Bill star to help Darlington FC youth team

The Northern Echo: Mark Wingett Mark Wingett

A TELEVISION actor is to direct a play about the winners of the first football World Cup as part of efforts to secure the future of Darlington Football Club’s youth team.

Mark Wingett, who played Detective Constable Jim Carver in police drama The Bill for 21 years, will direct Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather, at the Civic Theatre, in Darlington, in July.

Darlington FC’s youth squad faces an uncertain future, with the end of the “parachute payments”

that have helped sustain it following the club’s relegation from the Football League in 2010.

A fans’ group is aiming to raise £750,000 to buy the club and secure its long-term future.

The play tells the story of the West Auckland miners who went to Italy in 1909 and returned with the Lipton Trophy – the first World Cup.

They returned to Italy two years later, beating Juventus 6-1 to retain the cup in perpetuity.

Mr Wingett has previously worked with writers Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, having appeared in their play, Maggie’s End.

He also appeared in the 1982 film A Captain’s Tale, chronicling West Auckland’s world cup triumph.

Mr Wingett, who supports Portsmouth, said: “When I read the script, I thought it was brilliant. It’s very funny and gripping in places.

“Knowing this production will be for the benefit of the Darlington youth team was also a major factor in being part of the show.

“As a Pompey supporter, I know exactly what it’s like having your club on the brink of administration.”

Mr Wood said: “This is a massive coup for us and the people of Darlington. Mark is not only a great actor, he’s also a fantastic director.”

Also appearing in the play will be Sky TV presenter and staunch Hartlepool United supporter, Jeff Stelling.

He will feature in a specially recorded version of his Soccer Saturday show.

Mr Stelling said: “I was happy to get involved with this production, initially because it celebrated North-East football and now as a means to support the Darlington youth team, which has played a vital role in the survival of the club.”

The current West Auckland squad will take on fellow Northern League side Dunston in the FA Vase final, at Wembley, on May 13.

* Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather runs from Tuesday to Friday, July 24 to 27. Tickets are now on sale, priced from £10 to £20. Call 01325-486555.

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