Sunday, October 03, 2010

When West Auckland Ruled the World

Before Spain's tikka takka there was Zidane's headbutt, Gazza's tears and Maradona's hand. Before that came Paolo Rossi and North Korea, Cruyff's turn, Banks's save and Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet. But before all of that, before the Miracle of Bern and USA 1 England 0, there was a team of miners from County Durham beating Juventus in Turin.

Nobody knows how West Auckland Town ended up in the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy. Some think their invitation was meant for Woolwich Arsenal but got mixed up in the post. West Auckland paid their own way to Italy in 1909. Once there, they beat a team from Stuttgart 2-0 and the Swiss side FC Winterthur by the same score in the final. Two years later they were back, beating FC Zurich in the semi and thrashing Juventus 6-1 to win the cup outright. Juve have since won fifty-one major competitions. West Auckland went bankrupt and had to pawn their trophy to the landlady of a local hotel.

'Home of the first World Cup' says the sign at the entrance to the village, and the trophy adorns both the club's badge and the gates to their Darlington Road ground. There's a replica of the trophy in the Working Men's Club - the original, which the villagers bought back for £100 in 1960, was stolen sixteen years ago. They'd only started locking the cabinet after 1966.


Garry Nixon said...

There was a play about this back in the eighties:

Richard Griffiths was brilliant as the club chairman, warning the lads about the diseases they could catch from continental ladies.

Michael said...

You can watch it all on YouTube:

Mind, I was drawn towards the mute button every time Dennis Waterman opened his gob.