Football: Wembley rises for Law men

Simon Turnbull talks to the stars of Tow Law who have a cup final to light up

AT 1,000 feet above sea level, overlooking Weardale in rural County Durham, Tow Law always has been pretty close to the stars. Between 1888 and 1934 Thomas Espin used a telescope in the vicarage garden there to discover and catalogue some 2,575 celestial bodies. He was not, however, responsible for finding the most celebrated star unearthed at Tow Law. It was on the sloping pitch at Ironworks Road, the highest football ground in England, that the sparkling talent of the hunched-shouldered Chris Waddle was detected.

"He had the same laid-back way," Bernard Fairbairn recalled. "His style never changed." Fairbairn has been an official of Tow Law Town for 38 years. As secretary, he conducted the negotiations which took the waddling Waddle from the Northern League to Newcastle. "We got three instalments of pounds 500," he recalled. Such was the price of a Tow Law starlet back in 1980. These days there is a whole team of stars at Ironworks Road. On Saturday they will be found beneath the twin towers at Wembley.

The FA Vase was made for clubs like Tow Law Town, mid-table members of the Arnott Insurance Northern League. When they won through to the final last month, beating Taunton Town 5-4 on aggregate, they did so with more than half of the County Durham outpost's 2,000 population hugging the touchline at Ironworks Road. The celebrations lasted long in to the night in what is more of a one-street village than a town - a collection of terraced houses and shops strung out along the A68. Glasses were even raised, and not in anger, to Graham Kelly. Peter Quigley, the Tow Law manager, made a point of thanking the Football Association's chief executive "for giving true players, who turn out on freezing cold nights just for expenses, the opportunity to play at Wembley".

Trevor Laidlaw is particularly grateful for the chance he will get when the Lawyers line up against Tiverton Town, pride of the Screwfix Direct Western League. At 28 he works as a car window fitter on Tyneside, having failed to make the professional grade at Doncaster. As a 12-year-old he starred in the Northumberland team that won the National Association of Boys' Clubs trophy. So did another forward who will be wearing black and white stripes in a Wembley cup final this month.

"He is the best player in the world now," Laidler said of Alan Shearer, whom at one time he even kept out of the county side. "Our careers could not have been more different. But now I'm going to play in a cup final at Wembley, just like him. It's a dream come true. Some top professionals never get to play there."

Laidler's present strike partner appreciates that more than most. Jarrod Suddick's father was a professional for 16 years. Alan Suddick played for Newcastle at 17 and won three England under-23 caps. He won the Second Division championship with Newcastle in 1965 and the Anglo Italian Cup with Blackpool in 1971. But he never made it to Wembley. Jarrod was offloaded by Sunderland. He scored the goal that got Tow Law to the Vase final. "Perhaps going to Wembley will make up for a few of the disappointments he's had," Suddick senior said.

The Tow Law team do include one player of European, let alone Football League, experience. Paul Hague, their veteran centre-half, once of Leyton Orient and Gillingham Town, played for Cork City against Cwmbran and Galatasaray in the European Cup four seasons ago. But Quigley's side otherwise comprises the "true" grass-roots part-timers who will be savouring the day of their football lives on Saturday. They will do so with the backing of twice the town's population.

"We're expecting to have 4,000 supporters travelling," Fairbairn said. "Everyone in the town and surrounding area seems to be coming." Such has been the outbreak of Wembley fever not one but two Vase final songs have been released in honour of Quigley's Lawyers. The official ditty, "All Our Dreams Are Coming True", was recorded in the lounge of the Black Horse a fortnight ago. "Tell me, tell me I'm not dreaming," the chorus goes. "Don't say this isn't true. Tow Law are going to Wembley. Our dreams are coming true."

It certainly has for Sam Gordon, who at the age of 10 will be the youngest member of Tow Law's Wembley party. He was contemplating his first match on the sidelines for four years until those good people at the FA dropped their rule banning mascots at cup finals. It may be an omen, but even if the playing Lawyers fail to score a Wembley victory when Saturday comes they will join good company. Les Ferdinand only has one medal from his career in domestic club football: as a loser with Southall in the 1986 Vase final.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?