SO WHOLLY in passing as to be damn-near invisible, Tuesday's column made reference to Arthur "Tricky" Hawes, a Sunderland footballer of the 1920s who, while playing, always carried a handkerchief in his left hand.

Not in the least to be sniffed at, it has directly led us to the brutal story of Cyril Hunter, the man who received football's longest-ever suspension.

You've heard of Nice One, Cyril? This little feller was the vicious, vengeful, barrel chested opposite. Cyril Hunter bit your legs, too.

The fleeting reference to Arthur Hawes - and thanks to Steve Leonard in Middleton Tyas for the photograph, issued by Pinnace cigarettes -was also spotted by Neil Mackay in Lanchester.

Neil recalled that old Tricky had first played for South Shields in the club's fleeting Football League days - watched by Neil's granddad, John Wrigglesworth. Cyril Hunter was a team-mate.

Born at Pelaw in 1898, Hunter had joined Shields from Brentford. "Although he was definitely one of football's hard men, he had a rather soft, cultured voice and a referee once asked if he was a public schoolboy," records George Thompson's excellent book - "A complete record of a Forgotten Club" - on those heady days by the seaside.

The world really heard about Cyril Hunter, however, after a Wednesday night in March 1927, a second division match between Middlesbrough - the league leaders - and Shields.

The division also included Chelsea, whom Shields had beaten 5-1, and Darlington, who were to be relegated.

Boro won 5-0. George Camsell scored a hat-trick and Hunter also got three, though it was the 80th minute before the referee sent him off for it. Since he was there, the Echo's correspondent - identified only as T o' T - can take up the story.

"The Middlesbrough dressing room was like a field ambulance station after this match. Pease, his left collar bone broken, was slung up awaiting delivery to the doctor's shop.Camsell was being helped into his clothes with what had every suggestion of being a broken right thumb and Miller was lying on the massage table, suffering from concussion, dazed and groaning.

"The man who had done it all, Hunter the South Shields centre half, was in a neighbouring room humiliated not half enough by his dismissal."

George Camsell, the former Durham Methodist youth club player, was attacked early on but went on to score his 50th goal of a remarkable season.

The feat, we reported, was acknowledged with a drum solo from the crowd.

Billy Pease, a Scottish international, met Hunter's full force in the 55th minute - a pivotal moment, it might be said. "It was evident from the way he tore across the field that he wanted to stop Pease," added T o' T.

Whatever Mr Hunter said, it probably wasn't with a public school accent.

Andy Miller was wiped out in the penalty area, referee Scholey finally deciding that it was a case of three strikes and you're out. Camsell, ironically, missed the kick.

The fifth was Boro's 98th League goal of the season. They went on to score 122 in 42 games, Camsell responsible for 59 of them, though they conceded 60.

When T o' T had calmed down a bit, the Echo also reported that March morning that a public meeting had been called in the mayor's chamber to discuss the future of Durham City FC - average Third Division North gate just 1,500 - that there'd be a silver prize band and community singing before Shildon's match with Boro reserves and that Bishop Auckland left back R Bradley had signed for Newcastle United.

"He should make a worthy understudy to Alf Maitland,"

said the Echo, though Bradley made just one appearance more moving on to Fulham and Maitland made 163.

The FA, meanwhile, had decided that something had to be done about the big white Hunter. He was banned from April to November, at the time the longest suspension in English football history.

He went off to American to play for Fall River in Massachusetts, signed for Lincoln City and returned to his native Tyneside to work in the furniture trade (possibly as a wardrobe.) Eventually, however, all may have been forgiven. On Good Friday 1950, he and George Camsell were team mates in a friendly at Shields' old Horsley Hill ground.

George Thompson also records that when researching his book, he met a chap in a pub in the vicinity of Horsley Hill who swore he'd seen a ghost near where the old main gates once stood.

Could it, George wonders, have been an aggrieved centre forward doomed for ever to seek vengeance on Cyril Hunter?

RELEGATED at the end of 1926-27, South Shields were Football League members for another three seasons, With little support and less money, they folded in 1930 despite finishing seventh in the Third Division North.

The last match at Horsley Hill, before just 1,752 spectators, was a 2-2 draw against an Accrington Stanley side which included the familiar figure of Tricky Hawes, who inadvertently began all this.

No surrender, he was still carrying the handkerchief.

NICE One, Cyril was - of course - written about Cyril Knowles, Tottenham's long serving left back when they reached the 1973 League Cup final.

Recorded by the Cockerel Chorus - one-hit wonders, if ever - it roosted at number 14 in the hit parade. A copy in a presentation box was yesterday standing at £30 on Ebay.

Knowles had begun his Football League career at Middlesbrough, was signed for £45,000 by Bill Nicholson in 1964 and made 507 appearances for Spurs.

As a manager he had successful spells with Darlington, Torquay and Hartlepool United, guiding both North-east clubs to promotion, and was said to be a canny cricketer, too. He died in 1991, aged just 49, from a brain tumour.

Though none doubted his ability, he was a disciplinarian - frequently described as the sergeant major type. Former Quakers centre half John Hannah once out it differently.

"Like everyone else," he told the column, "I was a little bit terrified of Cyril."

WHAT really began all this was mention in the Wikipedia entry for Hawes - the market town in Wensleydale - of an annual promotion/relegation party for Sunderland FC.

Tricky Hawes just electronically happened along.

Paul Dobson in Bishop Auckland, who picked up the reference in Tuesday's column, attended the last one - which coincided with Hawes Gala.

