THE latest episode of non-league football's Restructuring Roadshow was staged last week at Stevenage Borough FC, 25 miles this side of London and over 200 south of Darlington.

We'd last been there in January, 1998, a dreadful match between Stevenage and Chesham United the week before the FA Cup third round tie with Newcastle. "A dross rehearsal," the column observed.

The Albany Northern League's man arrived on time for Thursday's 10.30am start - change at Doncaster but at all costs avoid the station buffet - the FA contingent were late from London. "M25," they said simply, and everyone joined the mental jam session.

Nothing much happened, or at least nothing that can be explained in five paragraphs, though we were all invited to undertake a SWOT analysis. To management speakers and FA officials, SWOT is apparently an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; to Beano readers, a swot remains Cuthbert Cringeworthy.

We sat opposite one of those Athena prints called Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It's to be hoped that it wasn't symbolic.

TEN to five from Stevenage and back on time for the Echo's Local Heroes awards, a magnificent night (save for the price of a pint) at the Tall Trees near Yarm. Kip Watson, secretary and indomitable inspiration of the Over 40s League, abundantly deserved his overall accolade; Leo Smith - winner of the Backtrack tagged "Game for a Laugh" category - revealed that he'd heard news of his shortlisting when the paper rang Seaham Leisure Centre.

"Tell them to call back, I'm in the middle of a football match," said Leo, "exclusively" featured on page three of the Sun just five years after we could have sworn we'd got to him first. He is 78.

At midnight we were approached by Shildon and District marbles champion John Robinson, commended with his 84-year-old father for expertise in martial arts, about joining him on a 20 mile sponsored walk next August.

John, who's 55 on Saturday, intends doing it barefoot. Anything else will be a stroll.

ADRINK on Friday lunchtime with the lads from Spennymoor Boxing Academy - off for Chicago today, with or without club secretary Paul Hodgson.

Hodgy's afeared of flying. At least that's the in-your-dreams story which Tyne-Tees Telly bought last night when they sent a crew to film him being hyponotised out of his phobia.

The greater worry is that after 20 years unstinting service to HM dole office, he has had to sign off for a week, the Nash audaciously claiming that he is unavailable for work.

Hodgy's distraught. "It's broken a proud record," says the man who reckons always to have been available for work. "They've just never made me the right offer, that's all."

DARLINGTON football legend Brian Henderson's death continues to evoke affectionate memories, not least from his love-of-the-game days with Croft WMC. No Over 40s League in the 70s; Hendy just happened to be 45 when most of the opposition were half his age.

Dave Burdon, a Croft team- mate, recalls how opponents could frequently be overheard encouraging one another to get the old so-and-so and how clearly they had picked on the wrong so-and-so.

At the end of the season, when it was decided he should have an award for his services, the trophy was inscribed: "Brian Henderson; Old Git of the Year, Croft WMC 1976-77."

Hendy, 463 games for the Quakers, was delighted. "Several years later," says Dave, "he told me he treasured it still."

KENNY Johnson, Hartlepool's all-time leading scorer, had many a tussle with Hendy, too - one of which he recalled when we bumped into him at Peterlee Newtown's sportsmen's dinner on Friday evening.

It was what euphemists call a competitive derby, and after one particularly uncompromising exchange, Hendy lost a boot.

Kenny - now 70, retired from his fish shop and golfing to distraction - picked it up and threw it towards the back of the stand. Enter Arthur Ellis, Halifax lad and England's top referee.

"Are you from Yorkshire?" demanded the ref.

"No, what for?" said Kenny.

"Because we could do with a right armer like you. Do it again and you're in trouble," said Arthur and Kenny sighs, with some justification, that they don't make refs like that any more, do they?

ON Saturday to Whitley Bay v Jarrow Roofing, where the Jarrow lads were anxious to point out that last Tuesday's reference to their sub being ordered off after a minute was mistaken. He was carried off, oblivious.

Bulldog Billy Teesdale, despatched six seconds after leaving the bench, continues to hold the all-goers record.

And on Saturday night to Esh Winning FC, a bitter-sweet finish to the Albany Northern League's Great North Run participation.

On Thursday we'll be presenting cheques totalling over £5,000 to Marie Curie Cancer Care and to the HC Pilgrimage Trust, of which £1,000 is from the good folk of Esh Winning.

There'd have been more, said commercial manager Nigel Quinn, but foot and mouth forced the sponsored walk's cancellation.

Part had been raised by the clubhouse lads' Full Monty take off - a Christmas special is threatened - part by Dave Parkinson's offshore activities, though not the sort beloved by Private Eye.

It was kicked off, however, by Antony Hird's part in the Great North Run - but nine days ago 19-year-old Antony, grand lad and Arsenal fan still better, suffered a double leg fracture playing Sunday morning football.

At 15, whilst having soccer trials for Blackburn and Bury, he'd broken the same leg playing rugby. Now - "goosed," as they say in Esh Winning, and without reference to Christmas dinner - he's been told never to play again.

"Just one of those things, 50-50 ball with the goalkeeper and I got the worst of it," he cheerfully insists.

Bob, his dad, was planning to auction the lad's football boots after we'd left. "In Esh Winning," said Bob, "they'll buy owt if it's for charity."

BACK into Darlington in time for a last one at the Grey Horse on Bank Top, where jubilant word had sped from Bridlington that from 64 finalists the lads had again won the team event in the National Domino Championships.

The band played on; a chap sitting at the bar insisted that the Eating Owt column try the "soft" pork scratchings. Easy on the dentures, he said. The championships can last up to 12 hours, alcohol not so much allowed as essential, and this year they'd been tightening the rules. "It's my responsibility to ensure the safety of all players and supporters, including women and children," wrote the Chief Organiser in the programme, adding with appropriate capitals that it should be remembered these were Grand Finals.

Drunk and disorderly behaviour, breaches of the peace and intimidation were therefore all forbidden and each domino had to be played within five minutes. The Grey Horse stable, principally the White and Stainsby families, weren't back, of course.

The championship rules further decreed that the bar would close after midnight "at the discretion of the Spa management." They'd probably be in the Grey Horse on Sunday afternoon and looking for a game, said the landlord.

Those who still believe that dominoes is all luck should get along there and challenge them.

ON Darlington station again, 11.15pm, and in time to see a top table of Hartlepool lads decant from Weekend First. On Friday evening they'd watched the Pools win at Swansea, on Saturday travelled to Twickenham for England's triumph over South Africa. "Canny weekend," they reckoned. Aye, we said, very. THE last Welshman to captain the winning side in an FA Cup final (Backtrack, November 20) was Kevin Ratcliffe, of Everton, in 1984.

Whilst peripherally in the Principality, it should also be noted that the speaker at Peterlee's do on Friday was the first Welshman to win a European Cup winner's medal.

Another note from the land of song on Friday.

Published: Friday, November 27, 2001