ON the grounds that you have to be up early to catch Harry Dunn, it’s 8.30am and we’re sitting in the Rio Bar in Bishop Auckland: eating bacon sandwiches, chewing the fat.

Though tomorrow evening he leads Blyth Spartans into a televised FA Cup second round showdown at Bournemouth he is as affable, as accommodating and as articulate as ever.

Though he has football’s best known moustache, there’s nothing stiff upper lip about Harry.

“It’s a waste of time me getting nervous,” he says.

“There’s plenty of time to be nervous at 29 minutes past five.

“It’s no good people saying that they can’t tell if I’ve won, lost or drawn. I won’t change the result by having a face like a mile of bad road. I won’t change the result by being miserable, and it’s a bloody long way home.”

He’s 55, twice won FA Trophy medals as a player with Scarborough, helped revive Bishop Auckland, engineered another Wembley triumph as Whitby Town’s manager in the 1997 Vase final, guided Spartans to the Conference North and to first round triumph over Shrewsbury.

Though he attended St Mary’s Grammar School in Darlington, he only managed one GCSE – “I think it was in football” – worked for 30 years as a hospital porter, is now a part-time caretaker at a children’s centre in Sherburn, near Durham, lives in Bishop with his wife and daughter.

It’s football which enthuses and consumes him, which takes him out most nights of the week, watching games and cultivating contacts.

Harry has more contacts than Dollond and Aitchison.

“Sue’s very understanding, so long as she gets her annual holiday in Benidorm,” he says.

“When the time comes that I wake up on Saturday morning not looking forward to the match, then maybe I’ll pack up. Until then, I hope there’ll always be a job.”

HE was brought up in East Howle, a now-disappeared village near Ferryhill, admits to a certain tribal warfare when they weren’t playing footy.

“We’d think nothing of walking a couple of miles along the railway line to get stuck into the Doggy lads,”

he recalls. Doggy was West Cornforth; the Doggy lads had a bite as bad as their bark.

Between 12-16 he was on Burnley’s books, scouted by Jack Watson who’d get in where drifts cannot, followed by a youthful spell at Brian Clough’s Derby County.

“I think Cloughy only ever said three words to me. As soon as he walked into the ground the atmosphere changed, everyone was terrified of him.”

The three curt words were “Hair cut, son.” “Me and another couple of lads from the North-East had to go to the barber’s. My parents didn’t recognise me back at the railway station when I came home. Everyone had long hair in those days.”

His own management style is wholly different. “There’ve been one or two cups thrown, but I try not to lose my temper.

“You have to remember that they’re not the best players in the world, that they’re going to make mistakes and that you have to accept it.

“I don’t think I’ve ever fallen out with a player. It’s football; it’s not that important.”

There was the unfortunate occasion, though, when in frustration he kicked a table.

“I hadn’t realised it was fastened to the floor. It nearly broke my foot but I couldn’t let the players see that. I just stood there, grimacing. I probably learned a lesson that day.”

RELEASED by Derby, he played local football for Winterton Hospital, Sedgefield, joined the Bishops for the first time, moved on to Scarborough where Colin Appleton’s team already included a Harry Dunn.

The newcomer became Harry A Dunn, still signs himself that way, though he never had a middle name at all.

He subsequently played for Blyth, became coach and then manager at Bishop Auckland, particularly recalls FA Cup ties against Preston North End – Bobby Charlton at centre forward – and at Crewe, a 1-1 draw.

“We had Phil Owers in goal, the most magnificent performance from a goalkeeper I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Though he’d sported it all his adult days, it was at Whitby that the moustache legend grew. Hundreds of Town supporters, including his 14-year-old daughter Louise, wore their Wembley hirsute. Hair today, the column called them a tash force.

“Whitby was easy to manage,” he says. “They were such good players, they looked after themselves. The only hard bit was deciding who to leave out.”

Harry rejoined Spartans in 2003, steering the Northumberland club from second bottom of the UniBond premier division and to the championship the following season.

When Blyth drew Whitby in the 2005-06 FA Trophy, Spartans fans not only formed a tash force of their own but persuaded the satirical comic Viz to sponsor it.

Club secretary Ian Evans claimed that the moustache had at last achieved cult status; others merely observed how grey it was becoming. “If you’d watched as much rubbish as I have,”

said Harry, “you’d have turned grey, an’ all.”

NOW Spartans and their heliotropic hairpieces have another day in the sun.

Setanta TV have filmed the team’s every move since Wednesday, will accompany the coach, broadcast the match live – there’s an £80,000 fee – and join the party afterwards.

“That’s the bit they leave their cameras behind,” says Harry, adding colour to the Rio Bar, even at so monochrome an hour.

The game, he supposes, is up there with the Wembley appearances – certainly in terms of publicity. “Players don’t realise what they have at the time. I’ve tried to drum into them to seize the moment, to remember the experience.

