AS players and fans celebrated Crook Town FC’s 125th anniversary, Duncan Leatherdale met some of the characters from the club’s illustrious history.

FRANK Clark only spent 15 months at Crook Town, but the European Cup winner said he has never forgotten his formative time at the County Durham club.

He was one of many of the club’s past and present players to attend a celebration of Crook Town’s 125th anniversary held at their Millfield Ground on Friday night (May 2).

Clark, who left Crook Town to play for Newcastle United before eventually winning the European prize with Nottingham Forest, was deep in conversation with Ray Snowball and Jimmy McMillan, the trio having eight FA Amateur Cup medals between them, when The Northern Echo interrupted.

Goalkeeper Snowball, who played in - and won - three finals, said he always felt guilty for nearly ruining Clark’s career.

A 17-year-old Clark had been due to join the England youth set up after competing in the 1962 Final against Hounslow Town.

But the game ended 1-1 and Clark ditched the international side so he could play in the replay a week later, which Crook won 4-0 at Middlesbrough.

Snowball said: “I have to admit I always felt bad about letting in that goal in the first final and was worried it ruined Frank’s chance to play for England.”

Left-back Clark said: “The manager said to me there would be other England call-ups, but I might only get to one FA Amateur Cup finals.

“There was no way I was not going to play for Crook.

“It was the camaraderie in the club that made Crook so special, I have so many happy memories from my time here.”

The story has a happy ending, Clark was called up again a month later, and it was one of many tales reverberating around the marquee decorated out with old photos, newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia from the club’s 125 years.

Crook historian Michael Manuel contributed much of the material and said: “This is such an exciting night for me, I have always loved the club and the stories being swapped tonight are brilliant.”

The reminiscing paused for a performance of a play about Jack Greenwell by pupils form Bishop Barrington School supported by Backscratch Theatre Company.

One of the young performers, Amber Patterson was even named after Crook Town’s colours, and their story about Greenwell, who left Crook to manage FC Barcelona, was watched by the legend’s great nephew John Greenwell.

He said: “Even now Jack is highly regarded by everyone at Crook, it has been an honour to see how he is remembered.”

The consensus on Friday was no matter what happens to the club in the future, Crook town has a history to be proud of.


  •  The club joined the Northern League in 1896 and have just finished 15th in the league’s Division One. The Black and Ambers have won the league five times, the last title coming in 1963.
  • They are the joint second most successful team in the FA Amateur Cup history winning the trophy five times, four of those between 1954 and 1964. More than 200,000 watched their 1954 final and two subsequent replays against fierce rivals Bishop Auckland. After two draws, Crook won the third game 1-0 at Ayresome Park.
  •  In 1913 Crook Town played a three-game tour of Barcelona in a bid to turn bull-fighting fans towards football. Jack Greenwell, who was a guest player for West Auckland in their 1909 Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy win in Italy, organised the tour and went on to manage FC Barcelona, Spain and Peru.
  • In 1976 Crook became the first English club to tour India playing six games. A gate of 100,000 watched Crook play the Indian national side, but they were beaten 1-0 in 90 degree temperatures.
  • North-East entrepreneur Sir Tom Cowie is credited with saving the club from closure in the early 2000s, and the full name of their 1,500-capacity stadium where they have played for more than 100 years, is the Sir Tom Cowie Millfield Ground.