An introduction to 'The Synners'
Billingham Synthonia F.C. is a football club based in Billingham, England and are currently members of the Ebac Northern League. Established in 1923-24, they first contested the South Bank and District League, before joining the Teesside League, winning the Teesside League in 1936-37 and the Teesside League Cup on two occasions, 1934-35 and 1938-39. After the Second World War, Synthonia re-joined the Teesside League for a last term in 1944-45. The Synners joined the Northern League in 1945-46 and have remained members of the league to the present day.
The name 'Synthonia' often throws up the question of what it means and its origins. It comes from a contraction of an agricultural product manufactured by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries); 'Synthetic Ammonia' (a fertiliser). ICI was a company which was the principal employer in Billingham for many years and encouraged its employees to partake in a number of different sports. The Synners were connected to ICI until the early 1990's when ICI sold off its Billingham operations.
The clubs first ground was on the south side of Belasis Lane, part of ICI's original sporting complex. They then moved across the road to their new Belasis Lane ground for the start of the Northern League campaign in 1945. The original ground was built on as ICI expanded its War Time production. A notable first in football occurred on this ground on 10th November 1952, when Billingham Synthonia took on an RAF Team in the first 'Floodlit' game in the North of England and the first Amateur team to play under lights. Before a crowd of 3,000, Synthonia won 8-4. Synthonia had been using the lights for six years to train under. Synners left the Belasis Lane ground to make way for a new ICI office block in 1958, moving to the impressive Central Avenue Stadium (across the road again) with a 2,000 capacity Cantilever Stand (the longest in the Country at the time) and a running track around the perimeter. The stadium was opened on September 6th by Lord Derby. The first game was against Bishop Auckland ending 2-2 (scorers for Billingham: Lockey and Taylor) with an attendance of 4,200, the club's highest. The same year the stadium was also used for an England 'B' international athletics meeting. The Synners left Central Avenue at the end of the 2016-17 season and currently play their home games at the Norton Sports Complex on Station Road, Norton.
The most famous ex-Synner is Brian Clough, who appeared for the club 4 times scoring 3 goals in 1952-53 before he went on National Service. Others include Aidan Davison, a goalkeeper capped 3 times by Northern Ireland, who played for Synthonia during 1987-88, Bernie Slaven (21 appearances, 22 goals), ex-Middlesbrough and Republic of Ireland striker, who played for the club after his retirement from professional football, & ex-Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland winger Terry Cochrane also having a spell at the club. Another ex-Middlesbrough and Rep. of Ireland player, Curtis Fleming, played for Synthonia in 2006-07.
The Post-War Years
Synthonia played their first Northern League match on the 25th August 1945 with a 5-4 win away at Shildon. Scorers that day were G Hawes with a hat-trick, A Rhodes & H Wilson (Wilson is the 10th all-time Synners top goal-scorer with 114 goals).
After coming third in their inaugural Northern League season and Arthur 'Dusty' Rhodes scoring a club record eight goals in one match away at South Bank on Christmas Day 1945, Synners went on to become runners-up on three consecutive occasions; 1949-50, 1950-51, 1951-52. The 1950-51 season saw Billingham not concede a home league goal all season, keeper Harry Armstrong preserving the 'clean sheet season' in a 3-0 win over Bishop Auckland in the last game of the season. The record stands to this day.
A first trophy as Northern Leaguers saw them win the Northern League Challenge Cup in 1951-52, Captained by Irving Johnstone. A 'Biffer' Smith goal saw them draw 1-1 with Tow Law Town and in the replay Wally Buffham scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory. Buffham went on to score 106 goals for the Green & Whites. A first league title came in the 1956-57 season with an eight point gap over nearest rivals West Auckland. Bill McQuarrie (5th in the all-time goal-scorers with 138 goals) being top scorer with 39 goals in all competitions.
A second title eluded Synners for a number of years, but they boasted a handful of FA Cup runs which saw them face Football League opposition in the 1st Round proper on four occasions before the 60's; Crewe Alexandra away in 48-49 (0-5), Stockport County away in 49-50 (0-3), Scunthorpe away in 51-52 (0-5) and Carlisle United away in 56-57 (1-6). As well as Boston United away 57-58 (2-5).
