Football’s North star

Football’s North star

ON THE PITCH: The team sheet for the Northern League XI benefit match against Middlesbrough

CUP WIN: The Crook dressing-room after the Durham Challenge Cup victory in April 1955

IN PRINT: A headline praises Ray Tate

First published in History

IN the 1950s if you could get a game of football for Bishop Auckland, Crook Town, Shildon and Durham County then you had to be a decent player.

Ray Tate, long since retired from Bakelite, and now living in Heighington, was one such decent player.

Ray has rarely hit the headlines because he never played in an Amateur Cup Final, but there is no doubting his obvious ability.

For instance, 60 years ago, almost to the day, on Saturday, August 21, 1954, Ray made his debut for Crook playing in the inside-left position and hit four goals in a 0-8 victory.

Since the war only Derek Wheldrake (five goals) Billy Hopper (five goals) and Ken Bowron (four goals) have hit four goals or more on their debuts for the Millfield club.

Ray, however, is definitely the only Crook Town centre-half to have hit four goals on his debut, because centre-half was really his main position.

Ray also created another piece of Amateur or Northern League history, because along with Amateur Cup hero Bobby Davison they are the only two players in the 1950s to have worn the number 5 shirt for Bishop Auckland, Crook Town, Shildon and County Durham, a record to be proud of.

Arnold Alton, who also wore the number 5 shirt at Kingsway and the Millfield in the 60s, recalls Ray playing for Crook at Bishop Auckland.

“Crook were playing in the silk, gold-coloured shirts that they wore in the 1954 Amateur Cup final against Bishop and you could easily pick out Ray because his shirt was almost brown in colour with all the sweat he was releasing.

“That was down to the work he was putting into the game,” said Arnold.

Later in the 1954-55 season Ray played right-half for Crook at Brentford in the FA Cup first round with Bobby Davison centre-half.

Ray recalled: “We were two goals down early in the game and then had Armstrong sent off so we didn’t have much of a chance.”

Ray had a much better FA Cup experience with Bishop Auckland in the 1957-58 season when he was centre-half for Bishop against Bury at Kingsway in the first round of the competition.

The Press made Ray the Bishop Auckland man of the match and there were headlines like “Great Tate gives fighting Bishops another chance”.

Ray recalled again: “When we were coming off the pitch after the Bury game, Harry Sharratt, our keeper, came across to say, ‘Well played, Ray.’ To receive a compliment like that from Harry was really something. I thought it was very good of him.”

Another game Ray has never forgotten was a benefit match at Kingsway on Wednesday, September 19, 1956.

The match was played for the families of two Willington footballers, Henry Davis and Raymond Taylor, who died in a car accident after a home game.

A Northern League XI played Middlesbrough who had Brian Clough at centre-forward, Ray was centrehalf for the Northern League.

“Before the game I was chatting to Bert Steward and I bet Bert five shillings that Cloughie wouldn’t score,” said Ray.

“‘You’re on,” said Bert. My five shillings was looking good until the second half. Clough received the ball a good 30-35 yards from goal and our keeper shouted, ‘Let Cloughie have a shot, Ray.’ “That I did, but could only watch in despair as Brian hit this belter of a shot straight into our net. I’ll say this about Brian, he never resorted to any verbals or elbows, he played the game as straight as a die.” Which by all accounts is how Ray used to play.

  • Thanks to Arnold Alton and Michael Manuel for help with this article.

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