June17 2019: Carlisle lose appeal

Perhaps to no great surprise, Carlisle City today lost their appeal to the FA against being laterally moved from the North West Counties League to the Ebac Northern League.

It can’t have helped their case that, though they themselves are in the north-west, their annual mileage will be less in the Northern League. Now Mr Hewitt can get the fixtures out.

I’ve some sympathy for City, nonetheless. Why shouldn’t a club, within reason, play in a league which best suits them rather than one which suits the jerry builders and where, mainfestly, they don’t want to be? None of this is going to end well.

*Refereeing matters: word is that Shane Sugden, among the most high profile – and most talkative – refs who serve the ENL first division is retiring through injury.

He’s a greatly popular lad who’ll be missed not least at Bishop Auckland, where he lives and is usually available for on-the-spot ground inspections.

The observant may also have noticed that the excellent Rebecca Welch, another who came through the Northern League, was fourth official on that televised Football Aid match on Sunday evening.

Surprisingly, however, neither Rebecca nor any other of the female referees who’ve so impressed in recent years is included in the latest list of promotions to the Football League – the national group, as the refereeing world knows it.

Marc Edwards and Will Finnie, familiar hereabouts, do make the national group. Daniel Woodward becomes a national group assistant ref and Northallerton lad Barry Sygmuta – the dear old Ballerina in the Black – becomes a Football League observer. Well done to them all.




June 16 2019: Santa clause

Santa Claus FC play in Finland, though the club logo identifies them as “Arctic Circle, Lapland.” If in need of cheer these dreich June days, do google that logo.

Santa Claus is nominated by John Briggs in our search for football clubs named after people – “you have to believe in him, of course” says John, but don’t we all?

Both John and Andy Lister also draw attention to a thread on the invaluable Guardian Knowledge website which pursued the same theme. The South Amricans seem particularly keen on personation.

Guardian readers nominated outfits like Club Jorge Wilstermann, named after Bolivia’s first commercial pilot, like Vasco da Gama in Brazil, Club Presidente Hayes in Paraguay and, gloriously, C D O’Higgins in Chile.

In Trinidad and Tobago, readers including Richard Jones also discovered the first club of former Sunderland striker Kenwynne Jones. It’s called Joe Public FC and that could be named after all of us.

Don Clarke recalls that in the 60s and 70s the Jarrow Joc League had a team called Bader Boys, named after the celebrated wartime pilot and double amputee.

There’s also a Bader primary school in Thornaby, on the site of the aerodrome from which Bader had flown and opened by Sir Douglas in 1971. No doubt they had a school team – as had Timothy Hackworth juniors in Shildon though, for some reason, I never quite made the cut.

Thornaby’s aviation history goes back to 1912, when a farmer was paid 100 gold sovereigns to let his fields be used for an air show. How nice to see that Thornaby FC are themselves flying high once again.

June 15 2019: balcony scenes

For reasons which shortly will become clear, I’m not at today’s Ebac Northern League annual meeting at Guisborough. There’s unlikely to have been much of a diverting – shall we say – nature, not even an election for the management committee.

Though there may have been some unhappiness at the withholding of fixtures because of Carlisle City’s appeal against lateral transfer from the North West Counties League, I’m irresistibly reminded of Stanley Holloway’s lines when young Albert goes to Blackpool:

They didn’t think much to the seaside

The waves they was piddling and small,

There were no wrecks and nobody drownded –

‘Fact nothing to laugh at at all

Instead I’m in Bishop Auckland, alongside Derek Lewin’s family and friends to remember one of the league’s greatest players and the very best of men.

Derek, who died on March 15 aged 88, had played and scored in each of the Bishops’ hat-trick of FA Amateur Cup final wins between 1955-57, was capped five times by England – how many more had he been with a southern club? – and was in the Great Britain squad for the 1956 Olympics. He lived in Lancashire.

After each Wembley victory they’d return to Bishop, open-top bus escorted by the town band down the long main street before taking a precarious place – rather them – on the town hall balcony.

