Three seasons ago Birtley Town were relegated out of the Ebac Northern League.

Now they’re back after a surprise and unexpected promotion from the Northern Alliance.  But those years out of the league gave the club a focus to get back into the Northern League and they’ve spent the last couple of years planning that return.

Although they finished behind Newcastle University, the Football Association awarded Birtley promotion, and club secretary Colin Beat said that unexpected promotion meant that they are a year ahead of schedule.

“We had a two-year plan to come back into the league.

“When we were relegated we were told that we would have been relegated anyway because of the ground.”

The club has spent £30,000 on improving facilities at the ground, including getting the clubhouse back into use, work on the toilets, floodlights and around the pitch.  Gateshead Council contributed towards the cost of the work and the club is much more part of the local community, including getting the juniors back on board.

The club wants to make steady progress over the next couple of years.  Colin added:  “We want to consolidate ourselves in the division and not go too fast.

“We have a fantastic committee and volunteers as well as a new commercial manager who is steadily building sponsorship.”

Manager Paul Beat hasn’t set the team any targets for the season, but is happy with the way preparations have gone so far.  Those preparations had to be brought forward when they were selected.

“We had to cast the net wider in terms of players and we’ve got a good mix of young players and those with experience in this league.”

He scouted today’s opponent Heaton Stannington at a recent game but is mainly concentrating on his own team.

He went to half a dozen Northern League games last season but squad changes has meant that they’ll mostly be facing new team line-ups.

“I’m quietly confident. I think we will do well.  I’ve not set one target – it’s just game by game.”

Vice captain Nick Hay said: “Everyone’s very excited.  Initially we weren’t going to get promoted because of the issues around Newcastle University.

“It took us a bit by surprise, but we’re all raring to go.  It’s a big step up in this league – people are more committed and it’s a huge test.”

Today’s game is at The Stan.  Their first home game is on Tuesday when they play Tow Law Town.

Their Robinson Heating & Plumbing Stadium is at the Birtley Sports Complex, Durham Road, DH3 2TB

Their website is at: