Football returns to Etherley
IT’S been a long time coming, but football has returned to Etherley for the first time in decades.
The village football field, adjacent to the cricket pitch, has not seen action since the early 1990s.
However, Escomb Juniors, whose teams play in the Russell Foster Youth Leagues, have begun playing home games at Etherley after they were unable to use the facilities at Bishop Barrington School, in Bishop Auckland.
The club had been offered the use of a pitch at Ferryhill, but went for Etherley as it is closer and more convenient for the young players.
Attempts to revive football at Etherley began more than seven years ago when officials from the Etherley Colliery Welfare Trust decided action was needed to reclaim the overgrown and boggy pitch which had started to encroach on the cricket field.
The trust, which manages the ground on behalf of landowner the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, applied for Sport England cash, eventually receiving a £63,000 grant in 2015 after an earlier application for funds was turned down.
Further grants came from Teesdale Action Partnership and a local fundraising effort.
As a result, the ground was levelled, drainage installed and the whole area reseeded.
The work was completed three years ago, since when the pitch has remained unused as efforts to attract teams to use it faltered.
Dave Wallis, from Etherley CC, which looks after the ground, said he was delighted the football pitch was finally back in use.
“We were worried it was going to get overgrown again,” he said.
“We have had some good help from Witton Park FC. They have helped us maintain the ground.”
He added: “With Escomb coming, we should have matches on every weekend from now.
“It’s good to see the facilities being used.”
The arrival of Escomb Juniors signalled the return of sport to Etherley for the first time this year.
As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, Etherley CC did not field at team in the Darlington and District League when cricket resumed later in the summer, however, the club hopes to be back in action next season.