Andy Turner died tonight after years of ill health. He was 64, a Scot who’d kept goal for Cowdenbeath and who made an indelible mark on football and community life in Co Durham.
In the Northern League he became assistant manager to Ken Houlahan at Evenwood Town and then physio at West Auckland. In the community he was a Durham County councillor for the West Auckland area and later for Evenwood, much involved – with fellow Labour councillor Rob Yorke – in driving the funding for the £184,000 statue on West Auckland green which commemorates the club’s World Cup wins in 1909 and 1911.
“He was a tremendous worker in the community but sometimes taken for granted a bit,” says Ken.
Andy, lovely chap, wasn’t just a political heavyweight. He was also a very big lad. Soon after joining Evenwood, before the Craven Cup final against Ashington in 2003, the manager weighed in at 18 stones 8 pounds and his assistant at a straight 18 stone.
Then Andy grew in stature. When West played at Yeovil in the FA Cup first round in November 1998 he was summoned to what appeared a minor injury on yon side of the field, followed apace by four yellow-jacketed stretcher bearers.
“What’s the stretcher for?” someone asked.
“To fetch the physio back,” came the reply.
A coujple of years later, he and some council colleagues went on a sponsored slim. Andy lost 2 stones four pounds but still topped the scales at 19-4.
He also enjoyed a bet, once much cheering a West Auckland FA Cup defeat at Prescott Cables by almost insisting that the lads have a few bob on Red Wine in the 3 30 at Doncaster. It came home at 18-1.
On another occasion, a Vase match at Askern Villa – neatly named, near Doncaster – he’d got 10-1 on the enduring Mattie Moffatt hitting a hat-trick. Matt scored his second after 65 minutes but couldn’t quite manage a third.
“Och,” said Andy, or Scottish imprecations to that effect.
A chef in his working days – “the lads really appreciated that, footballers are gannets” says Ken – he devoted himself to his adopted community, not least in promoting junior football.
Of late, as they say north of the border, it’s been a sair fecht. May he rest in peace.
*Raymond Ayre’s funeral will ne held at St Luke’s church, Ushaw Moor, at 1 45pm on Thursday. As we recalled last week, Raymond’s Northern League career chiefly embraced Shildon and Whitley Bay, where lifelong supporter Julian Tyley recalls that he was nicknamed The Tank – “a reference to his physique and his strong but fair tackling.”
*Another birthday today. Crumbs they come around quickly. It’s a lovely occasion , even the 5s and 3s team wins, but late news of Andy Turner’s passing diverts thoughts elsewhere. As doubtless they say in Cowdenbeath, carpe diem.