June 19 2021: tech’s appeal

Technology enables, and for the second year running the virus compels. that today’s Ebac Northern League annual meeting is held remotely, by Zoom or some such.

I offer apologies. Nothing untoward appears to have happened, though those wishing to plan their season – and please note that there is no need to plan ahead, since it’s impossible to plan retrospectively- should note that the fixtures will be on the league website from 9am on Monday.

Technology also means, as we noted a couple of days ago, that Tow Law Town’s posh new LED floodlights can individually be controlled via a phone app – and it’s for technological reasons that I pitch up this afternoon at Cliffe Cricket Club.

Cliffe’s marginally on the Yorkshire side of the Co Durham border, a few miles west of Darlington. In 1642 a Civil War battle was fought there between Royalists, led by the Earl of Newcastle, and Roundheads. Newcastle, unusually, won.

Cliffe Hall, just about all there is of the place, has long been home to the Wilson famly – best remembered among them Sir Murrough Wilson (1875-1946), described in his obituary in The Times as “a great Yorkshireman”. Sir Murrough was soldier, MP for Richmond and a director of the LNER – the second of the famous A4 Pacifics, 60002, named in his memory.

It takes blog reader Richard Scruton, however, to point out that Sir Murrough Wilson wasn’t the locomotive’s original name. It began life as Potchard. A potchard, rather appropriately in this context, is a duck.

The ground’s delightful, approached over the Cliffe estate, renowned for its teas and, not least, Mrs Peacock’s jammy flapjacks. The virus, also means that communal teas are still not allowed – and that sanitizer breaks must be taken.

What they’ve not got is anywhere to boil the kettle, there being no electricity supply, so it’s a little surprising that today marks the debut of the flash electronic scoreboard, the first in the Darlington and District League.

It’s made possible, says club secretary and second team captain Richard Mallender, by a heavy duty “leisure battery” topped up by a solar panel and operated via an android tablet. Got that?

They also have new sightscreens, still pushed around – aren’t we all? – though electronic sightscreens are doubtless in use elsewhere.

It’s a pleasant afternoon, the only disappointment (save for the absence of Mrs Peacock’s jammy flapjacks) that the Kookaburra scorebook talks on every page of a “bowling summery”. One swallow doesn’t make a summery? What’s to be expected from those Aussies?

Cliffe’s second team are bottom of the second division. Richmond fifth team, today’s visitors, are greatly youthful. Their many virtues notwithstanding, it may not be said that Cliffe II very obviously represent a youth policy. They start the day bottom of the division but post 191-3 from their 40 overs, chiefly thanks to opener Ian Hanmer (58 not out), Lee Waters – a quickfire 40 not out – and the skipper’s hard hitting 26.

Richmond struggle in reply. At one point 49-7, they’re all out for 131 and probably with one or two potchards to their name. Before the end I’ve disappeared for a few early Fathers’ Day beers with the elder bairn. A Cliffe hanger it may not have been, a lovely afternoon it undoubtedly has.

June 18 2021: streets ahead?

Since yesterday’s blog talked of football obsessives, blog reader John Rogers kindly sends a link to the story of David Little, a 20-year-old maths student from Glasgow.

Summing all his ingenuity, Mr Little has taken selfies against a background of street name signs representing all 26 members of Scotland’s Euro 2020 squad.

“I do love doing pointless things,” he says, perhaps self-evidently.

David doesn’t have a car, which may explain the four-hour train journey to Stoke to find Adams Well. The bike ride to Falkirk may be considered going the extra mile as well. Many other journeys were made on foot, the set completed within nine days.

Scott (McTominay) Street amd John (McGinn) Street may be considered squad members only. For real adventure, he’d have found both a Scott Street and a John Sreet in Shildon.

For England supporters, the exercise would have been altogether more frustrating in the North-East, there being no sign of a Calvert-Lewin Crescent or, indeed, of a Sancho Street.

Memory at once suggests a Walker Drive on the Woodhouse Close estate in Bishop Auckland, Stones End in Evenwood and a couple of Shaw Brow Views, though what’s so prominent about Shaw’s brow is conversely unclear.

Further searching through well-thumbed map books reveals a Kane Gardens in Windy Nook, that being an area of Gateshead, at once suggesting that England’s star striker spent last night (and the match before) on gardening leave.