The 60's and 70's
Synthonia continued to make an impact in the FA Cup, reaching the 4th Qualifying Round on three occasions in 66-67, 72-73 and 78-79. Northern League honours continued to elude, but although being Durham FA affiliated, they competed and fared well in the North Riding Senior Cup for a number of years; winners in 66-67, 71-72 and 78-79 as well as being runner-up in 69-70, 70-71 and 72-73.
This period also saw the introduction of the holders of the club's two main records; Tony Hetherington (64-79), is the club's top goal-scorer with 243 goals from 526 appearances including a club record 51 goals in 71-72. Andy Harbron (1977-96), made his debut in a 4-3 win at Shildon on November 19th 1977 and is the club's top appearance maker with 648, scoring 76 goals. Also into the Synners fold came goalkeeper Eric Chamberlain (68-86) who amassed 454 appearances and defender John Alderson (73-86) who featured 434 times as well as Peter Cook (76-87) who netted 156 goals, and is the 4th all-time top goal-scorer.
The 80's and 90's
After being runners-up in the Durham County Challenge Cup in 1981-82, the club enjoyed a purple patch with a host of League and Cup successes, despite being relegated to Division 2 in 85-86. Synthonia were promoted back to Division 1 at the first attempt in 86-87, winning the 2nd Division title and losing just one league game. The following 87-88 season saw League Cup success over Shildon with a 2-1 win in the Final; goals from Richie Allen (2nd highest Synners all-time goal-scorer with 195 goals) and Neil Granycome. FA Cup success also returned to the club as they reached the 1st Round proper for a sixth time and a 'home' tie against Halifax Town played at Hartlepool United's Victoria Ground. The Shaymen ran out 4-2 winners, but knew they'd been in a game. Synners' scorers that day were Allen and Martin Hewitt. The early 80's also saw the introduction of another 400+ appearance maker in David Parry (82-93, 417 appearances).
The 88-89 season saw the 1st Division title claimed for a second time with the firepower of striker Allen and Charlie Butler (3rd Synners all-time goal scorer with 183 goals); the start of a formidable partnership. A first Durham Challenge Cup success was also obtained with a 4-1 win over neighbours Billingham Town in the final, goals from Granycome, a Butler brace and David Shearer. A third Northern League title was secured in 89-90 and a third Northern League Cup was also claimed in a 5-2 win over Whitby Town in the Final. Further FA Cup progression also ensued with a 1st Round tie away at Lincoln City where Synners narrowly missed out with a 1-0 defeat at Sincil Bank.
This period also saw the emergence of three more 400+ Synthonia appearance makers with Barney Malone (1987-2008, 420 appearances), Glen Corkain (1989-2003, 443 appearances) & Sean O'Brien (1989-2002, 438 appearances) joining the Synners ranks.
More success in the Durham Challenge Cup followed in the 90-91 season with a 1-0 win over Eppleton CW at the Victoria Ground, Hartlepool; Tony Lynch the goal scorer. Synthonia were runners-up in the league again in 92-93. The following 93-94 season Andy Fletcher (joint 6th Synners all-time goal scorer with 125 goals) debuted as Synners reached the Quarter-Finals of the FA Trophy in a run which included victories over Conference sides Kettering Town & Macclesfield Town. Billingham exited after taking Woking to a replay with Butler scoring in the first tie away. The home game saw a 2-1 reverse, Allen the scorer. The 93-94 season also saw the introduction of Dave O'Gorman (1993-2004, 461 appearances).
Another Northern League runner-up came in 94-95. Tony Wood (9th Synners all-time goal scorer with 121 goals) debuted in the 95-96 season, the same season also saw the fourth of Synthonia's Northern League title's with a narrow 2 point gap ahead of Bedlington Terriers. A last game of the season 4-0 win over Dunston Federation gave Synners the points to be champions; goals coming from Paul Roberts, Mick Rowntree, O'Gorman and Fletcher. Two further runner-up spots in the league (96-97 & 97-98) came as the century came to a close.
