As well as familiar friends, Backtrack has met some of the North-East's most colourful characters during 2006 - a year that has seen the couimn travel as far afield as John O'Groats, Accrington, Pontefract and seemingly everywhere else between. Mike Amos looks back at Backtrack's last 12 months.
Gretna FC chairman Brooks Mileson (whose monkey gave birth to triplets).
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Calvin Stephenson, all 10 for Murton against Washjington.
Cream Cracker, ridden by Darryl Jacob (4 15 at Southwell, August 14.)
Ernie Peterson, 75-year-old Middleham stable worker, made the presentations instead of the Queen after the King George V at Ascot.
The George and Dragon at Heighington, probably Britain's best dominoes team.
John Armstrong, 61-year-old Etherley cricketer who recovered from a vicious attack by the sight screen to top the second team bowling this season.
David Craggs, David Lilley and Michael Rhodes, Co Durham lads and world snooker champions.
Hetton Lyons Cricket Club Football Club, FA Sunday Cup winners.
George Butterfield, early 20th century Darlington Olympian and pub landlord who finally had a plaque erected in his memory.
Tom Stafford, 59, retired Eaglescliffe newsagent and Londoner who's wicket-keeper in Yorkshire's county championship winning Over 50s. "I'm the overseas pro, in't I?" he said.
Lol Cullinan from Sunniside, world skilful dominoes champion.
Peter McLure, who hired an executive box to mark 50 years as a Hartlepool United supporter and ended up watching television instead. "An absolute shambles," he said.
Greyhound FC from Darlington. For 8 against 142.
The Durham diocesan clergy cricket team, yet again, 22 all out against York.
Former Hartlepool United chairman Garry Gibson, paid £700 for two World Cup match tickets only to discover they were forgeries.
Marske United FC chairman John Hodgson, quoted £1.2m to buy the redundant LCD screen from Highbury.
Norton and Stockton Ancients footballer Chris Wrathmall, given a salver after scoring the 125,000th goal in Northern League history after being convinced by team mates that he'd won a car.
England under Steve McLaren - even superfan Tony Duffy, from Bishop Auckland, has decided there are better things to do with his money.
Easington Colliery FC, on penalties to Ashington Colliers after being 9-9 after extra time.
The Brainless Britannia B.
Aidan Davison, Close House lad and Colchester United goalkeeper, told to gan canny on the tea. "It's a diuretic," he explained.
Jim Caddy, 82-year-old Redcar athlete, more medals than Idi Amin.
Mick Henderson, 71, retired deputy head teacher and still refereeing over 100 football matches a season in the Durham area.
Bob Welsh, rewarded for 80 years service to Mainsforth Cricket Club.
Keith Hopper, finally hung up his cricket boots at 73. "I'd rather people ask if I've retried than say who on earth don't I," he said.
Charlie Walker, Demon Donkey Dropper of Eryholme, 7-35 against Middleton Tyas.
Stormin' Norman Sturman, 71, 5-26 for Haughton II against Barningham.
Dave "Jock" Rutherford, ageless.
The Feversham Cricket League, incomparable.
Barry Sygmuta, the Ballerina in the Black.
Ten minority sports embraced by the Backtrack column
Dominoes (skilful and otherwise), roller skating, stone skimming -entertainment at the world championships by Murky Waters and the Red Topped Tossers - caber tossing, poker, darts, baseball, basketball, walking, conkers.
London, to see former Middlesbrough footballer Alan Comfort, now a Church of England vicar.
John o'Groats, to catch up with world beating ultra distance runner Sharon Gayter, from Guisborough.
Drumtochtie, where Darlington Farmers Mart director Steve Aitken is a big man in the Highland Games.
Blackpool "blue with pollisses and numb with cold", the FA Vase coinciding with the Tory Spring conference.
Pontefract, Ponte Carlo to the locals, where the sub against Washington was a feller called Mike Amos.
Hampden Park, twice. Glory days for Gretna.
Dundee, where former Boro favourite Alan Kernaghan was manager (but isn't any longer.)
Accrington - back in the big time, against Darlington. The homioty pie was good, too.
Motherwell, Gretna v Derry comes neutrally.
Spout House cricket. Unforgettable.
