SHILDON Football Club held its 125th anniversary dinner on Saturday night, Mr Jeff Stelling the main speaker and profiteroles for pudding.

There was an auction, too, the lots including a pair of goalie gloves signed by that polysyllabic Greek chap who used to play for Hartlepool. They went for £20 or so. “With that sort of money,” said Pete Sixsmith, the excellent MC, “you’ll be able to buy the entire Greek state by Tuesday.”

They’d rung to ask me to say grace, bill and benediction, and then forgetfully were left without a prayer. It is not to suggest that Shildon are graceless; anything but. Rather they are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, if only the world weren’t so myopic.

It’s a sobering thought – should sobriety be deemed desirable on such occasions – that I’ve been supporting the Railwaymen for slightly more than half of those long years, back to the days when a gentleman known as Snack Davis would chase us red-kneed urchins for trying to sneak into the great pagoda stand without paying the extra twopence.

Though by far the greatest team, we remained poor relations. Every year, or it seemed, the town would gather on the Hippodrome corner to watch Bishop Auckland or Crook Town – once even Willington – returning in open-top triumph with the FA Amateur Cup.

One day, we told ourselves, that was going to be Shildon.

The bairns, fetched up right, were at the dinner, too. They’ve come a long way since the duffel coated days of innocence, taken to home games on the top deck of the No 1 bus and to away matches if they’d been especially insurgent. One thing hasn’t changed a bit. Then, as now, dad had to pay for them to get in.

BORN in the same year as Stan Laurel, Agatha Christie and Richmal Crompton – none of them in Bishop Auckland – Shildon became founder members of the Auckland and District League in 1892, spent 25 years in the North Eastern League and have been Northern League members since 1932.

Theatre of dreams, and oft of nightmares, home has always been at Dean Street – originally the South Durham Athletic Ground – the foursquare stand and home for peripatetic pigeons itself just eight years from its centenary.

Diners recalled great Railwaymen like Jack Downing, centre forward in four successive championship seasons before the war, and full back Alf Wild, known universally as Wacker and with little need of embellishment.

One of the Northern League histories describes Mr Wild as “tenacious”, the sort of euphemism of which the late Norman Hunter might have been proud.

They recalled great Shildon men like K R Hopper, still very much with us, like Alan Wegg, Bryan Dale – great goalie – and Doug Grant who, told that every hat-trick scorer would receive one of those new-fangled colour televisions from a sponsor, scored five hat-tricks in the same season.

Graham Stout, down from Edinburgh, remembered a 1970s match in which, still just a little lad, he’d been knocked unconscious by a wayward shot from a Shildon player called Colin Temple. “It’s my only claim to fame,” said Graham, and absent mindedly rubbed the spot.

Eddie Airey, 80 years a Shildon fan, was asked to recall the outstanding event of those eight decades. “We beat Bishops 3-2 in the Amateur Cup,” he said. “It might have been 1950s, it might have been 1960s. We beat them, that’s all that matters.”

Several Bishop Auckland folk, including team manager David Bayles – with whose mum I attended Tin Tacks Junior Mixed – were at the dinner. Last week it was announced that the club had been left the top end of £300,000 by a lifelong fan.

Shildon raised a few bob by auctioning a boxing glove signed by Joe Calzaghe. We are poor relations once again.

JEFF Stelling has also done awfully well for himself since being taught English by our kidder – my twin brother – at the former Brinkburn Grammar School in Hartlepool.

“English was my best subject. It wasn’t saying very much,” said Jeff, now 60 and self-consciously just 5ft 7ins. “It’s above average for a man in Guatemala,” he said.

He grew up on the Rift House estate, started work on the Hartlepool Mail, joined Radio Tees and, among much else, has been the sure-footed frontman of Soccer Saturday on Sky for 21 years.

“Soccer Saturday,” he explained, “is a football show where you see no goals, no shots and no near-misses. It’s a bit like watching Newcastle United.”

It’s possible that the gentleman has used that line once or twice before, only the names changed to protect the guilty.

Pete Sixsmith had done his homework, not only finding a Guardian reference to a journalist of extraordinary professionalism and elan – “elan,” said Pete, “they talk of nothing else on the Rift House estate" – but a comedian’s description of Stelling as performing like a man on a Red Bull transfusion with a cocaine enema.

Sixer also recalled the chief guest’s time on Countdown, “sharing a studio with the fragrant Rachel Riley.” Some of us had never heard of Rachel Riley, but assumed her to be Old Mother Riley’s offspring.

He spoke mainly of Sky-fi, of presenters like Chris Kamara – “and at half-time the score’s 0-0, but it could so easily have gone the other way” – and Paul Merson, who writes his own script, anyway.

He’s won numerous broadcasting awards, is a Freeman of Hartlepool – him and Peter Mandelson – had an honorary doctorate from Teesside University and has put his name to several books, including a best seller called Jellyman Throws a Wobbler.

Our kidder taught him all he knows.

IN the company of Chris Kamara, former Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper and others, Jeff has also recently climbed Kilimanjaro for charity – an ascent currently being undertaken by Shildon manager Gary Forrest and colleagues for Macmillan Cancer, the club’s charity.

It explained why Gary wasn’t at the dinner, though word was that they’d been severely delayed by British Airways. Instead of being half way up an African mountain, they were still at Heathrow Airport, going up the wall.

IT was a good evening, the top table fronted by the Northern League Challenge Cup, the Durham Challenge Cup – both won by Shildon in 2014-15 – and by the Northern League runners-up trophy, one of those things that you don’t really want to win at all, but sometimes have to smile and make do.

They also claimed it the season previously, had lost last year in the last qualifying round of the FA Cup – to a team which folded soon afterwards – and lost agonisingly in the FA Vase semi-final in 2012 when Wembley had seemed certain.

Raffle prizes included a bottle of posh after shave. Wacker Wild wouldn’t have used after shave. Wacker Wild would have thought Elliman’s Rub effeminate.

We never did win the Amateur Cup, never have won the Vase, haven’t lifted the Northern League championship since 1940. By midnight on Saturday, however, Jeff Stelling still smiling for ceaseless cameras, it was possible in the mind’s eye once again to see two small boys with duffel coats and daft ideas.

One day, I tell them as the clock strikes 12, all that’s going to be Shildon.