Thomas family still making news

9:47am Tuesday 15th December 2009

HIS dad was a World Cup winner with West Auckland and an Amateur Cup winner with the Bishops; his elder son won eight full England caps and came within a point – with QPR, of all people – of the top division title.

Lloyd Thomas won the 1937-38 Auckland and District league with Shildon RA, the memento still proudly on the sideboard.

Now Lloyd makes the sports pages again. On Thursday he and his wife Jessie celebrate sixty years of marriage, still happily joshing about how it ever happened in the first place.

“She was the only one I wanted,” says Lloyd, 93.

“I was the only one who’d have him,” says Jessie, four years his junior.

The photographer suggests that, diamond people, they sit together on the sofa.

“We’ve never been on the sofa together in our lives,” says Jessie.

The elder David Thomas, invariably Ticer, was born in Stoke, moved north to play for Darlington Rise Carr and was so highly rated when West Auckland won the first of their Sir Thomas Lipton trophies in 1909 that he was offered a coaching job in Italy.

His grandson, another David, made his Burnley debut at 16, was transferred to QPR for £169,000 – huge money in 1972 – and played also for Everton, Wolves, Vancouver Whitecaps, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth.

Still on the south coast, David retired from teaching 18 months ago and because of glaucoma is now registered blind – though he insists he can see quite well.

“It’s all to do with peripheral vision and because of that they’ve taken away my driving licence. It’s frustatating but I’m a strong character and I take it on the chin.”

Instead, he and his Sunderland-born wife Brenda are now “passionately” into carriage driving – “me and Prince Philip, and I’m as keen as he is.”

Lloyd, who next September will mark 90 years in the same house in West Auckland, kept goal for the school team and was also an enthusiastic brass bandsman.

Most of the time, he recalls, it was his father who encouraged the younger David.

“From the age of two, all he wanted to do was kick a ball about. My dad would have him on the field out the back, tell him that he’d never make a footballer if he only kicked with one foot. He worked him like a tyrant.”

Jessie remembers it, too. “We had football breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. I wouldn’t care, but I much prefer cricket.”

It paid off, nonetheless. At the age of seven years and ten months, young Thomas was picked for the St Helen’s under-11 side that he scored twice on his debut at inside left and another two in his next match – at inside right.

The team lost once in four years. “The Mighty Midgets,” they called them,” says Lloyd.

One day, said Ticer, his grandson would play for England – and little matter that he said the same about David’s brother, Melvyn, who got no further than trials with Wolverhampton.

At Barnard Castle Comp he scored eight first half goals on his debut and, switched to the other side, another seven in the second.

Word was fast spreading.

“We had scouts and managers here all the time, near pestered us to death,” says Lloyd. “When we got up I’d tell my wife to look in the garden, in case they’d been sleeping there all night.”

As a 15-year-old he’d also played in the 1966 match between England and West Germany – the schoolboy version – scoring the winning goal in front a 91,000 Wembley crowd.

The big occasion will be celebrated with a family party on Saturday. Young David, now 59, is looking forward to it. “They’ve been fantastic parents, really supportive. I owe them both a great deal.”

It’s all gold for the Darlington and District League

THE Darlington and District Cricket League, may its tribe increase, approaches its fiftieth summer, or what around Darlington passes for summer, in 2010.

Even in deep mid-winter, there is talk of suitable celebration.

An early present, the league finds itself glorified – yet more rapturously because of the element of surprise – in a delightfully discursive book just out.

“Darlington,” writes Tony Hutton, “is probably a town most people associate with railways and industry, but the league contains some of the most picturesque cricket grounds you could wish to see.”

There are village grounds, indeed, which he supposes on a balmy evening to be heaven on earth. It’s the league of Charlie Walker and of Norman Sturman, of Fingers Morrison and of the Cockerton Streaker – and for Tony Hutton, it’s paradise found.

He and his pal Peter Davies may be cricket’s answer to the ground hopper.

However verdant the scene, they rarely let the grass grow under their feet – sometimes just a circuit, lap up the atmosphere, and on to the other man’s.

West Yorkshiremen, they range from New Rover to Pudsey Congs, Spen Victoria, Hanging Heaton and the magnificent Mytholmroyd before heading north up the A1 to be hooked like a bad bouncer.

Tony claims dual nationality, anyway. His mother was born in Sunderland.

He discovered Raby, a magnificent vista, writes a couple of miles on of the “sweeping views” from Ingleton, continued to Cliffe – south side of the Tees, near Piercebridge – and was all but carried away by it all.

“An absolute picture, a perfect setting. A delight to wander around in the evening sunshine.”

On another day he maundered round Middleton Tyas (“a perfect rural scene”), rambled on to Rockliffe Park (“a good place to watch cricket”) before finding Eryholme – “a place to savour” – at the very end of the road to nowhere.

The Demon doesn’t get a mention, Aldbrough St John opener J Stapleton, 128 not out, does.

Only Brompton-on-Swale disappointed, “ordinary and utalitarian” despite being down Honey Pot Lane. Put not your faith in fancy names, Tony supposes.

We’d written a couple of years back of an earlier cricket book, Off the Beaten Track, which he’d written with two others and which managed a very nice credit to Mike Amos.

It also immortalised a Backtrack column quote about our old friend Tom Stafford, at 62 still keepng wicket for Yarm and others and who rashly suggested that he preferred a leg side stumping to sex.

“He has been repercussively reminded of it, not least by his loysl wife, ever since.”

This one’s rather neatly entitled Two Men and a Blog, because this new-fangled blogging is where it all began. It starts at a match on December 26 2008 (“very strange”) ends ten months later with the involvement of our old friends from the Doghouse.

Their travels also take them to the Esk Valley Leage, on the occasional foray into the NYSD and much further afield. Come next golden summer, however, it’s clearly destination Darlington.

By way of concelebration, Backtrack may have to source the grass roots a little further, too.

■ Two Men and a Blog by Tony Hutton and Peter Davies – 176 pages, including 16 of colour photographs – costs £6 including postage from Dr Peter Davies, School of Music, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield HD1 3DH. Cheques to the University of Huddersfield.

THE splendid Charlie Donaghy, known and admired by many, weighed in yesterday after ten weeks of his sponsored slim. He has lost two stones eight pounds and gained, if everyone divvies up, well over £1,000.

Charlie – Tow Law lad, retired teacher and contributor of many of the games league reports in Local Heroes – began at just over 19 stones. He didn’t look it.

Pound for pound, he’s achieved a remarkable success thanks to Sue Bellis and Lesley Rose, nurses at the Tow Law surgery – “wonderfully supportive, I’ve never felt hungry” – and to the staff at the Glenholme Gym in Crook.

“They took a geriatric and managed to find a programme to help,” says Charlie.

“There were people on the treadmills doing the equivalent of a race to the Eiffel Tower and I was pushed to get to Crook market place.”

Many of the leagues he helps, many more individuals, have been supportive.

The money will go towards a “secret garden” at Tow Law primary school, of which Charlie is a governor.

TUESDAY’S column mentioned Richard Jones and friends who left Darlington at 2am on Saturday in order to support their beleaguered team at Torquay. After a 5-0 defeat it hasn’t been possible to contact Richard – it may be, of course, that he threw himself into the briny – but the picture shows some of the other fans who made merry, nonetheless. As a Quakers follower might say, you have to laugh, haven’t you.

...and finally

THE side other than Chelsea and Southampton for which Peter Osgood played (Backtrack, December 12) was Norwich City.

Fred Alderton in Peterlee today invites readers to name 12 football grounds in the London area which have staged full England internationals.

Time for the annual review, the column returns on Saturday.

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