FIFTY years to the day since North Shields became the last Northern League club to lift the FA Amateur Cup, the surviving players gathered to share happy memories.

They’d all been there for the 40th anniversary, Tommy Docherty – then but a bairn of 80 – nor the first to use the post-prandial line about working for Sky.

“I don’t get on screen much, but I fix an awful lot of dishes to chimney pots.”

Now just nine of the 13-strong squad remain, Ray Wrightson in a wheelchair but the remainder as amiable as they were ambulant.

The occasion, attended by long-time North Shields FC president Malcolm Macdonald, marked the launch at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre on the fish quay of Trudi Thompson’s magnificent history – “A Grand History” says the sub-title – of football in the North Tyneside town.

“A real labour of love, one of the best football books I’ve ever seen,” said old Supermac, as queues for signed copies stretched half way to Tynemouth.

“It’s wonderful, I never expected anything like this,” said Trudi, the queue further extended because Malcolm’s autograph might best be described as elaborate. It’s a signature signature.

Trudi’s 53, herself a former goalkeeper – “until I broke a few fingers” – became interested on the story at the 40th anniversary and has produced an evocatively illustrated history that’s both sporting and social.

George III, she recalls, thought Shields a “poor and miserable place”; she herself acknowledges its former grimness, the long wait for the boat to come in.

By 1883, a correspondent to the Shields Daily News was wondering why there wasn’t a football team. “It would give recreation and employment to those who are unwilling to play the more dangerous game.”

The gentleman meant rugby, but there were plenty in Shields to vouch that football could be pretty brutal, too.

The game was said also to divert the fisher folk from more “dubious” pastimes – “ranging from pie eating competitions to boxing and dog fights.”

It wasn’t always plain sailing thereafter, not even on dry land, but the football club’s fortunes changed in the 1960s when former Newcastle United centre half Frank Brennan was appointed manager.

It was Big Frank who led them to Wembley, who made them super-fit, who ensured that the amateur club looked after its players – and not just financially.

“I only started on about £2 a week, mind,” recalls goalkeeper Mick Morgan, among those at the book launch.

“I got more than that at Crook and then there were my expenses from Blyth,” says Bobby Wake, the unlucky 13th when Brennan’s 12-man Wembley squad was named.

Bobby reckoned he always was unlucky, not least when, aged 18, he was named in Newcastle’s first team for a match at West Brom. “When we woke up on the Saturday there was snow, game off. They never picked me again.”

A goal down in four minutes, the 1969 side beat Sutton United 2-1 in front of 47,500 spectators. Mick particularly remembered the open-top bus ride back from Newcastle station. “Sometimes it seems like a long 50 years but I’ll never forget that – crowds everywhere, at Howden and Wallsend and back in North Shields the bus just couldn’t move.

“I still get recognised by folk in the town who want to talk about it all.”

The Wembley team also included John Rutherford, a Scottish amateur international, Shields joined a couple of years later by Dave “Jock” Rutherford, long the column’s all-time hero, who won five caps for England.

Both were at the do. Jock, 73, has finally given up football but reckons himself a dab hand on the tennis court. The only problem with his namesake, he said, was that he couldn’t understand a word he said. “He was from Ashington.”

The Robins were triumphantly back at Wembley for the 2015 FA Vase final – might never have got past the first round, recalled assistant manager Rob Bowman, but for Dan Smart who scored the only goal at Northallerton.

Shields were short, Dan unable to play for work reasons until they discovered that work was mending roads and that weekend he’d surfaced in that part of North Yorkshire. Getting a few hours off was less of a problem.

Thereafter they hardly saw him, said Andy, now have no idea where he is. Working on those new-fangled Smart motorways, no doubt.

* Men from the North, sub-titled The Grand History of North Shields Football Club, costs £15 with all profits to the club and to the Old Low Light Heritage Centre.

Back on North Tyneside the day after the book launch, Whitley Bay v Shildon and a pre-match mooch in the sunshine.

The Spanish City’s expensively reborn, fronted by Valerie’s Tearoom where afternoon tea (“served from 12 noon”) is £22.50 and “gentlemen’s” afternoon tea costs the same, but with black pudding on as substitute. Still, a ham and peas pudding sandwich is only £7.50.

Elsewhere, the old resort rides a great macro-wave of micro-pubs, so many that Whitley Bay FC secretary Derek Breakwell kindly drew a map of their whereabouts.

The best we visited was the Dog and Rabbit, housed in a former frock shop and Tyneside Camra’s pub of the year, where a sign prominently proclaims: “We don’t do wi-fi, we talk to one another.”

They don’t do music, either, the silence truly golden, though a pub purist might cavil at mini-eggs on the bar.

Gilbert and Smith’s, another of the burgeoning micros, is owned by former Whitley Bay player Gavin Hattrick – did ever a striker have a more appropriate name – who happened to be at the match. The registration HA11RCK was a bit of a giveaway, too.

The name’s origin is lost in the misty midst of time, said Gav – any etymological offers? – and, yes, Mr Hattrick really had had a few hat-tricks.

They might have benefitted from him last Saturday: Whitley Bay 1 Shildon 3.

Let’s not forget North Shields fan Russell Wynn, a member of the Ebac Northern League’s media team, whose sequence of 374 matches without a goalless draw would surely have ended at the Dunston UTS game with Ashington at which the league championship trophy was to be presented and which finished 0-0. “I was due to be there but a family matter came up at the last minute,” says Russ – and still with no nothings to report.

The previous Tuesday evening to St James’ Park, a guest of the county FA at the Northumberland Senior Cup final between Morpeth Town and (who else?) North Shields.

Scattered around the posh seats, other guests wondered aloud if it were warmer at the top or bottom of the stand until, two minutes before kick-off, all concerned were directed by a steward to decamp into the directors’ area.

Whether a re-enactment of the parable of the rich man’s feast or just an example of what the FA likes to call lateral movement it’s impossible to assess – but, as they like to say on Tyneside, it was starvation, wherever.