Colin Smith played for Leeds United under Don Revie until falling foul of the manager’s notorious superstitious streak

THIS is how it works. Colin Smith emails with news of his 700-mile sponsored bike ride through France – for a very worthy cause – and wonders if it might make a few column inches.

He adds that he was at Leeds United under Don Revie, played a few games for Darlington, won the All England Sunday Cup with Brandon United and thus ensures a few more cubits to his span.

He also mentions that he played for Shildon. Result.

The lady of this house, indeed, cynically supposes that about half of the column’s subjects have at one time or another played football for Shildon, that about half in turn have kept goal and that a goodly proportion only have one leg.

Colin’s 60, lives in Heighington – between Darlington and Bishop Auckland – didn’t keep goal and, happily, remains a bipod.

Since it’s April 23 when we meet, we have a beer in the George and Dragon. There’s a very pleasant Wadworth ale in honour of the English occasion, but no flag-waving.

“We’re saving it for Saturday,” says the landlord. Like a cyclist’s packed lunch, St George’s is a moveable feast.

COLIN grew up in Coundon Grange and attended Bishop Auckland Grammar School. A talented young footballer, he was invited when just 15 to join the youthful ranks at Elland Road.

Leeds thought so highly of him that legendary manager Don Revie himself turned up at the school in order to complete the paperwork.

Memory suggests that Revie was also at Bishop Grammar a couple of years earlier in order to sign Peter Hampton and that the sedulous Sixer and other Sunderland supporters did something to his car.

Back then they still called them apprentice professionals. “I was a right back,” says Colin. “The trouble was that the likes of Reaney, Madeley and Yorath were ahead of me.

Most of the squad were English or Scottish youth internationals. It was very difficult.”

Though quite regularly in the reserves, the closest in four years that he got to the first team was as 13th man – “only one sub in those days” – away to Burnley.

“We’d gone about 15 games unbeaten but after 20 minutes we were 3-0 down. You know how superstitious Revie was; I was unlucky 13.

That was me goosed.”

The life of a young professional was much different 40 years ago.

“There was none of this exhaustive medical stuff,” Colin recalls. “I think you got a bag of fruit and two steaks every week and that was the diet plan. It didn’t matter if you ate them or not.

“Everyone asks what Revie was like. You saw him most days but he didn’t make a fuss of you. He was fine, decent feller, but incredibly superstitious.”

Revie was also big on bingo. “He even got everyone to play bingo when he was England manager.

I don’t think the Cockney boys and the Chelsea players took very kindly to it.”

At 19, Colin was told he was surplus to requirements. As probably they said in the bingo parlour, unlucky for some.

HE turned down Darlington manager Len Richley – “he wanted me to be left back, I didn’t really have a left foot” – decided instead to train as a teacher at Middleton St George, near Darlington.

Among his tutors was Bishop Auckland legend Bob Hardisty.

He played for Stockton, Gateshead – “great team in those days” – Bishop Auckland, West Auckland, Shildon and, finally, for Darlington under Cyril Knowles. “Mind, he was a hard feller,” says Colin inarguably.

He also played for Bishop Auckland pub side Wear Valley when they reached the All England Sunday Cup final and for Brandon when they won it.

At Shildon he was managed by Bill Roughley and Terry Kirkbride, played alongside the well-remembered likes of Brian Dale, big Mel Heckley and David Calland. “Lovely club, Shildon,” he adds, perceptively.

He retired at 35, came back in the Over 40s League with Durham Fire Brigade – extraordinary how many good players have come to the rescue of Durham Fire Brigade – and again, aged 46, with Newton Aycliffe.

“I told them I didn’t even have any boots, so next thing I knew they were knocking on the door with a pair. I played for four years and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

It was while he was Sunday besting for Brandon that Sunderland reached the FA Cup final, against Leeds. “I spoke to the lads back at Elland Road and got us ten tickets,” he recalls. “I suppose you could call that lucky.”

AFTER college Colin worked for ten years at Redworth Hall, then a special school, before joining the special needs staff at Beaumont Hill school in Darlington.

Dela Smith, the recently retired head, is his wife – “my boss at work and at home” – and several years ago was made a Dame Commander for services to education. Though the wife of a Knight Commander becomes a Lady, he – perhaps on the grounds that there is nothing like a Dame – remains plain Mr.

“It’s probably just as well. The lads would only have taken the mickey,” says Colin.

Both are now retired, Dela the chair of the Darlington-based Education Centre for children with Down’s Syndrome. It’s to raise funds and profile that on May 1 he and two colleagues start their ten-day odyssey through France.

One’s Ian Stafford, who works part-time for Sport England, the other heavyweight former West Hartlepool and Durham County rugby player Charlie Bentley.

“Charlie’s a good man to lead and tuck in behind,” says Colin. “The trouble is that at 18 stones he doesn’t stay in front for very long. We talk about having a glass of wine after the day’s ride. Charlie talks about having a bottle at lunchtime.”

Though a Durham County Over- 55s squash player, Colin had cycled just 600 miles in ten years – “it said so on the speedometer” – before being persuaded to join next week’s epic and training runs with veterans from Ferryhill Wheelers.

“Until my first run, I called them the old age pensioners. They went to Middleton-in-Teesdale, 64 miles altogether, and it almost killed me. They were even leaving me behind going downhill.”

He hopes to raise several thousand pounds for the Education Centre, Shildon lad made good.

• The Education Centre for children with Down’s Syndrome is based at the Mount Pleasant Children’s Centre, Newton Lane, Darlington, DL3 9HE, and covers the whole of the North-East. Colin Smith can be contacted at and sponsored directly through Enter ECCDS and look for Colin’s page.