sleekburn Welfare in 1960, Ashington Reserves in 1961, Newburn and North Shields Reserves in 1962 and Bedlington Mechanics, who disbanded in 1963. By 1963-64, only Alnwick Town, Amble, Blyth Spartans Reserves, Dudley Welfare, Gateshead Reserves, Highfield, Kibblesworth Colliery Welfare, Morpeth Town, Newcastle United' A' and Seaton Delaval were in membership. Some of these clubs intimated that they would not be competing in 1964-65. As adequate replacements could not be found the Northern Alliance closed down at the end of the 1963-64 season. The majority of Northern Alliance clubs joined the Durham Central League in 1964-65, the championship of which was won by Gateshead Reserves.
Alnwick Town had been Northern Alliance champions in 1962-63 and again in 1963-64. They managed a belated hat-trick of championship wins in 1965-66 when the Northern Alliance reformed. The membership of 14 clubs in 1965-66 was Alnwick Town, Amble, Bedlington Colliery Welfare, Bradley Social Club, Crawcrook Albion, Dipton St. Patrick's, Gateshead Reserves, Highfield, Kibblesworth Colliery Welfare, Morpeth Town, Morrison Busty Colliery Welfare, North Walbottle Welfare, Sacriston Welfare and Wallington. Alnwick Town continued to dominate the Northern Alliance and, although they were runners-up to Bedlington Colliery Welfare in 1966-67, they then won the Alliance championship five seasons in a row from 1967-72, being unbeaten in a tremendous 1969-70 season. Bedlington Colliery Welfare were runners-up on three occasions.
The Northern Alliance has continued to have a large turnover of clubs. Wallsend Athletic joined in 1966-67, Newcastle University in 1967-68, Chopwell St.John's, Wallsend Gordon United and Winlaton Mill in 1968- 69. Other newcomers in the early 1970s were Alston, Bede College (Durham), Northumberland College, Throckley Welfare and Workington Reserves. Most of these clubs had left by 1975 without getting amongst the honours. Later additions were more successful. Marine Park were Northern Alliance champions in 1972-73 and 1973-74 before dropping to a lower grade of football. South Shields Mariners spent two seasons, 1974-76, in the Northern Alliance winning the championship on both occasions before joining the Wearside League. Brandon United and Guisborough Town joined the Northern Alliance in 1977-78. Both clubs spent three seasons in the Northern Alliance with Brandon United winning two championships and Guisborough Town one in 1979-80, when they were unbeaten throughout the campaign. These two clubs also won the Northern Alliance Cup in those three seasons. Guisborough Town transferred to the Midland League in 1980-81. Brandon United had also sought to improve their status but were unsuccessful. Unfortunately, they had anticipated being accepted into another league and had tendered their resignation to the Northern Alliance and consequently found themselves in limbo and without a league in 1980-81. They were accepted into the Wearside League in 1981-82. Another recent newcomer, Carlisle City, have finished runners-up on four occasions since joining the Northern Alliance in 1975- 76. Percy Main Amateurs have been champions in 1980-81 and 1981-82, and Darlington Cleveland Bridge, who joined the Northern Alliance in 1981-82, were champions in 1982-83.
Although more recent additions (after 1985) have mainly been successful, the Northern Alliance still has its list of failures. Throckley Welfare were expelled from the Northern Alliance during the 1975-76 season for failing to fulfil fixtures. Northumberland College found the competition too hot and transferred to the Northern Amateur League in 1974-75. Other losses included Durham University, Newcastle University, Sunderland Greenwells and Sunderland Pyrex. Peterlee Newtown and Seaham Colliery Welfare joined the Wearside League in 1979-80, where they were more successful.
At the end of the 1981-82 season, the Northern Alliance lost Alnwick Town, Bedlington Town, Esh Winning and Ryhope C.A. to the newly-formed Northern League Division Two. At the same time Cramlington Newtown resigned and Cramlington High Pit disbanded. This left only 11 clubs in membership, but with the addition of Prudhoe and the newly- formed Seaton Terrace, the Northern Alliance was able to function with 13 clubs in 1982-83. Darlington Cleveland Bridge and Shotton Comrades joined the Northern League in 1983-84.
The Northern Alliance has operated a League Cup since 1936-37. When membership is low, the Northern Alliance also runs a Subsidiary Cup for the losers in the Northern Alliance Cup and the Seymour Cup, which has been played on a league basis. The first winners of the Northern Alliance Cup in 1936-37 were Chopwell Colliery. In the early 1970’s, Marine Park became the only club to gain a hat-trick of Northern Alliance Cup wins between 1972 and 1975. In 1950-51, Cramlington Welfare were the first club to become champions and cup winners in the same season. This feat has been repeated four times by Alnwick Town, three times by Amble, twice by Marine Park and Whitley Bay Athletic and once by Bedlington Colliery Welfare and Brandon United. The Northern Alliance Cup was stolen from the Hedgefield County Hotel in Ryton on 29th April 1976 during Carlisle City's trophy-winning celebrations but happily the cup was found on 1st May 1976 in Newcastle.
