NEWCASTLE United historian Paul Joannou’s greetings card is redolent of another age – when Christmases really were white and footballers just pulled up their socks and got on with it.

The wonderful photograph was taken on December 20, 1969, Bryan “Pop” Robson scoring the first of his two goals in the Magpies’ 4-0 defeat of Ipswich Town.

The others came from Keith Dyson – the other United player in the picture – and left winger David Ford, making his debut after signing from Sheffield United. In another 27 appearances, he scored just twice more.

The locals may have been less hardy than was the team – the St James’ Park crowd was just 19,411.

We’d last talked with Tommy Johnson, the legendary football physio who died last week, at the launch in 2007 of Ray Simpson’s history of Spennymoor United – a book to which many another chapter might now be added.

Though better remembered elsewhere, Tommy had played for the Moors in oddly disoriented Midland League days, circa 1960.

He’d played wartime football with the likes of George Hardwick and Harold Shepherdson at Middlesbrough, was at Darlington under Billy Forrest, spent 25 years as Hartlepool’s sponge man before Bruce Rioch ticed him back to the Boro.

A slight mystery still murmurs at the back of the mind. Wasn’t it Tommy who was at Ayresome Park when a potential new signing arrived for his medical and was told he’d have to wait because the physio was treating a whippet?

The archive fails to substantiate it. Long serving former Boro youth development officer Ron Bone can’t remember it, either, though he recalls that former Newcastle United manager Charlie Mitten would often have his greyhounds on the treatment table at St James’ Park.

Ron does remember the occasion against Spurs when Tommy got himself booked for rushing on to treat an injured player without the referee’s say-so. “There was hell on, he was a lovely, lovely feller,” says Ron.

Tommy was 92. “To have been paid for a lifetime in football,” he said back in 2007, “has been absolutely brilliant.”

Among others at that 2007 book launch had been Alan Kell, known as Tosh and mentioned hereabouts just two weeks ago in the piece about a reunion of Newton Aycliffe’s all conquering 1966-67 side. Tosh recalled that he’d scored on his Spennymoor United debut – “they must have thought I was a goal machine.” His second came ten years later.

Again dipping into Cream Teas and Nutty Slack, Jack Chapman’s joyous history of club cricket in Co Durham, I come across a tale of Mike Gough – now one of the world’s top umpires – and of his dad, Mike the elder.

It’s splendidly coincidental that, just a day later, I bump into Gough senior and am able to wrest chapter and verse.

After many years with Hartlepool, dad had moved up the coast to Blackhall – at a time when the lad, later with Durham County, was breaking into the Hartlepool first team.

When the two sides met, the elder spent several balls at the non-striker’s end watching the boy being carted about. “He was bowling rubbish,” Mike recalls. “Son or no son, I thought I was going to have a bit of that.”

When finally they faced one another, the spinner bowled him first ball. “He moved it about a yard square,” the old man recalls. “I think he’d saved that one for me.”

The younger Gough, meanwhile, will be spending Christmas – and his 39th birthday, last Tuesday – umpiring Test cricket in the antipodes.

Delighted like everyone else at the news that Lands Cricket Club is re-forming (Backtrack, December 8), Charlie Walker – the Demon Donkey Dropper of Eryholme – has a slight reservation, nonetheless. Lands is atop Cockfield Fell – “every time I play up there the weather’s terrible, I even remember snow falling in June,” says the Demon, now 78 and still bamboozling. The snow failed to lie, he adds.

The blog – – has been addressing acronyms, bringing an email from former Wearhead United manager Ralph Ord, now semi-retired to Australia.

Between times, Ralph was a senior administrator at major sports events around the world, prompting recollection of eight months in Delhi ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

“Trials and tribulations by the score, some almost too incredible to believe, led to the most frustrating of times,” he says.

By the end of it all, he and his colleagues had an India acronym of their own: I’ll never do it again.

….and finally the English football club which has featured in most live matches this season (Backtrack, December 15) is Leeds United – 14 at the time.

Nothing to do with sport, save that it diverted attention from Storm Deirdre at West Allotment, readers are invited – as were spectators – to name the 1970s top ten hit that had been written 200 years earlier.

An answer when the column returns on January 5. Happy Christmas.