The last time that we - that is to say, Shildon - were in the FA Cup first round was 42 years ago today, away to Oldham Athletic.

The pint-sized programme, full of advertisements for pickled onion manufacturers and wholesale and retail tripe dressers but offering little other meat for a tanner, noted that it was "somewhat of a coincidence" that the clubs had met at the same stage two years previously. Robbed in the first game, the amateurs lost the replay.

We were bit bairns, of course, innocents abroad, sent forth from Shildon with a packet of egg and tomato sandwiches and an instruction not to talk to strange men.

Adolescent adulation was thus unbounded when, after ten minutes, George Sinclair headed us into the lead.

Though the crowd was 11,730, at half-time we changed ends with the goalkeepers - Oldham had former Sunderland keeper Johnny Bollands, long in Saltburn - and were no less ecstatic when Bobby Armstrong scored the second.

It was also Guy Fawkes night. In 1961 you remembered the Sabbath and kept it, wholly. Frantic fireworks filled the Pennine sky as we headed homeward, the bus stopping in Leeds - the M62 not even on the drawing board - for fish and chips and the chance to see the result in the sports paper.

Unlike the dear departed Despatch, the Evening Post pink was green.

Local lad Bob Folland had hit a hat-trick in Hartlepool United's 5-1 Cup win over Blyth Spartans, Darlington were thrashed 4-0 at home to Carlisle - "they didn't even go down fighting," wrote Bob James in the following Monday's Northern Echo - and Newcastle United, having scored 13 in the three previous League games, drew 0-0 with Norwich at St James' Park.

"A damp squib," we reported, though excitement may not have been so greatly extinguished as at Crook, where the fire brigade was called to put out the "bitterly upset" Young Conservatives' bonfire.

Our man at Boundary Park considered Shildon both brilliant and courageous. "For the second time in three meetings between these clubs, Lady Luck favoured the professionals," he added.

Though we went down 5-2, the day is remembered with much affection. As at Notts County this Sunday, Shildon cannot lose.

One or two very old soldiers may have particular cause to relish this weekend's game - a battalion of Sherwood Foresters was not only posted in Shildon during the war, they did their square bashing on the Dean Street pitch.

A bit too young to remember these things himself, Shildon lad Dennis Wearmouth has been talking to 85-year Jack Rowland, who had the sweet shop next to the ground.

The Foresters were billeted in the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodist church halls and in the scouts hall, nearby. Their temporary headquarters were in a large house near St Paul's Terrace.

Jack Rowland reckons several squaddies may have married Shildon lasses before being sent off to Crete. Something about little acorns, further Foresters memories much welcomed.

Perhaps the most memorable FA Cup result on November 4 1961 was West Auckland's 3-3 draw with Barnsley, the Northern League side having trailed 3-0 at half-time.

Stan Skelton pulled one back, Bill Broomfield converted a penalty and the West Auckland crowd - said to be "less than 3,000" - went wild in the 87th minute when Bill Hopper equalised.

"George Siddle at centre half must take most of the credit," we added.

The game will doubtless be among these recalled this Saturday evening at a clubhouse social to mark Norman Ayton's 50 years unbroken service on West Auckland's committee.

Players from the 1961 team, or any other, are warmly invited to help stir memory's melting pot and to toast Norman's dedication.

More reminiscing up at Tow Law, where old hands like Mike Ingoe, Harry Hunt and George Brown gathered for the Lawyers' record-breaking 2,563rd Northern League match.

All three were in the side which beat Mansfield Town 5-1 in November 1967, drew with Shrewsbury in the second round and, had they won the replay, faced Arsenal at home in the third.

"I still get a buzz every time I come over the hill into Tow Law," said Mike, the goalkeeper.

"The reason I never went into management was that I'd have had to deal with queer beggars like myself," said George.

A splendid booklet produced to mark the occasion also recalled a Daily Mail report that when Mansfield heard the draw they consulted the altitude specialist preparing Britain's athletes for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

Still they were brought crashing to earth.

The booklet, richly and nostalgically illustrated, is available for £2.50 (including postage) from John Flynn, Deerness House, Church Lane, Tow Law, Co Durham.

Whilst the Albany Northern League has switched all tonight's fixtures to encourage attendance at England's semi-professional international at the Reynolds Arena, Chester-le-Street Juniors host Port Vale in the FA Youth Cup second round.

"It's nearly as important to these kids as the Notts County match is to Shildon. We're hoping for a lot of encouragement" says Chester general manager Joe Burlison.

Chester-le-Street won at Hartlepool United in the last round. Tonight's winners are at Derby County.

Ex Quakers chairman dies

Former Darlington FC chairman John Brockbank has died, aged 69. His funeral is at 12. 15pm today at St Mary's RC church in Major Street, Stockton.

Though his profile was rather lower than the present incumbent's, Brockbank was a lifelong Darlington supporter known throughout the North-East for all sorts of reasons.

"He was just so versatile. Very few people have given back more to the region than he has," says Joe Borrow, a long-time friend.

He had been a member of both Stockton and Cleveland councils, was a leading figure in the workmen's club movement, about which he both wrote and broadcast, ran his own construction company, played local cricket and football, was vice-chairman of the Durham Concert Secretaries' Federation and an enthusiastic Freemason and charity worker.

It wasn't bad for someone who'd left school at 14.

A quarryman's son, he was brought up in Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, staying behind to finish his welder's apprenticeship when his family moved to Stockton. His affection for the Quakers stayed with him.

He was chairman from 1993-95, when Alan Murray was manager, though Darlington spent much of the time near the foot of the third division.

Illness, sadly, prevented his seeing the new stadium. "Though it was George Reynolds's, not his, it would have been John's pride and joy too," says Joe Borrow.

"Until 18 months ago he was never away from the club."

Mr Brockbank, married with five children, may best be remembered for his smile. "Even when Darlington weren't going so well, it rarely left him," says Joe.

...and finally

The poser with which we left readers 11 days ago not only caused much anguish, but brought begging letters imploring an early end to the misery.

The challenge, put about by Peter Beardsley, was to name four English clubs who have been managed by three European Cup winning players.

Most people got Newcastle United (Keegan, Dalglish, Gullit) and Manchester City (Keegan, Clark, McNeil). A few managed Blackburn Rovers - Souness, Dalglish, Kidd.

None got the fourth. Rotherham United, of all people, have been managed by John McGovern, Emlyn Hughes and Archie Gemmell.

Holiday reading, Magpies' fan Richard Stephenson's book The 89th Minute - more of which later - recalls the player who in 1987 equalled Len White's record of scoring in seven successive Newcastle League games.

Readers are invited to name him. Back again on Friday.

Published: 04/11/2003