Stephen Rutherford was born between St James’ Park and the Stadium of Light but there has always been one club closest to his heart - Hebburn Town.

The 43-year-old has seen every aspect of the club evolve since he played for the first team in his late teens and is now chief executive.

Over the course of more than 18 years as a volunteer, Rutherford has helped bring the community together, particularly through the growth and outreach of its junior section.

“I’ve done everything that you can do in terms of coaching, being part of the executive team and driving a community ethos and feel around the club,” he said.

“It’s really important that we bring people together.

“It’s like a full-time job on top of a full-time job, what you can't do in a day, you do on an evening. My wife says that she’s a football widow.

“My three children have grown up through the cycle, joining the club as three-year-olds and going through to being 18-years-old.

“That’s what enticed me in initially, being part of what my kids were part of.”

Rutherford is one of countless volunteers who play integral roles at non-league clubs across the country, with opportunities to get involved now available through the Pitching In Volunteer Hub. 

Hebburn boast more than 200 volunteer coaches within its junior section and the thriving youth set-up is matched by ever-improving first-team exploits.

The club’s anthem, ‘Hebburn is a Place on Earth’ to the tune of Belinda Carlisle’s classic, is a fitting tribute to a side who lifted the FA Vase at Wembley in 2021 for the first time in the club’s history, while this season they are challenging for promotion in the Pitching In Northern Premier League Division 1 East.

“There’s a good buzz around the club with the first team doing quite well,” Rutherford added. “This year, we’ve also introduced a women’s team for the first time. 

“It’s generated a level of excitement because we’re quite an ambitious club, we get mascots coming down to the senior team so it is a good club environment to be in.

“It’s about the community feel in terms of bringing people together and although we are slap bang in the middle of Sunderland and Newcastle, we see a good mix of those fans coming down to support their local grassroots club.

“The Belinda Carlisle song has stuck with us for a number of years now and we play that as our walkout music. It’s quite renowned locally.”

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