The 2000's to Present
Lee Flanagan made his debut in 2001-02 and went on to score 124 times for the club (8th all-time scorer). The early part of the new millennium saw Billingham runner-up twice in the Durham Challenge Cup (2002-03 & 2005-06), runners-up in the League Cup (2002-03) and a runners-up spot in the Northern League (2004-05). This period also saw the latest player to join the 400+ appearance club; Michael Cater (2002-12) making 403 appearances. Also making his debut was James Magowan (2004-15), coming off the bench to score against Brandon United, who completes the top ten of all-time goal scorers coming in at joint 6th with 125 goals.
The FA Vase replaced the FA Trophy in the mid-nineties and the club's best FA Vase run came in the 2006-07 season when they reached the semi-finals only to lose out 5-4 on penalties against AFC Totton. The first leg away from home saw Synners gain a 2-1 advantage with goals from Shaun Hope and Colin Iley. In the return leg Totton won 2-1, before a crowd of over 2,300 at Central Avenue, David Wells scoring Billingham’s goal. Wells is another 100+ Synners goal-scorer with 109 goals.
More Durham Challenge Cup success followed with Synthonia winning the trophy in 2008-09, a 1-0 win over Northern Premier League side Durham City with a Magowan goal. The following 2009-10 season they retained the trophy in a 2-0 win over Ryton; Danny Earl & Danny Newby the goal-scorers.
Synners record win of 11-0 was recorded on November 8th, 2014 in a Durham Challenge Cup 1st Round game at Seaton Carew, scorers were Michael Sweet (4), Kris Hughes (2) Bryan Stewart (2), Nathan Porritt, David Abel & Jack Bradbury. Synthonia were relegated for only their second time in the 2014/15 season.
Synthonia were promoted back to Division One in 2016-17 and were also runner up in the Durham Challenge Cup for 5th time, losing 2-0 to South Shields in the final at Hartlepool's Victoria Park. At the end of the season 2016-17, Billingham relocated to play there home games at the Norton Sports Complex, Norton.
Northern League Division 1 Winners
1956-57, 1988-89, 1989-90, 1995-96.
Northern League Division 1 Runners-up
1949-50, 1950-51, 1951-52, 1992-93, 1994-95, 1996-97, 1997-98, 2004-05.
Northern League Division 2 Winners
Northern League Cup Winners
1951-52, 1987-88, 1989-90.
Northern League Cup Runners-up
Durham Challenge Cup Winners
1988-89, 1990-91, 2008-09, 2009-10.
Durham Challenge Cup Runners-up
1981-82, 1991-92, 2002-03, 2005-06, 2016-17.
JR Cleator Cup Runners-up
1988, 1989, 1990, 1996 2005.
North Riding Senior Cup Winners
1966-67, 1971-72, 1978-79.
North Riding Senior Cup Runners-up
1969-70, 1970-71, 1972-73.
North Riding Amateur Cup Winners
1938-39, 1956-57, 1962-63, 1963-64.
Vaux Floodlit League Winners
Vaux Floodlit League Runners-up
Teesside League Winners
Teesside League Cup Winners
Best FA Cup Run
1st Round Proper 1948-49, 1949-50, 1951-52, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1987-88, 1989-90.
Best FA Amateur Cup Run
4th Round 1948-49.
Best FA Trophy Run
Quarter Final 1993-94.
Best FA Vase Run
Went 1950-51 season without conceding a league goal at home.
|Synthonia in the Northern League|
|1945-46||Joined Northern League|
|1949-50||Northern League runner-up|
|1950-51||Northern League runner-up|
Went through whole season without conceding a League goal at home.
|1951-52||Northern League runner-up|
|1956-57||Northern League Champions|
|1985-86||Relegated to Division Two|
|1986-87||Northern League Division Two Champions (Promoted)|
|1988-89||Northern League Champions (2nd time)|
|1989-90||Northern League Champions (3rd time)|
|1992-93||Northern League runner-up|
|1994-95||Northern League runner-up|
|1995-96||Northern League Champions (4th time)|
|1996-97||Northern League runner-up|
|1997-98||Northern League runner-up|
|2004-05||Northern League runner-up|
|2014-15||Relegated to Division Two|
|2016-17||Promoted to Division One|