MIDLAND ALLIANCE V NORTHERN LEAGUE
The FA Vase 4th round draw has unearthed an unusual combination of fixtures. All three teams from the Midland Alliance still left in the competition have been drawn away to three teams from the Northern League. Causeway United are at Spennymoor Town, Westfields are at Morpeth Town and of course Coleshill Town are at Dunston UTS all playing on Saturday 18th January.
A quick look at the betting and it shows that the Northern League sides are favourites to win all three games, with Spennymoor 11/4 to win the Vase, Dunston 12/1 and Morpeth 25/1, compare that to all three Alliance sides at 66/1.
The reason for the difference in the betting is the Northern League’s history in the FA Vase. A team from the league has won the competition for the last five years. Spennymoor last year, Dunston the year before and Whitley Bay the three previous years. West Auckland were also losing finalists in 2012. But why? Why is the Northern League so strong?
Over the last fifteen years only Darlington 1883 and Durham City have moved up the non-league pyramid system after being crowned champions of the Northern League. In that time Bedlington Town, Brandon United, Dunston Federation Brewery, Newcastle Blue Star, Whitley Bay, Newcastle Benfield and Spennymoor Town have all failed to gain promotion for one reason or another. The step up from the Northern League to the Northern Premier League is massive. Promotion means much more travelling as the Northern Premier covers the whole of northern England, less derbies and the extra crowd that attracts and at Level 4 teams are no longer able to enter the Vase, it is then the Trophy which includes non-league teams all the way to the Conference. For the top Northern League teams the FA Vase is a great source of income especially if you get to the latter stages. Whitley Bay's defeat last Saturday to Dunston was the first time since 2005 they haven't reached the 4th round, that's £5K prize money each year at least, a massive yearly boost to the finances that they almost certainly wouldn't get from the Trophy. And then there's the players! Getting the players to commit to the higher standard, extra training, extra travelling, for not a lot more money is difficult! It’s a big decision, stick or twist! Stay in the lower league and hopefully build the team, the facilities and hopefully the bank balance or go for it at the higher level and hope for the best! Financially it could be a disaster and put the very existence of your club in jeopardy! Last season in the Alliance, Stratford were the big boys with the biggest budget, but now, in the Southern League, they are a small fish in a very big pond! To make matters worse for Stratford they were put in the South & West division which is much, much more travelling than the Central division. It will be a struggle for them in the next few years even for such a well-supported team! But it’s a risk they thought was well worth taking, only time will tell!
But can you imagine if Stratford, Gresley, Coalville, Barwell, Market Drayton, Leamington all refused promotion or Sutton Coldfield, Romulus and Bedworth came down to the Alliance to have more local derbies, and a crack at the Vase! How strong would the Alliance be? What chance would the smaller teams have? Would it stifle progress?
Debating whether to take promotion or not isn’t something Coleshill Town have to worry about this season! A top six place is in their hands but the championship! Unlikely! But the new management at the club are ambitious and it could be a massive decision they have to make in the years to come! A major stumbling block for Coleshill is the support. For a Town the size of Coleshill the crowds should be much bigger than they are at the moment or for that matter have ever been! Maybe this Vase run is just the thing to spark the locals imagination and finally decide to come out in numbers to support their team! Let’s hope so!
GOOD LUCK COLESHILL TOWN FC!
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