OUT in time for Blackpool away, and also in time for Christmas, an every cough and spit statistical chronicle of the Quakers called The Definitive Darlington FC. This is the Definitive article.

The history's compiled by Frank Tweddle, the club's official historian but with sufficiently vulnerable a soft spot for Shildon to refer to them, also, as "we".

Frank, in truth, not only had the good sense to marry a Shildon lass but one from the same class at Timothy Hackworth juniors as the Backtrack boy.

He is also a railway buff - perhaps the world's leading authority on West Auckland shed, 51F in the days of muck and magnificence - and no less enthusiastic about the plastic bodied Reliant Scimitar.

"I had a whole series of rusty cars, the Scimitar doesn't go rusty," says Frank, who kept his first for 13 years and now has three, two sporty jobs and a saloon.

His consuming passion, however, the love affair that began when his dad first took him to Feethams in the Fifties, is the quintessential Quakers.

He's contributed programme articles for 26 years, wrote the club's long unavailable centenary history in 1983 and rarely passes an evening by the fire without some fellow fan - or questing columnist - seeking to raid his archives and to pick his brains. It's been a labour of love.

He began delving largely for his own interest, discovered that the club had records back to its Football League debut in 1921 - "a lovely old cupboard beneath that lovely old stand" - but that after the Bradford fire they'd been thrown out, and before he'd even got round to the reserves.

"All I've ever wanted is for the facts to be correct," says Frank, a 56-year-old semi-retired teacher. "The only trouble about this book is that I won't be the guru any more. Everyone will be the guru now."

Born in Bishop Auckland, he spent most of his youthful Saturdays at Kingsway but - "even when the Bishops were beating Kingstonian 12-3, and things like that" - found that the real thrill was at Darlington among those officially professional.

A half back line of Furphy, Greener and Rutherford became fixed both in his mind and in Feethams folklore - "they were giants, you hardly dared approach them". Goalkeeper Billy Dunn was another early favourite.

Other heroes include 1960s full back John Peverell ("I loved his cannon ball shot and the way he overlapped"), dental centre forward Lance Robson, the balding Ray Yeoman - "a great character" - Colin Sinclair from the "bleak decade" of the 1970s and big centre half Kevan Smith, over 400 appearances, who's written the book's foreword.

Frank admits, however, that more excitement has been crowded into the 17 years since the centenary - three promotions, relegation to the Conference, two Wembley appearances, Reg Brealey, Mike Peden and George Reynolds - than in the 100 which preceded it. An updated history is being considered.

Kevan Smith's still wondering how they ended up in the Conference. "I still think back with puzzlement at how one minute we were playing nice attractive football and the next playing collectively like a bunch of novices," he writes.

Frank's biggest disappointment was losing at Wembley in last season's play-offs. "The first time we got there was like a dream come true, in a sense the occasion was the important thing.

"Last season I was just so convinced that we'd win, after beating Hartlepool in the semi-finals. To be honest, I was devastated."

The book, fifteenth in a series - Hartlepool's is already out - details every League and Cup match since 1921 and many of the Northern League and North Eastern League matches before it.

Every team is there, every result, every league table, every crowd and every player's record - from those with almost 500 appearances to those whose glory was more transient, a few minutes as sub.

Backtrack is offering copies of the book to the first three readers out of the hat on November 30 correctly to identify the player, pictured, who has most often worn the Darlington shirt.

Others can obtain The Definitive Darlington FC for £9.99 from local booksellers or from the club shop.

AMONG the countless Quakers games he's witnessed, Frank Tweddle reckons the most memorable was on August 27 1975 - a 2-0 Football League Cup second leg win at Sheffield Wednesday which took the tie to a third match.

"We'd honestly just gone down because we thought it would be a nice evening out," he insists.

Quakers had other ideas. Steve Holbrook's 50th minute screamer gave them the lead, Scottish striker Colin Sinclair - now running the Footballer and Cricketer Arms in Linlithgow - adding a second ten minutes later.

