IT WAS bound to come to an end some day.
The North-East has had quite a stranglehold on the FA Vase. Our trips to Wembley have, since 2008, been an annual affair.
And it has been suggested that, perhaps scurrilously, clubs have eschewed promotion from the Northern League in order to be able to compete in the Vase and enjoy a trip to Wembley, undoubtedly the greatest football stadium in the country.
The Northern League has dominated the Vase in recent years, and while that may seem boring to those who do not have the benefit of dwelling in the North-East, it provides townships and communities with a fine trip to a fine stadium.
But Sholing spoiled the Northern League’s party on Saturday. As Marvin McLean’s shot took the cruellest of deflections off Lewis Galpin and looped over West goalkeeper Jordan Nixon; and then when Galpin sought to make amends by hitting the crossbar in the dying seconds, it felt like the end of an era.
Maybe it is the time for someone else to have all the fun. Maybe this will spell six years of South Coast domination. Maybe the decision for Spennymoor to take promotion from the Northern League may weaken the setup and herald a fallow period for one of the world’s oldest football structures.
The Northern League is stronger than many of its same level, as clubs prefer the relatively short distances between the clubs, the vibrant sense of community and the relative safety of familiarity.
Only Moors, then Darlington and before that Durham City have opted to take promotion after taking the league title, and the path up the pyramid is notoriously fraught with issues.
Ask Darlington. They found the Evo-Stik Division One North more difficult than expected, the sheer amount of travelling to the North-West powerbase of the division took its toll as the season went on and they fell short in the end.
Durham City got furthest, making the Evo-Stik Premier before flying too close to the sun when the ironically-named Helios Group removed its funding from the club and back to the Northern League they came.
Not taking promotion could well be the better option for Northern League clubs. There is something admirable about a club foregoing promotion, not chasing the money, and preferring a truly competitive league. The stakes are lower, the risk is lower, but the quality is there, and the finances are sustainable.
And, at the end of the season, a trip to Wembley awaits, if you play your cards right.
I wouldn’t bet against a Northern League side bringing the Vase back home next year. And, Peter Dixon will want that team to be West Auckland Town and make it third time lucky.