FOR a split second Jonathan Richardson is literally between a rock and a hard place, essaying the sort of manoeuvre – this time for the photographer – that he’s completed countless times before.

An unhappy landing sends him scurrying – teeth clenched, silence screaming – to his support van. “Basically I got a rear mudguard in exactly the place you don’t want it,” he says upon emerging.


“Yes,” says Mike Smith, his friend and sponsor, “he very nearly was.”

Jonathan, 17, is a motor cycle trials rider, presently leading the world, European and British championships at youth level. Next week he flies to Japan in a bid to strengthen his lead.

Trials and tribulation, the little mishap on Saturday morning has done nothing to emasculate his ambition.

Trials and error it may be said, no more.

“I’ve not really had any serious injury,” he insists. “I once smashed my knee a bit through going too fast, but I took four months off and it was fine.”

Gerald Richardson, his father, was one of the country’s best known riders, twice winning the hugely demanding Scott Trial in Swaledale.

Jonathan – the most courteous, composed and confident of young men – could ride a pushbike when he was two, was bought his first motor bike (“a Yamaha TY80”) when he was seven. These days he’s his own mechanic, too.

It may not be said that he’s rarely been out of the saddle, however, since trials bikes don’t run to such comforts. It’s a sport undertaken standing up.

Doesn’t he ever wish that his dad had been a golfer, or something less arduous, instead?

“Not for a minute,” he says. “I really enjoy riding motor bikes. My dad has supported me all the way, he’s been really important.”

These days he helps on the family farm at Skeeby, near Richmond, has a personal fitness trainer – “I’m always down the gym, physical fitness is just as important as bike fitness” – and practices most days at a former quarry near Ravensworth, a few miles north near the A66.

It’s lovely up there, Squire Botham country, though they’ve never seen Sir Ian and suppose he prefers fishing.

“I just hope I can be as good at my chosen sport as he was at his,” says Jonathan.

Last year he was ninth in the world, seventh in Europe, second in Britain. The improvement has been dramatic – the result, he says, of a lot of hard work.

“Jonathan’s completely dedicated,” says Mike Smith. “I like riding a bike but I just potter about. It’s a privilege to be able to help him, I just wish I could go to Japan with him.”

The talk’s briefly about things which foot soldiers don’t understand, the more obvious conclusion that they believe the sport should have a higher profile. “A lot of people do it, but it’s a sport you hardly ever see on television,” says Jonathan.

“Quite right,” says Mike. “Anyone can throw arrows at a board.”

“Minded” by his dad, Jonathan hopes to emulate paternal success in this autumn’s Scott Trial – only one 17-year-old has previously won it – and by then to have clinched the world youth title.

The adult world champion’s just 22, won it at 21. “I’m a confident person, there’s no reason why I can’t emulate him,” says Jonathan.

Walking tall again, his trials are by no means over yet.

■ Jonathan is sponsored by Mial Coach Builders, Richmond Carriage Services and Carpet Line of Darlington. Others, of course, are most welcome - he’s on 01748 824616.

SPONSORSHIP talk was also much in the air at the Northern League’s annual dinner on Friday – Duncan McKenzie still the best speaker on the circuit – after skilltrainingltd announced a five-year deal.

“From where I stand now, I hope it’ll last forever,” said Ann Barkas, former sandwich maker at Easington CW and now chief executive of the Tanfield Lea-based training provider.

Particularly it was a good night for the Rev Leo Osborn, league chaplain and chairman of the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist district, who won three prizes – all bottled and bibulous – in the raffle.

Though strictly teetotal, Leo clinked merrily as he left. “It’s just to stop it falling into the wrong hands,” he insisted.

JOHN FLYNN’S 60th went well. He bought himself a Hornblower wig (don’t ask), was given a “stunning” pair of two-tone shoes – what Brian Johnston used to call co-respondent shoes – by his wife and managed to complete his birthday match at Tow Law without maiming too many.

Only his cousin Brendan had to be carried off: The combative Flynny – the Lawyers’ lawyer – pleads not guilty.

“He twisted his ankle on a Tow Law divot,” he maintains.

Family and friends also clubbed together to buy him 45 minutes in last Monday’s charity match at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium which raised £12,000 for the Teesside Hospice.

John, pictured left with Boro mascot Roary, played for Craig Hignett’s side against Gaizka Mendieta’s, the likely highlight when he took the ball from Mendieta in the penalty area.

“It surprised me, too,” admits John’s son, Harry. “I thought he’d have taken the opportunity to clean him out.”

STILL up in the clouds, Tow Law FC secretary Steve Moralee reluctantly debunks the popular belief that, at 287m above sea level, the Ironworks Ground is England’s highest. New figures show it’s in the shadow of Buxton’s Silverlands stadium, 304m above the sea. Bacup Borough is third, Mossley fourth. High hopes, Steve has now challenged Buxton to a pre-season friendly, what might be called altitude training.

“We’ll see who’s top then,” he says.

LOL CUSSONS, a sweet talking football referee who cooled emotions with Polo mints, has died. He was 80 and had been an active whistler until a couple of years ago.

Suck it and see? “I haven’t used a yellow card for eight or ten years,” he told the column in 2001.

“I can still give a damn good lecture, but it makes so much difference when there are handshakes all round at the end of the game.”

Once he’d refereed Manchester United v Newcastle United on Match of the Day; more recently he was happy just to take games on York racecourse, near his home.

“If there was a bit of trouble, I’d offer them a mint and suggest they calm down a bit. It just seemed to work,” he said.

Lol was also a race walker, first winning York’s famous Tang Hall event in 1949. “A superb referee and a lovely chap,” said former North Riding FA secretary Mark Jarvis.

BOB PENNINGTON, who featured hereabouts last August, has also died. He was 94 – “just six quick singles or a bit six short of his century,” says his son, Neil.

Bob, of course, was a cricket man. He’d played for his native Tudhoe Colliery at 15, moved to Dean and Chapter, saw service with the Ayrshire Yeomanry and joined Spennymoor after the war.

“I only went there because I thought I was finished,” he said, but there was life aplenty yet.

In 1958-60 he helped Spennymoor to three successive wins in the Eggleston Cup, still had the miniature bat presented to mark the achievement and a Herbert Sutcliffe bat, given by the Empire News, to acknowledge 105 and 5-11 in the same match.

Then as now, the Eggleston Cup final was at Darlington.

“Playing at Feethams was like the FA Cup final for a lot of the older lads. It still is,” said Bob.

Though he was registered blind and had impaired hearing, his mind – said the column – remained as sharp as a square cut. Bob’s funeral will be at Durham crematorium at 2pm on Thursday, afterwards at the KGH Club in Spennymoor.

... and finally

THE column back on May 16 sought the identity of the two “Durham” teams which have won the North Riding Senior Cup – and elicits an email from Shaun Wilson in Middlesbrough.

We’d said, lifted from this year’s cup final programme, that the competition began in 1928-29 and that Boro had won it 25 times. Shaun reckons that it began in 1881-82 as the Cleveland Charity Cup, became the North Riding Senior Cup in 1903-04 and this boys have actually won it 52 times.

The four outsiders have been Billingham Synthonia, Darlington, Darlington St Augustine’s and Stockton.

Today back to the high ground, moral or otherwise.

Only two of the English “92”

feature in the top 15 of the country’s loftiest stadiums – readers are invited to name them.

Up there again, the column returns on Saturday.