Ryton & Crawcrook Albion Football Club (“RACA FC”) are a non-league football club based in Crawcrook (near Ryton) in Gateshead in the North East of England, currently playing in the Northern Football League Second Division – level 10 in the English football pyramid.
Shortly after the start of the 1970-71 football season John Oliver, the club’s first secretary, and Les Robson were approached to see if a club could be formed quickly to take over the fixtures of Prudhoe and West Wylam Co-op who had just resigned from the Northern Combination League. After securing a loan from Ryton Social Club of 12 pounds 10 shillings Oliver and Robson approached local councilor Leo Murray and got permission to play football at Stargate.
Ryton FC played their first Northern Combination League game, a 3-3 draw, against works team Parsons Athletic on Saturday 17th October 1970.
The mid-1980’s saw the club transfer to Clara Vale for home games and during this period Ryton won the Prudhoe Hospital Cup twice, the Northern Combination League Cup as well as the Durham County FA Trophy.
Following the amalgamation, in 1988, of the Northern Alliance, the Northern Combination and the Northern Amateur League’s into three divisions, Ryton were allocated a position in the First Division of the newly structured Northern Football Alliance league.
Ryton won the Division One title in 1997, thus securing promotion to the Premier Division where the club remained until gaining promotion to the Northern Football League at the end of the 2004–05 season.
The football club is recognised as having achieved chartered status and offers the chance for a child to be coached in football skills from the age of 6 years of age, through all age groups, up to senior level.
The 2005-06 season marked Ryton’s first campaign in the Northern Football League finishing a respectable 11th place in Division Two, followed by a 12th place finish in 2006-07 then a commendable 3rd place in 2007-08 which gained Ryton promotion to Division 1 for the 2008-09 season where the club finished a very creditable 10th place.
That was where the upward progress ended as the following season Ryton finished 17th, then came the infamous 2010-11 season which saw the club finish rock bottom with just 8 points, receiving a whole host of league and cup drubbings on the way including the 10-0 and 7-0 losses to Shildon in the league and losing 8-0 at home to South Shields in the FA Vase.
Coupled with the fact that Kingsley Park was based in Crawcrook, and wishing to involve the local community further, the club sought, and was subsequently granted permission by the Durham County FA, to change the name to Ryton and Crawcrook Albion Football Club at the commencement of the 2011-12 campaign in which RACA finished 18th in the first season back in the second division.
The 2012-13 season saw a slight improvement in fortunes with a 14th placed finish. Then a new, very young outfit in 2013-14 under the guidance of manager John Wilson and his team, also then new to the club, faced a tough campaign with survival the target which was famously secured on the last day of the season. With the squad older and wiser and stability achieved, there was an upward progression with a mid-table finish in 2014-15.
The 2015-16 campaign started under the stewardship of Wilson’s former assistant Paul Dobie with Sunderland academy coach Jordan Moore as coach for RACA. However, despite a decent start Dobie resigned in October and was swiftly replaced by former Ryton player Craig Robson with Carl Piecha, another ex player as his assistant, with Moore remaining as coach. The campaign ultimately proved slightly disappointing with RACA losing every cup game and finishing only 16th in the table.
The 2016-17 season proved to be even worse and Robson stood down, Moore moving up to manager before Peter Bryson took over in January 2017 with Moore reverting back to a coaching role. However, “Brysa” resigned just two months into the job and so Albion quickly acquired the services of Monkseaton boss Anthony Fawcett who steered the club away from relegation. Moore moved to Whickham so Fawcett and new assistant Simon Moody transformed the squad in 2017-18 with a host of players from Monkseaton and north Tyneside signing on.
A steady season followed culminating in an appearance in the Ernest Armstrong Cup final, Fawcett’s men losing 2-0 to Chester-Le-Street Town in Consett. The 2018-19 season saw more improvement with the club just missing out on a top-half finish.
A strong first half to 2019-20 saw RACA amongst the top four promotion-chasers and in the EA Cup semi-final but the campiagn was halted in March 2020 due to a global health pandemic, the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19). A month later, the season was officially ended and all results controversially “expunged” by the Football Association.
And Fawcett’s 3-year reign ended as he decided to take up the vacant post at Whitley Bay during the close season so Mark Bullock, already part of the coaching staff, stepped up to replace him to begin a new era.
Thanks to a Football Foundation grant and years of fundraising by the club’s committee members and volunteers, the clubs third-generation (3G) all-weather pitch was completely rebuilt over the summer. Not only used by club members, the facility is also open to the local community where it is often used by nearby schools and youth organisations.
After a difficult start to a delayed 2020-21 campaign – disrupted by further Covid-19 restrictions – the club parted company with Bullock after 15 games in charge.
In January 2021, former club captain and defender Daniel Iredale was appointed manager after a hugely successful 3-year stint as Cullercoats head coach. He brought with him assistant manager Michael Laws, first team coach James Barker, goalkeeper coach Lewis Carr and fitness coach Tiago Dores.
But the season itself, initially suspended in November 2020 to control the ongoing health emergency, was curtailed by the FA in February 2021 for the second successive year.
Iredale had to wait over six months for his first competitive game in charge – a dramatic 2-1 comeback win over Heaton Stannington at Kingsley Park to kick off the 2021-22 Northern League campaign. His first season in charge saw Albion finish sixth in the league but lift the Ernest Armstrong Cup, beating Newcastle University 3-0 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the final in Birtley.
The cup final turned out to be the last match for captain Callum Turnbull – one of the club’s longest-serving Northern League players after 11 years, 327 appearances and 55 goals.