The Northern Echo reported that goalkeeper Alan Ogley was magnificent, even finding time to dribble the ball to the half way line before hoofing it into the stand.

On the same August day, Neil Riddell hit 77 in 55 minutes for Durham against Staffordshire, Newcastle United's Mickey Burns was sent off for arguing at League champions Derby County, Hartlepool manager Ken Hale was searching for a striker and Spennymoor United maintained their 100 per cent Northern League record against Shildon, who hadn't managed a point.

After Darlington manager Peter Madden lost the toss, the third match ended goalless at Hillsborough. Quakers won 5-3 on penalties through Sinclair, Jimmy Cochrane, Stan Webb, Alex Smith and Eric Young.

Webb's two goals gave them victory in the next round over Luton Town, but in the third they went down 3-0 at West Ham. It must be true; it's in The Definitive Darlington.

STEVE Holbrook, 48, still plays five-a-side football several times a week - but is by no means the oldest head in the Monday morning line-up at the Dolphin Centre in Darlington.

The column's old friend Bill Smith from North Cowton is still going strong at 76 - "a bit kick about, it's just become a habit", he says.

"An incredible man," insists Steve. "Bill's just treated like one of the lads and really gets stuck in."

Steve, an English schoolboy international - 13 goals in 131 Darlington appearances, two games for Hull City - agrees that Hillsborough was their finest hour - though Wednesday, just relegated from the old Second Division, were to escape a second demotion by just a single point.

"I think the stadium inspired us," says Steve, now running a car hire business. "we'd played quite well in the first leg, too, but in the second we were brilliant."

And the goal? "An absolute pearler. I wouldn't care, I was whinging to the referee because someone was pulling me back and he just said 'There's the ball' and I hit it.

"Afterwards we were running back and the ref asked me if I was satisfied. After winning at Hillsborough, I think I probably was."

SINCE it's to be a books page, news of William Hague, known to his admirers as Iron.

"Insensible to pain, he had a reputation for punching brick walls," observes a slim new volume called Yorkshire Sporting Facts and Feats (Dalesman, £4.99).

It's not, of course, the Right Honourable member for Richmond - the bit about brick walls probably gave it away - though like Oor Wullie, Iron William was from the Rotherham area.

British heavyweight boxing champion after a first round knock-out in 1909, he lost the title due to a combination of excess alcohol, 14 pints probably, and better opponents.

Ronnie Wharton's book offers few surprises otherwise, except perhaps for the identity of "Yorkshire's greatest sportsman".

He wore a black one-piece running outfit, competed barefoot, broke every record there was, lived on wild herbs on Ambleside Moor, fought in the Battle of Britain and later helped skittle the Aussies for about three and a half. He was Wilson of the Wizard.

NOR can we let so literary an occasion pass without further reference to Northern Goalfields Revisited, the Northern League's millennium history - and the perfect present for anyone with an interest in North-East football or in the region's changing face over 112 years.

Richly illustrated, 530 pages, it costs just £8.99. Brian Hunt wrote and researched it; the Backtrack chap edited all and contributed some and there won't be a better bargain this Christmas.

Unavailable in book shops - we're not paying the mark-up - the book's available from Northern League clubs, from The Northern Echo's offices in Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Durham or by post (plus £3) from Joe Burlison, 4 Carrowmore Road, Chester-le-Street, Co Durham.

PLUS last night in the presently benighted Boro, the launch party at the Purple Onion of the fanzine Fly Me to the Moon's 2001 annual - A Boro Space Oddity.

"Star-in-waiting" Elaine Palmer was singing, "easy listening" Albert Park - not THE Albert Park? - was DJ. But what on earth could they find to party about? More of that on Tuesday.

. . . more Quakers questions - the one with the prizes is somewhere up top. While they are pondering over the mystery picture, readers may care privately to consider Darlington's record scorer, the player who made most international

appearances whilst with the club and the name of the Feethams cat in the 1980s.

The definitive answers on Tuesday.