Sir Ian Botham and David Thomas, international sportsmen and pretty much of an age, played Barnard Castle Cricket Club last Friday evening.

It was what the Americans might suppose a neighbourhood concert – Dave’s now a couple of miles up the road in Lartington, Sir Ian across the A66 in Ravensworth – and what anyone would call brilliant. Best of all, they did it without charge.

The old town, in truth, may never have seen so large and enthusiastic an assembly since John Wesley preached there 250 years ago and they’d to turn out the fire engine to dampen the congregant ardour.

It should also be said that Barney president Stephen Brenkley, formerly of this parish, magnificently filled the MC’s role – though Thomas the Tank Engine fans detected a marked resemblance to the Slightly Overweight Controller.

Others demurred. His bow tie’s a different colour, they said.

The evening was organised by The Clique, a Barnard Castle-based charity which since 1975 has raised more than £150,000 for local causes and will this very day elliptically be propelling a bed from Mickleton back into town.

Last Friday’s event, in memory of cricket club member Andrew Tobbell who died tragically last year, was to support Man Health – a fast growing North-East charity for which they’d already raised almost £12,000 from a walk. Man Health has recently opened a branch in Newton Aycliffe, plans another imminently in Willington.

The curry was delicious – chicken not Beefy, of course – the raffle prizes generous. It’s an immutable law of such things that the hairdressing vouchers are always won by bald men. The speakers complemented (and probably complimented) perfectly.

“Engaging, illuminating and charming all at once,” said Brenks and none for a moment would argue.

Now 68, David “Ticer” Thomas was a West Auckland lad, his grandfather in the 1909 World Cup team, signed for Burnley as a schoolboy despite approaches (shall we say) from Leeds United manager Don Revie and Harry Reynolds, the club chairman.

They’d parked their Roller outside the family home in West, offered hugely to increase what Burnley would be paying, produced a briefcase containing £2,000 in £5 notes when Thomas senior proved unbending.

“Two thousand pounds,” said Dave. “You could have bought the whole street in West Auckland for that.”

His dad, a Shildon Works welder, showed them the door. “I think they gave my brother a fiver,” said Dave. “I’m not sure what happened to the other £1,995.”

He played subsequently for QPR and for Middlesbrough, made eight England appearances, was registered blind 12 years ago but without peripheral vision still enjoys his golf. Hannah, his guide dog, was unwell and missed the talk-in.

His autobiography, provisionally Guiding Me Home and Away, is due in the autumn. “I had two choices, sink or swim,” he said. “I swam.”

The evening was question and answer, Dave supposing Terry Venables to have been the best dressed footballer he knew – “we called him Del Boy” – Sir Ian, uniquely, unable to answer. “The cricketers were all scruffy,” he said.

Now 63, he’s cutting back on his television work – “the Ashes might be my last series” – and has launched his own wine label. One’s neatly called The All Rounder, a couple of bottles in the raffle alongside the hairdo’s.

Someone asked their greatest sporting achievement. Sir Ian recalled playing football for Scunthorpe United at Hull City in a Boxing Day derby, deputed to mark Big Billy Whitehurst. “I survived,” he said. “That was my greatest achievement.”

The Times obituary on former Richmond MP and Edward Heath aide Sir Tim Kitson noted that he was a betting man. No punt may have been may have been more prodigious than his 1963 double on Sir Alec Douglas Home to become prime minister and Scobie Breasley to be champion jockey. Sir Alec was 60, Scobie 49. Sir Tim won, too.

Last week’s column told of former Darlington councillor and Watford superfan Malcolm Dunstone’s agonies ahead of the FA Cup final: would he able to wear his yellow trousers and matching acrylic wig in the posh end?

In time he spotted the “no club colours” caveat, dressed soberly in yellow shirt and club tie and was still stopped by security and a supervisor called.

Happily, his son was able to explain that Malcolm was getting on 80 and unlikely to tear apart the stadium brick by brick.

Only the result proved deflating. “We still had a great day,” he says.

Also previewed last week, former Tow Law Town FC chairman and retired solicitor John Flynn duly completed his 164ft charitable abseil from the Transporter Bridge – joined by three of his offspring.

He’s abseiled before. “The difference with the Transporter is that normally you’ve something to put your feet against. With this one you’re in thin air,” he says.

A fund raiser for the University Hospital of North Durham’s £1m chemotherapy unit appeal, it also marked his 70th birthday. Talk turned to his 50th, attended by Graham Kelly, then the FA’s traduced chief executive.

Graham, great guy, lived in London. He came in drag – “brilliantly,” John recalls. Seamlessly matching the page opposite, he called himself the Queen of the South.

….and finally, the last footballer from outside of the “top six” to win the Premier League golden boot (Backtrack, May 18) was Kevin Phillips of Sunderland in the year 2000. Arnold Alton was first with the answer.”

Probably it’s been noticed that Berwick’s predictable two-leg play-off defeat to Cove Rangers means that Cove take the English club’s Scottish League place.

Readers are today invited to name Cove’s ground (and it’s not a man Cove.) Answer next week.