Marske United FC, 50; Eryholme Cricket Club, 50; Dennis the Menace, 55; Ian Barnes, 50 years with Darlington Harriers - "It's very satisfactory," he said, as legal people do - Charlie Hurley, 70; former North-East boxing supremo Dave Ogilvie, married 50 years this month; 25 years since a North-East team (Whickham) won at Wembley.
Deaths in the family
Arthur Austin, 97. The gentleman of Durham County cricket, known to keep wicket in a cravet. Became club president and top man in the Wensleydale Creamery.
Bill Barron, 88, Herrington lad and Hetton Junior. Played football for Northampton and cricket for Northamptonshire. Canny singer, they reckon, an' all.
Alec Coxon, 90, Durham and England cricketer and legendary tough cookie. Declined to sign autographs for fear they were sold on at a profit.
Ray Grant, 97, legendary Middlesbrough FC scout and the man who discovered Brian Clough at Great Broughton.
Charlie Wayman, former Chilton pitman - "knee deep in watter for 12/6d a week" - who as a centre forward embodied all they say about good stuff and little bundles.
John Sproates, 62, Easington Lane lad. One of two brothers to play football for Darlington.
Gordon Barker, 74, former West Auckland milkman. Opened the batting for Essex and played League football for Southend.
Graham Roope, 60, England player whose North-East club cricket ranged from Chester-le-Street to Rievaulx, in the Feversham League. "He wasn't as good as't local lads and even worse at getting his hand in his pocket," said Rievaulx chairman Frank Flintoft.
Maurice Binge - Binge by name but teetotal by nature, the only man to take all ten in Cockerton Cricket Club's 113-year history.
Roland Boyes, MP, Hartlepool United director and Durham County Cricket League umpire - the only way, he explained, that he could have five hours away from the phone.
Bob Moreland, 65. Newcastle based and much respected, journalist on the non-league football scene.
Wasim Raja, Test cricketer long-familiar around the North-East leagues. Once hit a six which smashed a Crypton tuner in a garage at Sacriston.
Jackie Milburn, 85, footballer and Crook lad. Played for Crook, Willington and Consett and, unlike his namesake, won the foot handicap at Shildon Show.
"I'm the Sid and Doris Bonkers" - lone spectator at Spout House cricket.
"His mother clearly had high hopes" - Newcastle Eagles' basketball programme explains that the chief coach really is called Fabulous Flourney.
"You can tell brides in Bury, they're the ones in the white shell suit" - Dr Kevin Jones, Bury hospital consultant and after-dinner speaker.
"At least it saves on the phone bill, I'll be in India when the next round's on" - Steve Harmison finds comfort after Bedlington Terriers' exit from the FA Vase.
"I thought I would grow to like it, but I never really did" - Hartlepool lad Michael Gough, now an umpire, explains why he stopped playing first class cricket.
"I'm a bomb waiting to explode" - Dave "Jock" Rutherford, 60, on his difficulty getting a game in the Over 40s League.
"An absolute prat, as much personality as a bag of chips" - Steve Bruce assesses former Premiership referee Jeff Winter.
"When you achieve anything in life, unfortunately you always get some criticism, some jealousy" - Jeff Winter.
"That's the real problem, everyone's going to want one now" - Gretna FC chairman Brooks Mileson after promising star striker Kenny Deuchar an Aston Martin if he scored in a victorious Scottish Cup final.
"I tried to call him a philanthropist on air the other night and made a right pig's ear of it. In future I'll just call him a good bloke" - Hartlepool lad and Sky Sports frontman Jeff Stelling, on Mileson.
"I thought nothing of it for a while. There are parts of Horden where everyone calls you Jimmy, anyway" - ex-Hartlepool defender Malcolm Dawes after being mistaken in a chip shop for Jimmy Montgomery.
"About three weeks" - Billingham Town FC chairman Tommy Donnelly, asked by the burglar alarm company how long it would take him to get to the ground. (They'd rung his mobile, in Australia.)
"It's like a flower on the first day of Spring, so much more to come2 - Malcolm Macdonald appraises the Arsenal.
"Niceness isn't a weakness but it can be perceived as one" - Hartlepool
boxing trainer Neil Fannan.
