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Published: February 23rd 2016
After the weather intervened in my previous attempt to check out the Sand Dancers, another opportunity arose to see the Julio Arca show. An Argentine Under 20 World Cup winning captain playing in the Ebac Northern League Division 2! A career cut short by injury, after gracing the giddy heights with both Sunderland and Middlesbrough, is now being reincarnated with the upwardly mobile South Shields FC. The majority of the fancy foreign talent that descends on the Premier League is quite content to pocket the cash and return to their homeland, as fast as they can order the plane ticket. Not Julio - retired since 2013 and still living the life in the sun kissed North East. A cult hero with Sunderland, he made a comeback with a Sunday league team last year and has since been persuaded to step up to guide Shields back to promotion. They arrived with a 6 point lead, but struggling for form after a series of postponements due to weather.
There is only “one team in Darlo
”. The cries rang out from the terraces at Brinkburn Road. They didn’t really, I just made that up. They should have rung out! I find
myself at Brinkburn Road – the home of Darlington Railway Athletic FC – the only team playing senior football in the town, as we speak. The demise of Darlington FC and their reincarnation as Darlington 1883 forced the club to find a new temporary home in Bishop Auckland. It was ironic that they too were playing “at home” tonight – 12 miles up the road - albeit with a much larger support.
After the weather intervened in my previous attempt to check out the Sand Dancers, this new opportunity arose to see the Julio Arca show. An Argentine Under 20 World Cup winning captain playing in the Ebac Northern League Division 2! A career cut short by injury, after gracing the giddy heights with both Sunderland and Middlesbrough, is now being reincarnated with the upwardly mobile South Shields FC. The Sand Dancers! The majority of the fancy foreign talent that descends on the Premier League is quite content to pocket the cash and return to their homeland, as fast as they can order the plane ticket. Not Julio - retired since 2013 and still living the life in the sun kissed North East. A cult hero with
Sunderland and an appreciated footballer at Boro, he made a comeback with a Sunday league team last year and has since been persuaded to step up to guide Shields back to promotion. They arrived on a cold, but dry Tuesday night with a 6 point lead, struggling for form after a series of postponements due to weather.
I eventually parked up near the ground on Brinkburn Road, after a slightly complicated journey than I had anticipated. The road designers of Darlo had excelled themselves with the layout near North Road Railway Station featuring a crafty one way triangle that made me go round twice before selecting the correct exit. I thought I knew where I was going in Darlo, but apparently not! Live and learn! I eventually spotted the floodlights and the South Shields coach. The Railway Athletic complex was much larger than I expected – the cricket club on one side of the clubhouse and the football club on the other. The admission was £5 and my ticket comprised of a £2 concession ticket with the "£2" neatly crossed out in favour of a £5. The demand of old people had exceeded supply. South Shields have
been getting a large home support – some games even being designated all ticket – and it would only probably be the Tuesday night timing that would keep some of their travelling support at home tonight. I entered through the solitary turnstile. On entry, I realised there could have been other ways in. The recent high winds had successfully rearranged some of the external fencing. The crowd could have been higher than the officially listed 166. The majority of the crowd were sporting their maroon and sky blue colours. The size of the South Shields support should not be underestimated. In 1919, one incarnation of this club was elected to the Football League Division 2 and the first game at Fulham attracted 20,000 spectators.There was no time to dwell on the past - the Julio show was about to commence.
The main seated area was behind the goal near the turnstile. A small covered wooden terrace was behind the opposite goal. The main Darlington group stood near the dug outs on the fallen fence side. The Sand Dancers were everywhere else, but mainly on the cricket club side. A helpful sign suggested no alcohol or barbeques. It obviously meant
Darlington Railway Athletic
in the cricket ground in the summer - but it wasn't really the weather tonight! Mind, I did see one bloke wearing shorts.
Julio Arca started as you would expect - the captain of an Argentina Under 20 World Cup winning team was going be too good at this level. It is ironic that another member of the same Argentina Under 20 squad plies his trade in the North East. A certain Fabricio Coloccini. I can hear many of you thinking out loud - I doubt he would be to good at this level. Julio surveyed the scene from the middle of the park, spraying balls from side to side and pulling all the strings. He ventured from his midfield general role to take the free-kicks and corners. I once saw Maradona in his twilight years playing for Boca Juniors at Independiente in Argentina - he too never left his comfort zone. Why would you though - others can do your running.
South Shields scored early and controlled the game, without putting it to bed. 1-0 at half time. I went for a warm in the clubhouse. A sizeable affair. The Committee were entertaining in a side room.
The bar was full of Sandancers. I studied the trophy cabinet, which appeared to be full of North Eastern Railway items. The Scarborough Day Out Crazy Golf trophy was out of place. The 2nd half started as the 1st with Shields extending the lead. Game over, Julio was substituted. He kicked every ball from the sidelines. South Shields got a 3rd, but in reality lost a lot of control around this point. Darlo grabbed a merited consolation.
I scampered back to the car. There had been no excitement down the road at Awesome Park tonight. The Boro had upset their big crowd on Saturday. The expensive new striker was left to acquaint himself with a bench for an hour or so and so it was again tonight. He notched a late equaliser in soulless Milton Keynes, but it remained to the disgust of many who had travelled. They were straight on to BBC Radio Tees Phone-In thereafter, repeating the tales of Saturday"stubborn.....fixed on his one upfront system........too much like Mourinho". I had heard it all before, but it still makes me laugh. As one caller said, "We have driven nearly 200 miles tonight and we are wondering
why". Quite, they could have gone to Darlo instead for a decent game of football. Appendix 1 Ebac Northern League Division 2 Tuesday 9 February 2016 Venue: Brinkburn Road, Darlington, County Durham Darlington Railway Athletic FC 1 - 3 South Shields FC Scorers: 0-1 Teasdale (3 Mins), 0-2 Sakr (47 Mins) 0-3 Smith (71 Mins) 1-3 Own Goal Attendance: 166
Darlington Railway Athletic FC:
Pentony, Leven, Grocott, Johnson,Weston, Wilson, Cheeseman, Kokes, England, Wilson, Hanratty South Shields FC:
Young, Smith, Grey, Hassan, Riding, Arca (Sub: Carson 62), Sakr, Briggs, Ramsey (Sub: Kanda 68) Teasdale (Sub: Hall 84) Philips.
#Groundhopping/Northern League: Daringon Railway Athletic v South Shields
Tot: 0.886s; Tpl: 0.096s; cc: 13; qc: 33; dbt: 0.0303s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb