MANY will have seen on TV the people of Ashington paying their last respects to local hero Jack Charlton, who died a few weeks back.

Ashington of course has strong links with Cowdenbeath – both towns have a shared mining heritage and are football hotbeds.

Cowden were nicknamed ‘the Miners’ whilst Ashington’s nickname is ‘the Colliers’. Up here we have a statue of local hero Jim Baxter whereas in Ashington you can see the statue of ‘Wor Jackie’ – Jackie Milburn.

Cowdenbeath have also visited Ashington to play a friendly on no less than seven occasions. Ashington is in essence Cowdenbeath’s footballing

twin town!

Cowden historian David Allan this week looks into this Black Diamonds connection: "Our first visit was arranged by Cowden boss Bobby ‘Heid the ba’ Baxter in May 1952 – a post season friendly rather than pre-season!

"Bobby Baxter had spent 15 years in the North East playing for Middlesbrough. Cowdenbeath played in a YMCA charity match against an Ashington Select side at Portland Park.

"The Select was made up of local senior players – Jackie Milburn of Newcastle though couldn’t play (he had recently

led Newcastle United to FA Cup success) nor could Burnley star Jimmy Adamson.

"Cowden lost 2-0 after fielding a side that included 8 trialists — only Willie Gourlay, Jim Young and Tommy Moran were actually signed Cowden players. After the match there was a supper organised by the local Women’s Auxiliary with the Ashington FC Supporters’ Club Committee there in force.

"The very next day Cowden played at Spennymoor and young Johnny Knox was introduced to the Cowden team. Ex-Wembley Wizard Hughie Gallacher came along to kick the match off and the match was drawn 3-3.

"The link with Ashington was rekindled when Cowden played them for the second time and won 3-0 pre-season in 1987. This game was actually played at Newcastle United’s Benwell training ground.

"John Brownlie, who was ending his playing career at Ashington, then left to join Cowden as assistant to John Blackley in November 1987".

David added: "In the 21st Century Cowden became regular visitors to Ashington – prompted by Ashington native Mick Hydes who had moved to live and work in Cowdenbeath.

"Cowden made the trip south to Portland Park in pre-season 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. The Cowdenbeath Supporters Club ran buses to some of these matches and on one occasion the Cowden fans also played a match against the Ashington Supporters – with skipper Craig Winter's dad playing for Cowden.

"I can recall the Cowden fanzine reporting the story of Maria Marchetti (aged 7), from Ashington, who had become a Cowden fan – Mick Hydes was a family friend. Mick was one day phoned by Maria’s mum after an incident.

A"n older boy in the school playground teased Maria by pulling her scarf and saying that "Cowdenbeath were rubbish. A punch and a kick later, the boy was left lying on the ground with Maria screaming, “Cowdenbeath are NOT rubbish". Then enter a teacher, two sets of parents, and a social worker with a meeting in the Head’s office.

"Subsequently, a phone call from Ashington to Cowdenbeath helped to sort it all out. Maria came up the A1 on a visit to a Cowden match. She ran out the tunnel as Cowden’s mascot with her new pal Toorie Winter at Berwick.

"Cowden lost 1-0 on their visit in 2001 and drew 0-0 in the next encounter but won 4-2 in 2003 and then 4-0 in 2005.

"In 2006, a late goal salvaged Ashington a draw against the SFL Third Division champions".

Recalled he club historian: "Cowden had taken the lead on the half hour when Markus Paatelainen swept home a crisp right footed volley. Ashington manager Peter Johnson said after the match: ‘I’ve got to be honest and say that I didn't expect to get a result against a side who are a professional outfit and who train five times a week but we went up a gear and our confidence levels are high.’ I think Peter was rather exaggerating

the Cowden training regime!

"By that time the NE63 Supporters Club in Ashington had, in response to the council’s plans to sell the ground and leave the town without a football team, raised a petition to urge the council to reconsider.

"Eventually the Council got the Asda price but Ashington AFC was saved and relocated to a new ground in 2008 – Woodhorn Lane.

"Mick Hydes had left Cowdenbeath by then and was working in Paisley but every now and again we’d see him at Central Park reporting on the match for one of the Sunday papers.

"Mick of course had that distinctive Ashington accent – as illustrated by the wellworn tale of a non-local popping into a hairdressers in Ashington and asking for a perm. The barber replied, "Aw reet - I wandered lonely as a cloud...”

"A couple of years back Ashington were managed by another famous local boy – England fast bowler Steve Harmison. Steve had played for the Colliers as a youngster as did his father and brothers.

"Portland Park is though much missed. It was a big old school ground with distinct similarities to Central Park – it was pleasingly ramshackle in

parts. "In the 1920s Ashington were members of the English Football League – the most northerly ground to ever host matches in the Football League. "Just like Central Park, Portland Park hosted greyhounds, speedway and stock cars. Indeed in 1972, there was a crash in a stock car race which resulted in the stand at Portland Park catching fire and being razed to the ground.

"In 2018, the local paper reflected that it was 10 years since Ashington had moved

quarters. The ex-Chairman said, 'It’s nice this ground but it has nee heart. Portland Park had heart, I miss it every day.“ Portland Park’s problem was that it was falling to


"The new ground has a handsome new stand, social club and dressing room complex, said by The London Times to be, seat for seat, the second most expensive new football stand in the country, after Arsenal’s.

"Me though, I miss those visits to Portland Park and Ashington. Like Central Park it maybe wasn’t always that bonny but it had heart and soul, football and a history."