February 10 2018: Privy counsel

Three good reasons for watching Ryhope CW this afternoon: a) Led by Darren Norton and Dougie Benison, they’re top football people (and were brilliant on the Last Legs walk). b) It’s one of the grounds to which I haven’t yet been this season c) I might double the crowd.

Two reasons for not going. a) It’s a beggar to get to by public transport, at least four journeys in each direction. b) They’re playing Guisborough Town.

It must be the sixth time I’ve seen Guisborough in as many weeks, the eighth this season. Thus far they’ve managed but a single point. Further to worry them, their last two visits to Ryhope have resulted in 7-1 and 5-1 defeats.

The word “jinx” is frequently employed. Warned by Dougie of my impending arrival,  the visitors hold an emergency meeting in the clubhouse and decide to co-opt me on to the committee, with special responsibility for cleaning the netties.

The train journey from Thornaby to Seaham is enhanced at Hartlepool by the biggest hen party since Buxted declared a general amnesty. One of the more pulchritudinous* of their number suggests kidnapping me, but becomes rather flummoxed when I suggest that the term kidnap implies reluctance on the part of the victim.

At Ryhope CW, as half a mile away at RCA, the conversation turns as always to the crowd  usually between 50 and 100 at the Colliery and often closer to the former figure.

Might there not be a few more because Sunderland are in far-off Bristol? “It wouldn’t matter if Sunderland folded,” someone says, “there’d still just be the same old faithfuls.”

An unexpectedly pleasant afternoon may have drawn a few more, though the home fans will be disappointed by a lacklustre display by their team, edging a little too close to the relegation places.

Lee Bytheway scores twice in Guisborough’s 3-0 win. Town chairman Don Cowan accepts that the monkey may at last be off their back; someone else is going to have to clean the netties.