Crook Town have handsome new gates at the much-loved Millfield, and thereby hangs a lovely little story.
Graham Readman was a raggy-trousered kid from Crook who’d habitually sneak into matches through a hole in the fence. “It’s still there, only bigger because I made it bigger as I got older,” he insists.
These days he runs a metal fabrication company near Darlington. When the club needed a bit of work doing on a floodlight pylon Graham – “through a friend of a friend,” says Town chairman Vince Kirkup – agreed to lend a hand and insisted on doing it for nothing.
Then he saw the gates – “Well, they were a bit manky and they’d been there an awfully long time,” says Vince. Graham has now designed, made and installed new gates at an estimated cost of £4,000 – that’s him in the centre of the pic, with colleagues – though the cost to the club is diddly squat.
“It’s recompense,” says the glorious gate man, “for all those times as a kid when I got in without paying.”
Crook’s home match with Jarrow tonight is the first at the Millfield since mid-October, such the effects of the monsoon season, and the first anywhere for three weeks. Among the 93 crowd is South Shields secretary Philip Reay – inevitably clad above the waist only in T-shirt – and former Brandon secretary Barry Ross who recalls bumping into Philip at a Hebburn night match a couple of weeks back.
“It was minus four degrees and he was still just wearing a t-shirt,” says Barry.
“It was a warm minus four,” says Philip.
The Shields lads are seeing a bit less of club chairman Geoff Thompson just now, since he’s an independent candidate for the borough at next week’s election, So, says Philip, is Dunston UTS benefactor Shaun Sadler – the UTS chairman – in the adjoining Jarrow constituency. Shaun’s promised that, if he wins, his parliamentary wages will be invested in grass roots sport.-
Crook trail 1-0 but recover to win 3-1, their fifth successive league win and a clear boost to promotion hopes. Perhaps they could buy a bottle of something fizzy with an additional financial boost – the last word, as always, to Vinc e. “Those old gates mightn’t have looked much, but we got £30 scrap for them.”
*My pentultimate Northern Echo column appeared yesterday and, as several readers took valedictory pleasure in pointing out, contained a mistake. It wasn’t Max Bygraves who sang about the windmill in old Amsterdam, it was Ronnie Hilton.
I was going to retort that Ronnie Hilton once stood in a parliamentary election at Hartlepool, but I think that was fellow singer Ronnie Carroll. I’ve got that wrong before, an’ all.
Those within earshot may care to note that I’ll be talking about the life and times of a now-redundant journalist on BBC Tees from 10 30 on Thursday morning. Times being hard, they’ve promised chocolate biscuits.