LARGELY unmemorable, the football season edges to an end. Both with a back story, the column’s final matches – probably – took place over the bank holiday weekend.

On Friday evening Shildon beat a depleted South Shields 1-0 in the Durham Challenge Cup final at the Stadium of Light, Backtrack a Durham FA guest in the Magic Moments suite.

So serious the senior citizenship, I can still remember who sang Magic Moments – it was Perry Como, circa 1959 – and that Catch a Falling Star was on the other side. Sunderland’s recruitment philosophy has changed of late, however.

On Sunday, a charity match marking ten years since the first of Whitley Bay’s unique hat-trick of FA Vase wins but a greatly disappointing turnout at a chill Hillheads.

On Saturday we went for a walk.

IT was only our second match at the Stadium of Light. The first was Stanhope Town v Wearhead United, Crook and District League second division, on an unforgettable afternoon in May 2001.

The country was seized by foot and mouth disease, both Weardale grounds out of bounds. That’s why Stanhope chairman Clem O’Donovan wrote to Bob Murray, his opposite number at Sunderland.

“Your ground’s by the Wear, can we borrow it?” asked Clem.

Not a Black Cat in hell’s chance? Flying a kite at the Stadium of Light? Murray agreed at once.

Eight coach loads followed them down dale – you could tell it was a big match because one of the Stanhope lads had forsaken his customary lunchtime pie, or pies, and was eating a banana instead.

They’d even persuaded someone to sing Abide With Me, but he’d wrecked his tonsils on the club trip the day before.

The crowd was 913, a Crook League record by about 875 and for once no need to count the dogs. Wearhead were bottom, Stanhope second bottom. It ended 2-2. If ever there were a game with no losers, it was that one.

WHITLEY Bay’s FA Vase final in 2009 was the first time a North-East side had appeared at the new Wembley, a milestone observed by Lord Triesman – the FA’s fairly low-profile chairman – at the pre-match lunch.

“Wears well, doesn’t he?” said someone on the next table.


“Bert Trautmann.”

Most of the Northern League management committee had gathered at Darlington station, led by the league chairman – since it was a Sunday – in a chorus of Praise My Soul the King of Heaven.

A chap in Whitley blue-and-white went down the train selling raffle tickets. “The wife said I had to take the bairns,” he said. “I have to pay for them somehow.”

League secretary and former Chester-le-Street district council chief executive Tony Golightly recalled his first Wembley visit, Newcastle v Blackpool in the 1955 FA Cup final. The ticket cost 3/6d.

The new stadium looked good, no more Horse of the Year Show. Even the burger vans were run by a company called Divine though thanks to FA hospitality there was no reason for intervention.

Whitley Bay beat Glossop 2-0, first half goals from Lee Kerr and Paul Chow – both back on the field last Sunday – the Wembley crowd 12,212.

“Wasn’t that the Scotland Yard telephone number?” someone asked.

Last Sunday’s match was originally intended to be a benefit for Mark Taylor, who played in the 2009 final but was diagnosed with motor neurone disease soon afterwards. Still battling, Mark asked that it should support the family of Robbie Livermore, a former Whitley Bay and North Shields player who died tragically early this year.

Sunday’s attendance, sadly, was barely 200. When these folk sing about supporting ever more, clearly terms and conditions apply.

PETER JOYCE, an outstanding member of Spennymoor United’s hugely successful side of the late 60 and early 70s, has died after a long illness. He was 78.

“The best uncapped amateur centre half I ever saw,” says former team mate Albert Hickman.

“Wonderful header of the ball, not very tall but leapt like a salmon,” says former World Cup referee George Courtney, who trained with the Moors.

Peter later played for Newcastle Blue Star and for Brandon United, a member of the Brandon side which reached the FA Cup first round in 1979-80, losing 3-0 to Bradford City..

In later life he’d frequently walk the 12-mile round trip between his Spennymoor home and Brandon to meet old friends. “He was very brave, very strong and excellent in the air,” recalls Brandon stalwart Bill Fisher.

Brian Mulligan, another Spennymoor team mate, remembers not just an immaculate centre half – “I’d tell him not to bother kicking it, just to get on his knees and head it” – but the time that the centre half almost became a striker.

It was 1973, appropriately dubbed the winter of discontent, floodlights forbidden. After a match was abandoned at half-time because it was too dark to continue, club treasurer Jack Meggeson told the players they’d be paid when the fixture was completed.

Vainly, Peter led the protests. The following match, the players refused to get changed, insisting that they wanted their money. “I was a few years younger, tried to keep out of it, but was told we all stood as one,” says Brian.

They got their money, the game went ahead.

Peter, a factory worker in the Spennymoor area, had begun his career with Bishop Middleham Casuals in the Auckland and District League – “richest club in the county, they had a tremendous letter draw,” George Courtney recalls.

His funeral was at Durham crematorium on Thursday.

….and finally, last week’s column invited the identity of the British football club other than Liverpool whose players appear to the strains of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Nigel Brierley was first to acknowledge Glasgow Celtic but Michael Mullen adds Feyenoord, Dortmund and, most improbable of all, FC Tokyo.

One today from last Sunday’s Whitley Bay programme. While Wembley was being rebuilt, the FA Vase final was played at four different stadiums. Readers are invited to name them.

The final say next week.