October 7 2018: Soho no-go

Seeking something else entirely on The Northern Echo archive, I come across a column on the first meeting of league representatives to discuss what became known as national game restructuring. It was August 2001.

The original letter from the FA had invited us to their newish headquarters in Soho Square. “First right at the sex shop, left at the strip joint and cross the road at the massage parlour,” FA people would say (doubtless in jest.)

Then the passion killer. The group would be split north and south and while the southerners would still see Soho, the northern lot were relocated to Emley, on a windy ridge somewhere above Huddersfield.

The FA sent a map, the word “Emley” appearing immediately above the word “England”, though there were those – principally the late and greatly lamented Mr Alan Farnworth, of the North West Counties League – who’d have struggled to find England.

It brought to mind an early Simon and Garfunkel song, For Emley Wherever I May Find Her.

The meeting was at Emley Supporters Club, though the first team – beset by Northern Premier League ground grading criteria – had moved to Wakefield Trinity and after several name changes, discovered what happens when, like Icarus,you fly too close to the sun .

Proceedings are unlikely to have been eventful. Soon afterwards, the FA decided that there’d be a national working party after all. Thoughts of a jolly day amid the fleshpots – or at least a couple of hours before the train went – were soon disspelled, however.

The Poor Bloody Infantry were posted to Aldershot instead – and, 17 years later, the FA’s still discussing restructuring.

*The Wearside League had been represented at the Emley meeting by Peter Livingstone, former secretary of Northallerton Town.

Over the pork pies and potted meat sandwiches at lunch, Peter recalled an FA Trophy match at home to Bashey on a dreadful January day in 1993.

Northallerton skipper Lee Wasden won the toss and, unusually, opted to kick off. Bashley demanded choice of ends. “Just get on with it,” said Richard Pulleyn, the referee, already soaked and not yet whet his whistle.

Beaten 1-0, Bashley protested to the FA that they’d been denied the option of “kicking up a steep slope” and into the storm in the first half

Northallerton stood their ground. There wasn’t a lot they could do about the rain, said Peter, but they’d paid £80 to a surveyor who concluded that the gradient was just 23 inches in 110 yards.

Chaired by Sir Bert Millichip, the FA commission threw out the appeal.

The story was received with much jollity, not least by the Emley FC secretary deputed to serve the sandwiches. He was a former referee called Richard Pulleyn.