ONCE voted the biggest waste of money in football history, and dining out on it pretty much ever since, Steve Daley pitched up the other evening at a sportsmen’s do at Tow Law Town.

It must have been 15 years since last we heard him and barely a word – certainly not one of them, much employed – appeared to have changed.

Now 65, Daley moved from Wolves to Manchester City for an English record £1.5m in 1978. Trevor Francis had become the first £1m player earlier that year.

It didn’t work out, the nadir an FA Cup defeat at Halifax, who twice in the previous three seasons had had to apply for re-election.

“NASA spent £10m and put a man on the moon,” said Steve. “City spent £8m on their squad and couldn’t get past Halifax.”

He subsequently played in North America and managed Bromsgrove Rovers for a season without pay. “It’s believed to be the only time he gave value for money,” said Dave Greener, the compere.

These days, singing for his supper, he lives in the same west Midlands village as his three children and ten grandchildren. “It’s a bit like Emmerdale,” he said.

Ticket sales had been good, attendance wasn’t. The women had preferred to head down the A68 to West Auckland, it was said, to be amused by a drag queen called Tess Tickle. Some of the men had gone to Crook.

Still, the guy who won the £50 raffle prize gave it back to the club, someone else paid £110 for a Paddington Bear garden gnome and both speakers offered to come back for nowt.

Whatever it cost Manchester City, at Tow Law rates you really can’t be robbed.

TERRY DEARY, Sunderland born author of the acclaimed Horrible Histories series, fears something equally gruesome for English rugby. Soon, he forecasts in a letter to the Sunday Times, teams will face one another with 30 players of 18 stones-plus. Then, adds Terry – now in Burnhope, north-west of Durham – England coach Eddie Jones’s power game will have reached its logical conclusion. “And something beautiful will have been lost.”

DEREK LEWIN, the great Bishop Auckland footballer whose death we reported on Monday, was a truly delightful man and, truly, a gentleman, too.

Though probably best remembered for his goals in three successive FA Amateur Cup finals at Wembley, Derek reckoned his best was in a first round tie against arch-rivals Crook Town in 1955-56.

He’d gone off with a shoulder injury in the first half, returned – no subs – hadn’t been long back when a cross arrived from the right.

“I was loitering outside the penalty area, 20 or 25 yards out. I hit it on the volley and it went straight in,” he recalled in Alan Adamthwaite’s book Glory Days.

Team mates mobbed him, Derek screaming for them to get off. Doctors confirmed that he’d dislocated the shoulder – “all they could recommend was letting it put itself right” – meaning that he missed the following week’s replay.

At that match a female Bishops’ supporter accused him of being a soft southern so-and-so. Derek spent all his life in Lancashire – and that’s where his funeral will be, at 1.30pm next Tuesday at Charnock Richard crematorium.

GREAT AYTON great, Harry Pearson spoke the other day to the Cricket Society in London – “a dazzling raconteur,” reports the Society’s newsletter.

They meet at the Union Jack Club, near the original Metropolitan Police headquarters, allowing Harry to open with a googly.

He’d achieved a lifetime’s ambition, he told them – not by addressing the illustrious Cricket Society but by getting off the train at Kings Cross and asking the cabbie to take him to Scotland Yard.

Sadly the driver failed to enter into the spirit of things. “What?” he said, and went nowhere.

SEASONED in the sun, the Battle of the Bangers took place last Saturday at Bedale. The football kit may now be familiar, the associated fund raising quite extraordinary.

Bedale FC are sponsored by Heck; Heck make sausages a few miles down the road. Last season’s strip featured great strings of them, this year’s has hot dogs and both worn with relish.

The match was between club and company, Bedale winning 5-4.

The backing will continue, Heck’s marketing company already charged with coming up with something better – “or worse,” they happily concede – for 2019-20.

Bedale chairman Martyn Coombs has suggested a “Toad in the goal” theme – “Yorkshire pudding and sausage” – but concedes it’s best left to the experts.

It all helps raise money for Team Garby, set up after the death of Steve Garbett in November 2014 to raise funds for prostate cancer research. To date they’ve achieved almost £180,000 of their £250,000 target.

THE column took itself last perishing Saturday to Consett v Newton Aycliffe, such the strangeness of the 2018-19 Ebac Northern League season that it was Consett’s last home league game and, amid winter’s worst, manager Chris Moore’s programme notes wished supporters an enjoyable summer. There’s one more match, however: on Thursday April 4, Consett play Lanzarote. At 4pm last Saturday the temperature in Consett was 4C and howling; in Lanzarote it was 19 and balmy. Some acclimatisation may be necessary.

….and finally, the first North-East referee to take charge of the FA Cup final (Backtrack, March 16) was Kevin Howley from Billingham – and not Pat Partridge, as some supposed, though he was a Billingham boy, too.

Just 35 when appointed to the Blackburn v Wolves final in 1960, Kevin was also ref on the first ever Match of the Day. He died in 1997, aged 73. Alan Macnab in Darlington – “I have the programme somewhere” – was first with the answer.

On the eve of St Patrick’s Day, the quiz in Consett’s programme last Saturday had an Irish theme – who’s the only Irishman, for example, to have played for Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland?

League of nations, the answer to that one next week.