WHICKHAM’S windy, almost always is. “Aa’m not gannin’ oot there, aa’ll get blarn away,” says an elderly lady before the gusty, gutsy Ebac Northern League game with Consett.

It’s gale force cricket on the adjoining pitch which football club president Brian McCartney particularly remembers, however.

It was the first match of 1985, a Whickham debut – if not quite an acclimatisation – for young Aussie pro Chris Matthews. “Blowing a storm,” Brian recalls. “Standing side-on you couldn’t even see the ball.”

Nor, perhaps, could the opposing batsmen. Baptism of fire, Matthews claimed all ten – “The scorecard was framed in the clubhouse for years,” says Brian.

He’s yet more incredulous – the reaction beginning with “hadaway” – about the column’s recollection of what happened next. It’s true for all that.

In the sodden summer of 1986 Matthews, looking a bit like dear old Dasher Denning, switched to Shildon BR, bagged 120 wickets, hit 1,100 runs and claimed 7-12 in the Durham County League cup final against Evenwood. Two months later made his Ashes debut against England.

“There’s a bit of a gap between the two standards. Botham’s going to be a bit different from Evenwood,” he said back then (a view with which Bulldog Billy Teesdale never did agree.)

Matthews, 24, had flown back to Perth with Anne Parkes, a Newcastle midwife whom he’d met while with Whickham.

He made three test appearances, took six expensive wickets at 52.16, averaged just 10.80 with the bat, returned to England to play for Lancashire but after three county championship appearances returned down under.

He played for Western Australia and, more successfully, for Tasmania, retired from first class cricket at the end of 1994-95 and has probably never forgotten the day he blew into Whickham.

WHICKHAM v Consett was two weeks ago. Last Saturday the column again caught up with Consett, fog enshrouded, via a pre-match pint in the Grey Horse with Jon Gordon.

Jon’s the dad of Sam Gordon, Tow Law’s mascot in the 1998 FA Vase final and subsequently a club goalkeeper, who was found hanged last Easter.

Jon and many others in the Consett community, not least the rugby club for whom Sam also played, have done much for CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably, which seeks to address the fearful suicide rate among men under 45.

On Boxing Day, also in the Grey Horse, there was an auction in which anonymous lots were wrapped in brown paper and held aloft.

Among much else, Jon paid £20 for what proved to be a pair of marshmallow boobs, though that wasn’t all. “There was a marshmallow bum, as well.”

SPEAKING of Shildon BR, as was, we’d an enjoyable evening at the Candlelite folk club in Newton Aycliffe last week in the company of John Heighington, at 77 still the former BR boxing club’s inexhaustible chief coach.

Paul Davison sang The Boxer, one of Simon and Garfunkel’s finest, immediately followed by Big Bad John, a 1960s hit for Jimmy Dean.

John Heighington appreciated the coincidence but questioned the relevance. “I might have been bad, but I was only a light middleweight,” he said.

WAYNE GREDZIAK, long familiar around the North-East non-league football scene – most recently as Durham City’s manager – is now back with Richmond Town. Last Saturday against Leyburn they trailed 2-0 at half-time before his 16-year-old son Brandon came on as sub, scored twice and then laid on the winner for the old feller.

STANHOPE TOWN 29 Red Well Rangers (Barnard Castle) 0. Is that a record? It happened in the Colin Waites Cup, run under the standard of the Crook and District League, and surpasses anything that North-East football folk can remember.

The Northern League’s biggest hammering, way back in April 1895, is South Bank’s 21-0 defeat of North Skelton.

Red Well, formed last summer, have conceded 74 goals in seven so far pointless league matches but vow to carry on regardless. “The lads have heart, they keep onj coming knowing they’ll get beat,” manager Dave Short tells the Teesdale Mercury.

Next season, however, they hope to switch to the apparently less demanding environment of Sunday football.

LAST week’s column on humanitarian hero and former police officer Gordon Bacon OBE, presently leading a cricket tour to the West Indies, was accompanied by a picture of him holding a pint.

To the surprise of several observant readers, first of all Paul Dobson, the caption said that it in the Colpitts, a Sam Smith’s pub in Durham.

Paul, ardent Sunderland football fan and official of the Co Durham branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, noticed both the Timothy Taylor’s glass and the Bass mirror – neither likely to have been allowed by Sam’s, a very particular brewery.

Paul guesses that it was the Half Moon, on the other side of the city. From Barbados, Gordon confirms that it’s the case – the weather, he adds unnecessarily, is glorious. .

….and finally, the only cricketer twice to take 40 wickets in a test series (Backtrack, January 19) was Terry Alderman of Australia.

Terry Simpson in Darlington today invites readers to identify the sports team, formed in Illinois in 1926, that originally was called the Savoy Big Five.

High five, the column returns next week.