The History of the Wearside League
One of the most successful Wearside League clubs in the 1960s was Ryhope CW. In six seasons they won eight trophies, including four championships. In 1961-62 season they won their first league title for 34 years. They remained unbeaten during the season, securing 58 points from a possible 60. In the same year they also won the Shipowners' Cup for the first, and to date, only time.
The following season they retained the championship, but only after a hard struggle. Murton CW had set the early pace and did not suffer their first League defeat until March 30th. In contrast Ryhope took the lead in the table for the first time in the season only five days before the programme ended. At the end of April, Ryhope claimed their tenth successive League win, against Boldon CW. After Boldon's Ernie Johnson had given his side a 3-0 lead with a hat-trick in 13 minutes, Ryhope rallied and snatched the winner late in the game.
Despite a set back in the next match when Langley Park CW hammered them 5-0, Ryhope beat Handon Hold CW in their last game by the same score to clinch the title. In the season's Monkwearmouth Charity Cup Final they were beaten 3-2 by South Shields Reserves before a large crowd at Ryhope. The home side twice drew level through goals from Ridley but failed to get a third past South Shields goalkeeper, Crooks who was in brilliant form.
In the 1963-64 season, it was back to their more clear-cut championship performance for Ryhope. They won the League by nine points from Blackball, in the process scoring 126 goals (most in the League) and conceding only 29 (fewest in the League) in 28 games. In the same season they also won the League Cup for the first time.
After failing to emulate Royal Rovers' feat at the turn of the century of four successive league titles the following season, Ryhope returned to winning ways in 1965-66 winning both the championship and Monkwearmouth Charity Cup. The following season, Ryhope retained the Monkwearmouth Charity Cup but could "only" finish mid-table in the League.
Just prior to the opening of the 1964-65 season, the North Eastern League was disbanded threatening the existence of several outstanding clubs in the area. The clubs affected sought an emergency meeting with Wearside League officials to see if they could be allowed to join the League. Despite the short notice, these clubs were accommodated and the League was increased from 15 to 20 clubs.
At the end of the season it was two of these newcomers who contested the League title. The championship was not decided until the last games of the season and even then, only goal average could separate Horden CW from Ashington. The climax of the season was Horden CW 3-1 win at Ashington on 26th April.
The final table read:
Horden claimed the Wearside League on goal average: 5.545 compared to Ashington's 4.441. If the present system of goal difference had been used at the time, the positions would have been reversed and Ashington would have been champions.
The 24th Signal Regiment's brief Wearside League career was nothing if not eventful. The 1965-66 season was their one and only campaign in the League. After being in the top five places up to Christmas, they fell away, finishing in 16th position. They, however, boasted the League's top marksman in Andrew Gordon with 35 goals. Also, many of their outstanding players were constantly called upon to play in Army representative games, which affected the strength of the side at times.
But they also gave credit to the standard of football in the League, which was of great benefit to their players. And, indeed, gave them the wherewithal to win the British Army Challenge Cup, European Command Challenge Cup, Yorkshire District Challenge Cup, Northern Command Challenge Cup and the Yorkshire District (Army) League Cup all in that season.
At the end of the season the 24th Signals found it necessary to resign from the Wearside League due to the overseas "postings" of Captain Thompson (Football Officer) and the majority of their players from their home base of Catterick Camp.
The 1968-69 season was one of the most weather-affected in the League's history, causing the postponement of 88 games. Permission had to be gained from the Durham FA to extend the season from May 10th to May 24th to enable the League and its Associated Competitions to fulfill their obligations. One casualty, however, was the League Challenge Cup, which was held in abeyance until the following season due to the heavy commitments.
One of the highlights of the season was Consett's victory in the Durham Challenge Cup, becoming the first Wearside League club to win the trophy in the history of the competition.