Source for the goose
(Ten improbable places where the column found information)
Kidderminister Shuttle, Bangkok Post, the menu at the Wok Inn at Brandon, Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Dundee Courier - which in 1912 ran the headline "Titanic sinks, Dundee man feared drowned" - Manila Times, Calcio Italia, Accrington Observer, Wales on Sunday, War Cry.
Knowledge is everything
Ten things that only Backtrack readers would know
St Blaise, the patron saint of wool combers, was put to death by being excoriated with combs.
Filipino boxing champion Manny "the Destroyer" Pacquiao has his socks specially made by a company called Darlington.
Jamaican musician Clement Dodd changed his name to Sir Coxone Dodd in admiration for cricketer Alec Coxon (see deaths.)
Sunderland footballer Johnny Crossan, a star of the 60s, played with Mickey Spillane novels, and not shinpads, down his socks.
The bloke who baked the first Pukka Pie is now worth £35,.
Queen of the South is the only football team mentioned in the Bible (Matthew 13:42, apparently.)
They have eisteddfods in Patagonia.
One person in North Lanarkshire kills himself every week (it says so above the netties at Motherwell.)
The modern day Armenia is on the site of the Garden of Eden.
Durham and England cricket Liam Plunkett is known universally as Pudsey.
The first XI
Hodgy, British and Commonwealth dole drawing champion; Bulldog Billy Teesdale, another man with a sicknote; the Beardless Wonder; John Martin Watson; John Briggs; Hails of Hartlepool, 80 on the glorious 12th; Martin Birtle; Boss Hogg; the sedulous Sixer, John Dawson, A N Other.
Joy Watson, nee Grieveson, 22-year-old wages clerk from Darlington who ran in the 1964 Olympics, in Tokyo. "I'm still always dashing about," she said. "It's a way of forgetting the aches and pains of old age."
Ahgowangowan. Filly trained near Darlington by Michael Dods who could do nothing until she became in foal, and then won five races in a month.
Mary Vine. Durham City golfer, county official and winner of the Sir Henry Cotton trophy for services to the sport.
Rachel Godschalk. Artificial inseminator from Greta Bridge and peripatetic cricket in a man's world. "Those cows look at me like I'm their father," she said.
Sharon Gayter. Truly extraordinary.
The Rev Mary Vickers, sports chaplain and Colburn curate. "Chaplaincy is loitering with intent," she said.
Mary Hail, not to be confused with Hail Mary, whose sponsored silence at Tow Law was among the year's more improbable achievements.
Cassie Andrew from Stokesley, named after a boxing-mad father after Cassius Clay. Her brothers are Rocky and Sonny....
Doris Rewcastle. Bishop Auckland bowler, 80-odd, awarded top honour by the Countess of Wessex.
Thierry Henry, broke her leg (in the 8 22 race at Wentworth Park dogs.)
"It's t'same for both teams. If it lands in cow clap for one, it lands in cow clap for t'other" - Spout House Cricket Club secretary and pub landlord William Ainslie, 77, tells shit like it is.
"What's the matter, haven't you seen the Durham Sunday Cup before?" - Mickey Taylor of Sherburn WMC FC can't understand the incredulity that he's running round naked with the cup.
"I like everyone too much to take sides" - former Middlesbrough footballer the Rev Alan Comfort, on why he could never be a referee.
"If that commentator says once more that I'm looking good, I'm going to kill him" - diabetic athlete Brian Hunter, at the end of the Great North Walk.
"I think he accepts that he's doddery and a git, but if you call him old he'll kill you" - Smith's Dock CC secretary Paul Scrafton on eternl fast bowler Barney Frewin, 62.
"I had a horrendous time (at Sunderland.) I was absolutely bloody useless. End of story" - Lawrie McMenemy.
"Chet out" - former Durham County man Ray Burridge explains the eleventh way to be out at cricket.
"Legendary striker Bernie Slaven has today called on Boro manager Gary Southgate to put rockets up a few backsides" - the Evening Gazette, Middlesbrough on the day that unfortunate fireworks accident to the chap in Sunderland was reported.
"I'm more knackered at the end of a game of poker than ever I was laying cement" - Michael Jackson from Spennymoor.
"Anyone who watches four non-league football matches in a week should be looked upon with suspicion" - Lancashire constabulary.
"I told them all it was Mike Amos's round" - former Football League referee Terry Farley explains why he had 64 guests at the Local heroes awards.