Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Loftus find a new home

posted by John Winn

'Cleveland League numbers dwindling'

The above headline appeared in the Middlesbrough evening paper (The Gazette) in May 2013 since when I have referred in a number of postings to the decline in the number of clubs competing in the Cleveland League to the point where in 2015 there were but three clubs left putting out just five teams between them. During the last few weeks I have made several attempts via the internet to see if the league intended to continue in 2016 until I read that Loftus, one of the three clubs and provider of two of the teams had made an unsuccessful application to join the NYSD. That the east Cleveland club should make such an application strongly suggested that the remaining clubs had called it a day. Our Hartlepool correspondent has confirmed that this is the case and that Loftus  have looked down the coast for a new home and have joined the Eskdale League.

As its name suggests this league consists of clubs in or around the valley of the River Esk which from its source in Westerdale reaches the sea after a thirty mile journey at Whitby. Both Tony and Brian have visited grounds in this league, indeed in September 2011 Brian visited all ten in one day. Four years later all ten clubs were still participating so Loftus will make eleven.

The fate of the other two clubs in the Cleveland league, Smith's Dock and Paragonians is not known (at least to me) but Eskdale would not be geographically convenient for either of them and if they are to continue the Langbaurgh would seem a more suitable home. The demise of any league is of a sad event, especially one that can boast more than 125 years' history. In the 2013 article I referred to at the top of the posting the then league chairman, Geoff Kelley attributed its decline to competition from NYSD clubs with their better facilities, changes in village life and the decline in the industries on Teesside that produced several works teams. Who has heard of Dormans, Head Wrightsons or Cochranes?

On a happier note last week saw the publication of the fixtures for the two new Yorkshire Premier Leagues, north and south. In the north the season will begin on April 16th with some very tempting morsels. Champions of the 'old premier', York, will be at home to near neighbours Dunnington, a journey of about 8 miles, Harrogate will entertain village cup winners Woodhouse Grange and Sheriff Hutton Bridge's traditional opening friendly against the Academy will be for real. In the southern division play will be called a week later and here there are two matches that will bring together old and new, Aston Hall v Appleby Frodingham and Barnsley v Treeton. Something to look forward to as we approach the shortest day.

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