From Northern League to Football League
Founded in 1889, the Northern League is the second oldest in world football after the Football League itself. Unlike most of the region’s other Victorian industries, its export products are still in high demand. Earlier this season, Newcastle Benfield striker John Campbell, once a junior with Manchester City, scored a hat-trick while on trial at Swindon Town, eventually signing an 18-month contract with Conference side Darlington. In 2007, defender Carl Magnay, a product of Birtley Town juniors and previously on the books of Leeds United, won Sky TV’s Football Icon and left Division Two side Washington to sign professional forms with Premier League Chelsea. Hartlepool forward Michael Mackay is another graduate of Birtley Town, while Blackpool’s Chris Basham, signed from Bolton Wanderers in the summer for £1.2 million, started off his playing career with Chester-le-Street Town. Here are three more players who could one day follow in some very illustrious footsteps:Here are three more players who could soon be following in some very illustrious footsteps:
Although he seems to have been around the Northern League forever, Whitley Bay’s Lee Kerr is surprisingly still only 23. A graduate of Bay’s academy, Kerr has scored 157 times for the North Tyneside club, including the opening goal in the 2009 FA Vase final. Following a trial with Newcastle United in 2007 – during which he played in a reserve team that included Albert Luque and goalkeeper Fraser Forster – Kerr was linked to Watford, Darlington and Norwich City. Spennymoor Town fans argue that Gavin Cogdon, scorer of 23 goals for Durham City when they won the Unibond North title in 2009, is an even better player, but Kerr’s age and Wembley experience counts significantly in his favour.
21-year-old winger Jonny Godsmark was released by Newcastle United in the summer and rejected contract offers from several league clubs before signing for his hometown club Ashington, birthplace of the Charlton brothers and Newcastle legend Jackie Milburn. What Godsmark lacks in physical presence he more than compensates for in sheer speed. Last season’s six-month loan spell at Hereford United almost certainly won’t be his last experience with a Football League club.
Lastly, Peter Jeffries joined Bob Paisley’s old club Bishop Auckland from Wearside League team Hartlepool Town in 2008. The 24 year old has now made in excess of a 100 appearances for the Two Blues and along with Spennymoor Town’s Craig Turns is widely acknowledged as the best goalkeeper of any in the Northern League.