The FA Cup will be back at St James Park next week. The Magpies will not, of course, have won it - or not for an awfully long time, anyway.

This is the trophy in use from 1896-1910, last presented when Newcastle beat second division Barnsley in a replay and now to be auctioned by Christie's for an anticipated £300,000.

"It is arguably the most important item of football history ever to be offered at auction," says Christie's spokesman Matthew Paton.

"We've always said we couldn't buy a cup up here, now maybe we can," sighs our man in back bar of the Strawberry.

United are unlikely to join the bidding, however. They have other things on their mind just now.

It was the second FA Cup, the first having been pinched in 1895 from the window of Birmingham boot maker William Shollick - this giving whole new meaning to the phrase about lifting the cup.

Aston Villa, who'd just won it, were fined £25 by the FA - the cost of providing an almost identical replacement.

In 1911, however, the trophy was given to Lord Kinnaird to mark the 21st anniversary of his FA presidency and has stayed in his family until now.

Kinnaird had himself played in nine FA Cup finals between 1873-83, in several positions including goalkeeper, and is debited with the first significant own goal - dropping the ball over the line when playing for Wanderers in the 1877 final.

Familiar in long white trousers, quartered cap and flowing red beard, he was so popular that before one final, Old Etonians fans unhitched the horses from his carriage and pulled him to Kennington Oval themselves.

After leading Old Etonians to victory over Blackburn Rovers in the 1882 final, he performed a handstand - the crowd rising, right way round, to salute him.

Kinnaird was Football Association president for 33 years, crediting God and not the FA with the huge growth in the game's popularity. There are now those, of course, who believe God and the FA to be synonymous.

The 1910 final had attracted almost 77,000 to Crystal Palace and ended 1-1. Fifty excursion trains from Barnsley and Newcastle steamed towards Goodison Park for the Thursday afternoon replay, mounted police needed to disperse the crowds from pitchside and thousands locked outside.

The official gate was 55,364, receipts £4,168.

In atrocious conditions, England international centre forward Albert Shepherd hit both Newcastle goals, the game's progress relayed over the telegraph to anxious crowds outside the Echo's office in Newcastle.

The numbers were so great, we reported next day, that traffic in the Bigg Market was at times totally suspended.

"After the final whistle," the account added, "the spectators dispersed with a 'Hip, hip hurrah' for the players and for The Northern Echo. Truly it was ever thus.

* The cup will be on display at St James Park between 10am-3pm on Monday, February 1, when three sporting memorabilia experts from Christie's will also be available to value any items brought in by the public.

Christie's record for a sports item is the £157,750 bid in 2002 for Pele's 1970 World Cup shirt.

Dinner on Friday with Sunderland lad Brooks Mileson, now widely dubbed Scotland's Roman Abramovich - and off with his adopted Gretna to a La Manga training camp two days later. It's the same camp which Chelsea use - "coincidence," says Brooks, "honestly."

Correctly addressed to "Dear former player" - and no other sports club can claim that - an invitation has arrived to the 25th anniversary reunion of King James I Cricket Club in Bishop Auckland.

It coincides with the 400th anniversary of the town's King James I Grammar School, for which the column also appeared without distinction.

To mark the occasion, John Raw - known thereabouts as Captain Clipboard - has compiled a gentle, informal and highly entertaining club history. "A small club with an unremarkable past and an uncertain future but a special place in my heart," he says, and has played in over 600 matches.

It was a season and a half before their first win, 12 years before Dave Scullen hit the first century - and another week before Chris Heslop struck the second - but they've also had significant successes.

When he retired in 1999, Co Durham headmaster John Brennan had taken most wickets, scored most runs and held most catches; Dave Oughton hit a club record 123 not out against Deaf Hill in 2003 and amassed 1,245 runs that season, Neil Dargue bagged 9-40 against Eryholme, Neil Franklin's 66 against Eryholme comprised ten sixes and six singles.

Willie Nelson's name also frequently appears in the record books, though he's moved on to Witton-le-Wear, where he won the Echo's player of the year award after taking all ten against Catterick last summer.

Willie also played a memorable part in the 1994 match between King James and the Backtrack All Stars - not least for a memorable verbal confrontation with former Durham and Northumberland all rounder Jack Watson, then 73.

That story's probably best saved for the reunion, however: it's on April 1 at Bishop Auckland Rugby Club.

Back to April 1910, where Newcastle's FA Cup triumph was handsome compensation for the reserve side losing the North Eastern League championship to presently troubled Spennymoor United, after three seasons as champions. The trophy was sponsored by Oxo; its nickname can probably be imagined.

Readers will know already that retired Hartlepool postman John Dawson is a bit enthusiastic about his football: his passion may dim, however, beside that of his friend Lawrence Appleby.

Lawrence lives in Newcastle, where he manages a Domino's pizza shop. He's also Hereford United's kit manager, hasn't missed a game - home or away - all season and likes to be there four hours before kick-off.

At the weekend he finished work shortly before midnight on Friday, headed down the A19 for a few hours shut-eye at John's and left at 5 30am with his friend in the passenger seat.

John was headed for Quorn v Sudbury in the FA Vase, was dropped in Leicestershire at 8 30am - "it's a nice place, Quorn, ducks on the stream" - and after the match waited around until 8.20pm to be picked up again.

This Saturday, Hereford are at Aldershot and again John's been invited to make up the numbers. "I'm thinking of staying at home," he says.

And finally...

The ex-Manchester United and Nottingham Forest player who became the 1,000th England international wasn't Gary Birtles - as most people thought after Friday's question - but Neil Webb.

Fred Alderton in Peterlee today invites readers to suggest what Arsenal, Spurs, Exeter City and Leeds United have in common - with Sunderland as the common denominator.

Back to Scotland for Burns Night, we come back again on Friday.

Published: 25/01/2005