BORN out of terrible sadness, the story of the enduringly happy relationship between Bishop Auckland and Manchester United football clubs began a new chapter last week.

It had started in the days after the Munich air disaster in February 1958 when the gym beneath the main stand at Old Trafford was turned into a makeshift mortuary.

Bishops’ amateur international inside forward Derek Lewin, who’d trained with United before the 1956 Olympics, had paid silent respects when asked if he’d have a word with Jimmy Murphy, assistant to seriously injured manager Matt Busby.

Just seven of the 22 men who’d appeared in the first and reserve teams the previous Saturday were available. Seven were dead, Duncan Edwards would later lose the fight for life, many others remained in hospital.

Murphy asked if Derek could play for them – and bring a couple of his mates. On the other side of the Pennines, the Northern League club at once agreed.

Derek was joined for a reserve game against Burnley at Old Trafford by legendary wing half Bob Hardisty, then 37 and supposedly retired, and by fellow amateur international Warren Bradley.

The crowd was 19,000. “When I saw them all headed to the ground I thought that I’d made a mistake and it must have been a first team game,” said Derek.

Not everyone in the United dressing room was so pleased to see the amateur reinforcements, however – especially not Hardisty. “When he walked in, I thought who was this balding old bloke,” recalls former United player Harold Bratt in a new book chronicling how it all began.

“I soon changed my mind when we kicked off. He was so calm, seemed totally in control, spreading passes about and always giving great advice.”

Derek Lewin, now 88 and in great good fettle, particularly remembers Duncan Edwards, just 21 when he died. “He would have been a great player, absolutely superb. What a waste of a person.”

He and the balding old bloke never got beyond the reserves. Warren Bradley became the only player to win England amateur and full international honours in the same season.

Bishop United, written by Roy Cavanagh and Carl Abbott, was launched at a thronged social evening in Bishops’ clubhouse – one table enthusiastically occupied by Man United seasons ticket holders from the Bishop Auckland area.

Back in 1958, said Roy, fellow Football League teams had been rather less keen to loan players to the stricken club. “I think there was some jealousy, even then. Bishop Auckland’s was a magnificent gesture.”

The 40-page book costs £5 and is available from the club. Proceeds go to Bishop Auckland Supporters Club and the Durham Amateur Football Trust.

BOB THURSBY, at the same function and just 19 when he played for Bishops in the 1957 FA Amateur Cup final, recalls even younger days with Stanley United – they of the Little House on the Prairie.

The committee were all miners, their wives equally involved. “It was the best post-match meal ever,” says Bob. “I was 17, the baby, they always gave me seconds.”

Like many older clubs, United were full members of the FA, the chief perk an allocation of Cup final tickets – “the big Cup final,” he explains.

Stanley had an “arrangement” with Notts County – County got United’s top-dollar tickets in exchange for rather a lot more 3/6d ones. The Northern League club laid on a bus, found some NCB flats near Kings Cross, laid on a treat.

Bob, who became an England amateur international and a dentist in Chester-le-Street, remembers it vividly. “It was a fantastic gesture, what’s called looking after your players. At the time it was the best weekend of my life.”

ABOUT 12 hours before his accustomed time, celebrated after-dinner comedian David Greener rose to address the Durham Age UK men’s breakfast last week.

Otherwise remembered as a formidable fast bowler with Chester-le-Street, and others – a good story about how he caught and bowled the West Indian test star Collis King – Davey received Age UK’s usual remuneration of an extra sausage.

Among the cricket stories, he also recalled the days when kids would play knocky-nine-doors, ringing bells and scarpering before anyone had chance to answer.

These days, he said, it’s called Parcel Force.

IN the early doors, post-breakfast pub we bump into the coffee drinking Graham Lilley, secretary these past 38 years of the Durham and District Sunday Football League and dusting himself down after a morning in the County Records Office.

Graham, wholly admirable, is writing a league history ahead of the golden jubilee dinner next June – and no matter, he says, that the 50 years will actually be 52.

“The way things are going,” he adds, “the book will probably be 58.”

He’d greatly love to hear from anyone with early league tables, anecdotes or information. Graham can be contacted at

….and finally, spin bowler Jack Leach’s unusual feat in the second test match in Sri Lanka (Backtrack, November 24) was that he became only the second Englishman since Trevor Bailey in 1957 to open both batting and bowling in the same test.

Graham Gooch, in 1987, was the other.

Dave Wright in Darlington today invites readers to name the six Sunderland players to have scored for the club in the top three divisions of English football – one of them illustrated in Dave’s caricature on the left/right.

In time for the Christmas stocking, Dave’s also produced a Sunderland “Homegrown Heroes” caricatures calendar – details of that one on

The answer to the question next week.