What’s the connection between Derek Trotter and the North Northumberland League?
You might think that the BBC’s favourite wheeling-dealing market trader from Peckham and the local football competition are worlds apart. In reality, they are.
But in my imagination, I can picture Del Boy sitting in a leather jacket and flat cap with sovereign rings flashing as he lifts a cocktail to his lips beside a dartboard and complains to Mike the bar owner about the football meeting in the back room of the gaff.
The North Northumberland League was, you see, formed in the Nag’s Head.
Not the fictional one in Sarf Landan, but the very real one in Alnwick on a summer’s evening back in 1898.
That meeting was presided over by William Hogg of Amble and seven clubs comprised the first season’s teams to compete for the league title.
The Northern Alliance had been founded eight years earlier and while it is now the premier grassroots competition in Northumberland, back then it was dominated by Durham clubs with Bishop Auckland Town, Birtley, Elswick Rangers, Rendel, Gateshead NER, Whitburn, and Sunderland A meeting in the Neville Hotel on North Road, Durham to initiate the competition.
So there was a need for a league for clubs from the north of the county to compete in.
The North Northumberland League was to be an amateur league and the committee wanted to keep it local so players could only be picked from within a three-mile radius of their club’s headquarters, which then, as now, was most likely a pub.
Broomhill, Alnwick Association Club, Amble Seconds, North Sunderland, Radcliffe, Bamburgh and Amble Blue Star were the founder members, with Broomhill winning the first title, but requiring a re-match on the first Saturday of the next season to confirm it as they had not completed a game against Alnwick during the season.
The League was also unearthing local talent and had high hopes for the future of a Broomhill player called Snowball who had impressed in that debut season.
The first secretary of the NNFL was John Carse, junior, of Amble, and the first treasurer was A Anderson, of Broomhill, with W Chism, of North Sunderland, taking on both of those roles the following season.
Other early clubs to compete in the first few years of the NNFL included clubs which are still going such as Alnmouth, Wooler, Shilbottle and Embleton Whinstone Rovers and others which are sadly missed like Percy Rovers.
Sides such as Rennington, Alnwick St James’s A, Alnwick Caxtonians, Alnwick United and Warkworth were also early trailblazers for organised Association Football in the area.
The Coquetdale League contained sides such as Rothbury, Felton, Thropton United, Wallington and teams from around Morpeth and Ashington while there was also the East Northumberland League and the North East Alliance in operation as the game really took hold in the area.
As for Del Boy? Students of Border history will tell you that it’s not too far a stretch of the imagination to place him up here, instead of in the tower block at Mandela House.
The Trotters were a well-known Scottish clan that hail from just over the Tweed in Berwickshire.
One of their chiefs was killed at Flodden and they were active during the dark days of strife in the 16th century.
So if Derek Trotter really existed, he would actually be a descendent of the Border Reivers.
But with his dodgy deals, his devil-may-care attitude and his dogged self-reliance, you secretly already knew that.