EXACTLY 80 years ago, practically all of south-west Durham was in London to witness the 1950 FA Amateur Cup final between Bishop Auckland and Willington. Eighty-eight thousand people were at Wembley to watch the clash in those post-war glamour days when local “amateur” football was as keenly followed as today’s professional Premiership.

In fact, the 1950 final had extra spice as it was a rerun of the 1939 final, when Bishop Auckland and Willington had met at Roker Park, Sunderland, in front of a 25,064 crowd. Willington had slightly more of the ball, but ten minutes into extra-time the game was still deadlocked at 0-0 when Bishop took the lead in bizarre fashion.

The Willington centre half jumped up, heard a whistle and caught the ball. However, the whistle had come from the crowd and not from the referee who awarded a free-kick to Bishop Auckland. Inside right Laurie Wensley hit the kick straight into the net, and within seven minutes had completed a hat-trick to leave Bishop 3-0 winners.

So there was plenty to play for at Wembley on Saturday, April 22, 1950. Bishop Auckland, playing in their 13th final, were looking for their eighth Amateur Cup win and were the red hot favourites, while Willington, in only their second final, were looking to avenge that 1939 defeat.

The underdogs could not have made a better start because inside the first 30 minutes, they scored three goals.

The first came from a cross by outside right Joe Robinson which found the head of one of the smallest players on the pitch, skipper Eddie Taylor. An hour before kick off, Taylor had been doubtful because of a boil on his foot, but the club doctor had lanced it, and he flicked the cross into the net with his head.

Bobby Davison, the Bishop Auckland centre half, greatly missed by the column for his crack and stories, once said: "I would have headed the ball clear, but Bobby Hardisty, who had dropped back from midfield, got in front of me and blocked my view.”

He told the legendary Hardisty: "Get back up the field and out of my bloody way." (Reading between the lines, there wasn’t a lot of love lost between Davison and Hardisty, particularly when Davison found that the Bishop Auckland Football Club committee had nominated Hardisty, and not himself, for the centre half spot in the England amateur team, but that's another story.)

Willington's second goal came from the feet of Stan Rutherford, and Bill Larmouth hit the third.

After this initial scoring burst, Bishop had much more of the play, but they could not get the ball past the Willington goalkeeper Jack Snowdon who had an inspired afternoon.

The final nail in Auckland's coffin came 15 minutes from time when Matty Armstrong hit a fourth goal with a great drive.

Snowdon once told me: "When the final whistle went, we all shook hands. Bob Hardisty came over to me and said 'Well played Jack, you deserved to win.' I replied: ‘You will play much worse than that Bob and win’.”

Man of the Match: Jack Snowdon

THE Willington goalkeeper had every right to be feeling on top of the world after the final, as most people made him man of the match.

Little did Jack know that his world would soon come crashing down.

As a reward for winning the Cup with his hometown team, Jack was selected with three teammates – Stewart Howe from Houghton-le-Spring, Eddie Taylor from Sunderland and Stan Rutherford from Cramlington – to go on a five-match FA tour of Scandinavia.

Jack, though, had to withdraw after he fractured his collar bone playing against Billingham on April 25. He came back the following season, but left the club after a 3-1 defeat at Rochdale in the FA Cup First Round.

Jack, who is sadly no longer with us, once told me: "I had been experiencing problems with the committee and was not very happy on our way home after the final.

“When the tea trolley came round on the train, the committee would not buy the players a cup of tea, President Joe Hateley had to do it. Furthermore, I overheard one committee member say to another: 'Now we've won the Cup we'll be able to get some better players’.

"We got beat 3-1 at Rochdale, and after the game a committee man came up to me and asked: 'Where were you when their third goal went in?'. I thought it was a daft question so I gave him a daft answer – ‘I was sat at the front of the post like I was at Wembley’.

“A story then went round that I hadn't tried at Rochdale and I was dropped for the next game. That was the final straw.

