It’s like a trip to Beamish - in boots
I am a football nut – I love everything about it with a passion; the 4, 0 and 1 buttons on my Sky remote have all but worn away, my wardrobe is now full of replica shirts from over 30 years of having to have the latest style on launch day and if you called at the house you would be left in no doubt as to where my heart lies (sorry girls, but you will grow up & leave home – the Toon Army will always have time for me on a Saturday).
So whilst I am a lifelong, dyed in the wool Newcastle United fan (even our cats are black and white) I spent most of my childhood and adolescence living in Bishop Auckland and so I am well versed in the history of the amateur greats of South Durham. Bishop Auckland and Crook Town dominated the amateur game for decades but I remember being in awe of the fact that West Auckland won the World Cup well before I understood that it wasn’t the same sort of tournament as I had watched Argentina win in 1978 but that just added to the mystique of the ‘old days’ .
This play, brilliantly crafted and wonderfully cast doesn’t just take the audience to the very first world cup back in 1909, it brings alive the cultures, the lives and most of all the humour of the early 20th century in a pit village in south Durham. This is far more than a football story – it is Beamish in boots.
The story is built around a modern day non league assistant manager lamenting the fact that his ancestors were very much a part of the football tapestry which forms our modern game while he just couldn’t get a break. As he reminisces, the story is told in flashback to the West Auckland world beaters as they prepare for their trip to Italy, how they managed to raise enough money, the characters that went to build the team and the life stories along the way. It is a stark reminder that back then travel outside of the village, let alone out of the country, was something most men rarely achieved – the scene where the lads try to work out where Italy is had the audience in stitches. It is also a lesson in humility when you compare the way football used to be played – for the love of the game and the team spirit only, not for the hundreds of thousands of pounds and material trappings that so beset the current game.
Mixing the modern day with the past is this play’s cleverest and most endearing quality – for the footie fool like me you can’t help but spot the references to players, formations, tactics and ‘gamesmanship’ which it is suggested were formed over a hundred years ago by the lads from West. There’s even a cameo by Jeff Stelling courtesy of Sky Sports Centre updates.
Filled to the brim with North East humour mixed with real life pathos, this is a wonderful insight into hard working and hard playing men who used football as a brief escape from their lives down the pit. The language, slang and accents are all perfect (they would be when you realise that the cast are all drawn from the North East) leading to the melodic harmonies and verbal jousting for which this great part of the UK is known & loved.
I urge everyone who has ever had a passing interest in the North East, football, local history or just great comedy to come and see this 2 hours of genuine laughter making, even more so if you’re from Bishops or West as this is OUR history, OUR pedigree, OUR unique contribution to the world of football - bring yor maytes, bring yor lass, bring yor ma ‘n’ da and gan on the jornee with the mighty West Auckland.
Proceeds from this production are being very generously donated to Darlington 1883, the fan led group who are working very hard to protect and rebuild Darlington Football Club as we strive to get back into the football league.