September 7 2017: Corner kicked

Jeff Brown’s brilliant new play about David Corner – “born in Sunderland May 15 1966, died at Wembley March 26 1985” – opens tonight at the Customs House theatre in South Shields.

Better yet, I get to sit next to the delectable Dawn Thewlis, her off the telly, while Sharon’s next to a fat bloke in braces.

David Corner, as many indelibly will recall, was the young Sunderland defender blamed – nutmegged – for the deciding Norwich City goal in the 1985 Milk Cup final. Steve Arnott, who plays him with edgy panache, says that folk always wonder how often he’s asked about it.

“Every sodding day for the last 32 years.”

The play’s a great idea – carefully crafted  ingeniously executed and played both for laughs, lots of those, and for reflection. It is only a game, after all.

Davey Corner, Sunderland lad, became a polliss when injury ended his football career, tells of a shout in Seaham when a guy had been potentially fatally assaulted but was reluctant to go to hospital.

He’s out of it, bleeding profusely from a head injury, stares bemused at the first officer on the scene. “Is that you, Davey? Davey Corner?”


“Davey, man, you should have kicked the bugger oot.”

He’s now medically retired from Durham Constabulary, same old knee injury, looking for work. Few on Wearside will need to see his cv.

The play’s a double header with Wise Men Say, agreeably built around the 20th anniversary of the Stadium of Light. It’s at the Custom House on Thursday and Friday (7 45), the Gala Theatre in Durham on Saturday, Washington Arts Centre on September 14 and the Peacock (formerly the Londonderry) in Sunderland on September 22. Details and tickets at

*Most North-East-based readers will know Jeff as an anchor and sports presenter on BBC Look North. It’s thus sadly coincidental that word’s whispered during the interval of the death at 80 of Mike Neville, the greatest anchor of all.

Like Jeff, Mike was an old mate. The story may have previously been told of the day in 1973 when I was asked to open a village carnival in Teesdale. The chairman said how pleased they were to welcome Mike Amos but that I hadn’t been the first choice.

They’d wanted Mike Neville but Mike Neville was £50 and Mike Amos was nowt.

A subsequent Northern Echo column dubbed me “The poor man’s Mike Neville”, enough to draw an invitation to co-present the programme that evening. Neither of us ever forgot it, though probably for different reasons. Like the 1985 Milk Cup final, indelible, anyway.