December 3 2019: both barrels

Redundant after 55 years, I’ve sent my last column – the finished article, as it were. No longer any need to worry about picking up unconsidered trifles but barely ten minutes into Shildon v Hebburn Town and Shildon director Norman Smith brings good news.

Ben Reay, a 17-year-old Barnard Castle boy who’s come through the club’s junior ranks, has been chosen for England’s under-18s schoolboy squad, a great achievement.

The only Shidon resident to have gained full England honours was Dickie Downs, with Barnsley at much the same time as the club had a mascot called Amos. Amos was a donkey; we are not thought to have been related.

The only Shildon player to have won England amateur international honours while with the club was Bobby Davison, lovely man, his sole cap coming against Ireland in 1954-55 and an FA scroll still framed in the clubhouse.

Bobby, lovely and loquacious, was a miner from Kimblesworth, near Chester-le-Street, played for Bishop Auckland in the 1950 and 1951 Amateur Cup finals and was Crook Town’s ultimately victorious captain in the twice-replayed 1954 final against Bishops.

After the second replay, at Middlesbrough, the team was escorted to the Millfield by the Church Lads’ Brigade band and greeted by 15,000 fans. It was reckoned the only time you couldn’t hear Bobby speak.

He was also a successful cricket professional – would have had a lot more centuries at North Bitchburn, he reckoned, but for the electricity pylon at long on – and, like young Lambton, an enthusiastic angler on the Wear.

Once he caught the bank manager’s hat. “He’d have given me £1,000 if I’d let him,” Bobby insisted.

I’d last seen him, struggling a bit, at Crook’s 2006 FA Vase quarter-final against Bury Town, played on a treacherously icy pitch. “We’d have played on ten foot of snow in my time,” said Bob. He died, aged 84, the following year.

On a crisp winter evening,Ben Reay makes but a late cameo for Shildon, the show stolen by no means for the first time by Billy Greulich-Smith who hits a hat-trick in his team’s impressive 4-0 win against the league leaders.

Great good luck to the youngster, but to most of the 349 crowd at Dean Street, it’s Billy who’s England’s number one.