WYLAM railway station is on what’s now marketed as the Hadrian’s Wall Country line, from Newcastle to Carlisle. Ryton and Crawcrook Albion football ground is a 25-minute walk away but, regrettably, in the opposite direction from that great Roman battlement.

How much easier had the two been in slightly closer proximity. The column could simply have been headed Ryton on the Wall.

The RMT union finally having suspended its own border skirmishing, we catch the train westwards on a lovely late-winter afternoon, the lads on Close House golf course positively gambolling – lowping, anyway – in the sunshine.

On Wylam station, an information board claims that the great locomotive pioneer Timothy Hackworth was a Wylam lad – “son of the colliery blacksmith” – though everyone knows that he hightailed it to Shildon as soon as he could afford the train fare.

So close to the station that it might be the waiting room – for some it undoubtedly is – the ceaselessly lauded Boathouse pub has a beer called Sod among its 12 handpumps and a lady who asks the barmaid if the menu has anything vegan.

The barmaid looks puzzled. “Chips?” she asks, rather than informs. The lady sticks to her lime and lemon.

A notice outside advises that Wylam WI’s next meeting has the subject “Reproduction genetics and family.” Isn’t it a bit late for that?

Other than mooring at the Boathouse, the formal reason for heading to Ryton is that the blog – bless it – has been unravelling a thread on iconic structures at North-East football grounds, especially those in the Ebac Northern League.

The words “icon” and “iconic”, it should be confessed, are among the most wantonly misused of modern times, broadly taken to mean “old” (as in the Northern League), “big” (as in the Premier League.) or “different” when defying classification.

Chambers Dictionary little helps matters by defining iconic as “conventional in type” and nor should iconic be supposed a synonym for unique.

Ryton’s hilltop ground may have been the only home of football with a dartboard on the side of the stand – perhaps wisely, it never had any darts – which certainly made it unusual but probably not iconic.

Nominations arrived for the venerable old stand at Crook Town, fast approaching its centenary, for the “pagoda” at Shildon, for the turnstiles at Willington, even for the tiny stand at the former Team Northumbria ground in Newcastle though that, long story, may have been more ironic than iconic.

One of two also had fond memories of the old Quakers cowshed at Feethams, though it seems somehow to have lost its charm after being re-assembled elsewhere.

Ryton’s clubhouse was thought sufficiently smart 20-odd years ago to have been officially opened by one or other of the royal princes, though it wasn’t the clubhouse which blog readers thought more iconic than any other. It was the bus shelters.

There are seven, job lot from Gateshead council, formed up in slightly higgledy-piggledy order and not half as much loved by commuters awaiting the No 27 to Pelaw as they are by the football fraternity.

They photograph them, fantasise about them, seek shelter beneath them on the brightest of days. It’s not even that they’re needed under the FA’s occasionally improbable ground grading criteria, just that they were helped off the back of a corporation lorry.

“You’re right, these things really have become iconic,” says club chairman Richie Hands though – again – it must not be supposed synonymous with unique. There’s a Stockton Borough Council bus shelter behind the top goal at Billingham Town and that one still has the timetable attached.

Ryton are playing Redcar Athletic, ENL second division, both teams in mid-table and the crowd just 49 – no prawn sandwich brigade up-river, though they do have something called a scran van. “Think how much less it might have been if Newcastle had been playing,” says Stevie Carter, the club secretary.

Stevie’s a worried man. Berwick Rangers, his other team, are second bottom of the Scottish third division and would occupy the sole potential relegation place but for Albion Rovers – whom still they must face twice.

Rangers haven’t a game. “At least one of my teams isn’t going to lose today,” says Stevie, a pessimism substantiated when Albion trail 4-0 at half-time. It ends 1-4, real Ryton.

Northbound reading, Malcolm Dunstone had spotted a piece in The Times last Saturday on Doncaster Rovers veteran Jamie Coppinger, ahead of the Cup match with Crystal Palace. The lad, indeed, seemed to have spent most of the week giving interviews.

He’s 38, still lives in Guisborough, daily makes the three-hour return trip to Donny, is credited with more assists this season than anyone in the top four divisions.

He’d been a YTS player at Darlington, joined Newcastle United at the same time as Paul Robinson for a joint £1.2m – it’s said – played just 11 first team minutes, against Spurs in 2000.

He’s been with Rovers for 14 years – and now they can concentrate on the league.

The Times last Saturday also noted the 65th birthday of the great West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding. Sadly, the Echo archive fails to disinter the report of the occasion on which he spoke – unpaid and at length – at Etherley Cricket Club, the only Backtrack reference coming after a Welsh holiday in 1994. The Carmarthen Journal, we noted, reported that Michael Holding had taken 5-4 in the Pembrokeshire League (division two.) Possibly it wasn’t the same guy.

Still sizing the small print, we note in the Teesdale Mercury that Matt Mackem has made his rugby debut for Barnard Castle II. Can that really be his name?

“Mackem”, of course, is a now-familiar nickname for Sunderland folk and Sunderland fans. Something to do with mak-em and tak-em, apparently.

The Wearside phone book suggests that there are actually no Mackems in Sunderland – nothing between McKeady and McKenna – though loyal reader Don Clarke recalls teaching a family of Mackens.

Whether it’s all some sort of rugby joke remains to be seen, but while Sunderland FC were playing yet another draw, Barney II were beating Hartlepool Rovers II 22-7 – and Matt Mackem was man of the match.