As probably everyone knows, the Ebac Northern League is the world’s second oldest. The North Yorkshire and South Durham claims the same distinction for cricket, first contested in 1893 – a year after the Birmingham League.
The six founding teams included Constable Burton, a small village in Wensleydale, who became the first champions. A century later, it also had a local policeman called PC Burton. Not many may know THAT, though.
The NYSD’s 125th anniversary celebrations apropriately conclude today at the 50-over match bewteen Durham and Yorkshire at Chester-le-Street, though the formalities begin at 11am, three hours before the match does.
Chris West, the league’s admirable president, appears a bit flummoxed. “I’ve never spoken to a sober audience before,” he says.
As luck would have it, two Durham County cricketers who’ve also played Northern League football – Geoff Cook and Andy Fothergill – are on the same table as me, Geoff’s one of only two NL footballers to have played cricket for for England. The other, of course, is Steve Harmison.
Geoff, lovely chap, played for South Bank, of fond memory. Andy may best be remembered as a Bishop Auckland winger in the verdantly moustached Harry Dunn’s time as manager but also played for Crook Town, Durham City and Guisborough.
He’s 56, still enjoying his cricket with Durham Over 50s and, as if life couldn’t get any better for him, is about to move into the same road us us, about 50 yards away. “The estate agent never told me that,” he says.
It’s also good, as always, to see Northern League secretary and Durham member Kevin Hewitt, sporting a pair or extravagant yellow sunglasses of which Dame Edna Everage would have been properly proud.
“They’re Oakley’s,” he protests. Annie, get your gun.