There’s a Sterling Street in Sunderland, White Cottages in Jarrow, both Phillips Terrace and Phillips Avenue in Middlesbrough – named after the former Boro and England team doctor, perhaps? – Mount Close in both Newcastle and Sunderland, sundry Bellingham Drives north of the Tyne, Henderson Roads in South Shields and Sunderland and a Johnston Place (which will have to suffice) in Hebburn.

The search isn’t exchaustuive. Perhaps there may yet be a Trippier Terrace or a Coady Court. After tonight’s wolly unimpressive performance, however, it may be best looking up a cul-de-sac.

June 17 2021: the Hops re-run

Claret and blue: Dave Burnley and unimpressed daughter

A photo book chronicling the Northern League ground hops of 1995 and 1996 – and much more about football obsessives – launches its promotional campaign on Monday.

Those Easter hops were the game’s first – “they’re the train spotters of British football,” said The Journal – the pix wonderfully evocative, not least a shot of folk beneath the better-days cover at Bedlington Terriers and another of the positively historic netty at Stanley United. The relevant text, written by me, may be less compelling.

There were grounds like Prudhoe, where some Simple Simian swung on the crossbar and snapped it in two, like Shotton Comrades where a parachutist landed spot in the middle of the centre circle with the match ball and dear old Stanley – home of the Little House on the Prairie – voted favourite venue over the five years of the Hops and the only one not then in the Northern League.

Really it’s a book of two halves. The first half embraces interviews with 25 hard baked football nuts – men like Newcastle United fan Harry Palmer, of whom I’d not heard, like Vinnie the Parrot (Celtic), Billy Bluebeat (Chelsea) Copeland Nutter (Rangers), Keith Benjamin Bull (Hereford United) and Dave Burnley, whose allegiance may without much difficulty be imagined.

He lives in Stoke, was born David Beeston but changed his name by deed poll, had his girl friend sign a 150-clause pre-nuptial agreement which included his getting married in the Burnley strip – goodness only knows what she was to wear – and calling any daughter Clarette Ann Balou.

The lady said she wasn’t having any daughter of hers named after a character in The Jungle Book.

Though they never married, the daughter duly arrived. Had the child been a little lad, he’d have been Ralphie – after Hetton-le-Hole born Burnley legend Ralph Coates. Mr Burnley and Clarette’s mum are no longer together.

The interviews are by Ivor Baddiel, whose younger brother is also quite well known, the foreword by former Sky Sports presenter Helen Chamberlain. It’s all the brainchild of Zak Waters, who hopes to have orders for 200 books by July 25 in order that the project can proceed. Published by Fistfullofbooks, it will cost £25, with £1 from each sale going to the Football Beyond Borders charity.

Zak’s at zakrwaters@gmail.com

*Still seeking to shift copies of his own book – Football Ray’s Way – familiar former Northern League player and manager Ray Gowan draws attention to a social media post by ex-referee Ronnie Bates: “I refereed Ray’s teams on a number of occasions and all you heard was this moaning Cockney voice coming from the dugout.” (Oh surely not: ed.) Having read the book, adds Ronnie, he realises what a saint Raymond really is. The book costs £12 plus postage: Ray’s at raygowan@hotmail.com

*Devil take the hindmost (part 3,587): Though many clubs at step 6 – Northern League second division level – have a long and cherished FA Cup history, the governing body today announced that from across the 17 step 6 divisions the 2021-22 competition will have room for just eight (yes, eight) clubs. It’s yet another impact of “restructuring”.

The eight leagues allowed a single participant will be drawn from a hat, or its corporate equivalent, the competing teams then decided on last season’s performance.

Some of the older clubs are proud and long-established full members of the FA – which begs the question , what exactly do they get for their annual £200 + VAT?

*Much later than usual, just four days before mid-summer, tonight marked my first cricket match of the season – East Cowton v Richmond Mavericks, Wensleydale Evening League second division. The Mavs, alas, have yet to trouble the scorers.

The Wensleydale Creamery Football League also had a game tonight, will have a full programme on the enxt two Saturdays and culminates in the Dales Cup final, Leyburn v Richmond Unicorn at Reeth on June 30 (6 30pm), a match which could draw the biggest dales crowd for years.

The 2021-22 season begins the fiollowing day.

*….and finally, Tow Law Town secretary Steve Moralee reports £27,000 in grants towards new floodlights at the Ironworks Road ground- bringing to around £350,000 the grant income since Steve took on the role in 2005.

