HOME ground, Dave Thomas spoke at West Auckland workmen’s club last Friday. Great footballer, he’s fast becoming a best selling author, too.

The former England winger had sold 140 copies of his new autobiography on a return to Everton, among his former clubs, the Saturday before. Last Saturday he was back at Burnley, yesterday making a video with David Blunkett, on October 29 doing a gig with Harry Redknapp at the Octagon in Sheffield for which 700 tickets have been sold before it’s even advertised.

Registered blind, he’ll today be signing books at Waterstones in Darlington.

Though his dad was a workmen’s club regular – “him and the Jolly Boys” – it was just the second time that Dave had been in. Hannah, his golden guide dog, dozed happily at his feet like she’d heard one or two of the stories before – even the one about Gordon Lee and the Welsh rarebit.

There, too, was 89-year-old Joe Noble Eddy, the teacher who formed the football team at St Helen’s Auckland junior school which lost just twice in seven years. Starting at left back, Dave played from seven – “a very good player, but a lot of them were,” said Joe.

Joe was a Hunwick lad, recalled that almost all teachers in his junior school days had been women – “we didn’t do football, we did country dancing” – gained permission to establish a pitch out the back at St Helen’s.

“Back then most boys just chased the ball. I gave our team some shape. It was quite easy, really.”

As with royalties from Guiding Me Home and Away (Hornet Books, £20) all income from last Friday night went to the Guide Dogs charity. They topped £1,000.

LAST week’s column on the death of Jim “Flash” Elliott – 15 minutes of fame for Wolverhampton Wanderers – included a photograph of Barry Bolton, a Bishop Auckland schools team mate in 1970-71, with the unmistakeable George Best. But who, we wondered, was the mystery blonde?

Not one of the Irishman’s, it transpires, but one of the Evenwood lad’s – his former wife Angie, Dale Daniel believes.

Dale was secretary of Tindale Crescent Workmen’s Club’s Sunday morning side in the late 70s when Barry, formerly with Chelsea and Ajax, decided to come home from Holland.

Already Tindale had a good team, including familiar Northern League names like Jackie Foster and John Hussey. Bolton’s signing, it was supposed, would make them certainties for the coveted County Cup – a belief strengthened when in the last 16 they beat Seaton Carew 10-0.

Then Dale got the Dear John letter from Durham FA. The new signing, it claimed, was a wrong un. Though the league forms had been correctly completed, they’d overlooked international clearance. “I’d never heard of it,” he recalls, “there wasn’t much need in Tindale Crescent.”

Though they won much else, Tindale were kicked out of the Cup. “I wouldn’t care,” says Dale, “Sunderland played a wrong un in the League Cup and they only got a fine.”

The Bolton wanderer is now living in Australia – international clearance applies – where he played for Perth Azzurri. Stevie Holmes, Barry’s sister, recalls a 2-1 win in which he was joined on the score sheet by another North-East lad. Some bloke called Bobby Charlton.

CEREMONIES in August marked the 50th anniversary of the terrible coach crash which killed 19 – almost all bowls club members from Blackhall – on Crawleyside Bank, near Stanhope,

Steve Tindale in Durham also recalls a benefit football match played at Horden, a couple of miles up the road from Blackhall, between Sunderland and Newcastle United.

It was organised by England international Stan Anderson, himself a Horden lad, who’d captained both teams and, uniquely, Middlesbrough, too.

Save that the Welfare Ground was thronged, Steve recalls little else. Can anyone else, he asks, remember who played, who scored, or anything else about that poignant occasion?

SPURS’ 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich last week, in which we Gooners in no way glory, robbed Sunderland of a small claim to football fame. Hitherto Spurs’ heaviest home defeat had been 6-0 to the Wearsiders, December 19 1914. The wartime crowd was just 5,000.

“Merry men of mud,” read the Echo headline the following Monday morning and, beneath it, “Sunderland worry Spurs on their own heap.”

It was a particularly festive period for centre forward Bobby Best, from Mickley in Northumberland., who scored twice at White Hart Lane and three more when Sunderland won 5-2 at St James’ Park on Christmas Day. He later played in the league for Durham City and Hartlepool. George Philip also scored twice at Spurs, Harry Martin and Charlie Buchan the others.

Spurs finished bottom of the first division, were relegated but came straight back in the first post-war season. Sunderland, despite 81 goals in 38 games, were eighth.

DECEMBER 19, 1914? The Magpies scraped a 1-1 draw with Notts County – “”Newcastle’s present state of health is not robust,” said the Echo, perhaps then as now – Boro lost 4-1 at Blackburn (“most unsatisfactory”) and Darlington’s 1-0 FA Cup final qualifying round win at London Caledonians was thought “a very disappointing affair.” Still, another headline proclaimed “Shildon in the ascendancy”, so it was a happy Christmas, after all.

….and finally, what was unique about Manchester City’s relegation from the top division in 1937-38 (Backtrack, October 5) was that their 80 goals made them the division’s top scorers – they conceded 77. Arsenal won it, Middlesbrough were fifth.

Billy O’Neill’s quite right to suggest that City had been champions the previous season, but probably not the only ones so spectacularly to fall from grace. John Allison in Shildon was first to twig that they were also top scorers.

Only one of English football’s “92” has failed to win away from home since January this year. Readers are invited to name the poor travellers – and to return with the Railroad to Wembley next week.