“They’re a great set of lads, every one. Most of them I just got from the Northern League, but they’ve been brilliant. The one thing I won’t accept is players with an edge in the dressing room.

So far as I’m concerned everyone’s the same. We’ll all have a great day.”

Three days later they return to the reality of a relegation fight, home to Alfreton. The manager expects to be given some of the television money further to strengthen his squad.

“It’s not as straightforward as people think. There are debts to pay and other considerations.

You don’t work hard to make all that money just to throw it away willy-nilly.”

If ever he’s sacked, he insists he’ll look for another job in football.

“It’s not so much about the level as the people and the crack.

“I can’t be at a ground a couple of minutes without three or four people wanting to talk. I could never imagine myself sitting in the house five or six nights a week.”

“To have been involved so long has been fantastic.

We’re very much the underdogs at Bournemouth, they’re absolutely desperate to beat us, but who knows if there won’t be another chapter yet.

“The last thing I’ll tell them is to remember the fans who’ve been on the road since three o’clock in the morning when there are so many other things they could have been doing.

“They’d put their foot in; they’d put their head in, they’d run themselves into the ground. If we do the same on Saturday evening, we’ll still not go far wrong.”


TUESDAY’S piece on the centenary of Durham County Schools’ FA – the occasion marked with a handsome history – stirs Bill Thompson in Belmont, Durham, to memories of his father, who a century ago played for Sunderland Boys in the final of the English Schools Shield.

Bill also sends a couple of cartoons, and a team photograph on which one or two of the lads even essay a smile – though no such indulgence, of course, was afforded their mortared masters.

Young Thompson’s second left at the front, risking reproach by looking cheerful for the camera.

It was May 1907, the final attracting 25,237 to Roker Park.

The gate of £375 was considered so enormous that the Echo’s headline writer gave it an exclamation mark, by way of personal bodyguard.

The only pity, said Wearsider amid the Edwardian small print, was that most of the masses had no idea which team was which because it was West Ham Boys who wore the red and white.

Sunderland had beaten Hartlepool in the first round and Newcastle, 9-3, in the second.

In the third they put another nine past Seaton Delaval, “Thompson of Silksworth”

among the scorers. Robert Musgrave from Ryhope, the England schools’ captain, was centre-half.

In the fourth round they travelled to Sheffield on the same day that Sunderland’s Football League side were at Owlerton, later Hillsborough, in the FA Cup.

The bairns still drew 6,000 to Bramall Lane – drew the match, too – but won the replay at Hendon.

The semi-final against Reading was at Ashbrooke, Sunderland, many of the 15,000 crowd – “animated with cup tie fever,” said a contemporary account – climbing over the fence to get in.

Had they known that the kick-off would be delayed 45 minutes because the referee objected to the battered ball, their haste might not have been so great. “To say the least, the ball showed signs of many battles and was by no means perfectly round,”

the report added.

The previous season, at Bradford, Sunderland’s officials had lodged a complaint because there was a tape where the crossbar should have been. Our lads took things a bit more seriously.

The final – “a fine game,”

said the Echo – was followed by a dinner and smoking concert at the Liberal Club.

The match drawn, Sunderland lost the replay 6- 2 – though even the losers got gold medals.

“My father treasured it, wore it proudly on his waistcoat as was the fashion, but sadly it disappeared after the Second World War,” says Bill Thompson – Durham County Schools’ FA could kick off in style, nonetheless.

THE Football365.com website is running correspondence on unmourned cup competitions, a list to which the Anglo-Italian has inevitably been added. In an attempt to promote interest, writes Stephen Dennis from Billingham, Middlesbrough held a half-time penalty contest during their games at Ayresome Park – the prize a tin of ravioli. Pasta tense, anyone know if it’s true?

A BIT late for his biography, Bishop Auckland manager Brian Honour – the all-time Hartlepool favourite – was queuing in his local takeway last Saturday when our man rang to check post-match details.

Asked who’d scored, Brian – doubtless in his best Blackhall accent – replied that it was Amar Purewal, one of identical twins, and was interrupted by the guy behind the counter.

“Sorry sir,” he said, “Amar Purewal’s not on the menu tonight.”


TUESDAY’S column sought the identity of four Football League clubs with all five vowels in their full name – and thus embarrassed itself by asking a question that was hopelessly out of date.

The “four” were meant to be Hartlepool United, Rotherham United, Torquay United and Rushden and Diamonds – two of them no longer in the league.

A bit more dependably, Alan Price in Wardley, Gateshead, today seeks the identity of six clubs who’ve played in the Premiership who have a last name which is unique among the current 92 “League” clubs – those with just one word in their name not included.

Suffixed unto the day, the column’s back on Tuesday.