Winning seems to be a North-East anomaly

In the week in which Sir Bobby finally left us, there's perhaps cause to examine just how rare a true sporting winner is in the North East.

While I'm sure we can all name exceptions in whichever field takes your fancy, someone so universally loved and almost synonymous with success is a once in a generation occurrence.

As Friday's minute silence at the Riverside came just as the news of the great man's passing had broken, it came observed by what looks like it could be the passing of the mantle from one great side on the wane in the form of a Sussex side who, without Mushtaq Ahmed and the inspirational captaincy of Chris Adams, are a shadow of their former selves, to a Durham side, who in terms of the County Championship are failing to get the credit they deserve.

Perhaps there is something alien to the North-East sporting psyche, whereby success is such a shock to the system that it feels like an anomaly which must surely be found out any time soon.

Indeed, for all of Robson's great footballing successes, he'll perhaps be remembered most fondly in the North East for not quite winning England the World Cup and not quite bringing home the Premiership title.

Here is a Durham side who have won trophies and are not simply the more archetypal valiant losers.

The majestic fashion in which Michael Di Venuto had effectively won the game for Durham before the second day was even that old, was a testament to just how wonderful an innings his career best total of 254 was.

While it was also pleasing to see Will Smith continue his return to form in scoring a century in a Boycott-esque pace, it was perhaps fitting that Di Venuto was again assisted by runs scored by Dale Benkenstein and later with the ball by Callum Thorp, two players reaching the twilight of their career.

One of the challenges for Durham in the years to come will be just how they replace an aging core to their side, who have consistently bailed them out of trouble.

Sussex have largely failed in the short-term, so it makes Durham's efforts to blood young players in the Pro 40 and to persist with the unconvincing Mark Stoneman look all the more important.

For all this approach shows common sense, there must surely be part of Geoff Cook that grapples with restoring Di Venuto to the side when he's in such good form.

It seems odd that for all Neil Killeen continues to roll back the years and provide much control in the early part of the innings, he hasn't been pushed sideways in the name of progress.

The influx of youth must also put pressure on players such as Gordon Muchall, who have been there or thereabouts for what seems like an eternity, but in Muchall's case have never really consistently fulfilled his potential.

While the points total to win the County Championship will surely be much higher than last year's rain-affected season, Durham do seem to have been fortunate enough to get results when it has mattered most and open up such an impressive lead at this stage, with some even talking about the Championship simply being a case of 'when' rather than 'if'.

Complacency must of course be avoided, but the depth of the pace attack and the imminent arrival of Shiv Chanderpaul means the title is Durham's to lose, something which years of pessimism suggest is possible, but currently seems disconcertingly unlikely.

A win at Old Trafford and even the doubters may start to believe.

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