A RURAL football club set up more than 100 years ago may be forced to fold if new players do not come forward.

Wearhead United in Upper Weardale has struggled to field a side in recent years, with team members recruited from as far afield as Allendale and Bardon Mill in Northumberland to make up the numbers. With the season now over, the committee fear the problem will only get worse and, at the club’s annual general meeting this month, they will consider the option of folding.

However, they are unwilling to give up and have issued a fresh and urgent appeal for new footballers.

Former player and club treasurer Cliff Dalton said: “This year has proved more challenging than others and has led to the club considering its future. In order to continue, we desperately need players who can turn out on a regular basis during the football season and would be pleased to hear from anyone who thinks they can help.

“If the club were to fold this would be another nail in the coffin for services and leisure activities based in Weardale. The Dale has lost so much over recent years and very little help seems to be forth coming from authorities and government to attract young people and families to relocate into the Dale.

“The Dale is a shadow of its former self with services and amenities disappearing on a regular basis and relatively full employment a thing of the past.

“The committee are determined to explore every avenue to keep the club going and provide sport on a Saturday afternoon. This can only continue if we have support from young people who are prepared to do their bit and turn out for the club regularly.”

Wearhead United plays in the Crook and District League Division 2, one of the few Saturday afternoon leagues left in County Durham. It was set up in 1907 and has turned out a team and played in a recognised league ever since, except in the war years, although they still played friendlies at this time.

It trains on the village’s recreation ground, where in the early 1990s a sports pavilion was build following a fundraising campaign.

Weardale county councillor John Shuttleworth said: “This is the only football team left in Upper Weardale and I really believe it would be a crying shame if it had to fold after more than 100 years. It would be the loss of yet another opportunity for people in this area and I really hope players will come forward to keep it going.”

Anyone who is interested in playing should contact Dan Blackett on 07894-643917 after 6 pm or Mr Dalton on 01388-537311.