Being a ball boy at South Shields stadium

The South Shields Greyhound and Football Stadium, in the town's Horsley Hill Road.
The South Shields Greyhound and Football Stadium, in the town's Horsley Hill Road.

You will remember a little while ago the debate relating to a mystery picture, showing a sports ground, which turned out to be South Shields Greyhound and Football Stadium, in the town’s Horsley Hill Road.

Well Les Crompton has been in touch with his recollections of his time there, when he was a ball boy during the first season following the Second World War.

“Your previous correspondents, Mr George Elstob and Reevel Alderson, are most correct in the identity of the stadium and club.

“I was the original or first ‘ball-boy’ with the football club at the stadium, the first season after WWII when the club started up again.

“I was 10 years of age, although a great long time ago, I still have many happy memories, and remember the stadium and teams quite well.

“Your photograph was most certainly taken from the ‘Tote’ board end of the ground,now the Jack Clark park and houses. Also shown on the left, is the south stand, which houses the Greyhound Club.

“In the background is the concrete open terrace, backing onto Westcott Avenue. The turnstiles were in Horsley Hill Road, leading into the south stand. Also a door in the south east corner (now houses) was an entrance for official and players.

“Inside was the office of Mr and Mrs Frazer the stadium managers. Past the office the path led under the ‘Tote’ board, to the east end of the north stand, around the greyhound kennels to the football changing rooms and board room –. all wood built structures, while a gated entrance in the back of Coleridge Avenue was also used, but not open to the public.

“The football club moved to Simonside Hall in the early fifties, later the stadium was the venue for two or three military tattoos. The temporary ‘Castle’ was made and erected by Middle Docks, South Shields, at the ‘Tote’ end of the ground. The stadium was later used as an indoor bowling centre.”

Mr Crompton now turns his attention to the football club itself, revealing that before the first season after the war started, he had to meet Mr George Batey, the full time trainer, who lived in Cauldwell Avenue, regarding his duties as a ball boy.

“He explained all the jobs to be carried out by the ball-boys.

“I was joined by Tom Hudson, Ken Gates, my brother Edmund and George Peacock, who later played cricket for South Shields. The jobs to be done by the boys, included, on match days, being stationed behind both goals, to return the ball to either the goalkeeper for goal kicks or corner flags for opposing team corners.

“We had to clean the players’ boots after games and roll up ankle bandages. Also we had to fill an outside hot water boiler, carry the boiling water and fill baths for both home and away teams. We also had to do that on Tuesday and Thursday training nights for the Shields team, as well as sweep the changing room floors and clean the bench seating.

“South Shields played in the North Eastern League, alongside Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Darlington and Hartlepool reserve sides, a good quality league.

“Mr Charlie Thomas was manager and Mr Bob Bainbridge, secretary.

“In that first season prominent players were: – Jim Stewart, Billy Mountain, Walter Pascoe and Richard Dix, who later played for Bradford Park Avenue.

“By the time the season finished, the ‘boys’ had explored the stadium and grounds which were by now very familiar. Also we got to know the players, sometimes having a kick about with them on training nights. I recall Dicky Robinson, the Middlesbrough and FA League full back, in his maroon tracksuit with England badge, training on some nights.”

Mr Crompton brings us more football memories of Horsley Hill stadium and the footballers who played there on Thursday.