ONCE a Synner, always a Synner. It maybe obvious, but down one side of Billingham it's a saying that they're more than happy to claim as their own.

Billingham Synthonia are a club that get into the blood and, according to manager Stuart Coleby, once they're in there you just can't get them out.

So much so that Stuart is not only the manager, he happens to be the chairman as well.

A sucker for punishment some may say, but a megalomaniac he is not.

He was manager first and chairman second. He also played for the club when they won back-to-back Northern League titles in 1989 and 1990.

At present the dual role suits the Middlesbrough-born former Scarborough player who arrived at Central Avenue in 1985.

Back then he had just enjoyed a season with the Seasiders, before then Synners' boss Tony Lee persuaded him to cut short his stay.

Stuart said: "I had a season in the Conference with Scarborough, and Tony asked if I was interested in playing at Synners.

"I also had an offer from Billy Horner at Hartlepool, but I'd played under Tony at Whitby and decided to join him at Synners.

"In my first season we were promoted from the second division."

A year later they won the league cup, and in his third and fourth seasons Synners won the title twice, their first coinciding with the centenary of the Northern League.

Lee's success saw him join then Conference side Gateshead in 1990, but he did recommend Coleby be given the job at Central Avenue.

By the end of Coleby's first season in charge Synners were fourth in the first division and won the cup.

His most memorable season was 1993-94 when Synners got to the quarter-finals of the FA Vase - only to be beaten in a replay by the eventual winners Woking who included former Sunderland winger Clive Walker in their side.

"It was 2-2 down there and I remember a chance we had to win the game," added Coleby.

"It was like Gazza against Germany at Euro 96. Paul Roberts just couldn't get his foot to the ball."

The memory has greater poignancy for Coleby and the club because Paul later was a victim of leukaemia.

Paul died in 2000 aged 29, and he too had been bitten by the bug of Synners. Paul - known as Robbo - had a dying wish that his ashes were scattered at Central Avenue.

The memory of Paul lives on through newspaper articles and pictures around the function suite at Central Avenue.

The building is the newest part of Synners, and is testament to Coleby's plans for the club's future.

"Our aim is to be a self-financing decent sized club," said Coleby. "The function room is part of a ten-year programme, and we're currently four years into it.

"At the moment it does not contribute to the football club - but I felt it was important to put the club's future into bricks and mortar.

"Everyone involved at the club works on a voluntary basis. No one takes anything out of Billingham Synthonia "

When Coleby became chairman in 1998 he stood down as manager as he put his grand plan in place.

One of those on the committee that persuaded Stuart to take the chairman's job was Peter Lax - another to suffer from Synners syndrome.

Peter joined as a player in 1965 and never left - including a spell as secretary/manager.

"We really forced Stuart into it," said Peter.

"He told us he was going to take chances, which worried a few people, but he said he never wanted this club to go into the red.

"He was true to his word"

Peter, 67, is part of the fixture and fittings at Central Avenue along with Jackie Ashurst.

"I go home and away and sometimes pick up Jackie Ashurst on the way to games."

Jackie Ashurst is in fact 73-year-old Jackie Weatherall - who can boast more than half a century on the Synners' staff.

"Everyone calls him Jackie Ashurst - I don't know why and I don't really know if even he knows why," said Peter.

Peter and Jackie put up the nets at Central Avenue, get the tea-urns ready on matchday, and generally help keep Stuart happy in his dual role.

A year after he became chairman he was back in charge on the playing side, and has remained in the dual role since.

Last season was one of the worst on the pitch for Synners for a long while - they finished tenth - and this season they are currently in third spot with what Stuart sees as a young squad.

"We lacked a little bit of experience last year and it showed," he said. "We've added a few older heads this season and we're on the right track.

"Bedlington are in a league of their own - we cannot compete at the moment.

"But in football, it is widely considered that you reach your peak when you're between 28 and 30.

"Our current squad is aged around 23/24. We lack the experience needed at the top of the Northern League and we are working our way towards that."

Coleby hopes to give something back to the local community, and aims to add two junior pitches on a site next door to Central Avenue as part of his plans for the future of Billingham Synthonia.

It all appears to be looking very bright for the Synners of the future.