It’s hoped that the new LED lights will be operational before the season begins, so smart that they can individually be switched on and off via a phone app.

Since yesterday’s blog touched upon anagrams, Steve also wonders if we knew that dyslexia was very much akin to daily sex. Probably not.

*

June 16 2021: served right

Nigel Brierley’s true-or-false quizzes have 20 questions. After 19, scores level, attention is directed to the opening doggerel of the television sitcom Are You Being Served?

“Haberdashery was on the first floor: true or false?”

Mr Brierley, it might in passing be added, is also a walking encyclopaedia of anagrams. Who else might have known that “synthetic cream” is an anagram of Manchester City, though what he makes of Luther Blissett is perhaps best left to the imagination.

Nigel’s a regular in a group of five or six of us who, for a decade or more now, have met up all over the country to watch Ebac Northern League teams in action in national cup competitions.

That the last semi-formal gathering was on October 12 2019, Longridge v Crook Town, is entirely due to the wretched virus. Today we reunite for a few beers, as the phrase goes, in the sun-blessed city of York.

Longridge is near Preston, itself approached from York on the Blackpool line. Since it was the middle of the Illuminations, Northern Rail had made do with a two-coach train, crowded like the Tower Ballroom on grab-a-granny night.

Like Crook, Longridge was then accessed by No 1 bus. The town was in the Sunday Times list of Britain’s best 100 places in which to live – Crook, inexplicably, wasn’t – which may or may not have explained the shop promoting Britain’s No 1 flea and tick powder.

It was also the time when I couldn’t walk more than a couple of hundred yards wthout needing a breather, though the stents a few weeks later seamlessly addressed that problem.

Longridge were top of the North West Counties League top division, Crook 14th in the Northern League second. That the hosts won 4-2 may partly have been because both of Crook’s goalies were unavailable, star striker Christian Holliday forced to back-pedal between the sticks.

Mr Holliday is known universally as Bisto, apparently because of the excellence of his gravy when an Army cook.

Anyway….today starts traditionally with a Wetherspoons breakfast, though it seems a bit unkind for the waitress to ask Mr Harvey Harris if he’s a large veggie. It’s followed by a little memory walk around York – I briefly worked there more than half a century ago – before we pile into the Blue Bell in Fossgate, the best of the city’s many fine pubs.

The Good Beer Guide notes that the interior is Grade II* listed, supposes the pub to be “small and characterful” and John Pybus, the landlord, to be charismatic. It may be doing the place no favours, however, by noting a “no groups” policy. Six of us colonise codgers’ corner and are warmly welcomed.

The teams are drawn, three against two. I’m paired with Mr Gary Brand, Spurs supporter, who asks of the true-or-false question “The Bismarck was sunk in 1941” if that was in the war.

It’s not auspicious.

The heliotrope plant has yellow flowers? (False, purple.) An elephant has a 14-month gestation period? (False, it’s 22, poor beggars.) Geoffrey Boycott appeared in an episode of Dad’s Army. (False, that was Frederick Sewards Trueman.)

So to the haberdashers’ hall. The other lot – Messrs Harris, Hamilton and Pearson – agonise for ages before deciding that they’re on the right level. Ever grounded, we’ve already concluded that it’s false – which proves, as it were, to be true.

Codgers’ corner erupts, or at least a third of it does. The landlord looks on patiently, urges that we haste back. Certainly we will, and next time there might even be some footy.

June 15 2021: Cornish mystery

Cornish culture: but where?

Many will at once recognise the image above as the work of the late, great Norman Cornish MBE, the pitman painter from Spennymoor.

What none – including Norman’s family – has so far been able to recognise is where on earth it is – and that, once again, is where Grass Routes readers are urged to help.

A few weeks ago, it may be recalled, we featured another Cornish mystery – a football ground sketch which none had been able to identify.

It took blog reader George Alberts, long in Thailand, to clock it as Redheugh Park in Gateshead – where, many years ago, George had kept goal for the Reserves.

This one has rather been hiding its street light under a bushel, as the Bible might almost have had it. It was discovered on the back of another painting during a Cornish exhibition at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle attended by more than 45,000 people.

Mike Thornton, Norman’s son-in-law, believes that he may simply have become dissatisfied with the emerging picture, turned it over and started on something else.

