Kirby Sigston is a microdot of a place, so insignificant that - though there is Kirkby Overblow, Kirkby Misperton and Kirby Ravensworth - the Echo's near-ubiquitous library declines to signal poor Sigston's existence.

The Internet, of course, is different. The Internet offers "about" 12,300 references, suggests clicking "here" for a street map - Google having a giggle? - and "here" for best Kirby Sigston hotels. The list includes Hartlepool and Harrogate.

It's a hamlet a few miles north-east of Northallerton. Though the 12th century church of St Lawrence remains, the school closed in 1944 and there never was a shop, pub or post office.

Nor, more than likely, could the village now field 11 able bodied men to make up a cricket team, though the club is celebrating its 50th anniversary for all that - and John Thompson, 64, has never missed a season.

"My highlight has been helping to keep the club going," he says modestly, though there've been 27 centuries and more than 40,000 runs as well.

Then an enthusiastic schoolboy, he was at the inaugural meeting in Bob Lowther's front room at Stank Hall - still the club's base.

"Mrs Lowther," John recalls, "would fetch the tea in a milk churn."

Now he's also club secretary, helps on the ground - as befits, perhaps, a professional agronomist - and continues to play when required.

"I'm a sort of fill-ins fill-in, we need to let the youngsters have a game," he insists, though in his prime and in his time has been very useful indeed.

"Everyone says I should have played at a higher level, but I'm a village person and I've had real pleasure here. I chose to play at Kirby Sigston because it's a family club, because it's an afternoon out for everyone and it doesn't take all day."

For a short time in the 60s he did play for Northallerton but, homesick, went back to his roots. He has also represented Yorkshire Over 50s.

"When we started almost everyone lived within a couple of miles of the village but now there's only one.

"It's extremely difficult to keep going really. We only have 13 players, plus a couple of what you might call part timers. I was really worried during the foot-and-mouth but quite determined to see us through."

Among those who has remained is his son David, a former Yorkshire schoolboy, who last season averaged 87 as they won three cups and the Langbaurgh League for the second successive season.

"There are better clubs in the league but not many who play better as a team than we do," says John who now himself lives in Northallerton.

Our informant, former Northallerton cricketer Tony Ford, suggests that players who've knocked up an unbeaten half century with the same club might - like those living to be 100 - now be quite commonplace.

"I suppose," adds Tony, "that some day soon some centurion will have casually knocked up a ton before opening the Buckingham Palace buff envelope."

Few, however, will match John Thompson. Fifty not out, and Kirby Sigston on the map at last.

* Kirby Sigston's run of success appeared to continue on Saturday - 351-2 off 45 overs (Harper 186, David Thompson 128 not out); Chopgate 65 all out (Clarkson 6-21). Won by 286 runs - a record, or what?

Sky Sports rang on Friday about another club entirely and was instead persuaded to film a weekend piece on that other village cricket legend, the Demon Donkey Dropper of Eryholme. Sadly, however, the self-effacing Demon has missed his moment of glory. As Sky has now discovered, if there's one thing more difficult than reading Charlie Walker's action, it's getting him to answer the phone.

Some silverware at last for poor, suffering Sunderland. Patrick Lestocq, the Stadium of Light's head chef, was named "Overseas player of the year" at the Over 40s' League presentations on Friday night.

Guests at the ever-convivial occasion also heard 86-year-old league secretary Kip Watson that for two hours in 1939 he and his father had had an audience with Mussolini.

Not even the young Kip, however, was able to convince the gentleman of the error of his ways.

Multiple sclerosis victim Kevin Cooper of Crook Town (Backtrack, March 30) was named manager of the year and hopes to lead his team to still greater success next season. Ferenc Deverdics, long familiar in the Northern League, was player of the year and 50-year-old goalkeeper Tony Clark veteran of the year.

South Shields lad Tommy Swinbank, 66, won a special award for continuing to play football despite two heart attacks. Unable to attend, his trophy was collected by former Hartlepool United director Austin Elliott.

Why's he still playing after his queer turns? "He's trying to ensure," said Austin, "that he doesn't have another."

Latest from Epsom: Swoop, aquiline mascot of Newcastle Eagles basketball team, was third behind Sting and Bruiser in the mascots race before Saturday's Derby.

"He lost second place by a beak," reports Ian Wilkinson, Swoop's trainer.

The unluckiest of the mascots may have been Captain Gas, a senior citizen, who struggled to keep her feet and feared that she might faint in the heat.

"I wouldn't faint if I were you," advised Bruiser, a Northern Irishman. "If you fall down a racecourse they're likely to put a tent around you and shoot you."

Swoop, otherwise 17-year-old Darlington Sixth Form College student David Robinson, was back to earth with a bump yesterday. He's in the middle of exams.

It's nearly a year, July 11 2003, since former Evenwood Town stalwart John Noddings collapsed and died during a match at Tow Law between Weardale and Tow Law sides.

Now another game between the two teams is to be played for the John Noddings Memorial Trophy - if organiser Charlie Donaghy can find the guys who played last time around.

"I've kept everything but the team sheets. I'd love them all to get in touch again," says Charlie.

John's wife Marilyn has asked that proceeds from the match, at the Ironworks Ground on Friday July 9, go to the British Heart Foundation. Charlie's on 01388 730444.

Talk of Derek Dougan in Friday's column reminded Steve Smith of the Doog's role on ITV's 1970 World Cup pundits' panel - perhaps, suspects Steve, the first of its kind.

Alongside Dougan - "all kipper ties and wide collar shirts" - sat Malcolm Allison (now 76), Paddy Crerand, Jimmy Hill and Brian Clough.

Steve's memories are affectionate. "I guarantee that whatever panels BBC and ITV field for Euro 2004, none of them will be as colourful or as controversial as the 1970 team."

...and finally

The football club which has Chaddy Owl as mascot (Backtrack, June 4) is Oldham Athletic.

Brian Shaw in Shildon of the five post-war goalkeepers who've made more than 700 Football League or Premiership appearances.

Safe hands, the column returns on Friday.

Published: 08/06/2004