March 16 2017


It’s without intended offence to anyone that the only thing I miss after almost 30 years official Northern League involvement is the bundle of programmes which daily landed on the doorstep. The postman takes the opposite view.

Producing a programme and sending it within three days to a league official is a requirement of our FA-imposed rule book – a chore, admittedly, but one which had triple benefits.

Firstly it kept me in touch; secondly it was a constant reminder of the wonderful and highly accomplished labours of love which so many of our clubs produce and, thirdly, the programmes provided all sorts of snippets for the league magazine.

So I was delighted to be asked to help judge this year’s programme competition – first prize £250, winner to be announced at the annual dinner – and again to have a great bundle of the things to help pass a quiet evening.

How else might I have known that Easington Colliery chairman Paul Adamson had led a group of the lads on a coast-to-coast cycle ride, raising £1200 to help fix the antediluvian floodlights? (It seems to have worked.)

How else might I have discovered that South Shields’ list of club officials now includes a chef – surely a first for a club at this level – or that Brandon’s derby with Esh Winning was sponsored by the Tufty Club?

The real eye-opener, however, was in Billingham Town’s programme from Noveber 26, a week before the Vase tie at Bottesford Town.

Because of home and away colour clashes, Billy had commissioned a third strip. Each shirt, good idea, was sponsored by a supporter.

The new kit, says the programme, would be “melange and fluorescent yellow with anthracite shorts and socks the same colour as the shirts.” Whatever happened to good old black and white?

Coincidentally, I was at that match and remember nothing save for a wonderful Sam Smith’s pub nearby and that Billy Town won 3-2. Melange and anthracite? Is this Teesside’s answer to Fifty Shades of Grey?