Mention the other day of Ferryhill Athletic’s ten-year turnaround of Northern League titles – 1938, 1948, 1958 – reminded Norman Leighton of the last of them and, in particular, of Richie Norman, the left back.
It reminded me, in turn, of the protocol for eating Yorkshire puddings – in which parts of the land are they served as a starter? – but we’ll return to that a little later.
Richie, now 83 and still Nuneaton Borough’s physio, spent nine years with Leicester City, joined at much the same time as Gordon Banks and became the great goalkeeper’s best friend.
He was a Newcastle lad but on Middlesbrough’s books, joined Ferryhill on the recommendation of Boro boss Bob Denison. “I never quite knew why I did it,” he told me in 2007, “but they were a tremendous side and a lovely club and I never regretted it.
“The facilities were a bit basic, there was a bit of a slope and the money wasn’t very good but I loved my time at Ferryhill.”
The real attraction, however, may have been the pre-match meal at team mate Bobby Kilcran’s. “It was brilliant. I remember that the Yorkshire puddings were served before the main course. I’d never seen it before or since,” said Richie.
Is it a North-East thing? Proof of the pudding, anyone?
Richie made 365 Leicester City appearances – even scoring two goals – his debut in a 2-0 win at St James’ Park in January 1960. “The whole school was there,” he recalled. He later became Northamptonshire County Cricket Club’s physio for nine years.
His mate Banks made 356 City starts. “We hit it off and bonded together from the start,” he told City’s website after Gordon died in February. “I’m a bit disappointed Leicester didn’t put up a statue for him.”
*The 14-club Northern League was very different in 1957-58. not least because Durham City were the most northerly members. Twenty points but fewer than 15 miles seperated the top nine.
Stanley United might have spoiled Ferryhill’s sequence had they held onto Geoff Strong, scorer of 14 goals in the first four games before Arsenal came knocking (and Geoff took a pay cut.)
Penrith twice played two games on the same day – on one occasion winning both, on another travelling from Cumberland to Tow Law for the second – Crook Town beat South Bank 12-0 home and away on successive Saturdays and the Northern League’s Amateur Cup hegemony (nice word, hegemony) ended when Crook Town lost in the semi-final.
*Congratulations to Darlington RA’s multi-tasking secretary Alan Hamilton, who blames me for much, named the Wearside League’s administrator of the year at the annual meeting. The Wearside will continue with 16 clubs in 2019-20, though Harton and Westoe have merged with Boldon Colliery and will play there.
Alan’s among a number of Grass Routes regulars who no longer seem to be getting the blog automatically as an email, though it can still be found through Twitter. I don’t understand such things. Can anyone suggest what’s happening – and how it can be rectified?