May 18 2017: Why Bobby Charlton quit

Today’s blog was originally posted about 9 30pm. News arrived subsequently of the death of Peter Ramsey, following a road accident. We’d mentioned it two days ago; Peter never recovered consciousness. He was a former Wearside League and Northern League referee and a hugely enthusiastic assessor and Referees’ Association man. He made a very real contribution to football in the North-East.  May he rest in peace.


The big clubs, and some of the more blessed smaller ones, have the most comprehensive and dedicated historians.

One’s Newcastle United, for whom Paul Joannou chronicles magnificently. Alongside him, the records man, is John Allan – email address “Football John” and so much part of the fttings at Newcastle City library that folk might as well send his Christmas cards there.

Football John was puzzled, however, by Grass Routes memories a few days back of a fund raising match in1980 bewteen the Magpies – managed by Bill McGarry – and South Bank, then a Northern League club.

It simply isn’t in the United annals. Had it been consigned to history?

Tow Law programme editor and ardent Newcastle fan Neil McKay had raised an eyebrow, too. Citing Bankers’ historian Peter Livingstone, the blog said that  Jim Smith had scored both goals in United’s 2-0 win. Neil was pretty sure that Jinky Jimmy had left the club by then.

Peter not only provides both team line-ups – South Bank including Brian Mulligan, now a (very) long serving Northern League management committee member – but the 10p programme from that great occasion, Monday January 14 1980.

“It was a bitterly cold night on a pitch that was in grave danger of being waterlogged but it proved a momentous and memorable occasion.”

Soaked young fans were alowed into the dressing rooms to get autographs. Newcastle not only appeared without charge but made a “generous donation” to strapped South Bank’s funds.

Their team was Carr, Carney, Mitchell, Halliday, Bird, Ferguson, Suggett, Walker, Rafferty, Nicholson and Connolly. Scorers were Bird, who became manager of Hartlepool United and later a successful wildlife artist, and whose signing from Preston in 1975 had prompted the North End manager – chap called Bobby Charlton – to resign. A week later he was followed by the assistant manager, Nobby Stiles.

Memory suggests that Connolly, now 66, became manager of Ashington and that between 2000-2004 was in charge of Queen of the South – recruiting a number of Northern League men over the border to the Dumrieshire club.

“If we’d wanted a team full of Geordies,” someone wrote to the local paper, “we might as well have signed Jayne Middlemiss.”

It was the second time since the war that Queen of the South had more closely resembled Kings of the North-East. More of that, and an attempt to find out who on earth Jayne Middlemiss, was, in the next few days.