The words West Allotment Celtic always seemed faintly exotic when I was younger. I used to search them out every weekend in the Sunday Sun, where they appeared towards the top of the mysteriously named Northern Alliance Premier. I imagined them as a team of expatriate Caledonians, possibly bohemian, dribbling and zig-zagging the ball around their bemused opponents. Years later, disappointingly, I found out they actually came from Benton.
And so here I am at the Blue Flames Sports Club, home, the sign at the entrance to the car park tells me, of the Northumberland FA and the Northern League's West Allotment Celtic FC, who are playing Team Northumbria in the First Round of this year's Northumberland Senior Cup. Dire Straits are on the tannoy, and there's a crowd of about seventy people lined up along the top of a grass bank, looking down on the floodlit pitch. There's a metal stand, a couple of wooden picnic benches, an open window into a kitchen, and a view of the bar through sliding glass doors.
Nothumbria equalise, and go two-one up midway through the second half when a shot smashes against the crossbar and is toe-poked in with the keeper still scrambling on the ground. The home team have chance after chance, but appear to be aiming for a spot that varies randomly between six inches above and ten yards wide of the goal. My feet are freezing, the tea hut's closed - and then West Allotment take the game to extra-time.
The draw for the next round's already been made. West Allotment are away to Newcastle Benfield, two games from a final at St James' Park.
Date: 13th October 2010