July 16 2017: Wenger’s double?

Malcolm Macdonald and I are just about the first to arrive at the Footbaaalll Show comedy club night in Darlington.

Apropos of little, I ask the former Arsenal and Newcastle United man if he’s ever met Arsene Wenger.

Supermac – top bloke, North Shields FC president – says that he has and that for a few moments Wenger just stared at him. “Maybe it’s because he was trying to remember who I was, maybe it was because he thought he was looking in a mirror. A lot of people say I look like Arsene Wenger.”

The barman gives him a free blackcurrant and water – Malcolm hasn’t touched alcohol for 20 years. The barman must think he’s Arsene Wenger, too.

The Footbaaalll Show’s run by Gavin Webster, familiar on the numerous Northern League grounds of North Tyneside, usually at the Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle. This one’s part of the Darlington Comedy festival, Malcolm’s on with former Boro boy Bernie Slaven and they’ll have played to bigger crowds. There won’t be more than 20 in.

Bernie can’t find the place, enters an elliptical orbit like a spacecraft with a sticky satnav, but finally has to be talked in over the phone by the barmaid.

Both are on good form, confirming the theory that when two or three old pro’s are gathered together, talk will always eventually turn to Jack Charlton.

Bernie, proud Glaswegian, recalls when Big Jack – then manager if the Republic of Ireland – asked him if he’s any qualifications to represent Eire. “I’ve an Irish setter,” said Bernie and that, of course, did nicely.

Malcolm’s met Rafa Benitez, too, liked the guy, fears that his Tyneside time is limited because of the failure to make summer signings. “It would be such a shame, he’s an outstanding manager.”

The joke would be on Mr Ashley.

*An email on my late night return reports the death of Albert Hawman, father of Darlington RA chairman Doug Hawman. He was 104. Former steam engine driver, fervent flower grower, Albert had had a chrysanthemum named after him to mark his 100th birthday. It was just a few weeks before the centenary that a friend reported seeing him up a 14ft ladder, cleaning out the gutters. Rest in peace.