A nostalgic gathering tonight will reunite all 12 members of a record breaking football squad more than half a century after last they played together.

Newton Aycliffe’s Darlington and District League side from 1966-67 have met up several times before – but always without Keith Summers, who scored 89 goals that season.

All they knew was that Keith was in the Portsmouth area – now he’s been traced thanks to an appeal in the evening paper down there.

“He’s always been the missing piece of the jigsaw. It’s brilliant and going to be quite emotional but the downside is that I always tell people that Keith and I scored 90 goals between us,” says team mate Fred Langley. “I won’t be able to use that story again.”

The reunion, at Shildon Railway Institute, will also be a few days ahead of Fred’s 70th birthday. “It’s remarkable that we’ve all lived to tell the tale,” he says.

The team included Alan “Tosh” Kell, to become a regular at Spennymoor United, Joe Coates who played for Darlington Reserves and is now a prolific author of children’s books about the North Bay Railway in Scarborough and Geoff Reed, who became greatly familiar in the Northern League.

Fred, Shildon lad, spent two decades in teaching in southern Africa and more recently had 11 years tutoring the nomadic cast of the Billy Elliott musical. Recently returned to his home town, he had a letter in Hear All Sides last week lamenting the dear old place’s decline.

“It’s quite dispiriting,” he says, “but it’s still very good to be home.”

*The team – minus Keith Summers – are pictured at an earlier reunion. Back row – Fred Langley, Bill Robson, Jack Kasher, Geoff Reed, Joe Coates, Alan Kell. Front – Terry Langley, Dennis Lovelass, Ian Melvin, Kevin Bibby, John Graham.

Back in March, the column lugubriously reported the demise after 130 years of Lands Cricket Club, on the fells above Cockfield.

Leagues and clubs, we added, were collapsing like tail-end Charlies on a treacle track. It’s thus a particular pleasure to report Lands’ resurrection.

“Last winter we couldn’t get nine players. Now we’re flooded with them and some good uns, too,” says club chairman Carroll Simpson, more than 60 years with Lands.

Throughout the fallow season, Carroll meticulously maintained ground and wicket. “I went up there one lovely sunny day and thought that the pavilion would have made a lovely holiday cottage. They’d have been in paradise,” he says.

The club’s application to rejoin the Darlington and District League was approved at the annual meeting last week, though they’ll have to start again in the C Division.

“That’s fair enough, we were expecting it,” says Carroll. “We’re just happy to be back.”

Lands of hope, after all.

Among those with affectionate memories of playing cricket for Lands is former England footballer Dave Thomas, featured in last week’s column and perhaps better remembered as a flying winger.

“I was 14 or 15, Mid-Durham Senior League before I went to Burnley, loved it,” recalls the 68-year-old, whose grandfather – another David Thomas – was in the West Auckland side which won the World Cup in 1909.

It also offers the opportunity at last to explain why both granddad and grandson answered to the nickname Ticer.

“It was cricket not football,” says Dave, now back in Teesdale. “My grandfather was a very good spin bowler – for Bishop Auckland, I think. It was something to do with him enticing the batsman to play a wrong shot and finding themselves out.

“My dad didn’t get Ticer at all, but everyone called me it. I just wasn’t as good a bowler.”


More encouraging news from the local cricket scene: Spennymoor, their pavilion destroyed by fire in the summer, hope to start work on a new clubhouse in January. The club’s website adds that it may mean widening the access road – “resulting in the lopping off of a few feet of allotments.” Much boosted by fund raising in the Co Durham town, they hope it will be up and running by the start of the season.

….and finally, the six players to have scored for Sunderland in the top three divisions of English football (Backtrack, December 1) are Gordon Armstrong, Gary Bennett, Marco Gabbiadini, Colin Pascoe, Gary Owers and Lee Cattermole.

The question helped pass the time for a bus load of Sunderland supporters en route to last Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Walsall. Paul Dobson not only reports a collectively correct answer but, via someone called Uncle Kev, offers another question.

Readers are thus invited to name three West Indies international cricketers who’ve played for Blackhall.

On or off the Rocks, the column returns next week.