So where might it be? Almost certainly in the North-East, almost certainly not Spennymoor (or Shildon.) A sense of place would be wonderful.

*Noting in the blog that former Fifa referee and long-serving Ebac Northern League president George Courtney turned 80 on June 4, Mike Thornton also recalls a match, about 15 years ago, between Bishop Auckland schools and their contemporaries from the Liverpool area.

George was referee. “Have you reffed at this level before?” a visiting team official asked. Perhaps fortunately, George’s reacton is not recorded.

*Yesterday’s note on Fircombe Hall, somewhat surprising winner of the 15 05 at Carlisle – one from the Alf Hart stable, that – prompts Martin Birtle not only to recall Tsipura – an Australian winner in need of reflection – but another called Shy Talk, which may have run in the Apocryphals.

It was also the name, pretty much, with which we Shildon train spotters greeted the over-familiar appearance of A3 locomotive number 60078, known more formally as Night Hawk.

Similarly scatalogical, Martin was also much taken by the back page headline in yesterday’s Sun following Scotland’s defeat to Czechoslovakia. “Shick happens”, it said.

*Following last week’s note on the surprising number of English streets with “Amos” in their name – we still haven’t discovered the local hero after whom Amos Drive in Annfield Plain is named – Chester-le-Street FC committee man Lenny Lauchlan not only draws attention to the Amos Hotel in the Turkish resort of Marmaris but sends a link to its website. As might be imagined, the Amos is handsome indeed.

*….and finally, Penrith FC secretary Ian White admits to being confused by the Cumberland and Westmoreland Herald website after today’s news from Downing Street of Britain’s newest trade deal. It reports the local MP’s reaction to the agreement between the UK and Austria. Fair dinkum it’s not.

June 14 2021: storm in a pop bottle

Barred out: John Dawson (centre)

John Dawson, King of the Ground Hoppers, rings in high dudgeon (or as high a dudgeon as that most equanimous of gentlemen is ever likely to achieve.)

The retired postman from Hartlepool is a football nut, once watching 280 games in a season. Last Saturday he hoped to add to his 2020-21 total with a £7 50 ticket for three York Minster League matches – two finals and a representative match – at York City’s new home, officially the LNER Community Stadium, intended to raise money for a cancer charity and overseen by 40 (yes, forty) stewards.

“No 9 bus from the station and a Marks and Spencer’s nearby,” he reports. It was at Marks where he bought two bottles of lemonade – and minutes later the trouble began.

The woman on the gate insisted that he could only bring the lemonade in if he removed the bottle tops. Why? “In case you throw them on the pitch,” he was told.

“I considered asking about throwing the whole bottle on the pitch but thuoght better of it,” says John, who hid one bottle of pop behind a grit bin outside the ground and duly uncorked the other.

After the first match he decided to retrieve the second bottle but was warned by a steward that if he went outside he wouldn’t be allowed back in.

“Not even just to get my pop?”

“Not even….”

A-thirsted, as the Bible has it, he decided to nip out anyway – and was promptly refused re-admission. “The young lass on the gate said she’d heard the steward tell me I couldn’t come back in so that was that. I was back in Hartlepool not long after four o’clock. It was like a prisoner of war camp in there.”

John rang the league secretary who was sympathetic but said that it was out of their hands and that ground rental had been £1,500.

The King of the Ground Hoppers will be 80 in January. Football hooligans are clearly getting older – and jobsworths, alas, much younger.

*Only just appointed to the FA Council, as yesterday’s blog noted, Ashington FC secretary Gavin Perry’s days are already numbered. Far from the potential 40-year tenure which we’d envisaged for one so young, members can now only serve for nine years – three three-year terms – before compulsorily being retired.

“They call it good governance,” explains another FA source, perhaps wisely declining to say what he calls it.

Gav, meanwhile, has responded to the raised eyebrow at how he might suit blazer and tie. “I scrub up well,” he insists.

*….and finally, the blog a few weeks ago touched upon risque names for racehorses and the potential problems for commentators. A runner called Alf Hart had occasioned much ribaldry, for example, though that was in America.

It was as naught, straw in the wind, compared to the winner of this afternoon’s five past three at Carlisle. “Are standards sliping or has someone at Tattersall’s just been incredibly thick?” wonders our kidder, who kindly points out the solecism.

The five past three was won by Fircombe Hall.

