MIKE AMOS gives his verdict on the downfall of Spennymoor United FIRSTLY, it is a great sadness. Spennymoor United had for many years been a smashing club with smashing people, both on an off the field.

What would dedicated former officials like Barrie Hindmarch, his late wife Joyce or the late Stan Bradley have made of the awful, apparently irredeemable mess in which they now find themselves?

It's a sadness for all of us involved in helping to run NorthEast non-league football, for the town of Spennymoor and for the few who still kept the faith.

I was there only on Monday, last rites for the following day's Backtrack column. The atmosphere of decay was tangible, the facilities failing, the atmosphere - ironically - of resignation.

It was indeed the Better Days Stadium.

If the temptation is wholly to blame Benny Mottram, it should be resisted, however. Like George Reynolds, Mottram put his money where others only put their mouths.

As well as regrets and recriminations, Spennymoor's effective demise needs to set alarm bells clanging throughout non-league football.

Most importantly, they need to be loud enough and urgent enough to be heard in Soho Square, and the obituaries stark enough to frighten the hell out of folk.

For four years, at the FA's behest, the non-league game nationally has been involved in an expensive, elongated and extraordinarily frustrating "restructuring" exercise, nominally to make it more equitable and more exciting.

In the geographical comfort zones of middle England, it's relatively easy. At the extremities, like the North-East of England, it becomes altogether more difficult.

Broadly, the FA hopes to persuade successful Albany Northern League clubs to move from a competition which is almost entirely North-East based to a division - nominally higher in the Pyramid - which presently extends to Walsall, Wales and damn near into East Anglia.

Even under the latest proposals, the southern boundary of the UniBond first division - the nominal next step up - would run from Colwyn Bay, south of Liverpool to Lincoln and Skegness.

When ANL clubs were surveyed in the summer, only two expressed immediate interest in following that lemming line.

Around 15 others expressed possible interest were the geographical structure, or their financial position, to change.

Spennymoor's demise, and the repeated crises facing Bishop Auckland, Blyth Spartans and Gateshead - all, like Spennymoor, in the UniBond premier division - simply underlines the wisdom of their reluctance.

The bottom line is that clubs are being invited to commit themselves to huge increases in travel and almost certainly in personnel and ground development costs, simply to play at the same level at which, before the restructuring story so far, they played last season.

The present Spennymoor club seems effectively dead. How many more would shortly join them by leaping over the cliff edge, or by heeding the siren songs from Soho Square?

Because we are out on a limb doesn't mean that the limb cannot be muscular, strong and healthy - nor should it ever mean that the limb is severed from the rest of football, or from the game's governing body.

The Albany Northern League would be stronger still if Bishops, Blyth and Gateshead - maybe even a reborn Spenmymoor United - were able to compete together regionally, whilst always maintaining the promotion route for those anxious to pursue it.

Instead of the blind gospel of homogenisation, of trying to make symmetrical patterns at the expense of all else, the FA needs urgently to consider North-East non-league football as a special case.

If Spennymoor's demise convinces central authority of the folly of clubs with gates of 100 making round trips of 400 miles, if it awakens them to the present day realities of the North-East game at grassroots level, then the Moors won't have died in vain.

Published: 01/04/2005