Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sporting Capital of the North-East? (NZ275875)

This little piece will come as no surprise to those of you with even a passing interest in North-East sport, but there may just be a few readers out there who are blissfully unaware of Ashington’s rich sporting pedigree.

For what is still regarded by many as a village – but a damned big one at that – Ashington has produced a good deal more than coal in its long, proud history. In fact, it is probably fair to say that its reputation for producing footballers over the past century outweighs all of its other claims to fame put together. For it has produced dozens over the years; and has recently branched out into other sports, too.

‘Wor Jackie’ Milburn is perhaps the most famous of them all – at least among us North-Easterners. He is arguably Newcastle United’s most famous player, and probably Ashington’s best-loved son. His exploits for ‘The Toon’ are legendary, punctuated by three F.A.Cup wins in the ‘50s. Just as famous, of course, were the cousins of Jackie’s mother, namely, Bobby and Jack Charlton, whose exploits we are familiar with – and this talented pair were also born in Ashington. But ‘Wor Jackie’ also had some famous first cousins of his own: the four-brother set of Stan, George, Jimmy and (another) Jack Milburn all played at the top level, amassing hundreds of appearances for several teams.

But they weren’t all related. Jimmy Adamson was another Ashington man who made good, becoming a Burnley legend. And there have been plenty more besides – many of them still playing today in the lower echelons of the game. Additionally, Sir John Hall, the man who was for several years connected with the running of Newcastle United, was born in nearby North Seaton.

In recent years it has been the turn of cricket to bring the village (town?) its dose of fame. Steve Harmison has excelled for Durham and England, and was once rated the world’s best bowler; and his brother, Ben, is not far behind him, too. In golf, Ken Ferrie almost stunned the sporting world when he led the 2006 US Open for most of the week before finishing sixth. And in basketball, Alan Hoyle has made quite an impression.

Must be something in the water, as they say.

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