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North Shields finding latest step-up a whole new ball game.

Byline: By Paul Dixon

This week I travelled to Arngrove Northern League Second Division side North Shields to speak to manager Wilf Keilty and player-coach Paul Hogg

North Shields are steeped in history within North East non-league football after their fantastic Amateur Cup victory in 1968.

However, in their second spell in the Northern League, the Robins are finding it more difficult than they first envisaged after their promotion from the Wearside League in 2004.

Manager Wilf Keilty said: "We were promoted from the Wearside League three seasons ago and were delighted to be back among the big clubs in the Northern League.

"Yet we have never shown our true potential since. We have stood still and have not progressed the way I would have liked us to."

Over the past few seasons, teams who have entered the Northern League have soon progressed into the first division and have enjoyed cup and league successes along the way.

Keilty added: "Since we entered the Northern League, Sunderland Nissan, West Allotment and Newcastle Benfield have all progressed into the first division and have all enjoyed good cup runs to raise important finances for their club.

"We entered the league at the same time as these clubs yet have not had much to shout about."

Keilty and his assistant Paul Ross have been at the club for 12 years and have been extremely loyal to North Shields.

Player-coach Paul Hogg, who possesses his UEFA B coaching badge, adopts a very professional approach to the team's training sessions and he, along with Keilty and Ross, is enjoying looking after team affairs.

The management trio have adapted a different approach to this season, allowing a lot of the older players to move on in the summer and concentrating on bringing young, enthusiastic players to the club.

Hogg said: "We sat down in the summer and decided to let a few older players move on.

"We have brought in exciting young players to the squad, yet we have had no luck with injuries to some of those players and we have never had a settled side.

"Young players such as Colin McKenzie, Roy Gordon and goalkeeper David Lanning have all had spells on the sidelines and we have struggled without them.

"Another key player who has missed most of the season is striker Gary Forbes with a knee injury."

One major financial drawback which has stalled the progress of North Shields in recent years is the fact the club does not yet have its own clubhouse.

Keilty said: "The committee and the management team work extremely hard to achieve success for the club but we struggle to create extra revenue by not having a clubhouse.

"We really need a Roman Abramovich to sail in on the North Shields ferry and build us one!

"We can only dream that one day it will happen ( but by hook or by crook we have to muster the cash to build one."

North Shields are one of the few teams in the Northern League not to posses a clubhouse and Keilty is especially envious of neighbours Whitley Bay.

He added: "We have a friendly against Whitley Bay every pre-season and I admire the work their manager Ian Chandler and their committee have done.

"The ground and the clubhouse at Hillheads is first-class and I would love to take my North Shields team to play them in a competitive fixture in the first division."

Life at Ralph Gardner Park, home of North Shields FC, might seem tough at the moment.

However, in Keilty they have a terrific worker and a dedicated manager who one day hopes to take Shields back to the top of the non-league football pile.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2007
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