Few Northern Alliance clubs have competed in the F. A. Cup but there have been a few occasions when Northern Alliance clubs have fought their way through the qualifying rounds and competed in the First Round of this prestigious competition. In 1892-93, Shankhouse were beaten 0-4 by Notts County, Jarrow lost to Everton in 1898-99 and Millwall Athletic in 1899-1900, all in the First Round of the F. A. Cup. In 1925-26, Chilton Colliery Recreation created a minor sensation by beating Carlisle United, then a North Eastern League club, by 2-0 at Carlisle and they then beat Rochdale by 2-1 in a replay away from home. In the Third Round of the F. A. Cup, they were beaten 0-3 by South Shields who at that time were competing in Division Two of the Football League. Most recently, Brandon United reached the First Round of the F. A. Cup in 1979-80 before losing 0-3 to Bradford City in a match played at Spennymoor. Also in 1979-80, Guisborough Town reached the F. A. Challenge Vase final, where they were beaten by United Counties League club Stamford.
In the early days of the Northern Alliance, its member clubs were particularly successful in the Northumberland Senior Cup. Rendel were beaten finalists on five occasions between 1889-95. The first Northern Alliance club to win the Northumberland Senior Cup was Shankhouse in 1892-93. Shankhouse in fact went on to complete a hat-trick of wins. The Northumberland Senior Cup was then won twice by Willington Athletic and three times by Newcastle United 'A', whilst both were in the Northern Alliance. Wallsend Park Villa (1901-02) and Morpeth Harriers (1902-03) were the next Northern Alliance winners. After these wins, success in the cup was limited to Newburn (1912-13) and Walker Celtic (1919-20) until after the Second World War. Northern Alliance clubs to win the Northumberland Senior Cup after the Second World War were Newburn (1946-47), Hexham Hearts (1948-49), Cramlington Welfare (1950-51) and Whitley Bay Athletic (1952-53). Newburn were also joint holders in 1951-52.
Jarrow won the Durham Challenge Cup in 1899-1900, a cup also won three times by Sunderland 'A' when they competed in the Northern Alliance. Alston(1973-74), Carlisle City (1975-76 and 1976-77) and Gretna (1982-83) have won the Cumberland Senior Cup.
In the 1983-84 season the Northern Alliance was sponsored by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries and known as the McEwan's Lager Northern Alliance. The fourteen clubs in membership at this time were Carlisle City, Dudley Welfare, Forest Hall, Haltwhistle Crown Paints, Morpeth Town, Percy Main Amateurs, Ponteland United, Prudhoe, Seaton Delaval Amateurs, Seaton Terrace, Stobswood Welfare, Wallsend Town, West Allotment Celtic and Wigton. The newcomers were Haltwhistle CP, Ponteland United , Seaton Terrace and West Allotment Celtic who were replacements for the outgoing trio of Darlington Cleveland Bridge, Shotton Comrades and Stockton Town.
The champions in this 1983-84 season were Morpeth Town who took the title to the market town after a lapse of over eighty years. Dudley Welfare filled the runners-up slot but beat Stobswood Welfare in the St James’ Park Final of the Challenge Cup. Then in the 1984-85 season the league’s ranks were increased to sixteen clubs by the admissions of Gosforth St Nicholas and Prudhoe East End.
In later years the Northern Alliance suffered from more coming and going and a decision was made to re-form in a three division format. Agreement was reached with the Northern Combination League and the Northern Amateur League for an amalgamation of the three competitions under the Northern Alliance banner.
The ‘new’ competition kicked off in the 1988-89 season and the divisions were made up of the following clubs:
Dudley Welfare, Dunston Tyne, Forest Hall, Heaton Stannington, Morpeth Town, Newbiggin Central Welfare, Percy Main Amateurs, Ponteland United, Seaton Delaval Amateurs, Seaton Terrace, Swalwell, Wark, West Allotment Celtic, Wigton (14 clubs)
Carlisle City, Gosforth Bohemians, Haltwhistle Crown Paints, Lemington Social, Ryton, Walker Central, Winlaton Hallgarth, Alcan Lynemouth, Ashington Premier, Hexham Swinton, New York, Newcastle University, Northern Counties, Seaton Sluice, Wallsend Rising Sun (15 clubs)
Blyth Kitty Brewster, Longbenton, Stobswood Welfare, Northern Electric, Procter & Gamble, Belford, Brandling Arms, Brinkburn Community Association, Brunswick Village, Highfields United, Monkseaton KOSA, Norgas United, Ryton Adult Association, Walker Stack, Whitley Bay, Woolsington (16 clubs)
In the intervening sixteen years there has continued to be a fairly substantial turnover of clubs and of the 45 kicking off the three-division constitution no less than 30 have disappeared from the Alliance’s membership lists. But the league’s management has continued its recruitment of teams, resisting calls to shrink the set-up to two divisions, and is still the most powerful Saturday League in the Northumberland FA area. Teams from Durham and Cumbria are also currently in membership.