"WEST AUCKLAND?" said the lady from the Castle Players, "Didn't they win the World Cup?"

People know that West won the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, which is regarded as the first World Cup, in 1909 and 1911, but that really is a piece of fantasy, something for the film-makers.

If the amateur actress had said to me: “West Auckland? Didn't they once play in a final at Wembley in front of a 45,000 crowd?" she would have been bang on the money, because West’s triumph in front of their largest ever crowd at the home of football exactly 60 years ago this weekend is very much the real thing.

Yes, West had done extremely well to win the first World Cup, but financing their trips to Turin left them in such difficulty that they had to disband in 1912.

They re-formed in 1914, but just to play in cup competitions, including the FA Cup, and then in 1919 they changed their name to Auckland St Helen's United, played one Northern League season before going back to the local leagues.

October 1934 saw the club, now known as West Auckland Town, leave the Auckland and District League and return to the Northern League where they have remained ever since.

They really began to make their presence felt in the late 1950s, as league runners-up in 1957 and 1959, and then winning the title in 1960 and 1961, by which time Johnny Spuhler, a mainstay of the famous Middlesbrough team just after the War, had become coach.

I recall former West player Colin Summerson telling me just what a good coach he was. He said that one of Spuhler's coaching points was about taking on defenders. He would say: "Attack your defender, because if he makes a mistake and fouls you in the box, it's a penalty."

On the field, skipper Albert Mendum was the driving force, and, with Spuhler, he led the team to Wembley on April 22, 1961 – 60 years ago on Thursday – to meet Walthamstow Avenue in the FA Amateur Cup final.

They were watched by 45,000 fans – the best crowd that ever saw West, even if it was slightly disappointing compared to the attendances at amateur finals in the 1950s.

Their opponents were Walthamstow Avenue, who had just finished runners-up in the Isthmian League and who had a good Amateur Cup pedigree: they’d lifted the trophy in at Wembley in 1952, and had been semi-finalists in 1945-46 (losing 2-1 to Bishop Auckland at Darlington), 1953-54 (beaten 3-2 by Crook Town at Sunderland after a 1-1 draw at Tottenham), and in 1958-59 (losing 2-0 to Barnet).

Walthamstow’s greatest performance was in 1952-53, when they forced a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in the FA Cup 4th Round before losing the replay 5-2 at Arsenal. Playing for them then, and turning out against West, was forward Jim Lewis. Immediately after the United game, he’d been signed by Chelsea and his six goals helped them to the First Division title in 1954-55.

He never turned professional, but went on to make 90 Football League appearances for Chelsea, scoring 38 goals. He also won 49 England Amateur International caps, and represented Great Britain at three Olympics. He was a man West would have to watch carefully.

The other famous name in the Walthamstow forward line was Reg Groves, the brother of Vic who had made 185 Football League appearances for Arsenal between 1955-64, scoring 31 goals.

That day at Wembley, West were the best team in the first half and deservedly took the lead in the 32nd minute through Alan Douglas.

Three minutes later, Walthamstow levelled after a centre by inside right Alan Minall found the feared Lewis. His shot hit the post, but Groves scored from the rebound.

The second half was televised and all our family in Howden-le-Wear were glued to the TV set because West centre half Colin Summerson had lived in our village where his father, Harry, had the Green Tree pub. He had also played football for Howden and cricket for North Bitchburn and Crook Town Seconds, so he was well known.

We could see that rain fell on and off throughout the game and then, in the 69th minute, straight after a shower, West keeper Brian Bowmaker dived to stop a shot. The greasy ball spun away from him, and that man Lewis was on hand to slam it high into the net.

That was the only goal of the second half, and so Walthamstow finished 2-1 winners.

West fan David Bowes was 11 at the time of the final. “I went with my dad in his car, and I do remember our seats in the stadium were right at the front, but nothing more than a wooden bench,” he said. “I remember standing outside the stadium after the game, crying my eyes out with my corncrake in my hand.

“On our way home we stopped at a cafe, and I vividly remember the jukebox was playing a song called A Slow Boat to China."

Olive Luck was 18 at the time and her boyfriend, later her husband, was Joe Brown, who had played for the team in that season’s quarter-final and semi-final.

She said: "I think we stayed at the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, while the footballers stayed at the Hendon Hotel. After the match they all came over to the Imperial. On the Sunday morning, we all went to Petticoat Lane."

Sonny Douthwaite, Olive's brother, said, "I never went to Wembley and have regretted it ever since, but I was disappointed that Joe, my future brother-in-law, did not play in the final, because he had a great game in the semi-final at Sunderland."

Joe was, of course, bitterly disappointed to be left out, making way for Colin Summerson who had been out with a broken toe.

Joe said: "Looking back, it was right that Colin played because he had played in most of the early rounds.

“The team had it's last training session before the final in midweek, and George Taylor of Tyne Tees Sport turned up with the cameras to do a piece for the television.

"I think we got the train from Darlington to King’s Cross on the Friday, and when we arrived in London a bus took us to the Hendon Hotel. On the Saturday morning we did a bit of sightseeing and I recall us visiting a zoo. We saw this gorilla and some of the lads were making fun of it, so it came over and spat in Billy Broomfield's face.

"I thought the dressing rooms at Wembley were only ordinary, with one big communal bath and individual showers, but it was great before the game to walk up that famous tunnel and out on to the Wembley pitch.

“We went over to where our supporters were and I jumped over the barrier to have a bit of crack with them.

“I tried to do that after the game but a security guy stopped me, saying I would have to wait until everyone was out of the stadium."

George Siddle

IT is sad to report on the 60th anniversary of the final that the West right back that day, George Siddle, has recently died. He was a strong defender, and good enough to later play for Scottish professional club Queen of the South and semi-professional Scarborough, where he won an FA Trophy winners medal.

Bobby Hull, who played with George at Bishop Auckland, said: "He was a smashing bloke, who avoided arguments and confrontations, but that didn't stop him being a very good defender. He was an excellent team player."

Ron Evans, who was physio at Bishop when George played under Norman Field and Lawrie McMenemy, said: "He was the team captain when Norman was manager and vice-captain under Lawrie. George and myself worked together at Sedgefield Community Hospital. I was a physical training instructor while George was an upholsterer. We were good friends and I often popped along to his workplace at lunchtime to have a conversation. Sometimes he would complain of a niggling injury so I would give him some impromptu treatment there and then."

Thanks to Dale Daniel, and to Geoff and Barbara Wood of the Durham Amateur Football Trust, plus David Bowes, Olive Luck, Sonny Douthwaite, Ron Evans, Joe Brown and Michael Burke for their help this week.