Saturday, 19 April 2014

Jarrow Roofing: The Handmade Football Club

This is the club that Richie McLoughlin built, the ground he assembled, the players he trained.   Offered an overgrown field and old, tarmacked car park on condition they wouldn't cost the owners a penny to develop,  McLoughlin used spare time and materials to create a handmade, homespun venue fit for Northern League football and beyond.  Just 18 years after the team he founded first entered the South Tyne Senior League,  1,100 spectators crammed into the Boldon CA Sports Ground for a game that could have taken Jarrow Roofing all the way to White Hart Lane.

"I went and got some machinery, cadged wagons and diggers and made a start," he recollected to the Northern League magazine. "Wherever I went, I'd collect some more gear. The floodlight pylons were a bit of a problem but Brian Marshall (the club president) worked at the pit, so we were all right when it closed. We've just pieced everything together."  The Observer, visiting for an FA Cup preliminary round tie in September 2007, found him working as "coach, chairman, owner, scout, secretary, treasurer, groundsman and chief sponsor", their headline lauding "Jarrow's mini-dynamo."  The intervening years have seen him slow down a bit - these days he's no longer secretary.

He's still got his eye for a player, David Carson going from a Roofer last May to a Blackburn Rovers contract in March.   The 18 year old is just one of many professional footballers to pull on the blue-and-yellow shirt.  Ex-Sunderland first-teamers Kevin Arnott, Tony Cullen and Craig Russell - a £1 million signing for Manchester City - have all later played for or alongside McLoughlin.  So too Wes Saunders - brought up in neighbouring East Boldon, promoted together with Kevin Keegan, Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle at Newcastle United and later Paul Gascoigne's agent and manager of Torquay - and Paul Robinson, the striker Ruud Gullit preferred to Shearer and Duncan Ferguson in his valedictory gesture as manager at St James' Park.  Three-time FA Vase winner Paul Chow was a youthful member of the forward line when Roofing made the semi-final of the same competition in 2005, while McLoughlin himself - manager since the club was founded in 1987 - has a claim to be the oldest man to play an FA Cup tie, lasting the full 90 - in his late, late 40s - during a preliminary round game against Bootle in 1999.

"I'm here first thing in the morning, go to work and then land back at the ground," Richie said in an interview to mark the club's 25th anniversary in 2011-12. "I can't tell you how much time I spend here, and I'd better not tell you how much money."

Jarrow Roofing's dynamo just keeps powering on. 

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