"Folk thought we were in fancy dress as footballers because we all turned up in Sunderland shirts," he recalls.

"It's basically just a group of lads drinking beer and talking rubbish about football. The walk back to the tent at Hardraw was interesting."

It's organised by Trevor Sharples, aka the Hawes Mackem, and grows apace. This year's will be on June 28, again coinciding with the gala, but won't be a promotion party.

"It'll still be a celebration if we finish fourth bottom, I'd settle for that right now," says Trev, a fan since a neighbour gave him a Sunderland shirt for Christmas. "It's a bit disappointing after they spent £36m in the summer. We must be the most expensive failures ever."

Last year they also entered a tug-o'-war team in the gala.

"We got drawn against the army. Unfortunately, Sunderland lost again."

PER ardua ad astra, even the RAF News - for which thanks to David Thompson in Eaglescliffe - has a big piece about a Sunderland fan.

Malcolm Robinson, a serving airman and lifelong supporter, has written From Afghanistan to Temazepam, a book chronicling the problems of trying to follow his heroes from afar.

He even tells of his time, shortly after Roy Keane's arrival at the Stadium of Light, when he found a box stuffed with $500,000 on his desk.

"Surely," says RAF News, "it was a sign from the gods, a chance to get out of Afghanistan, snap up a season ticket and live life high on the hog."

Malcolm resisted. "It wouldn't have been worth the risk in the first place," he said - and maybe he just realised he was better off where he was.

Arty-farty former Pools boss Bird opens gallery

JOHN Bird, familiar footballer turned acclaimed artist, has been talking a bit more about how he came to exhibit at the Tate.

Twenty-five artists from throughout Britain were invited to view the Turner Bequest and to produce their own impression of one of the paintings. "I've still no idea why they chose me," says the ex-Newcastle and Hartlepool centre half and Pools manager.

"We had to work with the same sort of materials that Turner would have used. It was a bit arty-farty but it was a wonderful experience. "For an artist, getting your work in the Tate is the equivalent of a footballer getting to Wembley."

Last week, almost ten years to the day since he walked out as Doncaster Rovers' commercial manager - and since he saw his last match - he opened a new gallery at Bawtry, near Doncaster.

He also sells prints at 30 English Heritage sites ("I've had thousands at Stonehenge") and at many other galleries.

Approaching his 60th birthday, however, he wants to be viewed differently.

"I don't feel 60 and I still work very hard, but I'd like to be known as someone who paints good pictures and not just the chap who produces thousands of prints."

There are no plans, he says, for retirement. "You still don't make a lot of money out of painting. All that stuff you read about starving artists, it's probably true."

YOU'D hardly bet on it, but Tom Purvis in Sunderland reports that his local William Hill's - and doubtless others - is holding a January sale.

They now pay a third the odds, instead of the usual quarter, on each-way bets - "selected races", of course.

Tom's still not a-flutter. "The odds are tempting but I see they still have four positions open to take bets and only one to pay out. My money stays in my pocket."

Eric - the Ushaw Moor enthusiast

ERIC Ferguson, allround sportsman and endless enthusiast, has died after a short illness.

As a footballer he scored goals for Northern League clubs from Consett to Whitby Town, with Crook Town, Bishop Auckland, Ferryhill and one or two others in between. As a cricketer he'd never, ever, leave Ushaw Moor, his home village team.

"It just wouldn't have been possible," says Norman, his brother and long-time team mate. "He certainly had the offers, some with money involved, but all he wanted to do was play cricket for Ushaw Moor."

Eric first played there as a youngster in the 1950s, continuing until the 1990s - long after he'd moved to Durham. He also joined the committee.

"He was a very good opening batsman," says Durham County League secretary Roy Coates. "For a long time when we picked the league representative side, Eric's was the first name on the sheet."

Eric also played basketball for Durham Dynamos, taught PE at schools in the Houghton-le-Spring and Hetton-le-Hole areas, retained remarkable athleticism and natural modesty.

We'd bumped into him at Ushaw Moor's presentation evening in 1995, Eric asked to do the honours.

"I'm not very good at shaking hands, never mind making speeches," he protested.

Norman also recalls an evening cup tie in which the visiting skipper had raised a querulous eyebrow at the state of the pitch. "It was notorious," he admits. "We never rolled the pitch or the wicket because the roller was too big. We needed a horse, really."

The opposing captain, at any rate, demanded to know when the wicket had last been rolled. "1750," said Eric.

"What," said the other chap, "you mean ten to six?"

"No," said Eric, "about 200 years ago."

His funeral is at Durham crematorium at 9.30am next Tuesday, followed, perhaps inevitably, by refreshments at Ushaw Moor Cricket Club.

...and finally

Premiership clubs, who played in the "old" first division before 1992-93.

Ryan Giggs was the starter. Sunderland's Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole both qualify - Yorke with Aston Villa from 1990, Cole a single substitute appearance for Arsenal in 1991- 92. Dave Wright in Bishop Auckland was first off the mark.

Paul Cook points out, however, that Fulham's Ian Pearce also played for Chelsea in 1991-92.

Alan Stubbs, now with Everton, made his Bolton debut in 1991 - but then they were in the old third.

While we're on, John Briggs in Darlington reckons that if Cole ever gets one for Sunderland, he'll become only the second player to score for six different Premiership sides. So who was the first?

Bulging the net, the column returns on Tuesday.