THEIR football days long behind them, former Darlington players Ian Larnach, Peter Carr, Clive Nattrass and Colin Sinclair contest what’s reckoned the second Ryder Cup later this month.

Their opponents, of course, are American – originally friends of Carr’s, who has long lived in the US. Venues, spread over six days in Scotland and with a presentation dinner at the end, include Carnoustie and the Old Course at St Andrews.

The British team will also compete for the Joe Jacques trophy, in memory of the Feethams favourite who was just 36 when he died in 1981.

“It’s been 20 years in the planning, or al least in the talking about,” says Ian, lovely bloke, whose story we’ve told previously.

For six years he’s been battling cancer in some of its most malignant forms, has raised tens of thousands of pounds through his own cancer charity, looks forward to a summer without chemotherapy.

“I’m as fit as fire. Life’s brilliant,” insists Ian, 66 next Monday.

There’s a bucket list – and why “bucket list”? – nonetheless. Last year he ticked off a paraglide, a couple of weekends ago rode pillion through the dales on a Harley Davidson. The golf challenge is the latest.

Before that, a golf day at Bishop Auckland tomorrow has attracted 26 former professional footballers from North-East clubs. Later in the year there’s a coast-to-coast cycle ride (“I’m meeting them in Seaham at the end”) and the annual Christmas bash at Spennymoor Town Hall.

This year’s beneficiaries are the Great Aycliffe Cancer Support Group and the children’s cancer ward at Newcastle RVI.

Ian and his wife also plan a couple of cruises. “I’m looking forward to a really good summer,” he says over a pub lunch. “In September we’ll take the cancer out of the box and look at it again.”

A RARE visitor these days, Bulldog Billy Teesdale rings in grandpaternal great glee. His 11-year-old grandson Morgan – young Bill’s lad – has the previous evening claimed 5-7, all bowled, for Evenwood Under-15s at Langley Park.

The we’an tops the bowling averages for Under 11s, Under 13s and Under 15s. “He just has a magic arm,” says the Bulldog. Mind, he adds, he’ll still never be as good as his grandfather.

GRASS roots nutritionist John Raw, among those who enjoyed last week’s column on Barningham Cricket Club, is off this week to watch Durham’s game at Chesterfield – and also visiting nearby Tufton Hall, home of railway pioneer George Stephenson. It’s there, says John, that Stivvie developed a passion for growing straight cucumbers, invented his own cucumber glass and enjoyed a fierce rivalry with Joseph Paxton, head gardener at nearby Chatsworth House. The internet, a rather later invention, confirms that it was so. It doesn’t say why old Geordie felt the need to do it – but it’s not exactly Rocket science, is it?

QUITE literally in passing, the Barningham piece also nodded towards the interestingly named hamlet of Scargill, a couple of miles along the road. Bill Bartle recalls that a member of their church in Barnard Castle once farmed there and had a reccy visit from King Arthur himself. “I don’t agree with his politics,” she memorably said, “but he was nice around the house.”

OSHOR Williams, who has a tale to tell, is the latest to sign up for the Gateshead FC players’ reunion tomorrow evening.

Raised on the Tilery estate in Stockton, Williams – now 59 – was signed by Boro as a schoolboy, kicked around with Billingham Synthonia after being released and was in turned spotted by Manchester United. Again freed, he joined Gateshead.

“We sold him to Southampton for £4,000 in 1978, good money back then,” recalls former club chairman Bill Gibson, who’s organising the bash.

Chiefly, however, the winger is remembered at Stockport County – 31 goals in 216 appearances.

After injury ended his career he coached, gained a BA in history and politics, is now assistant director of education at the Professional Footballers’ Association and an executive committee member of the General Federation of Trades Unions.

Officially marking the 40th anniversary of Gateshead’s reincarnation, the reunion’s open to all players of that era. Among others, Bill would love to hear from Peter Creamer, last encountered in the Bishop Auckland area.

The do’s at Gateshead Bowls Club, just off Prince Consort Road. Bill’s on 0191-256-7533 or 07867 943148.

LAST week’s column confessed a Parable of the Wedding Feast moment – or, in truth, its “go thou lower” antithesis – at an ordination service in Peterborough Cathedral. “You should have demanded ‘Don’t you know who I am’?” writes Malcolm Dunstone in Darlington, but it may be that they knew precisely who I was that we ended up in outer darkness in the first place.

….AND finally, the term “love” in tennis (Backtrack, June 29) was originally chosen because a zero supposedly resembled an egg – in French, l’oeuf.

Brian Dixon in Darlington, born within ten miles of Centre Court and clearly an egg head, was first up with the answer. Keith Bell reckons that an early form of the game was popular at the French court: didn’t Henry V before Agincourt have something to say about matching balls to rackets?

Graham Phelps today invites readers to name the oldest cricketer since the war to have scored a test match century at Lord’s – and if it helps, adds that he’s also the only chap to have scored more than 10,000 runs for two different counties.

North-East connection; an answer next week.