As Forth Bridge jobs go, nothing could gloss over the fact that Alan Hamilton’s was up there with the most optimistic.

The retired senior bank manager, now volunteer football and social club secretary at Darlington Railway Athletic, last year set himself the task of painting the entire perimeter – and that’s an awful lot of fence.

He recalls it ruefully. “Just about everyone in DL3 must have stopped to tell me where I was going wrong, but I was still the only silly beggar with a paint brush in his hand.”

Now help has arrived. The Prince’s Trust, formed by the Prince of Wales in 1976 to help “vulnerable” young people find work and gain life experience and qualifications, has despatched a 12-strong team to spend a fortnight helping the poor chap brush up his act.

“It’s brilliant,” says Alan. “There must be more than a mile of fence and I now realise I could never have done it on my own. These youngsters are great.”

The trust, administered from Stockton Riverside College, has bases across the North-East. Part of a 12-week course, the RA workers are the 26th Darlington team in the past three years.

“It helps them build confidence, personal skills and social abilities,” says team leader Mark Hamilton – no known relation. “These guys are wonderfully enthusiastic, some of them chomping at the bit to get started.”

Though unlikely to be able to paint the entire perimeter, the team was also hoping to repair pitchside fencing, help fix the dressing room roof and maybe even paint the football club logo on the walls.

“There’s only so much can be done but first impressions are important,” says Alan. “We want to make the ground look more welcoming and the trust’s help is invaluable.”

The Prince’s Trust would appreciate donations of wood or paint – Mark Hamilton’s on 07553 367549 – while the Wearside League football club would much welcome new blood and new ideas behind the scenes. Alan Hamilton’s on 07872 324808.

Former World Cup football referee George Courtney, at 78 still Middlestone Moor’s finest, has won Bishop Auckland Golf Club’s veterans’ salver for the second time in four years. Best not to mention the time that he was also first but disqualified after forgetting to sign his card. “But for that aberration,” sighs George, “I’d have completed a hat-trick.”

Colin Seel, another former high level whistler, is now the loquacious PA man at Carlisle City in the Ebac Northern League second division. Getting a word in edgeways during last Saturday’s match against Sunderland West End, retired journalist Ray Parker – who covered Darlington FC for the Evening Despatch – recalled a Feethams match against Newport County in which Colin let his yellow cards do the talking. Ray thought there were 16. A cautionary tale, no doubt, but can anyone remember it?

Our Cup of Tea, the splendid new video about how West Auckland twice won the first World Cup, is finished and about to be released.

Interviewed for 40 minutes, I survive for about 20 seconds, though it’s important to note that the former Northern League chairman was carefully watching his language. The careful phrase is that West all those years ago hadn’t two coppers to rub their backsides with.

Much of the talking is done by men like former England international Dave Thomas, whose grandfather captained West’s victorious 1909 side, and by Martin Connolly, the former West Auckland sub-postmaster who researched a very good book on the topic.

“It was genuinely the first World Cup,” says Martin. “You tell me where else you could get a story like that.”

Prolific and damn-near ubiquitous North-East playwright Ed Waugh features strongly, too. May be expect yet more dramatic ammunition in the great West Auckland canon?

Our Cup of Tea is narrated by Tim Healy and as the 20-second man says tells a story that’s truly incredible – “because you can hardly believe it.”

Trimdon and Deaf Hill Cricket Club, a (very belated) correction: for more than 20 years the column has been dining out on the story of the match against Yarm’s fourth team in which a poor bird met its maker.

Preparing to smite what he supposed a dolly, a Trimdon batsman was much surprised to witness the ball’s huge deviation and to be bowled middle stump. It was only on closer inspection that he discovered the poor thing, newly deceased, had intercepted the ball’s own flight path.

What should the umpire have done? We’d turned – of course – to umpire Bird. “Dead bird, dead ball,” said Dickie.

All this time we’ve said it was a spuggie. Encountered at Newton Aycliffe’s football match the other night, Durham County councillor Paul Trippet – the original informant – insists that it was a swallow.

“You can tell by the way they swoop,” says Paul. Mind, he adds, there wasn’t much swooping after that.

Last week’s Railroad to Wembley, it may be recalled, went to Preston via Bradford and Burnley and other list B-list places. The elder bairn spots an alternative – the No 830 service bus from Richmond to Preston via Buttertubs Pass, Hawes, Ribblehead Viaduct and High Bentham Conservative Club (for those that way inclined.)

Three problems: firstly the 830 runs Sundays only, secondly it doesn’t head to Lancashire until team time and, thirdly, the last bus of the year ran last Sunday. Some other time, maybe.

….and finally, the sport at which former Arsenal and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is now saving penalties (Backtrack, October 19) is ice hockey.

Graham Phelps in Billingham today invites readers to suggest which England test bowler has taken most wickets without ever claiming ten in a match.

Stumped? An answer next week.