First time in donkeys’ years, so he reckoned, former England international footballer Dave Thomas was back on West Auckland’s football ground last Wednesday. He used to nick over the wall, he admitted.

Dave, now 69, was a West Auckland lad, his grandfather – forever Ticer – a member of the team which won the first World Cup in 1909. He’s now registered blind.

We’d last seen him a couple of months back at Barnard Castle Cricket Club when he’d spoken eloquently alongside Sir Ian Botham but was awfully worried about Hannah, his guide dog.

Hannah needed an operation, spent four nights in a veterinary hospital but is happily returned to the invaluable role so treasured by her owner.

At West they’re making a promotional film about the club’s unique history, young Ticer and I both invited to put in our twopennorths but only the column buzzed by a bluebottle. They called a halt, exterminated the little buzzer, continued.

They were also hoping to film John Cumberland – Rushyford lad, Hear All Sides regular, gets in the paper more than I do – whose company, Wanted Scrap Metal, has naming rights for the ground. It’s the Wanted Stadium now.

A few days earlier, Dave had picked up the first copies of his autobiography – Guiding Me, Home and Away – to be published in October. “It looks great,” he said. More of that later.

To Tow Law for the first Ebac Northern League game of the season, and already a problem: they’ve had to bring in special equipment because the clubhouse cellar’s too warm. “It’s the first time anyone’s ever complained that anywhere in Tow Law’s too hot,” says Lawyers’ treasurer Kevin McCormick. More evidence of climate change on Windy Ridge, the turbine’s stopped turning. Mind, that might be overwork.

Train spotting, Martin Birtle reports that a nameplate from the steam locomotive Dante, 65013 in British Railways days, was sold at auction last week for £10,200.

It’s significance hereabouts is that Dante, trained by Matthew Peacock at Middleham, is the last northern horse to win the Derby, way back in 1945.The region’s last Derby winner before that was the great Pretender, way back in 1869.

The most money on a plate this summer, however, may be that formerly attached to B17 class 61663, built in Darlington but named Everton. The record for a “football” plate is £43,000.

Dante won eight of his nine races, including the Roseberry Stakes at Stockton, but was retired after going blind and put out to stud. He seemed to manage that, no problem.

Still with cherished plates, last week’s column observed 1973 UP, a must for any Sunderland fan, being driven through Bishop Auckland.

Sunderland fanzine editor Paul Dobson clocked it, too – “Range Rover, lady driver” – up the road in Etherley.

That’s coincidental because in 2017 we’d spotted 32 CUP, owned since 1947 by Etherley resident Dorothy Morton, then 90. “The registration plate’s worth a lot more than the car is,” she said.

Last week’s column noted that if Malcolm Dunstone wanted a “used” copy via Amazon of Cream Teas and Nutty Slack, Jack Chapman’s magnificent history of club cricket in Co Durham, it would set him back £188. Happenstance, as he puts it, fellow reader John Raw had two. Cream teas and bees knees, a handover’s being arranged.

Recollection a couple of weeks back of Mad Frankie Fraser – a guest 20 years ago at Spennymoor Boxing Academy’s annual awards – reminded former Darlington FC director Peter Ellis of the time that club chairman George Reynolds asked him to lay on afternoon tea for two VIPs.

One was Mad Frankie, the other Cynthia Payne – aka Miss Whiplash – she of the lascivious luncheon vouchers. “He was battle scarred, she looked like anyone’s grandmother,” Peter recalls.

Seeking to make polite conversation, Peter asked the notorious East End gangster if were true that he’d carried an axe concealed inside his overcoat.

“Didn’t everyone?” said Frankie. Peter made his excuses and left.

A double PS to last week’s note on the death of Kevin Stonehouse, much travelled former footballer and Newcastle United scout, firstly that Leroy Sane – the player he recommended Newcastle “sign for development” – is now being touted by Manchester City for £137m.

The second reference goes back to 2001, when Kevin was Darlington FC’s football in the community officer and the council had stuck “No ball games” signs on grassland on Salters Lane South.

Protestors claimed that it breached Article 12 of the UN Convention on Rights of the Child; Kevin simply told the paper that he’d grown up kicking a ball around the streets of Shildon.

“I’d rather be disturbed by children kicking a ball around than some of the things they get up to these days,” he added.

The council was unmoved. The UN Convention might apply to the rest of the world, it said, but it didn’t apply to Darlington.

Last week’s piece on the 125th anniversary of Bishop Auckland Golf Club said that they hoped further to ice the cake by winning the Teesside Union. Indeed they did, a 12-12 draw with Castle Eden enough to take the title.

….and finally – no semi-finally, for the column can’t leave without acknowledgment of the Demon Donkey Dropper of Eryholme’s 3-3 against Aldbrough St John last week – the England night watchman whose lamp went out on 99 (last week’s column) was Alex Tudor in 1999. Arnold Alton first with the answer.

Charlie Walker, the Demon will be 78 any day now. “And to think,” says John Raw, “that Marcus Trescothick is calling it a day at 43.”

Readers are today invited to suggest what’s particularly unusual about the record stands for all ten wickets in Ashes cricket.

Ashes to ashes, the column returns next week – and this time there’ll definitely be an account of the annual visit to the Feversham Cricket League.