ONCE there was a post office 20 yards from his home, you could see it from the front window, and Hails of Hartlepool would toddle across the road to post his everwelcome missives.

Now progress delivers differently. The post office is almost a mile away and he was soaked by he got back, but still the redoubtable Ronnie sends a reverie of his nostalgic columns from Pool programmes past.

What memories, what a man.

Wyn Davies is leaping about in there, and Ted Purdon - the South African who became a celebrated centre forward at Sunderland - and local lads like Bobby Folland and Jackie Smith, both eagerly alive and affectionately remembered.

"Jackie Smith?" echoes Ron.

"I remember his mother's shop as well. . . ."

DAVIES, the Welshman who spent five subsequent seasons at Newcastle United, was in the Wrexham team which faced Hartlepools on March 3 1962, snow falling on the Racecourse Ground and poor Pools up against a blizzard.

"There was really nothing they could do against rampant Wrexham except bow to the inevitable," the Echo's man conceded.

Elsewhere, Bishop Auckland and Crook Town won their Amateur Cup quarter-finals while West Auckland drew, Welsh international Bill Harris inspired Middlesbrough to a 3-2 win over Charlton and Sunderland's 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient was greeted by the prescient headline "Montgomery likely to keep his place for a long time to come."

Davies, three weeks short of his 20th birthday, had hit a hattrick by the 24th minute. Right winger Ron Barnes claimed another, Roy Ambler a third and Stan Bennion the tenth goal.

It remains the club's biggest league defeat. "Nothing short of a nightmare," the programme piece recalled. "Manager Bill Robinson certainly had his hands full to restore morale after a day of total despair."

The Mighty Wyn, the Welshspeaking red dragon who won 34 caps for his country, vowed always to return to the land of his fathers - dreaming of a smallholding in his native Caernarvon - but ended up baking for Warburton's in Bolton instead.

"I left football to start making some dough," he is fond of observing.

Still in Lancashire, he's retired with his dogs and his golf clubs. "If you get him in the right mood, he's Max Boyce personified," says a friend, but unfortunately he hasn't been home at all.

Signed by the Magpies for a then club record £80,000 in October 1966, Davies's career embraced nine Football League clubs, including both Manchester sides. Inevitably he will loom large in United historian Paul Joannou's book on Newcastle number nines, to be launched on Monday and featured hereabouts next day.

Wyn the Leap's league career ended in his mid-thirties with 13 goals in 50 games for Crewe Alexandra. Perhaps inevitably, one of them was against Hartlepool.

HARTLEPOOLS' consolation that dismal day was scored by Bobby Folland, a 6ft local lad.

More than 40 years later, he's still in the town, still working, still attending Victoria Park.

His finest hour, however, had come 11 months previously.

It was April 15, 1961.

Familiarly bottom four, Hartlepools were at home to Oldham Athletic with Folland, promoted from the reserves, marked by former Manchester City cup winner Bill Spurdle.

It was also the day that England thrashed Scotland 9-3 at Wembley - "nothing finer in the art of scoring skills has been seen at the Empire Stadium" said the Echo - that Newcastle lost 2-1 at Blackpool in what we termed a "Hitchcock type thriller", that West Auckland warmed up for the following week's FA Amateur Cup final with a 3-0 win over Shildon and that Shildon United reached the final of the Durham Hospitals Cup with a 4-2 victory over East Howle SC.

Folland - "belied his awkward looking appearance by popping in goals at regular intervals," Ron recalled - hit Pools' equaliser after 29 minutes, his second two minutes later. Both were from crosses by 19-year-old Seaton Carew lad Barry Parkes, who'd scored hat-tricks in the two previous home matches.

Folland completed his own hat-trick on 76 minutes, from a long goal kick by Jack Wilkinson, and four minutes later claimed a fourth.

His fifth came with four minutes remaining. "Parkes and Harry Godbold bamboozled the visiting defence for the umpteenth time and Godbold's centre was thumped home by the irrepressible Folland for a nap hand of superbly created and wonderfully executed goals, " wrote Ron.

Pools scored 71 goals that season. They conceded, alas, 103.

MUCH else vaults from Ron's Victorian archives: the first floodlit match in 1967 - leaving just two Football League clubs still in the dark - 52-year-old Neil McNab's appearance for New Brighton at Hartlepool in 1947, but most of all the day that Hartlepools themselves scored ten.

Ted Purdon, who'd bagged a Sunderland hat-trick at Arsenal and later returned to South Africa, was in the Barrow side which crossed the Pennines on April 4 1959 - the day that Brian Clough left his wedding reception to score Middlesbrough's final goal in the 4-2 win over Leyton Orient, that Billy Wright was chosen for his 100th England cap and that Blackhall CW announced they were leaving the Wearside League.

