On the familiar ground that it never rains but it pours, things have been pretty stormy for our dear old friend Charlie Walker, the Demon Donkey Dropper of Eryholme.

Eryholme's a dot of a place by the Tees - right by the Tees - about five miles south of Darlington.

Five summers ago, the river burst its banks for the first time in living memory, flooded the pitch and carried much of it back downstream as it retreated.

Gallantly and at great expense, Charlie and a small band of helpers restored it. At the beginning of June, the Tees went over the top again, standing up to six feet deep on the outfield.

Not just the grass, but 20ft trees were killed. Rain has stopped play ever since.

For the first fortnight they helped the flood recede by digging gradually away at the bank. Then they hired two pumps, which for a week drained 10,000 gallons an hour.

The great flood also left behind enough gravel to fill a quarry and a thick, oily sludge which has yet to be analysed for possible poison content.

"It's absolutely heart breaking" says Charlie, now 60, and as if things weren't bad enough the donkey droppers - away matches only - have been falling a bit flat, an' all.

Despite it all, despite the added frustrations that most players have been nowhere near to offer help, that youngsters aren't taking up the game - "too busy on their computers" - and that even the Darlington and District League seems to have more coaches than Blackpool bus station, Charlie vows they'll be back on Eryholme's green and pleasant next season.

"I've lived here all my life, played for Eryholme for 43 years, and until 1995 not a ha'porth of bother. I don't know if it's global warming or what" says Charlie, a turkey farmer.

"The water board and the environment department have done absolutely nothing for us. Last time they promised us a pump, we didn't even get that.

"I've even wondered if the flood banks they've put in elsewhere have forced the water over here.

"No one seems to be able to tell us whether it'll happen again, so we're reluctant to spend all that money again, but we don't want village cricket to end at Eryholme."

The two teams now play on alternate weekends, the firsts at Raby Castle on Saturday. Raby hit 175 for five, and not required to confront the Demon since Charlie, who has a groin strain, simply made up the numbers at point.

Eryholme were all out for 36. Charlie, due to bat at 11, was officially absent hurt. The Demon Donkey Dropper remains characteristically philosophical. "Next season can only be better".

At 11 30am on Saturday, meanwhile, we took a call from the appropriately named Alex Waters, chairman of Prudhoe Town FC.

It was raining so hard up there, said Alex, that the electricity supply had been wiped out and sparks were flying round in an attempt to fix it before the big kick off.

Alex recalls the first ever match on the ground - a former council refuse dump, the clubhouse neatly known as the Tip Top club - when another August downpour left one of the goals under six inches of water.

What's called being thrown in at the deep end.

On Saturday - "history repeating itself" said Alex - they finally dried out, restored the electricity, played the derby match with Whickham and lost 5-1. It never rains....see above.

Whilst Eryholme roll up their sleeves, and probably their trouser legs as well, spare a thought for the Match of the Day team.

On a splendid summer afternoon, Barry Davies at Sunderland on Saturday complained on air that it was cold. John Motson, we hear, has been in talks with Middlesbrough because his lofty commentary perch is too far from the pitch.

"It's not that Motty's eyesight's going" insists a colleague. "He just likes to be close to the action."

A Love Supreme, Sunderland's multiple award winning fanzine, is up and smiling again, too, and with the results of the fans' poll.

Worst opposing team (including Newcastle) - Newcastle 93 per cent, Bradford two per cent. Worst opposing team (excluding Newcastle) - Wimbledon 46 per cent, Bradford 24 per cent, Middlesbrough 13 per cent.

Particularly, however, we are taken by a letter from Alistair Watson in Northamptonshire, returning the T-shirts given to subscribers of ALS and its sister publication, Sex and Chocolate.

"As a professing Christian I would not want to wear the 'True faith' one and I wouldn't be comfortable with the 'Sexy Mackem bastards' either" writes Mr Watson, though he's still paying his subs.

"PS, this isn't meant to sound pompous" he adds but - been there, not got the T-shirt - he mightn't want the 'I was here when we were s***e' model, either.

Something else off his chest, the "Sobs" column in Sex and Chocolate reveals that the author's holiday hobby is counting football shirts.

In previous years, Sheffield Wednesday won "hands down" in Florida and Aston Villa seemed home from home on the Costa Brava. This summer - sunny Weymouth - Chelsea just edged out Man United, though Sunderland came a creditable third with 17.

"Sobs" is our old red and white friend Paul Dobson, from Bishop Auckland. "It's pathetic I know" he concedes, "but it helps to pass the time."

Why did the Cricketers cross the road? Let's try to be brief.

The column has long been president of Darlington Cricketers FC, a splendid but generally under-achieving set of lads called after the town centre pub of that name. This season, however, they're out of the traps as Darlington Greyhounds - the pub not a wicket's length over the dual carriageway.

The Cricketers, apparently, wanted for the first time to charge the teams for post-match grub. "It was an offer we felt we could refuse" says secretary and sometime goalkeeper Alan Smith.

"The Greyhound have been more than welcoming in their place."

Now the Greyhounds are looking for somewhere suitable for their Saturday exercise - Aldbrough St John, of all places, the present favourite - but got off to a flier in their first match, against the Archdeacon.

They won 11-0. The Greyhounds had run up a Cricketers score.

Owls and the pussycats, and all that, we reported a couple of weeks back on Sheffield Wednesday's night out to play the Wensleydale League, at Harmby. Wednesday's goalie was a youngster called Chris Stringer.

Two Sundays ago, Stringer was on the bench when Wednesday kicked off against Wolves, called into improbably early action when Kevin Pressman broke all records by being dismissed after 13 seconds.

By every account he performed heroically. "It's always the same" says Wensleydale Football Festival organiser Raye Wilkinson. "Once you've appeared up here, you're famous."

IT'S Middlesex (Backtrack, August 18) whose county championship squad includes a composer (ex-Durham University lad Andrew Strauss), a fruit (Mike Roseberry, still more familiar around Durham), a traitor (the Irishman, Ed Joyce), a painter (David Nash), an explorer (Andrew Cook) and a cat - the sarcastic nickname for Phil Tufnell, not cricket's most athletic fielder.

Bill Moore today seeks the identity of the goalkeeper who has made the most appearances for a single English senior club.

In safe hands again on Friday.