October 9 2018: angels of the north

Angel 21 isn’t some sort of celestial lucky-for-some lottery, it’s the bus service between Durham and Newcastle.

Nor does the Angel have wings, partly because there are so many stops and partly because so many people of university age (shall we say) try to convince the driver that they’re under 16 and should travel half fare.

The service’s big advantage is that it stops almost outside Chester-le-Street’s ground where, speaking of wings, a kestrel is said to have taken up residence in the top of the stand. “Just turned in for the night,” we’re assured.

Chester are playing Ryton and Crawcrook Albion, one of just two Ebac Northern League games tonight and Ryton’s last scheduled midweek fixture this season. Next week there’s just one match on Tuesday and one on Wednesday.

A good crowd of 143 shows the support for such fixtures and further hints at the FA’s systemic folly in reducing leagues to just 20 clubs, or fewer.  It includes veteran assistant ref John Lee, the man with the black knee support, slowly recovering after a stroke in February.

There too is Willington chairman Richard Tremewan, but I reckon he’s stalking me.

Chester’s flying start to the season was grounded by last Saturday’s defeat at Crook and fails again to take off. Ryton win 2-1. The crack’s good, the welcome as warm as ever and Newton Aycliffe chairman Alan Oliver gives me a lift most of the way home.

If he had a harp, he’d be an angel, an’ all.

*Lamenting the death of Andy Turner, yesterday’s blog spoke of his role as West Auckland’s physio in the 1998 FA Cup first round tie at Yeovil – also the day, 20 years ago next month, when Bedlington Terriers thrashed Colchester 4-1.

West had booked a 37-seat team bus, dismayed when a 27-seater was sent. Several officials had either to stand all the way to Somerset or else perch on the draining board of the little kitchen at the back.

“Six hours in the kitchen and not so much as a sandwich, just a stainless steel a**e,” said West secretary Allen Bayles. It was the quote of the year.

*We’d also mentioned in passing Evenwood Town’s Craven Cup final against Ashington, at Horden in 2003  – the first time I’d heard the postcode chant about NE63.

Among the crowd was the Rev Frank Campbell, a Church of Scotland minister who produced programmes for both Evenwood and Prudhoe from his manse near Jedburgh, had left home at 5 35pm and was in time for the seven o’clock kick-off.

“There’s nothing in the Good Book about speeding,” he said.