The great Brian Henderson, whose funeral is today, is remembered not just for his 463 games (and three goals) for Darlington but for a Hurworth derby.

It was 1974 in the occasionally equivocal Church and Friendly League. Gordon Metcalfe, a bit bairn of 22, was Hurworth's centre half; Tim Henderson, Brian's son, played for Hurworth Albion.

As kick-off neared, it became clear that Albion would only have ten men. Tim, as you do when in doubt, sent for his dad from in front of the fire. Brian opted to play centre forward.

Metcalfe assumed he was in for an easy afternoon against a middle aged man. It was the biggest mistake of his life.

"After ten minutes I slid into a 50-50 challenge with Brian. To this day I remember the moment vividly.

"As we made contact I started to change direction and suddenly slide backwards as the full impact of Hendy hit me.

"I lay there in complete agony, totally winded and my whole body just ached. I couldn't get off the ground and I'm sure I'd have better survived an impact with a 40 ton truck."

Hendy picked the youngster up, congratulated him on the tackle, advised him always to put 100 per cent into tackles because otherwise he might get hurt.

"If this isn't hurting," said Metcalfe - still in Darlington - "I dread to think what is."

At the final whistle he asked Brian if he planned to continue his comeback. No way, said the Quaker legend, it was back to the horse racing, the fireside and his slippers.

He did continue, of course, which explains why Hendy - then 46 - turned out for Croft WMC on a bitter December morning in 1976, at Langley Park in the Durham Sunday Cup.

The pitch was covered in ice, and with snow patches. Hendy was deputed to mark young Alan Shoulder - later of Newcastle United and Hartlepool - small but perfectly able to look after himself.

During the second half, the two went fearlessly for a through ball. Though Shoulder evaded most of it, Hendy's tackle would have sent a shiver through the old west stand at Feethams.

Henderson was knocked out after hitting his head on the rock hard ground, blood oozing from nose and ears, and whipped off for two days in Dryburn Hospital.

"If he hadn't been carried off, he'd have been sent off," observed the referee, but was almost certainly mistaken because Hendy had never been sent off in his life. He'd simply slipped on the ice.

The funeral of Brian Henderson - iron man on the field, gentleman off it - is at 1.15 this afternoon in St Cuthbert's church, Darlington.

After two years on their travels, Murton FC - they of the Great Hole - finally return tonight to the green green grass of home.

If that weren't reason enough for a night out, they're playing dear old Shildon in the Albany Northern League second division (7 30).

"It'll probably be quite emotional. There've been many times when I never thought we'd make it," said heroic club chairman Tom Torrence, breaking off from re-painting the hospitality room.

We've promised him a pint. Many others may think that Tom deserves one, too.

A double header on Saturday - Guisborough v Whitley Bay and Thornaby v Prescott Cables, both also attended by Hartlepool postman John Dawson. The Thornaby match was his 100th of the season though next day - Bury the nearest fixture - he was contemplating a lie-in. The world champion ground- hopper has just passed 60. "I think I must be getting old," he said.

The surest sign that Christmas is coming isn't the Woolie's commercials on television but Evenwood Cricket Club's annual dinner. As ever, on Saturday night, the column did the honours.

The venue was different this year - Whitworth Hall, excellent meal - the faces entirely the same.

There was Bulldog Billy Teesdale, of course, John and Alf Teesdale, Billy junior, Neil - Alf's lad - and even an honorary mention for Dot, the Teesdale matriarch, who still washes and irons the whites.

The club had won four trophies - two seniors, two under 15s - which might have been five but for an unfortunate disagreement over the draw for the MDK Roofing Cup, during which Bulldog Billy had advised the organiser where he might relocate it.

The operation proving physically impossible, Evenwood were thrown out instead.

Young Billy, still just 17, already has 200 senior wickets, a shelf full of awards and a snarl of which the Bulldog would be proud. Neil added to his collection, too.

Billy senior, who has the curious habit of prefixing every other sentence with "I'll tell you a true tale" - as if anyone could doubt him - was given a little trophy of a fisherman, inscribed "The one that got away" and something to do with whoppers.

The truest tale of all, however, is that without the Bulldog breed - Alf and Billy in particular - there wouldn't be cricket in Teesdale country at all.

If the Grey Horse looked a bit knackered on Saturday morning, it had everything to do with the night before.

The Horse, from Ferryhill, were playing the Lord Seaham from Silksworth in the Over 40s League. Several of the team, including brothers Matt and Dave Pearson, had been sorrow drowning the previous evening.

Matt failed completely to heed manager Frank Stocker's alarm call; Dave stumbled out of bed, fell downstairs and broke his toe.

That the Grey Horse still managed a goalless draw was due principally to another eminence grise, silver-haired and sober-suited former Hartlepool and Darlington goalkeeper Phil Owers, now 46.

"He had an absolute blinder, he always does," says Frank, who had to play himself.

For Mattie Pearson the day went from bad to worse.

He's also manager of South Shields in the Albany Northern League - they lost 4-1, at home to Shildon.

In our Newcastle United v Aston Villa match report on November 4 we said that Newcastle had brought on Dion Dublin after an hour, but that it had made no difference.

"That could be because they play for Aston Villa" - correction in Sunday's Observer.

THE last North-East team to win at Wembley (Backtrack, November 9) was Whickham - in extra time against Willenhall in the 1981 FA Vase.

Today, back to Brian Henderson - third in Darlington's all-time appearance list after Ron Greener (490) and John Peverell (465).

One point for the player who's fourth in that list and about 20 points for the man who's fifth.

The column returns, much the same record as before, on Friday

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2001