Below them, the market place filled with thousands upon thousands of fans.

Today 17 members of Derek’s family – including Sheila, his widow – are back in town, most of them braving (there can be no other word) the balcony. In these health and safety conscious days, safety harnesses are usually required just to stand there.

Thereafter the party heads for the Heritage Park ground where Derek’s ashes are scattered and where a permanent photographic exhibition now vividly recalls the club’s incomparable glory days.

The day has been billiantly put together by Bishops’ dirctor Terry Jackson, than whom none is more conscious of that word “heritage”, and who wears his best baseball boots for the occasion.

So while the Northern League wades through all the necessary formalities and then has an afternoon session on the sin bin, we all adjourn for a very good and greatly convivial country pub lunch and to raise a glass to a true football gentleman. Cheers, Derek.


June 14 2019: Christian names

With no particular affection, perhaps, Newcastle United fans may recall Christian Bassedas (whose name sounds like a brand of bath salts.)

An Argentinian, he scored just once in 23 appearances in his first season, made only two appearances in his second, was loaned out and finally returned whence he’d come.

He’d signed from the interestingly named Argentinian club Velez Sarsfield – and after yesterday’s reference to Fisher FC, named after a 15th century bishop and martyr, we’d wondered if any other clubs had taken the names of people.

Yet more improbably, the Argentinian top division also includes Newell’s Old Boys –  named after Isaac Newell, a man of Kent, who founded the club in the late 19th century.

Wikipedia repeats the story that Velez Sarsfield was formed in 1910 after a bunch of lads having a kickabout took shelter in Velez Sarsfield railway station during a storm and there decided that they should be a bit better organised.

But why was the station so named?

The Sarsfields had been Irish nobility, three brothers leaving to seek fresh fortunes around 1810. Dominic Sarsfield, a son or grandson, is said in family folklore to have founded the football club as early as 1872.

The best known in Blighty was Norman Sarsfield OBE MC. Mayor of Durham in 1964-65. He’d been the city’s swimming champion every year from 1938-54, became chairman of the English Commonwealth Games Council and is credited with bringing the 2002 Games to Manchester.

I talked to him about Velez Sarsfield when he was 80 and nearly blind – “I’ll help in any I can so long as you don’t want my fingerprints,” he said.

Norman, who died three years later, had no doubts that both station and football club were named after his forebear. Can blog readers put a name to any others?



June 13 2019: cock and bull

Could things be any more chaotic? Word is that Carlisle City, transferred laterally from the North West Counties League to help make up numbers in the Ebac Northern League second division, have appealed that decision.

The appeal will be heard by the FA at Wembley on Monday at noon – two days after the Northern League’s annual meeting at which City are due to be “welcomed.”

So what happens if the appeal’s successful? Hold an extraordinary general meeting a week later? Run the second division with 19 clubs (at most)? Pack up and go home?

Whatever happens, there’ll be sour tastes and ugly feelings. What on earth have they done to the beautiful game?

*Recording the latest scenic grounds poll, the blog noted that the top four were Richmond Town, Matlock Town, Esh Winning and Fisher – a successor club to Fisher Athletic, where once I interviewed Malcolm Allison (after his spell at Willington.)

Fisher’s ground now looks over the Thames towards Canary Wharf – but are they, wonders Neil McKay, the only football club to be named after a person?

Founded in 1908, Fisher Athletic were named after St John Fisher, a 16th century Bishop of Rochester who opposed Henry VIII’s unilateral declaration of independence and, like many more, lost his head for it. He wasn’t canonised until 1935.

It recalls Fr John Caden, a wonderful man who for more than 40 years was parish priest of St John Fisher in Sedgefield – where his parishioners included Tony Blair and family.

Fr Caden, aged 89 when he died in 2013, was also the former Prime Minster’s doubles partner at tennis but always managed to look younger than Blair did. “He’s had more worries than I have,” he’d insist.

As a young curate in Darlington in the 1940s he’d sometimes keep goal for the Rolling Mills. After Hebburn lad Ray Wood was transferred from Darlington to Man United, Fr Caden was asked if he’d play for Darlington Reserves.

