Thirty five years on, a "Where are they now" television documentary is planned on the 1966 World Cup.

This isn't another on the England team, however - those lads are everywhere, earning more from "appearances" than ever they did playing football - but on the North Koreans whose Little Big Time adventure won every heart in the North.

North Korea were the tournament's no hopers, a diminutive and little known squad based at the Teesside Airport hotel near Darlington and drawn in the North-East group alongside Chile, Russia and Italy - the world's costliest side.

Unforgettably, they were to reach the quarter finals, losing 5-3 to Portugal at Goodison Park after going three up inside 24 minutes.

Backtrack, however, has unearthed a true mystery of the Orient. Was the Koreans' startling success down to feng shui - the ancient Chinese art of having everything in the right place - or to the more English tradition of moving the goal posts?

The first call is from Peter Hodgson (01642 559536) whose mate making the programme has discovered just nine of the Koreans' 22-strong squad still alive.

He's anxious to hear from anyone who had routine contact with them - coach drivers, hotel staff, shopkeepers, whatever.

Peter also tells a remarkable tale of how the team came to train at Billingham Synthonia, but since his "North Korean" mimicry is so awful - "I admit it's more South Korean," he said - we have followed the story back to its source.

In the summer of '66, Peter Lax was secretary/manager of Synners' Northern League side and remains very actively involved. We interrupted him painting the pay-box, a relief from which he was duly thankful.

At the beginning of that July he'd received a telephone call - from England trainer Harold Shepherdson, he thinks - asking if the visitors might train at their ground.

"It was a political situation in a sense," recalls Peter Lax. "They'd practised near the hotel, at Clairville Stadium in Middlesbrough and at Boro's training ground but didn't like any of them and were getting a bit sick.

"It was made clear that we should make a fuss of them. There was a bit of pressure on for them to like it here."

The ground was owned and maintained by ICI and as always in immaculate condition - but when the Koreans arrived with their female interpreter and Sumo-sized minder it quickly became clear that their greater interest was in the two reserve team pitches, separated by a cricket square, at the back of the stand.

The Koreans asked for two sets of goal posts to be moved through 90 degrees, and to play across the square. "They said something about the sun being in the same place as it would be at Ayresome Park," recalls Peter.

"They'd never played cricket, didn't understand that the square was sacred." He summoned George Morgan, a top ICI manager and chairman of the cricket section. "No bloody way," said George.

"There might be another war on if we don't," said Peter.

The chairman agreed, the Koreans quickly won hearts - as they were set to in the three games at Ayresome Park - and were taken after training to the nearby ICI Social Club.

"It was a fabulous place, they couldn't believe it was for working men," says Peter. Every day they returned to the training pitch out the back, watched by hundreds of locals and almost as many scouts. What happened next is the stuff of football folklore.

It may best be summed up, however, in brief extracts from the Echo's match reports by the late Jack Fletcher:

July 12 1966 - North Korea 0 Russia 3. "The Russiam steamroller fulfilled expectations. It was proof that at any level of football the good 'uns have an edge on the good little 'uns. Korea can have little hope of living with the giants."

July 15 1966 - Chile 1 North Korea 1. "A last minute goal from Pak Seung Jin gave the outsiders an unexpected point. Ayresome Park erupted in a great gust of joy."

July 19 1966 - Italy 0 North Korea 1. "The Fall of the Roman Empire had nothing on this. The Koreans achieved the unbelievable. Soccer never saw such a frenzy of kissing and hugging as marked the victory celebrations."

The Korean president, unnamed in the Echo, finally emerged. "Our players fought so hard for the Fatherland, our success was due to the wealth of our preparation" he declared - and to moving the goal posts at Billingham Synthonia?

Word arrives of an outbreak of peace between Darlington FC chairman George Reynolds and Century Radio presenter and ardent Hartlepool fan Paul Gough - spotted dining together at the upmarket Black Bull at Moulton, near Scotch Corner.

Things became famously difficult after a persistent cacophony of early morning telephone calls to Goffy after Hartlepool lost in the promotion play-offs.

"They weren't exactly kissing and making up but they looked very close," says our man with the Bull by the horns. George insists that the meeting was accidental, though he admits that they got on well enough for the Hartlepool fan to be invited next day on a tour of Quakers' new stadium. "He said his car had broken down so I sent a taxi. He was thrashing round like a baby, but we got him to Darlington in the end."

Salvation at last for our under-achieving friends in the Durham diocesan clergy cricket team - the Ven John Pritchard, Bishop-designate of Jarrow, is an ardent cricket fan who once ("my claim to fame") hit a four at Edgbaston.

He's church career has always been in "first class" counties - " I insisted upon it" - and though he fears his eyesight may now let him down his support will certainly be moral. Born in Blackpool where he once watched Stanley Matthews play, the new man is also a football enthusiast - though more cautious than the Bishop of Durham, now identified as a Sunderland fan.

"When I'm at Newcastle I'll support Newcastle and when I'm at Sunderland I'll support Sunderland."

And when Sunderland are playing Newcastle? "Then I'll support Middlesbrough," he says. Just eight days until the new season and Ferryhill Athletic - among the region's best known football clubs - again face a crisis.

An extraordinary general meeting next Tuesday will decide if the club should fold. "Unless there's new blood or new money I think we've had it," admits secretary/chairman Norman Bellwood.

We'd first echoed his plea for help three weeks ago. Two possible newcomers came forward, one turned up for a meeting. "He carefully wrote down all our problems and when he got home I think he probably frightened himself to death," says Norman.

Formed in 1921, Athletic were three times Northern League champions, twice reached the FA Cup first round and made the quarter-finals of the FA Amateur Cup.

Amid mounting problems, the original club folded and was re-formed in the Wearside League as Ferryhill Athletic 1998.

Norman, up until the early hours writing to potential sponsors, still hopes that the cavalry may be just over the hill. "Closure would be catastrophic, I don't think there'd be a third chance," he says.

The extraordinary general meeting is at the Greyhound, Ferryhill Market Place, at 7 30pm on Tuesday.

The 42-mile Lyke Wake Race, one of the region's great annual endurance tests, has fallen victim to foot and mouth disease.

"It's unreasonable to assume the event could continue its 37-year unbroken record," says Paul Sherwood, director of the event - best times under five hours - across the North Yorkshire moors from Osmotherley to Ravenscar.

Members of the Lyke Wake Club, known as Dirgers or sometimes Masters of Misery, have also agreed on a change of colour. "After 40 years of funereal black ties," says Paul, "the new ones will be funereal purple."

the first US international to play in the FA Cup final (Backtrack, July 31) was John Harkes, of Sheffield Wednesday, in 1993. Brian Shaw in Shildon today invites readers to name the Olympic sport in which competitors enter a team, but where only one medal is awarded.

Published: 03/08/2001