June 13 2021: losing control

It’s the Ebac Northern League’s annual meeting this Saturday, necessarily one of those Zoom jobs. At least it avoids the debate over who’s getting the beers in.

Both Glenn Youngman, the chairman, and league secretary Kevin Hewitt are critical of the FA in their annual reports, though Kevin’s eager to deflect any accusation of cynicism.

Right at the start he quotes George Bernard Shaw: “The power of accurate observaton is sometimes called cynicism by those who have not got it.”

Both of the league’s senior officials draw attention to the FA decision to declare the Covid-hit 2019-20 season null and void – all results expunged – and then, near miraculously, to resurrect it for points-per-game purposes 12 months later.

Glenn simply supposes it “strange”; Kevin’s more scriptural. “Results previously expunged on the instruction of the governing body suddenly take on a new meaning and may well, as a consequence, force the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘null and void’ to be rewritten.”

It was, he concludes – “and with apologies to the religious among you” – the greatest comeback since Lazarus.

A second issue is yet more puzzling, raising further compelling questions about FA knee-jerk governance. Thirteen clubs from step 7 – Wearside League, North Riding League, Northern Alliance – applied to the FA for promotion to the ENL second division.

On the governing body’s behalf, the league – as is the norm – carried out ground inspections, found several nowhere near the criteria even for their existing leagues, and factually reported back. On that basis, the FA decided that Blyth Town, Horden Community Welfare and Redcar Town would be promoted.

Two unsuccessful clubs appealed. The FA, quite extraordinarily, told them that it was a league decision – “disappointing,” writes Kevin, with masterful self-discipline, “when their control of leagues within the National league System means that we don’t even have the authority to promote within divisions in our own competition.”

Similarly perplexed, Glenn Youngman simply observes that the ball had been batted back into the league’s court. “We didn’t recommend anyone. It isn’t our job.”

The league will continue to challenge such decisions, says Kevin – “even though being ‘autonomous’ doesn’t mean that we have the power to implement them.”

I’m reminded of the late and lamented Mike Appleby’s time as the FA’s leagues manager, perhaps 15 years ago, when he warned in a report that the FA was to become more “hands-on.” Did hands-on, I asked, mean that leagues were to be strangled?

It wasn’t exactly Shavian, but it seemed pretty neat at the time. These days it’s more fatefully appropriate than ever.

*The new North-East divisional representative on the FA Council is to be Ashington FC secretary and ENL management committee member Gavin Perry – youthful, bright, hard working and passionate about football. He succeeds Dave Robinson, standing down as he nears the membership age limit.

Though the initial term of office is for three years, Gav – if not first driven scatty – could be up an down to Wembley for forty.

He is to be wished great good luck and may very well need it. I still can’t see you in a blazer, though, young un.

June 12 2021: that way inclined

Ancient and modern, Stanley Incline has been described in at least two different ways. The Victorians thought it “fearsome”, and that was with the aid of a standing engine and other mechanical marvels of bygone times, while a latter-day website simply supposes the gradient “moderate”.

It recalls a different North-East variation on the same word. As euphemistic health bulletins go, “only moderate” means there’ll likely be an empty bed next morning.

This, of course, is the Stanley a vertiginous mile or so above Crook and not the bigger brother up Consett way. The usual plan, as regular readers may recall, is to catch the No 1 bus to Stanley Hill Top and then hoof two-and-a-half miles along the delightful Deerness Valley Way to watch Ebac Northern League football at Waterhouses, home of Esh Winning.

The English way, Esh Winning play at Waterhouses while Waterhouses station was in Esh Winning.

Today’s different. Today there’s a book to write. I not only get off the bus at Crook but, carrot and stick, continue on to Esh Winning itself for an al fresco lunch from Fields’ coal fired fish and chip shop, the last – save for Beamish Museum – in the region.

The old waggonway track’s surprisingly busy, even busier than when Esh Winning are at home. A chatty dog walker announces that, the previous day, he’s bought two dozen cans of 5.8 strength cider at Aldi for £12. Chiefly it’s to get him through the England match on Sunday afternoon, he adds, though he hopes it may last the whole weekend

The morning’s glorious, the route as fragrant as it is floral and as sylvan as it is golden.

Esh Winning has two fish and chip shops, the other called Market Plaice. Long winter nights in the Deerness Valley are consumed by debate over which is the better.

Five generations of the Field family have been frying thereabouts since 1915 and in Esh Winning front street since 1931. The village band turned out to mark the centenary.