“I left and joined Bishop Auckland. My first game was with the Bishop Auckland reserves at Wheatley Hill. We had a good team out, Johnny Wright, Anderson, Harburn, they all played, but it was a bitterly cold day and the ground was rock hard. I dived to make a save and broke my kneecap.

“Bishop were good though and they took me to Wembley for their 1951 final against Pegasus, but I was out of the game again.

“When I regained my fitness I had a spell at Crook, and was in their team that beat Bishop Auckland 6-0 in the Durham Challenge Cup Final at Feethams in 1955, which meant that in two finals against Bishop Auckland, I had been on the winning side twice, winning 4-0 and 6-0 – not many can say that."

Jack finished off his career at Blyth Spartans, but after a series of injuries decided to call it a day.

Willington supporter: Norman Bolam

NORMAN was 15 when Willington reached Wembley but the schoolboy was not in the greatest of spirits because his mother had died earlier in the year.

"We left Willington railway station on the football special very early on the Saturday morning, myself and friends Gordon Parkin, Dave Bennett, Harry Perkins and John Cunningham.'

"We arrived in London late in the morning so we had time for a bite to eat before we went for a walk round. We happened to meet the Willington team, also going for a stroll, outside Madam Tussauds. We had a bit crack with them and wished them all the best. “You can do it,” we said to them.

“Inside the stadium, we were stood on the terracing behind the goal which was opposite the famous tunnel where the teams came out.

“The first three Willington goals were all at our end, but the star was our goalkeeper Jack Snowdon, what a game he had.

“After the game we had a bit of time to kill before our return journey so we went into this cafe and ordered fish and chips. They cost half a crown or 2s 6d (12.5p today), which was a bit of money then. My fish was small and half of it was black, while I counted the number of chips on my plate – there were six of them, what a rip off.

“We weren't that bothered, though. We had won the cup and that was what it was all about."

Bishop Auckland supporter: Keith Belton

“In 1950, going to Wembley to see a football match between Bishop Auckland and Willington was like going to Mars.

“I was born in the village of Witton Park in 1939 and the furthest anybody ever went was Redcar on the school trip.

“Five of us went in my grandad's car, myself, my dad, two uncles Jack Pritchard and Billy Biggs plus a friend Taffy Anderson. Petrol was rationed so we had to collect coupons for weeks.'

"London was like fairyland, and we just had to visit the Zoo to see Brumas, the polar bear cub.

“Wembley, the Holy Grail, 88,000 to see the game – slightly more than the total population of the towns involved, which would have been about 20,000.

“The game was reckoned to be one of the finest ever seen at that magnificent venue. Willington won by the amazing score of 4-0. The man of the match was their goalkeeper, Jack Snowdon.

“Entertainment for the evening was Old Mother Riley, live on stage in the West End. The stage almost invisible through the clouds of cigarette smoke!

“The price of a hotel for the night was 10s 6d per person, a fraction over 50 pence today. A good wage then was £4 a week.

“On our way home on the Sunday we got lost in Derby – motorways hadn't been thought of, but we made it.

“The game was the start of a golden decade of Northern League football. Six Amateur Cup wins in ten years at full-to-capacity Wembley. It was a different world, no television, computers, mobile phones, with mining the only industry. Local football grounds were packed with the football Premier League standard.

“Thank the good Lord, I lived through it."

The player: Jack 'Didler' Dodd

AFTER the game, Didler sold his winner's medal to President Joe Hateley so that he could have more money to spend on the evening’s celebrations.

He later got a job in a hotel in London and told everybody that he had played in a Wembley final. No one believed him so he got Jack Snowdon, a town planner with Durham County Council and so a respected figure, to write a letter confirming that he really had won the cup at Wembley.

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Tony Claydon, who played from Bishop Auckland in that great final, and of cricketer Alan Pratt, a player, official and member of the North Bitchburn club for more than 50 years.

With many thanks to Dale Daniel, Dave Kydd and Michael Burke.