Tommy Riley, last man standing in the Crook Town team which won the twice replayed and truly epic FA Amateur Cup final in 1954, has died. He was 89.

“It was one of the proudest moments in his life, to play in the final against the ‘posh boys’ from Bishop Auckland,” his son David wrote to the club.

This part of today’s column, alas, has rather too many reminders of mortality. They’ve been forming a bit of a queue.

Tommy’s pictured during his second spell with Stanley United, third right in the back row, though it’s not United’s usual kit but Arsenal’s – donated after the Gunners signed Geoff Strong, later of Liverpool, who died in 2013.

“Stanley was the cardest place on earth,” he recalled, colloquially, when we met in Liverpool in 2013, though the £10 which the amateurs stuffed weekly into his boot – they really did, plus £1 a goal – may have warmed his toes a little.

Tommy Riley was a colliery blacksmith at Tanfield, near Stanley – t’other Stanley – joined Crook from Annfield Plain in October 1953 and played in five different positions before settling at right back.

The final at Wembley drew 100,000 spectators, all but eviscerated south Durham and ended 2-2. Nine days later the teams met again, 56,000 (at least) at St James’ Park witnessing another 2-2. Three days later they tried again at Middlesbrough, Tommy at inside left, Ken Harrison’s goal giving Crook a 1-0 victory.

Alf Bond, one-armed, was referee on each occasion. Diehard Bishops fans still suppose him the one-armed bandit.

Still Tommy’s kinfolk keep his shirt, his medal and his photographs. “In this family,” says David, “they’ll be treasured for ever.”

Willie McPheat, whose Sunderland career was ended by a broken leg at Leeds United in 1962, has died. He was 76.

McPheat, a promising young Scot, had scored 23 in 71 matches before a thigh-high tackle from Bobby Collins left him crumpled in agony. The aftermath’s recorded in Mark Metcalf’s biography of Charlie Hurley.

When the teams met in the re-match at Sunderland, Hurley had a quiet word with Collins during the warm-up. “Bobby, you’d better be careful. There are 22 legs on that pitch wanting to kick you all over the place,” he said.

Collins never started, the Yorkshire Post blaming a slight calf strain. It was the only game he missed all season.

Though he stayed at Roker for two further seasons, McPheat never again made the first team, had 15 appearances for Hartlepool before returning over the border to Airdrie.

That first match, says Metcalf, marked the start of hostilities between Sunderland and Leeds. “They’ve never really gone away.”

The Stokesley Stockbroker recalls that Frank Brennan, 96 when he died in April, became Carlisle United’s player/manager in 1946, without ever having played a Football League game, and in 1948 sold himself to Sunderland for £18,500. “It kept us afloat,” he said.

Legendary Liverpool hard man Tommy Smith, who has also died, became a familiar sportsmen’s dinner speaker, the first five minutes usually devoted to what the column once called an Ode to Emlyn.

He and Mr Hughes weren’t, shall we say, the best of friends.

We’d last heard him 20 years ago at a Bedale FC do held in the local comp dining hall – black tie amid the blackboards, dinner ladies on double time, terrific treacle sponge.

The only problem was the microphone which, instead of picking up Tommy, kept on picking up the Ten O’Clock News instead. Why didn’t he just kick it? “I very nearly did,” he said.

The first Alan Britton Cup final, in memory of a long-time Crook and District League player and official, takes place at Willington this afternoon (2pm) between Shildon Railway and Heighington. Alan, an official of Willington WMC, died in December 2017 – “no one was better liked or respected,” says league chairman Maurice Galley. The trophy has been donated by family and friends.

Tuned to BBC Newcastle’s coverage of the Derbyshire v Durham cricket match on Saturday, April 6, John Maughan in Wolsingham emailed commentator Martin Emmerson to ask if he’d taken a supply of carlins with him.

With Brian Johnston it was always giant cakes, but clearly times are hard.

Martin’s a Roker lad, steeped in North-East tradition if not, alas, in carlins. “To my astonishment he said on air that he’d never even heard of Carlin Sunday,” says John.

Followers of these columns know only too well, of course, the story of the ship carrying black peas – carlins – which in times long past was wrecked on the Black Midden rocks off the Tyne, thereafter to be looted by starving locals. It was the second Sunday before Easter.

For John, however, the greatest astonishment was yet to come. He was upbraided by the man from the BBC by missing off the ‘g’ from the end of carlin.

Great moments in sport, number 11,321. Long immured in the third division – there isn’t a fourth – the Brainless Britannia B have won the Darlington and District 5s and 3s League knock-out cup for the second time in seven years. We beat Middleton St George Cricket Club in the semi-final and Albert Hill workmen’s in the final. It may not be said that we ran around Darlo with the cup, however. That doesn’t get presented until July 25.

….and finally, last week’s column wondered what Wolves had achieved in their goalless draw with Brighton on April 20 that hadn’t been done in a Premier League game since 2003. They didn’t concede a single foul.

The two British clubs whose fans sing You’ll Never Walk Alone before matches have between them lost just once in the last 78 home games. One, of course, is Liverpool. Who’s the other?

Back in good company next week