Pegasus progresses apace, as well a flying horse might, leading eventually to a century-old scam which suggests that there really is nothing new under the sun.
More of that story – and more, too, of the fast-growing revolt against the FA’s decision to nullify season 2019-20, and with it promotion and relegation – a little later.
As Ralph Ord points out from Down Under, it’s not a fortnight since we were wondering aloud how the blog might be filled in the absence of football. If this one doesn’t help put in a blank Saturday, then nothing will.
It was Monday when we’d first mentioned Pegasus, the winged steed of Greek mythology, in paying triubte to legendary Bishop Auckland defender Dave Marshall. The football team of that name, formed just three years earlier by students at Oxford and Cambridge universities, had beaten Bishops in the 1951 Amateur Cup final – the first of Dave’s five.
They’d been formed by Harold Thompson, an Oxford chemistry professor who taught Margaret Thatcher, became FA chairman, was knighted and is credited – though that may not be the word – with getting rid of Sir Alf Ramsey as England manager
There’s an old journalistic adage that you can’t libel a dead man. Sir Harold’s Wikipedia entry suggests that it’s probably just as well.
Maybe he also had friends in high places in the 1950s. By 1954, the England amateur international side contained seven Pegasus players – but maye that was simply because there was no one any good in the North-East….
Among the seven was Donald Carr, mentioned on Monday, who played cricket for England and became chairman of the TCCB. It was by no means the only cricket connection.
As Maurice Galley points out, Pegasus’s first captain was Doug Insole, an England batsman who became president of MCC and chairman of selectors and who, Maurice notes, was the man who announced the England team to tour South Africa in the late 1960s.
The striking omission was Basil d’Oliveira, a top class all-rounder in fine form. Just like Northern League footballers, he obviously wasn’t good enough.
By 1956, Insole was in the Corinthian Casuals side which lost 4-1 to Bishops in an Amateur Cup final replay at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough – as was Gerry Alexander, later that year to become the last white man to captain the West Indies cricket team.
An absentee, however, was Mickey Stewart, another England cricketer who became chairman of selectors. As Don Clarke recalls, the Casuals flew Stewart home from a West Indies tour in order to make the replay but he arrived 20 minutes too late. Bishops won 4-1.
*Talk of Pegasus sent John Briggs digging out his Bell Boy bubble gum sticker collection from the 1950s. Alongside the flying horsemen among the 71 featured teams were Bishop Auckland, Crook Town, Billingham Synners and Willington – said to be known as The Temps.
John hadn’t heard that one. Willington were formed in 1906, based at the town’s Temperance Club – which these days may no longer exist – and were known as The Temps until moving to the present Hall Lane ground in 1911.
Richard Hayes, another blog reader, recalled that his former school – A J Dawson Grammar in Wingate, east Durham – also had Pegasus on its crest, pictured above, though I can neither discover who A J Fawson was or why the school should adopt the old warhorse. Any offers?
At any rate, I half-recalled that some famous footballer or other was an A J Dawson boy and asked the admirable John Briggs if he might do a bit of scouting. John couldn’t find anyone who precisely fitted the bill – more offers? – but did turn up Walter Ronald Sewell, a goalkeeper born in Middlesbrough in 1890, who played in the North Eastern League forWingate Albion before signing for Gainsborough Trinity and then Burnley and Blackburn.
In 1924, aged 33 years and 228 days, he made his first and only England appearance in the 2-1 defeat to Wales, but is by no means the oldest debutant.
No fewer than 81 first cap winners for England have been aged 30 or over, the oldest the Crystal Palace goalie Alec Merten – so long ago however, that he’s simply said to have been 41 or 42.
The ninth oldest debutant remains Dickie Downs, a Shildon lad but then a Barnsley player, 34 years and 71 days when he won his only cap in October 1920. His greatest claim to fame, however, may be that I was his milk lad – or was, at least, to his widow in Albert Street. Pint of TT and a two bob tip at Christmas.
*Anyway, the scam. Sewell also ran pubs in Lincoln but was away playing football in Nottingham when his wife received a telegram. “Money stolen. Telegraph £3 GPO Nottingham. Ronnie.”
His missus, described in the local paper as a cutie, would have none of it. “Perhaps the swindler thought he had a chance as I was a goalkeeper,” said Sewell, self-effacingly. “He reckoned without Mrs Sewell, who once worked for a Scotsman at a Yorkshire health resort.”
Best of all, he said, the unrequited telegram had cost the rogue who sent it one shilling and eightpence, and for absolutely no return.
*Ah yes, the promotion/relegation furore. Opposition to the FA decision is being co-ordinated up here by South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson, who has already sought counsel’s advice and who has a reputation for not losing many.
Shildon, hoping to move up from the Ebac Northern League top division, call the decision “out of step, inconsistent and inequitable” and demand a points-per-game resolution. “We would lose officials, supporters, sponsors, management and players if promotion were taken away from us,” they say.
West Allotment Celtic, favourites for the ENL second division title, are every bit as outraged at an “incredibly out of tune, crass and unfair” decision. It is, they add, “most horribly wrong.”
Others said to have opposed the FA decision include the Combined Counties League – whose champions elect, Jersey, have won 27 out of 27, despite huge match costs – and the North West Counties League, across the Pennines from here.
An NWCL statement talks of disappointment, lack of clarity, more questions than answers and the feeling that it was all a fait accompli – you know, a done deal – before ever the FA meet leagues at that level on Tuesday.
“The future stability of steps 5 and 6 leagues is in severe doubt,” the NWCL adds, but in truth it’s been in severe doubt since – cussed, calamitous and cack-handed – the FA started building from the top two decades ago. The talk was of the governing body being more hands-on and, hands on, the strangler’s work may soon be at an end.
*Oh all right, then, Alan Hamilton addresses the current pandemic by advising that an email from the Department of Health not to eat tinned pork should be ignored. It’s spam.