Twenty hours after arriving back in Britain in the midst of a torrential downpour I was standing in glorious sunshine at Horden, hometown of Brian Little, Super Bob Taylor and Manchester City's Adam Johnson, a player Fabio Capello rates only slightly less highly than Shaun Wright-Phillips. Founded in 1908, Horden Colliery Welfare (to give them their full name) reached the FA Cup second round in 1939, played in the first round on five different occasions, and won the Wearside League title ten times before stepping up to the Northern League in 1975. Things haven't been so good since Horden Colliery closed in 1987, however - last season they finished bottom of the heap in Division One with six wins from forty-two games.
The crowd for the visit of a Hartlepool XI was approximately 7,950 short of the 8,000 who packed in to Welfare Park to see the 3-2 loss to Newport County in 1939. A cricket game was taking place on a pitch next door and the sea was a dark blue stripe behind the far goal. After a nervy start, Horden scored twice in five minutes against a Hartlepool side that looked so young I was surprised their parents didn't come to pick them up at the final whistle. "Two nil and you know it is," sang a pair of ten-year olds in Manchester United and Juventus strips, breaking off from a kickabout on the side of the pitch. Playing up and across the slope, Hartlepool managed to pull a goal back before a fumble from the goalkeeper gifted the home side a third early in the second half. He put up a hand in apology. "What's the score, mister?" a kid shouted through the fence.
Date: July 21st 2010
Evening sunshine by the North Sea. Not often you get to type those words.
Horden's main (and only) stand, named after ex-Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland captain Stan Anderson.