ABOUT OUR CLUB
The origins of the club can be traced back to 1988 when, as a result of the Northern Alliance league expanding to three divisions; the club competed as Brunswick Village in the Second Division for just one season. Changing the club’s name to Heaton Corner House also brought about a change in fortunes, as the club transformed themselves from the previous season’s 10th place finish by storming to the Second Division championship in 1989/90.
The club moved to its current ground at Sam Smith’s Sports Ground on Benfield Road, and again changed its name to Benfield Park. Following a couple of near misses in the race to gain promotion to the Premier Division, the club succeeded at the third time of asking, before stunning the Premier Division big boys by claiming a League and Challenge Cup double at the first attempt at the end of the 1994/95 campaign.
In later years, an approach made by local rivals North Shields St. Columba’s gave the club additional momentum at the turn of the millennium. Having managed to persuade Allan Bell to take the manager’s job just weeks after he had led Walker Central to the Northern Alliance title, Benfield’s second Northern Alliance title was achieved in 2002/03, and this fine achievement was heightened by the club’s acceptance into the Northern League for the first time in the club’s history.
Allan Bell left the club before the start of the Northern League adventure, but his replacement Keith Sheardown started brilliantly, leading the club to immediate promotion into the First Division, after a final day 9-0 demolition of Willington.
Expectations were for a season of consolidation in the club’s first season in the Northern League Division One, and a magnificent finish of 4th in the league table began a successful and unbroken tenure in the First Division.
Former Hartlepool United striker Paul Baker replaced Sheardown in September 2005 and was still at the helm when the club lifted their first Northern League honour, the League Cup, in May 2007, having beaten Nissan 1-0 at Federation Park. Baker enjoyed particular success in FA competitions, leading the club to their then best performance in the FA Vase in 2006 and a year later reaching the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, narrowly losing 1-0 to York City in front of 927 fans, which remains a ground record.
Undoubtedly, the club’s finest season came in 2008/09 when under Tom Wade, the club enjoyed an incredible run of form in the second half of the season to shoot up the league from a mid-table position, to win the title on the final day of the season, thanks to an 88th minute winner by Stephen Young in the final game to be played at Penrith’s Southend Road ground. Newcastle Benfield had never been top of the table in the whole season, until Young’s winning streak. That success was doubled when victory in the League Cup, ironically also against Penrith, was assured by a breath-taking Ian Graham goal, though all those who were present would agree that keeper Andrew Grainger’s performance was perhaps the finest individual display by a Benfield player during the club’s time in the Northern League.
Wade left before the start of the following season, with Baker returning and winning the Cleator Cup, the Northern League’s equivalent of the Charity Shield, in his first game back in charge.
The club were unable to repeat their Championship winning form and had to settle for fifth place, which was followed by fourth place in 2010/11. The highlight of that latter season was a third League Cup victory for the club, over Spennymoor United at Dunston, where that man Andrew Grainger was the star of the show again, saving a penalty and making several world-class saves as a 10-man Benfield prevailed 3-1 after extra time.
Paul Baker resigned for the second time in September 2011, to be replaced by former player, captain and assistant manager Alu Bangura. Sadly, the club legend’s time in the hot seat was a short one and he resigned six months later, to be replaced by Perry Briggs. Briggs himself left the club in the late autumn of 2012, to be replaced by former North Shields manager Anthony Woodhouse. For the second season running, Benfield had the distinction of three managers in a season, and soon former Bedlington Terriers player Steve Bowey assumed the top job, combining it with a playing role.
The end of the 2012/13 season saw Benfield avoid relegation by a narrow margin, having won away in the last league game played at Consett’s venerable Belle Vue ground. This was even more impressive as the fixture was played twice, as the lights failed with less than 15 minutes remaining in the first game, when a Benfield victory would have assured safety. The club made their fourth appearance in the League Cup final, ironically in the last ever game to be played at Belle Vue, but came up short against Spennymoor United, despite a battling performance.
For 2013/14, Bowey’s side put in some impressive league performances, including a superb 7-0 victory away to Bedlington Terriers. The real focus however was the FA Vase, where a series of excellent results, including victory away to eventual Northern League Champions Spennymoor United at their Brewery Field Ground, put the club into the quarter finals of this national competition for the first time.
Tragically, club founder Danny Gates passed away in November 2013. No-one who has ever attended a Benfield game will ever underestimate the contribution of Danny to the history and development of the club. He will never be forgotten.
At the end of the season manager Steve Bowey tendered his resignation and was replaced by Neil Saxton, who in turn left in October to be replaced by the returning Bowey., with the club languishing near the foot of the table. The last 14 games of that season saw Benfield win 11 and draw 1 to top the form table, finishing 10th in the real version. This was helped by Northern League Player of the Season Paul Brayson weighing in with 49 goals in all competitions.
With a settled squad, including some quality additions, the signs were hopeful for 2015/2016 at Sam Smith’s Park. However, after a difficult run of results, Bowey tendered his resignation at the end of October. The club acted to appoint Mark Convery and Paul Brayson as joint player managers in November 2015. After safety was assured, with a paper-thin squad, the club opted for stability by retaining them as managers for the 2016/2017 season.
In more recent times, former Football League defender Stu Elliott managed the club, taking charge in February 2019. Elliott maintained a steady course for the club in the Northern League during his tenure, and the club parted ways with him towards
the end of the 2021/22 season, making way for the current boss and former Newton Aycliffe manager Colin Stromsoy, who you can hear from on our ‘Word From The Boss’ page.
The club has had a number of people working as volunteers over the years, to help create and maintain a sustainable club that is competitive in all competitions. Two of the most influential people involved at the club were the late Jimmy Rowe and David Robson, who both served the club for many decades between them. They both devoted their lives to Benfield, and their efforts at the club will never be forgotten.
Another honourable mention is the late Derek Gair. Derek was again another fantastic servant to the club, who worked with many squads over his years at the club. A man who always had a fantastic relationship with all of the coaches and players he worked with, and who we have named one of our stands at Sam Smith’s Park after.