January 8 2019: pointless

The principal reason why grounds like Seaham Red Star and Guisborough Town remain unvisited so far this season is that RMT union members on Northern Rail seem to have been on strike every Saturday since Timothy Hackworth was a lad.

Now the blooming Arriva bus drivers are out for a week across Co Durham, Teesside and the top end of North Yorkshire. Though Arriva’s running a skeleton service, there’s nowt at night.

I’m marooned in Middleton Tyas with a roaring fire, a wonderful wife and a box set of Hamish Macbeth. Where were we?

The blog a couple of days ago wondered if Washington had been the only Northern League club to finish a season with no points – though Northern Conquest and the Football Clubs History Database credit them with three, league stats master Keith Greener confirms that they did, indeed, have naught for their comfort.

It was 1997-98. Washington lost 35 of their 36 second division games, won 1-0 at Alnwick Town but had those three points deducted for playing an ineligible player in another game.  (The league chairman was newish and belligerent.)

Grass Routes reader Lance Kidney also wonders about Durham City – didn’t they, he asks, finish with the dreaded nil points in the Northern Premier League top division in 2009-10? So they did.

City had been going well, eyed the Conference but were told they couldn’t be promoted with an artificial pitch. As a result the main sponsor pulled out, the money dried up and the players left.

The club was forced to field a team often chiefly made up of local sixth formers. Perhaps the nadir, or so they believed, was after an 11-0 defeat at Kings Lynn – an awfully long way from Durham – manager Lee Collings was refused alcohol at a roadside store because there were “children” on the bus.

Then things got worse. Collings and his assistant Dickie Rooks, the former Sunderland centre half, had fielded Josh Home-Jackson under an assumed name at Kings Lynn and at Bradford Park Avenue, knowing him to be suspended.

At Bradford he’d been recognised by a former Sunderland team mate. Nor did it help – as pointed out by former Durham Times correspondent Kevin Hewitt, now the Northern League’s admirable secretary – that another local paper carried an action picture from the match.

Though the name was different, it looked an awful lot like Josh Home-Jackson….

The FA docked those six points, suspended manager and player for 15 matches apiece – and Collings from all football during that time.

Kevin not only recalls that the two subsequent wins came within the space of three days – FC United of Manchester away, Whitby Town at home – but forwards a video link to the Manchester match, the joy of the travelling City faithful, about four of them, wondrous to behold.

Durham were relegated, of course, finished ninth in the NPL first division in 2011-12 but asked to return to the Northern League. Sadly, their troubles have continued.

The header on today’s blog refers solely to them, of course, and in no way – how could it? – to the action by the workers of the RMT and United trade unions which so greatly inconveniences people like me – but I’m going to Northallerton v Jarrow on Wednesday night, even if I have to walk.