Almost 60 years to the day since being told the assistant secretary’s job was his – “told” is the appropriate word – Malcolm Pratt marks 60 years unstinting service to Philadelphia Cricket Club with a clubhouse party on November 23.

Philly’s near Houghton-le-Spring, the first team promoted back to the North-East Premier League at the end of last season. Malcolm remains president, chairman, treasurer and fixture secretary – what might be termed a Philadelphia big cheese – perhaps justifying his email to other officials on the rare occasions he takes a holiday.

“Spend nowt,” it says.

“Just last week he was helping clear grass cuttings off the pitch,” reports committee member and long-playing former batsman Dave Carr. “If you ask me what Malcolm brings to the club the answer’s everything. I shudder to think where we’d be without him.”

Malcolm was already a youthful scorer – “interviewed by the entire committee” – when called in by Fred Gill, his boss at the Coal Board, to be told he’d been appointed assistant secretary at the annual meeting on November 21, 1959.

“I knew nothing about it, but those were the days when you didn’t argue with your boss,” he says.

He played only once for the first team – “a cup game at Eppleton” – a few times for the seconds but was mostly confined to the thirds. “I was no good at cricket,” he insists.

Raised in Shiney Row, near Philly, he served for 12 years as leader of Chester-le-Street district council, ran a busy press agency – particularly busy on Saturday evenings – was appointed MBE and in 2009 named overall winner in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s Outstanding Service to Cricket awards.

Though he stepped aside from the chair several years ago, he was persuaded to resume it. “We’re financially sound, have money in the bank and have the playing side back on track,” he says.

“Why am I still doing it? Because I love cricket, wonderful game, and I absolutely love Philadelphia.”

Noting that he is now the loquacious PA man at Carlisle City, last week’s column wondered if former Football League referee Colin Seel really had shown 16 yellow cards – a virtual full house – in a match between Darlington and Newport County, circa 1980.

Colin much doubts it. Firstly, he says, he preferred carrot to stick. “I found that treating players with respect was mostly reciprocated. I was a talker even then.”

Secondly, he adds, in the pre-digital age two separate reports had to be typed or handwritten for every caution – duplicates not allowed – taking about 15 minutes for every case. That would have been four hours, plus further checking and then a four-mile drive to the post office. No fear.

“It’s only a personal opinion,” says Colin, “but I feel that the modern referee, who simply has to key the appropriate box on his computer generated disciplinary form might be inclined to flash his or her disciplinary cards a little less freely if they had to comply with the above requirements.”

Still with the whistle blowers, Terry Farley kindly sends a copy of the picture round from last week’s Durham referees’ Association quiz. No 7’s Lawrie McMenemy, No 8 Sir Bobby, No 12 Seaham Red Star and No 13 the Little House on the Prairie. Who, though, is the strange looking gentleman at No 9 – fame at last, it appears to be me.

Last Wednesday’s Durham Challenge Cup match between Ryton and Crawcrook Albion and South Shields prompted Ryhope secretary Stevie Carter to recall the occasion in 2015-16 when last the sides had met.

Shields won 4-0, former Sunderland favourite Julio Arca scoring twice, after which Ryton goalkeeper Tom Chrostowski announced his retirement from football. “He decided that, having conceded two goals to Julio Arca, he had something to tell the grandkids and that anything subsequently would be anti-climactic,” wrote Stevie in the programme.

The goalie was 18.

Last Saturday to Consett v Hebburn Town, recent rains no problem on a 3G pitch but an unexpected problem – yes, this is Consett – with the sun dazzling spectators on the far side as it reflected off the artificial surface. Several had to move.

Wasn’t it at Gateshead Fell that a Durham County cricket match had to be stopped because of the sun reflecting from car windscreens behind the bowler’s arm?

Last week’s note on the Prince’s Trust rolling up their collective sleeves at Darlington RA’s football ground had very positive results, about which we’ve been asked not to go into detail.

They still had to get someone to look at the leaky clubhouse roof, though, and so rang a man. “I asked him where his ladder but he just flew a drone up to have a look,” reports RA secretary Alan Hamilton. “Times change, don’t they?”

….and finally the English cricketer who bagged most test wickets without ever claiming ten in a match – last week’s column – was Bob Willis, 325 victims at 25.20.

An intriguing question today from Don Clarke: in terms of winning trophies, what record does Sunderland FC hold which can never be beaten?

Similarly unbeatable, the column returns – via Anfield – next week.