HOWEVER uneventful tomorrow's big FA Trophy tie between Blyth Spartans and Whitby Town, things could still get a bit hairy for Spartans manager Harry Dunn - owner of the most famous moustache in football.

Eight years ago, Harry guided Whitby to victory in the FA Vase final, hundreds of Seasiders' supporters dancing down Wembley way wearing fulsomely fake moustaches.

Now the Blyth supporters' club has also decided that it's the Dunn thing - and tomorrow they'll form a tash force of their own.

His stiff upper lip is also officially sponsored by Viz comic, in which it regularly features, and appears on Earl Haig type T-shirts exhorting "Your team needs you."

"Harry's moustache has achieved cult status up here, " says club secretary Ian Evans.

"Almost everyone in the ground could be wearing a false moustache except me, and that's just because I have one of my own."

Twice an FA Trophy winner with Scarborough in the 1970s, Harry lives in Bishop Auckland - whose team he also managed - and works in the maintenance department at Darlington Memorial hospital.

Whisker it quietly, mind, but the old appendage seems to be quite a bit greyer since those wonderful Wembley days when even his daughter Louise, then 14, was delighted to pay lip service.

"You'd be grey if you watched what I watch every week, " insists Harry, 50.

He's been married almost 30 years, reckons his wife has never seen him without it. "If I came home clean shaven, she'd probably think it was a burglar and call the police.

"It's a self-trimmer. I never use scissors, I just bite the ends - usually between about a minute to three and ten to five on a Saturday afternoon."

In his playing days, it also came in for unwanted attention from opponents, most memorably when Altrincham player/manager John King went a bit over the handlebars during a Scarborough match and Harry didn't keep his hair on at all.

"He pulled it which makes me a bit angry and I thumped him. We both ended up with an early bath."

Viz, long time Blyth backers, also chose Spartans' Croft Park ground two weeks ago to launch Roger's Profanisaurus - a guide to English expletives - and on a recent comic cover offered the chance to win a cricket bat signed by the England and Australia teams.

In small print beneath was the rider "or Blyth Spartans FC", meaning that this week Ian Evans was going round the dressing room with a cricket bat. "It gets a bit silly, I know, " he says.

Sponsorship may have been less crucial had they beaten Midland Alliance side Chasetown in last month's FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay. The replay winners played Oldham at home, the game already earmarked for Match of the Day. Ian reckons they lost £130,000.

The hirsute Harry, eventually sacked at Whitby, admits that it gives tomorrow's game extra spice.

"It's still a nice club and I've plenty of friends there who I'll look forward to seeing."

Though both teams are going well in the Unibond premier division, he's confident Spartans can progress - a hair line decision, no doubt.

FFORTY years since first he trod the pantomime boards, ten months after he broke into the Backtrack column, robber baron and leading football administrator Rowland Maughan is taking a break from the annual extravaganza.

It's Sleeping Beauty; he needs a rest.

"The chap playing my part is 23.

As in football, we believe in a youth policy, " says Rowland, a senior FA Council member and chief executive of Northumberland FA.

For four decades he has been principal comedian, script writer and co-producer at the 800 seat Whitley Bay Playhouse, achieving 90 per cent seat occupancy over a six night run. This year he's stuck to writing the script.

The final curtain may yet be postponed, however. "For the moment, " he says, "I'm just dormant."

THE Magpies may be adamant that they're not flying him, but Michael Owen really has bought himself a nine seat helicopter. Now he wants to learn to fly it. "Having watched the pilot closely, I reckon it's not as complicated as it first looked. Maybe someone will give me flying lessons for Christmas."

AALL this recent stuff about The Little House on the Prairie stirred wind blown memories for Cumbrian journalist Ross Brewster, sent across the Pennines 40 years ago to cover Penrith's visit to Stanley United.

"I was the only person in the office with a driving licence and a passable knowledge of the offside law, " he explains.

The fires blazed, wonderful tea ladies waited dutifully upon them, Ross and the local penny-a-liner - the late Joe Richardson, probably - were placed out on the balcony of the Little House. "It was the most unusual press box in the world, and the most hospitable."

Though a lifelong Carlisle United fan, those 90 minutes on heaven's hilltop nurtured an enduring love ofthe grassroots game. "It's my secret joy, " says Ross. "My ex-wife cited the Non League Handbook in our divorce."

SSIR Bobby Robson's flirtation with the managerial post at Hearts puzzles Frank Richardson in Durham. "He's been a wonderful servant to football and a great ambassador for the North-East, " he writes. "You'd think he'd just retire gracefully."

Alternatively, says Frank, why doesn't Sir Bobby, now 72, invest some of his money in resurrecting Langley Park CW - home more truly being where the hearts is - and maybe even become manager.

The village club folded in 1995, after being relegated from the Northern League to the Wearside League. We took a dander round the ground a couple of weeks back: it has, as they say, seen very much better days.

Published: 11/11/2005