September 9 2017: Campion’s league

It must be two months, when first the FA Vase preliminary rounds draw was made, since the blog publicly predicted a first-time trip to Campion.

Memories of Gerald Campion, who played Billy Bunter in the 1950s and 60s, followed apace. Lance Kidney even recalls reading a couple of Bunter prequels, by Daniel Green, about his great great grandfather – “a bit Flashmanesque, funny filthy and totally enjoyable.”

The weather, alas, is rather less predictable than the visit. At 3pm it’s absolutely tossing down, at five past three so dark that the referee asks for the floodlights and at 3 30 a lovely September afternoon.

Since the game’s a bit uneventful, the kids entertain themselves by puddle jumping – but what happens thereafter is the most unexpected, the most astounding, occurence of the year.

Campion’s a couple of miles from Bradford city centre, the club named after the St Edmund Campion Youth Club where it began and now in the Northern Counties East League second tier – that of Swallownest, Rossington Main and Nostell Miners Welfare.

It’s their first ever Vase game, unlike Bedlington Terriers – today’s opponents – whose pedigree includes a final appearance in 1999. A chap wears a Wembley 1999 scarf. He’s from Sheffield.

Though Bradford City are away, the crowd’s no more than 50 or so, half of whom seem to have “Coach” on the back of their trackie tops. It also includes the magnificent Martin  and Denise Haworth, essential for so long to the Northern League effort.

Martin ran the Northern League Club, bless it, for getting on 20 years. You’d never meet a more  all-weather, all-terrain, what’s-a-little-wet-to-a-water-rat sort of chap. Denise is in her final season as webmaster.

At half-time, a few of us adjourn for a livener in the upstairs bar overlooking the goal before returning to the sunshine. Denise is back out taking photographs: there’s no sign of Martin – nor, indeed, of Mr Gary Brand (a Spurs fan, so feebleness must be expected) and Mr Nigel Brierley, a Huddersfield and not a Bedlington terrier.

All three, it transpires, have never left the bar. A couple of plates of prawn sandwiches and the decadence would be complete. “I felt I ought to give something to help a non-league club,” pleads Martin, a man who hitherto has been content with a sarsaparilla shandy.

Bedlington will be happy they went back out. Jack Foallie’s last-kick effort gives them a 2-1 win.