As if the name of Tipton weren't unpromising enough, the town is located in the heart of the Black Country, which leaves even less to the imagination.

Though the sign at the railway station proclaims a £144m regeneration package, the sign has seen better days, an'all.

The Germans dropped a few Zeppelin bombs in World War 1 but only because, notoriously bad shots, they thought Tipton was Birkenhead. Mission erroneously accomplished, they moved on to "Liverpool" and inflicted further damage on poor Wednesbury.

Save for a recent unsolicited connection with the Taliban, locals claim just two entries in posterity's portfolio - the Tipton Slasher and the Tipton Terrier.

The Terrier, of course, was Steve Bull. Beloved of quiz masters - last player in the old Third Division to win an England cap - he began with Tipton Town, played 500 old-gold games for neighbouring Wolverhampton Wanderers and 13 for his country.

Knees shot, not 40 until March 28, he was last heard of coaching kids in Shrewsbury or somewhere - Bull by the greenhorns, as it were.

The Slasher was William Perry, heavyweight boxing champion of England from 1850-57 until seen off by the legendary Tom Sayers and returning to life digging canals. Grateful Tipton folk even wrote a poem in his memory:

That Death! Grim victor of us all

He found the Slasher tough!

For never did the Slasher call

'Old on, I've had enough.'

We headed there on Saturday for the fifth round FA Vase replay with Jarrow Roofing, struggling in the Albany Northern League first division but hitting much greater heights in the Vase.

It was perishing - buds of Spring, Tipton through the tulips, nipped by the chill wind from the North.

The first game had even had a streaker, not terribly common on south Tyneside in mid-February, the crowd apparently disappointed because the miscreant was a) male and b) the village idiot. They'd seen it all before.

The Shields Gazette, its long lensman perfectly placed, carried the match report on the back page and the streaker on the front, only a very small representation of the Vase needed to cover that deemed unseemly. The FA was doubtless delighted at the promotion, nonetheless.

Town play at the Tipton Sports Academy, the pitch somewhere in the middle distance of Tipton Harriers running track. While doubtless well up to speed as an athletics venue, as a place to watch football it was about as welcome as a 14-minute mile.

"A bit like Gateshead Stadium without the pretty bits," someone said.

Though Tipton folk were warm and welcoming, dialogue proved a little difficult. Imagine Oz and Barry discussing the FT share index in an episode of Auf Wiedersehen Pet. It was a bit like that.

Roofing included Justin Perry, 32, who'd played in the 1997-98 Champions League - Barry Town v Porto - was on the bench for last season's tie between TNS and Manchester City and is thought not to be a direct descendant of poor William.

He is, however, the subject of a Tyneside quiz question of his own: the odd one out between Shearer, Ronaldo, del Piero and Perry really is the Jarrow lad - the only one to play in the 1997-98 Champions League.

Richie McLoughlin, Roofing's 55-year-old chairman and manager, also named himself as a sub but, sadly, wasn't to occupy the bench for very long.

After 25 uneventful minutes, a technical area altercation with a home player resulted in Roofing's chairman, manager and No 16 simultaneously being sent off, the likely record of being the oldest player to be red carded in an FA competition probably of little consolation.

The allegation was that McLoughlin, forward Slasher, had not only breached the laws of football but probably those of the Marquis of Queensberry as well.

Invited to comment, the visiting Albany Northern League chairman assumed the Wenger position, pleading that he'd been unsighted by a discus net built like the exercise yard at Frankland prison.

Steve Clark, the FA's competitions secretary, had been watching from atop a grassy embankment. "It's so cold I was expecting to find snow up there," he said. Perhaps also he was reflecting on the Tipton motto, Absit invidia, which presumably means something like "Nee hard feelings".

It was classically wasted on these two teams.

Goalless at half-time, 1-1 after extra time, it kicked off again even before the penalty shoot-out when McLoughlin is alleged to have been assaulted on his way for a pacifying pee. By that time, alas, the fourth official had already asked for the West Midlands constabulary to look in.

Visiting goalie Gary Hoggeth saved two penalties, Jarrow won 4-2, the second ANL team in the quarter-final and at home to Frome on March 5.

While Roofing headed happily homeward, most of the 665 crowd were altogether less happy. As Maw used to say in the Broons, black affronted.

Shields Gazette sports editor Mick Worrall, an ardent Arsenal fan, was walking from Tipton station to the ground when a text message from a colleague brought news from the lunchtime FA Cup tie with Sheffield United. "I thought Dirty Den was supposed to get his come-uppance last night," it said. Mick insists the Gunners' 10 is innocent, OK?

In the matter of Northern League indiscipline, the eye falls serendipitously upon the Northern Echo for 40 years ago this very day:

"The Brewery Field, Spennymoor, was the scene of an occurrence unique in the Northern League - the sending off of two players for allegedly using obscene language.

"Until now the league, unlike many of the minor leagues in Durham County, has had a good record in this respect."

The two were the late Cyril Gowland and his West Auckland team-mate Keith Hopper, capped by the county at both cricket and football and, at 71, still playing NYSD League cricket for Bishop Auckland. The referee was Colin Schneider from Middlesbrough.

K R Hopper, now in Darlington, remembers the incident vividly, West trailing 5-1 towards the end of the League Cup semi-final.

"Basically I just told the linesman where he could relocate his flag," he says.

And Cyril Gowland? "Basically, he just agreed with me."

February 22, 1965? Newcastle United lose at Leyton Orient, bottom of the second division; goals by Jimmy Lawton and Les O'Neill move Darlington from 20th to 19th in the fourth division after victory over Rochdale, Chelsea are 9-1 favourites for the double, Shildon gain their first point of the year and Boro, defeated 3-0 by Leicester in the Cup, are said by the Echo to be free to concentrate on the fight against relegation from the second. They win it by two points.

...and finally

Those suffixes (Backtrack, February 18). Apart from Bournemouth, possibly, the 22 different endings of Premiership or Football League clubs are United, Town, City, Wanderers, Albion, Rovers, Argyle, Hotspur, Villa, Forest, County, Wednesday, Palace, Vale, Athletic, Rangers, Alexandra, North End, Harriers, Diamonds, Dons and Orient.

Brian Shaw in Shildon today invites readers to name the nine post-war England football captains who have also played for Southampton.

Should Saints preserve us, the column returns on Friday.

Published: 22/02/2005