Joe Dixon’s

Football Memories



Eppleton CW is a club that I'd always admired from my Houghton and District League days. This was in the 1970's and they were always one of Ryhope CA's strongest rivals and through these years they always seemed to be well organised with a great pitch and facilities. This is probably why it attracted so many quality players.

It has a long history having been formed in 1929. It didn't take long before it had its first success and that was in the 1930/1931 season when it was Houghton & District League Champions. A list of the teams achievements was taken from an old match programme from the 1986/1987 season is shown below and you will see what I mean about quality players.

Unbelievable honours followed :-

Wearside League Cup winners - 1987/1988
Durham Challenge Cup winners - 1989/1990
Monkwearmouth Cup winners - 1989/1990, 1990/1991 and 1991/1992
Wearside League Champions - 1990/1991 and 1991/1992
Shipowners Cup winners - 1990/1991

With Gretna leaving the Northern League to join the Northern Premier League for the start of the 1992/1993 season Eppleton were accepted into the Northern League Division 2. They finished runners up in their first season, recording notable wins over Langley Park 9-1 and Horden CW 7-3, and they were promoted to Division 1. Unfortunately the club were relegated after 3 seasons and went into decline. However no one can take it away from them that in this golden period they were one of the best teams in the North East.


The photo below shows the team that won the prestigious Sunderland Shipowners Cup in the 1947/1948 season.

The photo below shows the team that won this same cup in the 1985/1986 season 38 years later.


In the 1976/77 season I took the opportunity to play for Eppleton CW. This was a period when the club I'd been associated with for many years, Ryhope CA, had folded before the start of the 1975/1976 season. In this season the Ryhope CA management were invited to run the Silksworth CW team in the Wearside League and being a player and part of the management I went as well. As they were only at Silksworth for the one season I was without a club for the first time. I wasn't sure which club I wanted to play for or even what club would be interested in me for this new season. In the 1970's it seemed, to a lot of people, that once you reached 30 you were way passed your best. As I was 31 and no team had knocked on my door I began to think it must be true.

So I turned up for pre-season training, at Eppleton, and thankfully the team manager, Stevie Bell, and his assistant, Graham Defty, made me very welcome. The season started and I was enjoying my football. I can't remember how many games I played or how many goals I scored but I felt I was doing ok.

A memory that does stand out was of some of the half and full-time dressing room talks which could get a little bit heated. These were always between Stevie (manager) and Colin Richardson (player). Stevie had played most of his career in the Northern League with clubs like Stanley, Durham City, Willington, Billingham Synthonia, Bishop Auckland after serving his 'apprenticeship' with Sunderland and Hartlepool. He was also an experienced manager and in his time he managed at Northern League and Wearside League clubs. Colin had been a professional and had just come from West Bromich Albion and when he finished playing he went on to have great success managing Blue Star. As both had their own ideas on how the game should be played they had their differences. They both had very strong personalities and with vast experience and knowledge of football, no one would concede any point. So on one particular occasion these discussions became arguments and got that heated I'm sure everyone in the ground heard them. I was surprised it never came to blows.

I don't know what went on behind the scenes but Stevie left the club which was a big disappointment for me as I liked him and his style. He was similar to my Ryhope CA manager for many seasons, Jimmy Clark, in the way he would say 'Joe just play your own game' and then go on to make me feel good with a couple of compliments. This always made me feel more determined when I went onto the pitch.

Not too long after Stevie had left, the management team from Ryhope CA, which had run the Silksworth CW team in the previous season, had been approached by Seaham Red Star, playing in the Northern Alliance, to run their team. They agreed and shortly after that, they approached Eppleton to sign me. If it had been anyone else I would never have left Eppleton. I was doing fine and enjoying my football but I found it hard to resist re-joining the management I'd been part of for so long. It was still a difficult decision as I had great respect for this great Eppleton club.

It was 7 years before I rejoined Eppleton but it was not as a player. For the start of the 1983/1984 season Tony Lynch became the new manager having been at Seaham Red Star the previous season. As I had joined Tony as coach at the 'Star he asked me to rejoin him for this new season. It was an easy decision to make as Tony and I were on the same wave length, football wise, and I enjoyed working with him.

I never kept any record of this season but we did well enough for the committee to want us the following season although we didn't win any silverware.

The following season, in early November 1984, Dawdon CW made an approach for my services as a coach/joint manager. This role would give me more responsibility as I would take care of the coaching, team talks and tactics etc. The team selection was a joint effort. After a couple of seasons with Tony I felt I'd learn't a lot and was more than ready for this new challenge.


Final Thoughts

Whenever I think about Eppleton CW the one name that always comes to mind is Freddie Browell. To me his contribution to the club, in the 70's and 80's, was absolutely huge. He was secretary when I first played against them in the early 1970's, when I played for them in the early part of the 1976/1977 season and also when Tony Lynch and I joined them as Manager and Coach respectively for the 1983/1984 season. He was the type of person who always spoke his mind, and probably rattled a few cages in the process, but he was 100% Eppleton CW and I had a lot of respect and time for Freddie. I don't know many years of service he gave to the club but to me he was the heart of the club.

When I left Eppleton October 1984, during my second season as coach to join Dawdon CW I left with Freddies best wishes which I appreciated very much. It was a bit ironic that at the end of that season both teams met in the final of the Wearside League Cup with Dawdon having home advantage. I bumped into Freddie
sometime after this Cup Final and he told me a very interesting story :-

He started off by asking me if I knew the reason why Dawdon CW had home advantage in that game. I didn't so he told me, with a smile on his face, it was because Blue Star won the toss. He knew this would puzzle me so he went on to explain what happened. Apparently at a Wearside League meeting, prior to the semi finals being played, the League Secretary was so convinced of which teams would go through to the final that he took the liberty of arranging for the Blue Star and Whickham Secretaries to spin up to see which of them would have home advantage in the final. Obviously Blue Star won the toss. As Blue Star lost 2-1 to us and Whickham lost to Eppleton we got the home tie. I know they were the two top teams in the league but it was very disrespectful of the League Secretary to have such a low opinion of our clubs. What a plonker. But Freddie and I still had a good laugh about it.

Eppleton C.W.