In the process of browsing the various media outlets for news on Newcastle United, I stumbled upon a very interesting story involving one of our former players Olivier Bernard. Bernard had 2 spells at Newcastle United and with nearly 150 appearances under his belt for the Toon wor Olivier is yet another former player who counts himself as a Newcastle United fan.
Bernard’s career outside of football has seen him regularly appear as a pundit for various television channels covering Premier League football, as well as being an ambassador for the Kick It Out campaign that aims to stamp out racism in football.
However, Bernard’s love affair with the north-east of England is set to continue with the news that he is the new owner/chairman of Durham City FC.
Durham is one of only 4 counties in England without a league club, but if Olivier is to be believed, he has very immediate plans to address this. This is what he had to say,
For the level the club is playing at, this is a fantastic stadium,” he said. “In five to seven years I want Durham to be in the Conference Premier.”
“I want to make Durham one of the best feeder clubs in this region,” he explained.
“At the moment, I don’t think the area develops enough players. I want the three big teams to see this as a place to send their youngsters.
“I’ll do everything I can to get around, bring players to Durham, and help develop them in an environment they’ll enjoy – that is the key.”
“Then a few months ago, I got introduced to people at Durham City and the idea was put to me about potentially buying it.
“I saw the facilities and looked at the size of the catchment area. This is a big place, not a little town. Durham should have a much bigger football club.”
“I had a wonderful career at Newcastle and when I retired I could have gone back to France and I didn’t want to,” he said.
“The people up here are so warm, a lot more than in Paris. People have so much time for you – I see this as a way to give back to that community that has treated me so well.
“Primarily, I want to raise the profile of Durham City to make it a successful grass-roots development project. And I will do it, I know I will.”
With Bernard’s high-profile, and strong links to Newcastle United, he should have no trouble seeing talented youngsters, being sent out to Durham on loan, and it will be interesting to see if Bernard can fulfil his vision of bringing Durham through the ranks of non-league football.
The development of grass-roots football within the North East is something that Newcastle United fans should actively take an interest in and I for one look forward to seeing how Olivier gets on with his new project and wish him all the best.