The Times today has a lengthy piece by the excellent George Caulkin – Langley Park lad – talking to a player from each of England’s World Cup finals squads since 1954.
The oldest was former Newcastle United man Ivor Broadis, now 95 and long over Carlisle way. Among the others was Jack Charlton, who has dementia, with whom George caught up at Jack’s son John’s bar/restaurant in Cambois, outside Blyth.
John Charlton? The Northern League’s arch and implacable critic? So that’s what happened to him.
He’d worked for his dad at Newcastle and with the Republic of Ireland, played for 14 years in Australia (“I was brilliant”) managed Blyth Spartans and Whitley Bay, the Hillheads parting acrimonious.
Having vowed never to return to the Northern League, he became Peterlee Newtown’s unpaid manager in the autumn of 2004, vowing to sue the league for as long and as much as it took over its application of transfer rules.
Particularly he wanted an end to transfer fees – donations, call them what you will – and for players to be free to leave after seven days notice, regardless of the wishes of the club which held their registration. “I will fight this as far as I have to and we’ll take it to the extreme,” he promised.
We met for three amicable enough hours in December 2004, John’s stentorian tones rather drowning out the carol singers in the next room in the pub. Partly it was wearing my league chairman’s hat, partly as magazine editor, the two sessions strictly segregated.
The magazine piece began: “The man who said that he wouldn’t touch the Northern League with a barge pole, or something equally long and unequivocal, is back as manager of Peterlee.”
The headline was “Back where he doesn’t belong?”
Half way through, we were interrupted by the chance appearance of a Whitley Bay player he was trying to sign for Peterlee. “Now then fat man,” said the player, and wasn’t even talking about the league chairman.
At Peterlee he’d succeeded Andy Toman, had a disappointing start – “not even Sir Alex Ferguson could have won matches with the problems I’ve had” – vowed at all costs to get his club out of the Northern League.
“If it fails it won’t be the club’s fault it will be the league’s,” he insisted.
Memory suggests that his tenure was short. Peterlee finished second bottom of the top division, a point above Guisborough Town who’d had six deducted, and were relegated.
The following season they were bottom of the second division with just 16 points, 12 behind Guisborough (and South Shields) and dropped out of the Northern League and into the Northern Alliance. Another victim of the East Durham Triangle, the club folded in 2013.