It’s impossible, however, to offer an internal description – wearing a mask in a chip shop may hardly be considered a visual aid for the bespectacled – though in this card-sharp age it’s possible to note another custom which soon will be considered as quaint as a coal-fired range. They only accept cash,.not even IOUs from Shildon lads with honest faces.

Shildon lads? The bloke asks if I’m from South Shields. “It’s just that we had a phone call from a coach party from there,” he explains.

The temptation to ask if I look like a Sand Dancer, or indeed like a coach party, is somehow resisted.

Back in Waterhouises, that most scenic of football grounds – the Windows Plus Roofs Aerna as these days gratefully we should call it – is deserted, a particular regret since club chairman Charlie Ryan, the best of men, never lets you pay for a drink.

Doubtless he and the boys will look in later. Perhaps the Doc and them will wander up for an afternoon in front of the horses.

Instead I complete the ten-mile round trip back to Crook, just a swift couple in the Farrers before the No 1 back to Darlington. Moderation in all things, that’s me.

June 11 2021: the Mouse trap

Seagulls’ nest: the Mousehole ground

We have been to Cornwall, closely followed by Boris, Air Force One and an estimated six thousand pollisses. Half the constabulary, truth to tell, are probably charged with stopping the ceaseless seagulls from pinching Papa Joe’s 99. They’re thieving critturs down there.

It’s therefore a bit surprising that Mousehole FC, formed in 1922 and featured hereabouts just a couple of weeks ago because of the huge distances and clogged roads involved in their move up to the Western League top division, should still call themselves the Seagulls.

Little notices on lamp posts around the village proclaim that the Seagulls will soon be flying again. There are many Cornish folk, and millions of visitors, who’d gladly see every one of the ice cream thieving blighters grounded for ever.

It’s a bit like being nicknamed the Vermin, or the Scavengers or some such. That said, and whatever the pronunciation – officially it’s Mau-zel – what else could serve as a soubriquet?

The Nibblers, perhaps? The Cheesemen? They could hardly be called the Jerries.

Mousehole’s squeezed next the sea three miles beyond Penzance, apparently so named because of the narrowness of the harbour mouth. It’s just ten miles from Land’s End and a couple from Sheffield. England apparently has two Sheffields: this may not be the larger.

The Western League top division, same level as the Northern League first, embraces clubs as far distant as Bristol. Mousehole not only face several round trips of getting on 400 miles but the slow-to-stationary progress with which M5 users are all too familiar.

Coincidentally, our elder lad was returning from Cornwall on the Friday that we headed south-west, breaking the return trip to visit his brother in Hemel Hempstead. The 283-mile journey took ten hours. No wonder Papa Joe and them flew into Newquay.

Anyway, we took a train from Par to Penzance, walked a few miles of the South-West Coastal Path to Mousehole and then a vertiginous mile inland to the village of Paul – its parish church dedicated to St Pol-de-Leon – where Mousehole’s ground is successfully hidden next to a large caravan park.

“Lovely pitch, lovely people, horrible seagulls,” someone had innocently written on social media. The pitch was indeed immaculate, the smart facilities appeared to tick every box and on the side furthest from the caravans was a big sign reading “Toilets and showers.” Showers? Not another new FA grading requirement, surely?

An elderly Yorkshire caravanner emerged as we passed. “Eeeh,” she said, “it’s an awful long way to go for a wee.”

Should Mousehole progress that far, journeys could be yet longer for Vase visitors, of course. Take a week off to get there, another day or two to find the ground and, like our week away, it could be a wholly memorable occasion.

*Holiday reading, Tim Wellock’s new book The Best of Durham chronicles the county cricket club’s most memorable seasons since elevation to first class status in 1992.

Tim’s a long-time former Northern Echo colleague, barely missed a ball for 30 years, produced match reports – often against a deadline – that were greatly knowledgeable, courageously critical where necessary and compellingly crafted.

The book follows the same pattern – thanks for much quaffing in the Quantocks, Tim – reveals him to be a cricket traditionalist and to know his football, too.

There’s even mention of Shildon: the second team scorer thought Shildon “quite canny.”

Long serving former first team scorer and statistician Brian Hunt, author of two Northern League histories, is also subject of several anecdotes. I never was sure about that bonny baby contest he reckons to have won.

