West Auckland Town F.C.

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West Auckland Town
File:West Auckland AFC.jpg
Full name West Auckland Town Football Club
Nickname(s) West
Founded 1893 (as West Auckland)
Ground The Seagrave Stadium (Darlington Road)
Ground Capacity 3,728 (150 seating)
Chairman Jim Palfreyman
Manager Andy Campbell
League Northern Football League
Division One
2014–15 Northern Football League
Division One, 5th

West Auckland Town F.C. are a football club from West Auckland, near Bishop Auckland in County Durham, England, competing in the Northern League, in the ninth tier of the English football league system. The club is most famous for being the winners of the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, one of the world's first international footballing competitions, twice, in 1909 and 1911.


Early history

The club was founded as West Auckland F.C. in 1893, and initially played in the Wear Valley League (1896–1900), South Durham Alliance (1900–05) and Mid Durham League (1905–08). In 1908 they joined the Northern League.[1]

Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy

The Trophy was initiated by businessman and sporting enthusiast Sir Thomas Lipton, who wished to see a competition between the leading football clubs of Europe. The football associations of Italy, Germany and Switzerland duly complied, but the Football Association of England refused to nominate a club. West Auckland, a lowly amateur side of coalminers from the Northern League were entered into the competition, although it has never been entirely clear why.

One plausible explanation for West Auckland's entry was that an employee of Sir Thomas Lipton's had contacts in the Northern League and put out an appeal for a team to take the English spot. An alternative explanation, popular in the town itself, is that Lipton had wanted to send Woolwich Arsenal to the Championship – an instruction to his secretary to "contact W.A." led to West Auckland being mistakenly contacted. However, a review of the facts casts doubt on this theory; at the time Woolwich Arsenal had only just been promoted from the Second Division and were not the famous club they are today, being relatively small and unsuccessful compared to many other Football League sides. In addition, there is no documentary evidence to suggest any sort of link between Sir Thomas Lipton and Woolwich Arsenal, so it is unclear why he would have chosen them ahead of any other English team. Indeed recent research clearly shows evidence that West Auckland were the expected team.[2]

West Auckland duly made the journey to Turin, where the first tournament was being held, many of the players paying out of their own pocket to do so. They beat Sportfreunde Stuttgart in the semi-finals 2–0; in the final, on April 12, 1909, West Auckland faced Swiss side FC Winterthur and beat them 2–0 as well to take the trophy.

Two years later, West Auckland returned, and after beating FC Zürich 2–0, they ran out 6–1 winners in the final over future Italian giants Juventus. By the rules of competition, they were awarded the trophy to keep in perpetuity.

Upon their return home, the club was forced to pawn the trophy to the landlady of the local hotel because of financial problems. It remained with her family until 1960 when a village appeal raised money to return the cup to the club. The cup was then stolen in 1994 and despite the best efforts of local police and a £2,000 reward it was never found. An exact replica of the cup can now be found in a secure cabinet in the West Auckland Working Men's Club.

The story of the club's first success was turned into a television movie in 1981 – A Captain's Tale, produced by Tyne Tees Television and starring Dennis Waterman.

History since

Debts forced the club to leave the Northern League in 1912 and fold, although in 1914 it was reconstituted as West Auckland Town F.C., which remains to this day.[3] Although it has never quite reached the same heights it did at the start of the 20th century, it did win the Northern League in 1960 and 1961, and were FA Amateur Cup runners-up in 1961, losing to Walthamstow Avenue. They still remain rivals with Bishop Auckland to this day. Having been founded in 1889, the Northern League is the oldest surviving league after The Football League.

1998–99 was a very exciting season in the Club's history when they reached the 1st Round proper of the F.A. Cup for the third time, (Barnsley 1959 & Stockport 1961) with an away tie against Yeovil Town. After a 2–2 draw at Yeovil and a 1–1 draw at West Auckland, a penalty shoot-out saw Yeovil through. The Club also finished a credible 5th in the League that season as they did also in 1999–2000 and 2005–06.

David Bayles took charge in the summer of 2005 and led the side to 5th place in his first season (2005–06) and then 6th place in the following season. 2007–08 began with an FA Cup run that saw West within minutes of a place in the final qualifying round of the FA Cup before defeat in a replay to Bamber Bridge. After his shock resignation, Lee Ellison had a short lived spell as manager before Phil Owers took over and steadied the side and led them to escape the drop zone.

Owers departed early in the 2008–09 season with Brian Fairhurst appointed as the new player manager. However after performances slumped to a worryingly low and 10 games without a win, Ray Gowan came in but even he was unable to arrest the slide and promptly resigned at the end of the campaign.

Exciting news filtered in throughout the summer of 2009. Firstly, West Auckland were able to retain their First Division status due to Sunderland Nissan folding. The Club then received sensational news that, to celebrate their Centenary of winning the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, Juventus had agreed to a re-match in Italy. Shortly afterwards Hartlepool legend Brian Honour was appointed the new manager in the hot seat.

Brian and his successor Wilf Constantine struggled to get West back on track and both had short lived spells in charge. For the third season in a row, a third manager was appointed – Peter Dixon arrived on Monday 7 December 2009, swapping a promotion push with Crook for a relegation battle. West stunned the Northern League with some superb results and finished the season in a scarcely believable 16th place despite having a −41 goal difference and 5 points from 19 matches when Peter took the reins.

During the 2010–11 season West finished in a very credible 6th place. Key signings such as Mark Bell (Blyth Spartans) and John Parker (Ryton) shored up the defence, whilst forwards Daniel Hindmarsh and Chris Lunn provided an attacking prowess which saw the side score 96 league goals. West Auckland also enjoyed a good FA Cup run beating Whickham, Billingham Synthonia in the preliminary qualifying rounds. A 3–1 win at home to Northern Premier League side Bradford Park Avenue set up a 2nd Qualifying round tie away to Conference North side Workington. West were beaten 2–1 despite taking the lead through Adam Nicholls in the first half.

In memory of the 1909 Thomas Lipton trophy final, West Auckland Town F.C. and Italian giants Juventus F.C. met once again in 2009 for a friendly match 100 years later, with Juventus F.C under 20 winning 7–1.[4]



  1. "West Auckland". Football Club History Database.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Miners' Triumph – Martin Connolly – Oakleaf Publishing – ISBN 978-0957465152
  3. "Club history". West Auckland Town FC website.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Up for the cup, 100 years on BBC News Online Sunday, 2 August 2009

External links

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