THIRTY years ago, on November 17, 1990, Ray Wilkie, the former Crook Town, Bishop Auckland and West Auckland player who was then the manager of Vauxhall Conference side Barrow, brought his team to Bishop Auckland for an FA Cup 1st Round tie.

Wilkie had taken over as the Barrow boss in March 1986, and he went on to lead the Bluebirds, who had left the Football League in 1972, to their most successful period as a non-league club. Under Wilkie, they won the Northern Premier League title in 1989, which took the club into the Conference, and then in 1990, the FA Trophy after beating Leek Town 3-0 at Wembley.

The following season, 1990-91, after beating Bishop Auckland in Round 1 and Whitley Bay 1-0 at Hillheads in Round 2 of the FA Cup, Wilkie took them, for the first time as a non-league club, into Round 3 , only to watch them go down 1-0 at Bolton.

Under Wilkie, Barrow played 236 games, of which 93 were won at a win rate of 39.4 per cent. Ill health caused him to stand down in November 1991, and he sadly passed away on November 28, 1992, after major surgery for a brain tumour.

The Round 1 tie of 30 years ago at Kingsway was a bit of a disappointment. The only goal of the game, five minutes after half-time, was an all Cumbrian affair. Gary Messenger ploughed uphill in a brave 50-yard run before driving the ball into the Auckland box, causing confusion which resulted in Ian Burgess slamming the ball into the roof of the net from ten yards.

Harry Dunn, the Bishop manager, was philosophical and said: "It's all part of the learning process for us. For the sake of the crowd, I would much rather we had lost 4-3 after an entertaining game. It wasn't much of a match really, but Barrow won't care about that. They are in Round 2."

Bishop Auckland: Owers, Liddle, Morgan, Linighan, Magee, Healey, Walker, Shaw (sub Grady), Wiggan, Stonehouse (sub Fothergill), Deacey.

Ray Wilkie's career in amateur football took off when he was a member of the Crook Town team that beat Barnet 3-2 at Wembley in the 1959 FA Amateur Cup Final. He was also a member of the Crook team that lost 1-0 to Ilford at the semi-final stage of the same cup in 1958. Two more big disappointments at the semi-final stage of the Amateur Cup followed. In 1960 he was a member of the Crook Town team beaten 2-1 by Kingstonian and in 1962, when he had joined the Bishop team coached by Bobby Hardisty, they lost 2-1 to Hounslow.

Ray was still at Kingsway in 1965 and played under Lawrie McMenemy, taking part in the tour to Ivry Sur Seine in the summer of 1966.

After retiring as a player, he coached Northern League Durham City with players like George Brown, Neil Walton and Arnold Alton.

Arnold Alton said: "Ray Wilkie was a good friend of mine and I wished that I had played under him in my younger days. At training on a Tuesday he would sit at his desk and calmly go through the whole team's last performance, so that we all knew where we stood. If he had issues with someone he would say so to that player's face, not always the case in football.

"His half-time team talks were more animated, but they worked for us. Unfortunately, after interference from the chairman, he left and joined North Shields. Myself, and a few more, joined him. He later had a spell at Gateshead, but I had a young family by then, and couldn't do all the travelling. I could write a book on Ray."

At the time of Ray's passing, the late Emlyn Hughes, the Barrow-born former Liverpool and England captain, said: "Ray was an absolutely super fellow and he'll be very sadly missed. I'm not talking about his footballing ability, I'm talking about him as a person. He was absolutely top class, and you can't ask for anything better than that."

The same sentiments have been echoed by Peter Duffy, who played with Ray at Crook in 1957-58, and Geoff Hart who played under Ray at Durham in the late 1960s. Both said that he was a cracking lad, tough, who told you how it was, but with a nice side, a manager who you listened to.

Following his death, the local newspaper wrote a tribute with the heading: "Wilkie the hero of Holker Street is dead."

l Thanks this week to John and Pam Cowey, Steve Newcombe, Philo Owers, Dave Kidd and Michael Burke.