Meet the other Newcastle No 9

Simon Turnbull finds the Town Army lining up a shot at the big- time in the FA Cup

It was an hour before kick-off. Newcastle's No 9 was in the board- room, performing a pre-match fitness test. He was hopping up and down while smoking a cigarette. "My ankle," he said, by way of explanation. "It was killing me after Saturday."

"Saturday" was an FA Vase tie against Lye Town. Newcastle won 4-0 and their centre-forward scored his 15th goal of the season; not one, however, for every million he cost. John Burndred is the other Newcastle No 9. He cost precisely pounds 15m less than Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle team who happen to play a team known as the Magpies in the first round of the FA Cup next weekend were, in fact, assembled for pounds 750. And like Andy Holmes, upon whom that lump sum was lavished, Burndred will be paid nothing more than expenses for lining up against Notts County at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, a week today. "It's a good job it's not on Saturday," John Cotton said. "John here has to make a 5am start to get a shift in before Saturday games."

Cotton is one of the off-the-field dynamos who have driven Newcastle Town from Sunday leaguers to would-be FA Cup giant-killers in eight years. Burndred is one of the priceless stars. His goal-poaching feats for Knypersley Victoria earned him a six-month contract with his beloved Port Vale at the age of 26. He played one first- team game, against Notts County, before returning to his pounds 11,000-a-year job as a manager at a pottery firm in Burslem.

That was two years ago. "Do you know," he said, "I'd never thought about it that way: that I'm the other Newcastle No 9... You know that Jaguar he drives, did Shearer buy it?" With the world's most expensive footballer on his mind, and a fag still in his hand, Town's centre-forward trotted along the corridor to the dressing-room. He was fit, apparently, to play against Trafford. Indeed, he was smoking.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne it ain't. That much had been evident in the hour it had taken to find the football ground in Newcastle- under-Lyme. "Football ground?" the woman behind the till at the Murco garage said. "Stoke or Vale?" When Newcastle was mentioned, she looked concerned and said: "I think you're a few hundred mile away, duck."

Cotton was not surprised. "Somebody asked me the other day how to get here from the railway station," Town's secretary said. "Nobody had asked me before. I had to look up the number of the bus." The FA Cup run, and the paragraph in the Evening Sentinel, attracted a bumper gate on Wednesday night. You could count all 210 members of the Town Army dotted above the encircling cycle track that lends a certain continental ambience to the Lyme Valley Stadium in its setting outside the Potteries boundary in north Staffordshire.

Toon Army fortress it ain't. Yet Scandinavians regularly turn up at the local tourist information office requesting directions to St James' Park. "Last Tuesday we had a phone call asking for John Motson," Ray Tatton, another committee man, chipped in. "Newcastle were playing Ferencvaros that night." Newcastle United were, he might have pointed out. Newcastle Town were playing Atherton Collieries.

The two Newcastles of English football may be miles apart, 200 by road, but they came together last year when United trained at Town's ground on the morning of their Coca-Cola Cup tie at Stoke. A letter of thanks from Kevin Keegan has pride of place in the clubhouse. "We'd drawn 3-3 at Flixton the night before," Glyn Chamberlain said, "and Kevin Keegan must have followed it on local radio. He knew we'd been 3-1 up with two minutes to go."

Chamberlain, a lorry driver, is the other Newcastle manager. "People say to me, `It would be great to be manager of Newcastle United and to spend pounds 60m,' but Newcastle Town is as important to me as I'm sure Newcastle United is to Kevin Keegan. As far as I'm concerned it's the biggest club there is, because it's my club."

Chamberlain's club, or rather his team, have yet to lose in the North- west Counties League this season. It was easy to see why on Wednesday night as they beat a tidy Trafford side 3-1. In doing so, their goals- against column nudged to three, no mean record for a Newcastle defence. Colin Murphy, Notts County's general manager, departed at half-time. He missed the breathtaking sight of goal number 16 for Burndred this season: a sublime chip shot from 30 yards.

Newcastle's other two goals came courtesy of Dave Ritchie, a chip off the old Potteries block of John Ritchie, Stoke City's centre-forward when they beat Chelsea in the 1972 League Cup final. Ritchie senior also played in the Stoke side that came within two minutes of the 1971 FA Cup final. He and Denis Smith put Tony Waddington's team 2-0 up in the Hillsborough semi-final against Arsenal, who needed a late Peter Storey penalty to get out of jail, as it were.

Not that Ritchie junior can recall such daring paternal deeds. As he pointed out in the Newcastle dressing-room: "I was only one when dad played at Wembley." Father and son work together in the family pottery business, Ritchie of Stoke, which can be found in the shadow of the Victoria Ground. "Dad'll be there next week," Newcastle's No 7 said. "He bought us six bottles of champagne after we won in the last round. Then he stayed and drank them all, the cheeky bugger."

It would probably take more than victory against Notts County for the backwater of Newcastle to be drunk dry. Such is the football fog on the Lyme.

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Recruitment Genius: International Trade Advisors - Hertfordshire or Essex

£30000 - £35379 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is based in Welwyn ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manage...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn