How Juventus scored an own goal against West Auckland Town FC
The centenary of West Auckland FC’s first World Cup win – a 6-1 thrashing of Juventus in 1909 – is just one of many tales recounted in journalist Mike Amos’ new book chronicling his 55 years in local newspapers
FOR most, the Italian job was expected to be the trip of a sporting lifetime. For West Auckland it was a return visit to Turin and a re-match against formidable opposition. It proved akin to the 100-year war, unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
The story’s re-told in Unconsidered Trifles – sub-titled “Memories of a jobbing journalist” – which includes many other Teesdale forays in a career which saw the Shildon-born columnist named North-East Journalist of the Year seven times and appointed MBE in 2006.
At the time of the Turin trip Mr Amos was also in the middle of a 20-year stint as chairman of the Northern League, in which West Auckland played, then as now.
Marking the centenary had been West Auckland’s idea. The trip, a year in the planning, was partly funded by a £10,000 grant from the FA and £5,000 from Unilever, successor company to Lipton’s, who promoted the original competition in 1909 and 1911.
Most of the 2009 party, including the players, made the 1,100-mile trip by coach and ferry, a journey taking 28 hours. Unlike their predecessors, who slept on a church hall floor, they were put up at the Holiday Inn – soon to be known as the Holiday Inncompetent – outside Turin. The church hall floor was probably preferable.
It was early August, and the Holiday Inn gave every impression of not expecting visitors. Bar and restaurant were closed, not even a round of sandwiches. The promised swimming pool didn’t exist.
When would the bar be open, asked the thirsty West lads. September, said the receptionist.
The following day’s match, against a team of youngsters, was at a Juventus training ground 40 miles away. Though the temperature was in the 30s, the welcome was altogether colder – Anne Palfreyman, wife of the West Auckland chairman, was even refused access until she paid 10 euros admission.
West were dressed in their best. Juventus didn’t even wear their best jeans. West bore gifts, guarded their World Cup like vestal virgins their innocence; Juventus asked for the presentation to be delayed until half time, scrabbled around at the back of a cupboard and discovered a blank salver and two books on Italian wild flowers.
“What am I supposed to do with these?” asked club general manager Stewart Alderson.
“Look at the pictures like you always do,” said Jim Palfreyman.
Game over, the hosts reluctant even to shake hands, Juventus players tucked into a fresh salmon salad in a nearby restaurant. West were given crisps and pop outside – “like kids on a Sunday School outing,” Unconsidered Trifles supposes.
Back at the hotel by 9.45pm, Jim Palfreyman wondered what else could possibly go wrong – and, with the early morning attendance of fire brigade and gun-toting carabinieri, was quickly to find out. It’s all retold in the book.
Unconsidered Trifles by Mike Amos costs £10 plus £3.20 softback and £22 plus £3.80 postage hardback. Comprehensively illustrated, the 390-page book is available from the author at 8 Oakfields, Middleton Tyas, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 6SD. Further information, including bank transfer details, from email@example.com.