April 20 2017

Somewhere around here, probably at the foot of today’s blog, is a photograph of Darlington RA secretary Alan Hamilton as you may never see him again. He is about to lose – to sacrifice – the lot. Little wonder he looks a mite apprehensive.

Alan’s back-story is quite well known. A disillusioned Darlington FC season ticket holder, he expressed interest a few years ago in becoming one of the Northern League’s noble army of Secret Shoppers.

The RA had recently lost their secretary, failed completely to find a replacement, faced extinction. We met, inevitably over a couple of persuasive beers, and Alan went to the RA instead.

He has been incredible, absolutely magnificent: secretary, groundsman, clubhouse supervisor and very much else. Barely a day passes without Alan’s working at the Brinkburn Road ground, latterly joined on match days by his wife Sally – dressing room cleaner, hospitality provider and baker, raffle ticket seller.

If ever there was a couple of whom it could be said that the grass didn’t grow beneath their feet, it’s the Hamiltons. Now, however, it’s in danger of so doing.

The club’s heavy duty grass cutter, 50 years old and known not entirely religiously as the Green Goddess, is close to pushing up daisies. It’s gone, the cutter kaput, the cheapest estimate for restoration £500.

Since that’s £500 more than the club has, on Saturday night – after the season’s final match, against Whickham – Alan will undergo a sponsored haircut and shave. His hair hasn’t been cropped for three years, his beard properly trimmed for ten. Everything must go.

Since Grass Routes is almost appropriately named, would any blog reader care to chuck a few bob into the pot? Alan can be contacted at nobbydarlo@ntlworld.com, on 07872 324808 or cheques made payable to Darlington RA FC can be sent to him at 50 Grange Road, Darlington DL1 5NP.

alanhamiltonblog (2)A photograph of the new look Alan Hamilton should appear in the blog before the weekend’s out.

*Alan Hamilton, of course, is one of many who sacrificially give of their time and talents to sustain Ebac Northern League football clubs (and many others). Just this morning another letter arrived seeking support for an Honours List nomination for one of the league’s most dedicated club officials.

The attempt will have my very best shot – and, almost certainly, miss. Non-league football has a huge army of selfless volunteers. The almost total lack of Honours List recognition is a national scandal.