Times were different back then. The bishop, had he known, would have turned an episcopal shade of purple. Fr Caden agreed on condition that they got him back for six o’clock confessions and that he be listed as the ubiquitous A N Other.

Word got out, nonetheless. The Daily Ex[press sent reporter and photographer to the presbytery. What was to be done?

“I dissembled,” Fr Caden once told me.

“You did what, Father?”

“I lied through my teeth,” he translated. “I swear that before they got to the bottom of the drive I heard the cock crow twice.”



June12 2019: Herts attack

We’ve had an overnight break at the younger bairn’s in Hertsfordshire, seats next to the radiator in the pub. That sort of June weather – and, like the monsoons, could trouble be following us around?

In its continuing and remarkably cack-handed attempts to hammer square pegs into round holes, the FA proposed laterally to move London Colney and Colney Heath – Hertfordshire-based clubs in the Spartan South Midlands League – into the Essex Senior League.

The clubs appealed and won, the appeal board sending the case back to the benighted leagues committee – of the same organisation, remember – with the instruction that two of those two plus Hadley (which is in Barnet, Herts) and Edgeware (Middlesex) be laterally moved from the Spartan South Midland.

A sub-committee of the leagues committee met on Monday but I’m blowed if I can find the outcome on the internet. The word is, however, that they decided London Colney and Colney Heath be laterally moved.

They’d have seven days to appeal….

*Recent blogs have been playing the place/name game. Our kidder, not unreasonably, expresses surprise that the Shildon XI didn’t include St John’s Road, recalling Ian of that ilk.

“And as far as a lot of non-league outfits are concerned, what about Cheapside?” he adds.

Norman Leighton offers perhaps the bravest side yet, a team of Sunderland players past and present drawn wholly from the streets of Newton Aycliffe and more or less in their playing positions.

(Derek) Forster Court, (Geoff) Butler Road, (Mickey) Gray Court, (Dave) Watson Road, (Steve) Bruce Road, (Jordan) Henderson Road, (Steve) Agnew Way, (Brian) Atkinson Gardens, (Gordon) Armstrong Close, (Lee) Chapman Close, (Jermaine) Defoe Crescent.

Brian Atkinson even had a lengthy spell as Newton Aycliffe’s assistant manager in the Northern League, though whether the streets’s named after him must be considered doubtful.



June 10 2019: Westgate for Wembley

Back from a cruise – “a floating care home” – around Norway, former Bedlington Terriers vice-chairman John Garbutt reports a text message while atop a mountain in two feet of snow.

That his eyes were tightly closed at the time may be explained by the fact that, like all the best people, he’s absolutely terrified of heights.

The message informed him that Westgate Juniors, the club he now chairs, had been named Northumberland FA’s club of the year and now goes forward to the national finals. They seem a remarkable outfit.

Formed in 2006 and an FA Charter Standard Development club based in Newcastle’s west end, they provide coaching and friendship for around 300 youngsters, about half from overseas and many with little or no English.

“The coaches are giants to a man, true football folk. We are perceived as epitomising a community club,” says John, who insists that his heart will always be with Bedlington.

The national winner will be announced at Wembley: John wonders if he should mention my name.

Probably not, I tell him.

*Still in Newcastle, the blog the other day on the Battle of Heaton Stannington had cause to mention local MP Mike Thomas who switched from Labour to SDP.

Swearing that it was true, Mike once told me the story of the Tyneside MP – not the brightest, let’s say – who after two years in the Commons had yet to make his maiden speech. When the closure of the biggest pit in his constituency was announced, a debut could no longer be postponed.

“This here closure,” he said in broad Geordie, “will mean the crippilisation of my constituency.”

Next morning the Hansard clerk tapped timidly on his door. Had he really said crippilisation? It appeared not to be in any of her dictionaries.

The MP was a kindly old duffer. “If thoo doesn’t understand lang words, pet,” he said, “just put it in invertebrated commas.”

No blog tomorrow. Back Thursday morning.