UNDER a pretty heavy cloud, Brandon Cricket Club’s presentation evening takes place tonight.

The first team has been dumped from North East Premier League to the Durham Cricket League second division for failing to maintain ECB Clubmark status, persuading several players to suppose that the other man’s grass really may be greener.

The good news is that long-serving former Durham County batsman Gordon Muchall is staying loyal. “Someone seems to have taken his eye off the ball with the Clubmark business but Brandon have a lot of really good stuff going on,” says the 36-year-old.

“It’s a little bit of a shame what’s happened, but the lads who are staying are looking forward to the challenge of getting us up there again.”

Described by former county colleague Will Smith as “the greatest team man I ever played with”, the man they call Much toured Australia – alongside men like Ian Bell, Andrew Flintoff and Monty Panesar – with England’s academy side in 2002-03.

He made 163 first class appearances for Durham, top scored with 219 and averaged 30. After retiring in 2016, he now teaches at Bow School – the junior department of Durham School, where he’d been a pupil.

Brandon, a couple of miles south of the city, have impressive facilities good enough to have hosted several county second team matches. The sports club site is also now home to the village’s progressive boxing club.

Though he anticipates Durham division two with interest, Gordon’s keen to dead bat suggestions that he can fill his cricket boots. “I don’t want to bully anyone. The wickets will probably be quite a bit different and it only takes one ball to get you out.

“In some ways it’s quite exciting. It gives guys who otherwise mightn’t have played the chance to show what they can do.”

He also hopes to bowl more, after a successful 2018. “We have to pick ourselves up. It’s going to be an interesting summer.”

Norman Smith rings to ask me to be auctioneer at a charity do at Shildon FC. Protest proves pointless. “The last time you did it, you sold a pair of odd trainers,” says Norman (and probably he’s right.)

Among those present are Jade Coles and Gareth Gray, whose seven-month-old son Clayton was found to be dead in the car baby seat when they pulled up outside their Newton Aycliffe home one afternoon in September. His five-year-od brother was holding his hand

“We’d just been to Darlington to get him a hat for the winter,” says Jade. “No one can understand it.”

The evening’s a fund raiser for the Lullaby Trust, founded in 1971 to raise awareness of sudden infant death syndrome, to address safety issues and to support the bereaved.

The top auction lot is a signed Shildon shirt. The auctioneer goes home with it. With associated activities, and pledges still to come, the evening raises £1,500.


Allan Wilkinson, who recently proved helpful in our learning more about 1950s Bishop Auckland Golf Club professional Bert Gadd, sends more cuttings from that period.

Among them is a report headed “Why Barry Wilkinson played for Liverpool”, an illustration of how times change.

Barry was his brother, on Bishop Auckland’s books but on December 5 1953 made his first division debut in Liverpool’s 5-2 hammering of a Blackpool side that included Matthews, Mortensen and Ernie Taylor, who scored both goals.

The following April, to apparent astonishment, he turned out for Liverpool at Middlesbrough on a day when the Bishops had an important Amateur Cup tie.

“Old timers can’t remember the last time that an amateur, with a choice between an Amateur Cup tie and any other game, didn’t play in the Cup,” said the paper.

Sammy Smyth hit the only goal in Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Ayresome Park but the Merseysiders still finished second bottom, a place above the Boro.

Barry finally turned professional in 1954-55, when half the Liverpool squad was from round the doors and only one, legendary Scot Billy Liddell, wasn’t English.

He made 78 first team appearances, didn’t score, was finally getting a regular start in 1958-59 when a chap called Bill Shankly took over and sold him to Bangor City.

Barry was still in Liverpool when he died, aged 68, in 2004.

There’s also a cutting about Bert Gadd, winner in August 1955-56 of the Northumberland and Durham Open and with Ravensworth men in the next three places – the course near Gateshead, presumably, and not the village near Richmond where Sir Ian Botham’s pad is on the market (Backtrack, September 1) for £2.3m.

A few days later, incidentally, the Daily Mail reported that Sir Ian was getting away badly after damaging his back in a rock fall while fishing. He’s now recovering from surgery.

….and finally, last week’s column sought the identity of the British golfer who rose to prominence after finishing fourth, as an amateur, in the 1998 Open. It was Justin Rose.

Steve Moralee in Tow Law was first with the answer. Brian Dixon in Darlington points out that it was also Rose who in 2016 won the first Olympic golf gold for a century.

In last weekend’s second cricket test in Sri Lanka, what did Jack Leach become only the second English player since Trevor Bailey in 1957 to achieve?

We’re back at the crease next week.