Harry Clarke had put Pools ahead after eight minutes, Jackie Smith - last heard of running a cafe in Broadstairs, reckons Uncle Albert Kelleher - scoring the second after 19.

By half-time they were seven up, five goals in 14 minutes a Football League record - both then and, quite possibly, now.

Smith had completed his hattrick, the others from George Luke, Joe Scott and Johnny Langlands.

"Even the normally urbane BBC presenter was seen to hesitate when he reached the Pools' half-time score on Grandstand, " Ron recalled. "He then repeated the amazing news, as if expecting to be corrected."

Luke made it 8-1, Clarke hit the ninth and Barrow centre half John Marsden put through his own net to make it double figures.

"I have never seen a defence so utterly demoralised, " wrote Stranton in the Echo. "Even some of Hartlepools' sternest critics found it all rather breathtaking."

Jackie Smith probably talks about it still, over the coffee cups in Broadstairs. As they used to say when there was a postal service, a real red letter day.

Backtrack Briefs...

THE good news for batsmen in the Durham County League is that Deighton Butler, the quickfire pro who has helped Evenwood to three successive championships, won't be back next summer.

The bad news, we hear, is that thanks to Bulldog Billy Teesdale's transatlantic telephone bill - and to continuing contact with former West Indian pro's Clint Yorke and Jon Pollard - they're about to import someone every bit as formidable.

The new guy opens the bowling for Trinidad and is also being checked out by former Evenwood cricketer - and Cockfield footballer - Alastair Milroy, presently on a two-year engineering secondment in the Caribbean.

"We decided to maximise the situation and make him chief scout, " says John Teesdale, the Bulldog's brother.

"I'm the first Evenwood scout since Mafeking, " says the new man. "The only thing they won't talk to me about is expenses."

Ali - "you can't hide anywhere, " he protests - is living with his family in a Port of Spain hotel and unsuccessfully sought planning permission for a pigeon cree in the garden.

He's been told to say little about the new guy's identity, concedes that he took four cheap wickets - including Chanderpaul - in a recent one day final against Guyana and will be watching him next week.

"Let's just say that the wind off Cockfield Fell won't be the only thing whistling around Evenwood cricket ground this summer."

John Teesdale's equally confident. "The square leg umpires will still have to avoid some of the batsmen treading on them, just as they did with Deighton Butler."

MANAGED for free by indomitable former Sunderland and Middlesbrough star Stan Cummins, Willington's 4-3 Albany Northern League win over Easington last Saturday may have been greeted with mixed feelings by commercial manager Paul Atkin.

Northallerton-based Atkin had promised the team £10 for every league goal they scored this season - and hitherto forked out just a single tenner.

"He paid up with good grace, " says club secretary Alan Stewart.

THE Albany Northern League magazine, meanwhile, tells of Kennek Ryhope secretary Owen Haley's determined efforts to get home from holiday in Scotland for the match at West Allotment Celtic.

Just ten minutes late, he thought he'd done well - until a summons arrived for speeding on the A697 at Longhorsley.

His plea of important business appears not to have been accepted by the polliss.

Though the league merely endorses his enthusiasm, the constabulary added three penalty points as well.

PERHAPS inspired by the note in Tuesday's column of how the great Dixie Dean threatened strike action unless a team-mate were paid 2/6d to play for the Army at Crook, Raye Wilkinson in Middleham sends a 1963 cutting of how the wheels were similarly close to coming off at Rolls Royce.

At the company's plant in Barnoldswick, West Yorkshire, players were refusing to turn out after their 7/6d lunch allowance was cut to three bob.

John Hitchen, clearly a Rolls Royce among full backs, summed up the players' grievances. "One cannot buy a meal for three shillings."

TRANSFERRED to the telly, the Three Legends - Gates, Macdonald, Slaven - begin another Tyne Tees run tonight with a live broadcast from Ashington FC, where local lad and ardent Bedlington Terriers fan Steve Harmison is expected to put in an appearance. Three legends? "Make that four, " says Ken Pollard, the producer.

...and finally

The Hebburn-born footballer whose career ended at Leicester and Stockport County but who made 500 appearances for his first love (Backtrack, Novermber 2) was, of course, Arsenal winger George Armstrong.

Bill Moore in Coundon today seeks the identity of the only two players to be named European Footballer of the Year and later manage teams in the Premiership.

We're in the hot seat again on Tuesday.

Published: 05/11/2004