Alan Price, the best known Jarrow Lad since the Venerable Bede, wishes it to be known that he is a lifelong Sunderland fan. Good intentions notwithstanding, he remains much misunderstood.

A German fan was so convinced that the 1960s pop idol would be a Magpies supporter - Animals instinct, as it were - that for his 50th birthday in 1992 he bought him shares in Newcastle United.

"To this day," reports Colin Randall in Wear Down South, "the Price household receives a steady supply of corporate junk, all the unwanted bumph from St James's Park that would make most of us reach for those nose pegs worn by the French before they could vote for Chirac."

Wear Down South is the magazine of Sunderland's southern supporters club branch. Colin, Shildon lad married to a French lass, caught up with Price in his south-west London home.

Born in Fatfield, raised in Jarrow, his heart remains at Roker Park where his first match was a 4-0 bombardment of Portsmouth in 1947. Ronnie Turnbull, a Northumbrian signed from Dundee, scored all four on his debut.

Price became a regular, sustained after the steam train to Seaburn by liquorice root from the chemist, "screamed" when the Bank of England club was relegated in 1958, flew from Los Angeles for the 1973 FA Cup final.

He also enquired about becoming a Sunderland director, but - cut Price - joined Fulham's board instead after Len Shackleton recommended him to Cottagers' chairman Ernie Clay.

"Sunderland wanted £100,000. I joined Fulham for a third of that. I wasn't rich enough for Sunderland but was poor enough for Fulham."

He still performs regularly, hasn't seen Eric Burdon since the Animals reunion in 1983, hit 60 - "a lot younger looking than your average rock dinosaur," says Colin - a few weeks ago.

Once again, his number one German fan turned up at the birthday party. "True to form," adds Price wryly, "now that I'm teetotal, he bought me a bottle of Scotch."

Rievaulx, that closest to heaven of cricket grounds, has drawn stumps for the last time.

Though manifestly glorious, it was hard to tell if it represented the game's true grass roots because of the amount of sheep muck on the field.

The game beneath the shadow of the Cistercian abbey in North Yorkshire is yet another foot-and-mouth disease victim, though the club will continue to play cup games away from home.

"They just couldn't get onto it at all last year, so this year it's completely unsuitable," says Feversham League press officer and Rievaulx player Charles Allenby.

"It was never one of the greatest wickets anyway, though a lovely place to play cricket. Now I'm afraid it's had it."

Rievaulx never won the league but once managed a cup and even included former England batsman Graham Roope on several occasions. "He wasn't as good as't local lads, and even worse at getting his hand in his pocket," veteran chairman Frank Flintoft once recalled.

Similarly affected, the Feversham League struggles, too. Last benighted season they continued with just three teams - Kirkbymoorside won - this season they start with five, including the obtusely angled Spout House and the wondrously improbable High Farndale.

"High Farndale defies logic. I don't know what the ground is like, but they keep on going," says Charles, himself celebrating the 73rd wicket of a 41 year career - for Railtrack Northern against their Midlands counterparts.

The peerless Feversham, he fears, may struggle beyond this season.

"It's a matter of seeing how it goes, but evening cricket as a whole seems to be struggling. I wouldn't be too optimistic."

The immaculate Mr Mark Jarvis, meanwhile, has forwarded the fixtures of the Northallerton and District Evening League - nine teams, including Stockton and Tickle Toby CD.

Assuming Tickle Toby to be the pub of that name in Northallerton, what's CD to do with it - and is this the most improbably named cricket team in England?

A letter from Harry Foster, now himself in Northallerton, not only notes the 50th anniversary of the Redcar team which took the NYSD League title from Darlington but recalls the "congratulatory" telegram from the Rev G E Holderness, Darlington's skipper.

At least three of the team survive. Neil Brand and Doug Robson live locally, Ron Harrod - the captain - is in Warrington.

Harry also recalls record breaking bowler Arthur Fawcett, said by Lancashire wicket keeper George Duckworth to have been the best and fastest in England but overlooked in the party to Australia by some university johnny.

"He got one for plenty," says Harry.

Since he's not been at home to explain it, the telegram remains cryptic, however. Holderness, whose other teams included Bedale, Free Foresters and (with D C S Compton) the Marharajah of Cooch Behar's XI, was Darlington's captain between 1950-53 before becoming Bishop of Burnley and, later, Dean of Lichfield.

"The sort of cricketer who in his private dictionary would underline the word 'aggressive'," notes Bob Hattersley's Darlington club history, promisingly.

More of the vicar's letter, with luck, next time.

Home after another week as Government Chief Whip - a sort of parliamentary head prefect - North West Durham MP Hilary Armstong was chief guest at the Albany Northern League's annual dinner on Friday.

Shaun Campbell, secretary of League champions Bedlington Terriers sat a few feet away on the top table - and with a clear message for the minister.

Shaun's dad is Ronnie Campbell, distinctly Old Labour MP for Blyth Valley. The previous evening, the Chief Whip had caught him nicking off early (as they used to say in Timothy Hackworth Juniors.)

Ronnie protested that he had to see the doctor about an old injury, then sent a verbal sick note via his son.

"If she asks," said Shaun, "I've to tell her that me dad still has a very bad knee."

Unable in turn to play hookey from the Northern League thrash, we missed the presentation evening of Darlington Greyhounds FC - of whom the column is a proud president.

It has been another season of under-achievement, though the lads did reach the final of the Darlington and District League Invitation Trophy - albeit by an improbable route.

The "invitation" goes to clubs who lose in the first round of the league cup.

In the Trophy, the Greyhounds gained a bye in the first round, lost in the semi-final, were reinstated after the other lot were discovered to have played a wrong 'un and were paired with the Killinghall Arms from Middleton St George in the final. They lost that one, as well.

And finally...

The three Leeds United players from the Revie era who became the club's manager in the 1980s (Backtrack, May 24) were Alan Clarke, Billy Bremner and Eddie Gray.

John Phelan in Howden-le-Wear today invites readers to name the first man to play for Sunderland after previously appearing in a major European final with another club.

Local lad, too. His identity on Friday.

Published: 28/05/2002