Fifty years ago today, a 58,000 Wednesday night crowd squeezed into St James' Park, as Newcastle United suffered one of their heaviest home defeats - 7-3 against West Bromwich Albion, Baggies at ten paces.

"West Bromwich were as near perfect a football machine as I have seen for many a year," wrote Tynesider in the following morning's Northern Echo.

"So delightful was their football in the first 45 minutes that the crowd cheered the Albion players from the field."

Memorable? The surviving Magpies appear to be suffering from collective amnesia.

"I can't remember a thing about it, honest" insists left half Charlie Crowe, 79 next month and still in Benton, Newcastle.

He does, however, recall his wartime debut against Stoke City, Matthews and all. They won that one 9-1.

Vic Keeble, scorer of two of United's goals, also has a memory gap. "Bloody hell, I remember getting a hammering at Birmingham but not West Bromwich as well," says Vic, back in his native Essex.

"Mind," he adds, "I'll bet my two goals were beauties."

Newcastle's team was Simpson, Cowell, Batty, Scoular, Brennan, Crowe, Milburn, Davies, Keeble, Hannah, Mitchell. Ronnie Simpson is alive and well and living in Edinburgh, but hasn't been contactable, Reg Davies is in Australia. The others are dead.

Perhaps understandably, Albion fans remember it vividly, Johnny Nicholls scoring four on his 50th appearance for the club.

"Those who saw it still argue that there have been few better displays - and that includes the magical Hungarians of the same period and the Spurs double side of the early 1960s," insists Baggie Backtrack regular Steve Smith.

Even Paul Tully, Newcastle's near-omniscient programme editor, has no recollection of the statistics - memory further impaired by the fire alarm going off in the middle of the conversation.

Paul rings back after the all-clear.

"Unfortunately our records have now been singed. All I can read is that Newcastle scored three...."

l Two of the team said by Tynesider to be "flawless" missed out on West Brom's FA Cup final that season through injury. Stan Rickaby, born in Stockton in 1924 and previously with South Bank and Middlesbrough, was hurt in the semi-final.

Winner of one England cap, he too emigrated to Australia.

Goalkeeper Norman Heath suffered such severe spinal injuries in a collision with Sunderland centre forward Ted Purdon on March 31 1954 that he never played again.

September 16 1953? Lindy Delapenha's goal couldn't prevent Middlesbrough's 4-1 defeat by Manchester United watched by 26,000 at Ayresome Park, Willie Watson returned from cricket to star in Sunderland Reserves 7-1 win over the Rest of the North Eastern League, goals by Jim French and Harry Clark gave Darlington a 2-2 draw at Chester, Hartlepool Rovers were celebrating their 75th anniversary and Randolph Turpin set sail second class on the Queen Mary to fight Carl "Bobo" Olson for the world middleweight title.

Turpin lost on points; in May 1966 he was found shot dead at his home.

Whilst mooching down Nostalgia Avenue we also looked at April 4 1959, much quoted over the weekend as the occasion of Hartlepool United's record win, 10-1 over Barrow.

"Football is full of paradoxes," began the Echo's report - strange but true.

It was also the day that two of the region's best-known footballers were married.

Darlington leading scorer Dave Carr, Wheatley Hill lad, wed Elizabeth Ann Lee at St Saviour's, Shotton Colliery before braying away down the A19 to the Quakers' match at York.

He arrived 20 minutes before kick-off and had little chance to celebrate, said the Echo, in his team's 2-1 defeat.

At St Barnabas's in Middlesbrough, Boro captain Brian Clough married Barbara Beatrice Glasgow, a shorthand typist, before scoring in the 4-2 win over Leyton Orient at Ayresome Park.

The taxi failed to turn up, however, prompting Young Big Head to ask if they might borrow a police car.

"The policeman's expression," said the caption, "seems to answer that bright idea."

Fred Richardson had ended his Hartlepool career by then, but was still bowling them over for Coxhoe Cricket Club. Now 78, Fred featured in last Tuesday's note on the Coxhoe reunion - Ron Taylor sends proof of his prowess.

Fred's finest, the scorecards suggest, may have been 9-29, eight clean bowled, against New Brancepeth in 1953. Against Shildon BR the year previously he'd hit 89 and taken 4-40.

Ron also sends the scorebook from the 1953 match between Coxhoe II and Siemens, when the factory team's total of five included four extras.

Eltringham claimed 4-0, Barrow 5-1. Marsland alone troubled the scorers. Not every able Siemens at all.

Further to last Tuesday's tartan clad report on Inverness Clachnacuddin v Wick Academy, Martin Haworth in Morpeth sends news from the Highland Press and Journal that Wick goalkeeper Dan MacMillan is in big trouble.

Playing the following week against Rothes, MacMillan - whom we'd described as "outstanding" - was booked for time wasting then shown a red card after disputing the decision.

Between post and dressing room, MacMillan was then shown two further red cards for hurling foul and abusive language in all directions.

"There seems little doubt that the SFA disciplinary committee will throw the book at the former Brora and Ross County shot stopper," observes the P&J.

And as they probably say at Wick Academy: when will they ever learn?

Friday's Local Heroes recalled the final match of the 1963 cricket season - Darlington against new NYSD League champions Normanby Hall, out to retain their unbeaten record.

Jack Watson, captaining the Teesside team that day, also remembers it well.

Normanby had scored at 1.6 runs an over when at 5 15pm Jack, at the crease, told opposing bowler Stuart Young that he fancied a cup of tea.

"They thought I'd declared. It wasn't until I went into the tea room in my pads that they realised their mistake."

Finally batting, Darlington were all out for 106, J M Watson claiming 8-44 including Darlington skipper Willie Wildsmith with the last ball of the match.

"I was working for Darlington FC at the time," says Jack, 83. "I nearly had to have an escort out of the ground."

On Saturday to Ashington v Ramsbotton in the FA Cup: 80 years ago, the programme recalled, the Colliers played Aston Villa in the same competition. Near the ground there's a pub called the Rohan Kanhai, named after Ashington CC's celebrated pro in the late 1960s - who'd succeeded the same Jack Watson in that capacity. Jack recalls bowling Kanhai second ball in his benefit match. "I wasn't very popular that day, either."

Billy Bell, the hugely successful former Northern League manager who died earlier this year, will be remembered in this weekend's Great North Run.

Paul Edwards, a friend of Billy's family, is dividing his sponsorship between leukaemia research and a cause of the family's choice - probably, he thinks, Evenwood FC with whom Billy won the league title in 1970 and 1971.

"He also managed other Northern League winning teams but Evenwood was his great love," says Paul.

Newcastle lad originally, he's been training hard and hopes to beat two hours. Sponsorship most welcome on 07899 908216.

And finally...

The former Durham City player of the 1920s who scored in all of his nine England appearances (Backtrack, September 12) was, of course, George Camsell.

After the success of cricket's Twenty20 competition this season, the Beardless Wonder today seeks the identity of the only Durham player to bowl a maiden - "as rare as rocking horse droppings" he confirms - in the competition.

More Twenty2 0 vision on Friday.

Published: 16/09/2003