August 8 2018: paternity suit?

Do dads still watch their lads? If they do, are they regarded as an antediluvian embarrassment or a welcome filial fan club?

A generation ago, Shildon players like Neil Hoban and Neil Emerson were often cheered on by their fathers. Before them, long serving goalkeeper Bryan Dale frequently brought his father (and sometimes his mum, too.)

More recently at Dean Street, Lewis Wing – man of the match for Boro on Tuesday – is said often to have been watched by his dad.

These days it seems a great rarity, however, and even in 2018 most players do presumably know who their fathers are.

The question’s asked because tonight I duck the football to watch my elder son play cricket for Richmond Mavericks at Thornton Watlass, a delightful North Yorkshire village near Bedale where the field’s the village green, the road runs 15 yards inside the boundary and the pub’s immediately beyond it.

It’s the Wensleydale Evening League second division, a joyous and greatly sporting competition in which the lad’s on the verge of becoming leading wicket taker for the second successive season.

He has reason, however – and one which the jinxed gentlemen of Tow Law Town would understand – for not wholly welcoming the father figure on the boundary. I’ve never seen him take so mucb as a wicket: trying too hard, he supposes.

Thornton Watlass have a bowler described by the visitors as an old man. He’s probably 20 years younger than poor Adam’s old man, but tonight the lad bags two more wickets almost certainly to secure the accolade.

While I’m spending an idyllic August evening at the cricket, some of the travelling fraternity have headed to Cockfield’s famous old Hazel Grove football ground in west Durham to watch West Auckland Tuns in the Wearside League.

Though Cockfield United’s heyday was in the 1920s, when they reached the FA Amateur Cup final, they also had a very good Auckland and District League side in the 1990s.

On one occasion, a bitterly cold day just after Christmas, they played Whickham in the Durham Challenge Cup. I’d fallen into conversation with an elderly local of about 75 who at half-time made his excuses and left.

“I have to put some coal on for my dad,” he said. Now that’s what you call filial loyalty.

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