FIFTY years ago, in May 1970, Evenwood Town Football Club epitomised the spirit of the Northern League by winning the league title for only the second time in their history and, just for good measure, took the Durham Challenge Cup as well.

It was quite an achievement to win both trophies as they had to thwart the challenge of much bigger towns and clubs like Whitley Bay in second, Blyth Spartans in third and Spennymoor in fourth, and they won the Durham Challenge Cup by beating Stockton with a Ray Young goal.

Evenwood had done some amazing things before. In the 1929-30 season, when in the Auckland and District League, they had a great run in the Amateur Cup, beating Players Athletic 5-0 in a 1st Round replay at home, before disposing of Horsforth 3-1 at home in Round 2. It was no disgrace to go out 3-1 at top London club Ilford in Round 3.

Formed in 1890, Evenwood played in the local leagues before joining the Northern League in 1931, and they had to wait 18 years before winning the championship in the 1948-49 season, beating Bishop Auckland by one point. Star players in those days were George Wilson, Stan Blakeburn, Bobby Webb, Johnny Wharton, Stan Peacock (capt), Ken Humble, Wilson Carr, Joe Carr, Allan Hogg, Cliff Lancaster, Joe Richardson, Jackie Kilcran, George Watson, Manny Cook and Bobby Hansom.

In the 1969-70 season, Tony Monkhouse was an integral part of the Evenwood championship winning team, which had Billy Bell as manager. Tony, who started his football career with Frosterley and Wearhead, recalled: "Billy was 20 years ahead of his time and so dedicated that he got the best out of all of us. He was friendly with Don Revie, the manager at Leeds, and he often went to Leeds to watch them train. He once came to me and said 'I want you to watch how Norman Hunter plays, and I want you to hit the opposition's most creative midfield player.' I said 'What with my fists Billy?'. He said 'No you daft bugger, with a good hard physical challenge.'"

Tony added: "One Saturday I forgot all about those instructions and Billy came storming in at half-time. 'Monkhouse, when I give an instruction I expect it to be carried out.' I went out in the second half and was nearly sent off for clattering into one of their players.

"Training was taken seriously. One night we were all in the top goalmouth doing sit-ups, when a plane appeared in the sky, doing all kinds of manoeuvres. Eddie Ross said to me 'I wouldn't like to be up there in that plane.' I replied 'I wouldn't like to be up there, and not in that plane.' We both started to laugh so Billy came over. 'You two, are you here to train, or behave like idiots?' We soon shut up.

"The hardest thing thing that I ever had to say to Billy was when I once signed amateur forms for Darlington and explained to him that I would probably miss next Saturday's match as well as having to go to Darlington to train on a Monday and Wednesday. He wasn't happy. 'Monkhouse,' he said, 'When I first came here you were nothing more than a hilly-billy. Look at you now, and that's what I get in return.' He needn't have worried - my Darlington career never got off the ground."

Tony also recalled the legendary Harold Burgess, the Evenwood trainer.

"Billy brought Harold to the club, and he had a good reputation," he said, "because he was supposed to be the man who once worked very hard to get Jackie Milburn fit for one of Newcastle's FA Cup finals in the 1950s - Milburn scored very early in that game."

To win the Northern League in 1970 Evenwood won their last ten games. They beat Tow Law 2-1 away on April 27 with goals from Tommy O'Connor and Ray Young, and then, after winning another eight games, they rounded off a great season with a 7-2 win at Penrith, with Brian Cunningham 3, Ray Young 2 (1 pen), Eddie Ross and Brian Newton their scorers. They only lost three league games all season, all to Northumberland clubs, by 4-0 at Blyth, by 2-1 at North Shields and then by 4-0 at home to Whitley Bay.