LITTLE under a year ago, North-East footballing hero Alan Shearer visited Ponteland United footballers.
Shearer, a resident in Ponteland’s plush Darras Hall Estate, headed to the leisure centre to congratulate the lads on their excellent achievement of winning the Northern Alliance Premier Division.
Rightly so, there was a massive buzz around the club as their favourite player took the time to chat and pose for photographers with each and every person there.
The elation experienced that day will be a distant memory for surviving members of that team though, as this weekend brought confirmation of their relegation from a league they dominated last year.
There is no other explanation for their dramatic reversal in fortunes other than they were a victim of their own success.
With their ground not meeting the relevant criteria to gain promotion to the Holy Grail of the Northern League, their better players left the club in pursuit of a higher standard of football.
And their quest is understandable seeing as they conquered all in their division and wanted to test themselves against better teams.
But United were never going to be able to cope with the numbers seeking pastures new, the team this season more or less unrecognisable from last.
Instead they have had to rely on promoting teenagers at the club through the ranks much earlier than they would have wanted to.
The average age of their squad, according to the Alliance website is 24, but, in truth, that will be at least five years less judging by the players who formed the team on a weekly basis.
I’ve seen United play a number of times this campaign and the youngsters have all shown great promise, and most have more than enough skills to pay the bills.
But the step up for the many 17-year-olds now in the first team has simply been too steep and the big bag world of senior football has proved too physical.
Undoubtedly, the young team will have gained so much from the disappointment of relegation and hopefully it will help them adapt to life with the older boys when they start their Division One campaign in August.
Published: May 3, 2012
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This week in... 1950Friday, December 15, 1950....
THREE watercolour paintings donated by Queen Mary were auctioned off to raise money for a new Darby and Joan club in Hexham.
A site had already been bought, but a further £6,000 was needed to run the club for the elderly.
The auction, opened by Viscountess Allendale, saw the paintings raise over £8 for the fund.