The book’s a tenner plus postage, a perfect Fathers’ Day present for a cricket lover. Details from Tim on timwellock@aol.com. Probably it goes without saying that Unconsidered Trifles – mikeamos81@aol.com – would bring a smile to the old man’s face, an’ all.

*Anxious to avoid several Friday morning hours in the crawler lane – that’s all three of them on the M5 – we left mid-Cornwall at 5 35pm on Thursday and completed the 385-mile homeward journey within six hours travelling time. Why does the story of the Three Little Pigs come to mind?

The moral of the tale is clear, of course. In order to guarantee getting to their Saturday afternoon matches on time, Mousehole should set out on Thursday evening. Great good luck to them.

June 3 2021: breaking news….

Under the predictable headline “Skye news”, the blog dated September 24 2020 reported on a four-day break on that magical island . It was the only holiday of that Covid-cancelled year.

Since then, and with huge thanks to all those readers who’ve remained on an oft-erratic and unpredictable wavelength, the blog has appeared on 253 successive days. It’s time for another short break.

That there has been precious little football in those anxious nine months might have pleased Stephen Brenkley, a regular reader, who wrote that he loved Grass Routes but just wished that there was no footy in it.

Lance Kidney, on the other hand, has reason for disappointment. He confessed “addiction” to the blog but wished that there weren’t so many deaths. If only….

Right from Sepember 24, when we lamented the passing of former Northern Echo editor Sir Harold Evans, the blooming thing has rather resembled an obituary column.

Deaths have ranged from West Auckland stalwart Norman Ayton to John Allan – Football John – a wonderfully dedicated historian who was a friend to many and whose second home was Newcastle Central Library.

We remembered Tommy Docherty, encountered at a North Shields dinner when he was a bairn of barely 80, and Nobby Stiles, who’d sung for his supper at Tow Law – “looks no more like a two-legged tank trap than he had against Rattin and Co in 1966,” I’d written at the time.

Though the subject matter has become increasingly eclectic – the unkind might suppose irrelevant – readership figures have also continued to increase. Can you come back in a week?

*Following yesterday’s note on what might be termed Famous Amos – also the name of a best-selling cookie in the United States – West Allotment Celtic chairman Jim Wilson points out that there really is an Amos Way in Sibsey, Lincolnshire.

Further digging reveals that it’s unique, it’s 720m long, has an average height above sea level of 3.71m – it’s a fenny part of the world – and that what appear to be very nice houses (as might be expected) are selling for under £200,000.

Newton Aycliffe FC stalwart Bob Wood finds a website listing 29 UK streets with Amos in their name; Paul Dobson lines up all manner of Amos Crescents, Courts and Closes – and, nearer home, an Amos Drive in Annfield Plain, near Stanley, in north-west Durham.

On the assumption that the street wasn’t named after an Old Testament prophet, anyone know who Amos of Annfield Plain was? Are you still with us, Mr Robinson?

*Cuckoo calling, yesterday’s blog invited the identity of ten clubs, almost all in the Football League, who share their nicknames with birds – and also the identity of the first Premier League manager to be sacked. That was Ian Porterfield.

Richard Jones simply wondered why we didn’t include Kings Lynn – the Linnets. Alan Hamiton went off on a positive flight of fancy,nicknames like the Ravens (Coalville), the Lapwings (Emley), the Storks (Padiham) and the Martlets (Penistone Church>) Heaven alone knows why.

Apparently there’s even a team – Yaxley FC – who answer to the Cuckoos.

The ten we had in mind were Crystal Palace (Eagles), Bradford City (Bantams), Sheffield Wednesday (Owls), West Bromwich Albion (Throstles), Bristol City (Robins), Leeds United (Peacocks), Torquay United (Gulls), Cardiff City (Bluebirds), Notts County (Magpies) and Brighton, aka the Seagulls.

….and finally, the three intrepid Shildon fans walking from Gretna to Whitley Bay to raise club funds finished the 23-mile first leg, to Greenhead, this evening. Wilf Tray, Dave Longstaff and Paul Mulley – all around 60 – had a £500 target, have already more than doubled it and would greatly welcome further donations through their gofundme page. More details on the Shildon Supporters Club Twitter page.

“We’re following advice and keeping our liquids up,” reports Wilf, enjoying a well-earned pint. They aim to arrive in Whitley Bay on Sunday.

The next blog will be dated June 11.