BILL THE BIRO follows a thread

A few days ago I was browsing a Pools messageboard and I saw a new thread, with the title “Strange Place Names.” 

Someone had reported having driven through a place called “Mutley.” There then followed, after some banter about the Poolie who goes by that name, a succession of examples of other strange place names. One of them was a road named “Bell End”, in Wollaston, Northamptonshire.

Now, as it happens, I know that road, since I drive along it twice every day - it’s on my route to work. Three years ago it was a cause of some amusement when I first started going that way, but since then I’d not given it much thought until now. But in the last couple of days, every time I’ve gone through Wollaston (which, as you might expect, isn't pronounced Wollaston, but Woolerston), my thoughts have been wandering, to a couple of Pools matches.

Strange, you may think, but let me explain. Bell End is a very short road, only 100 yards long, but it forms part of the main route through the large village/small town, and just 50 yards down from it is the headquarters of Airwear International, better known as Doc Martens. And Max Griggs,who owns it, was the sugar daddy who funded Rushden and Diamonds’ meteoric rise. Once he pulled the plug, their fall was not only even more meteoric, but also terminal.

Currently their rather nice former ground is the home of Kettering Town, who are themselves only hanging on by their financial fingertips (they've just done a Darlo and gone down 2 divisions. Their Northants Senior Cup home match this month attracted a club record low attendance of... 34.)

"I remember being outside Elland Road trying to sell MB, and for one of the few times, deliberately avoiding any chance of the home fans even seeing it, let alone buying it!"But back in Max's sugar-daddying days, in 2003 he found his team vying with Pools for the championship of what was still then known as the basement division. And by coincidence the final game of that season was Rushden  and Diamonds versus Pools, with both teams already promoted, and the winners to become Champions. However, the slight disadvantage for Pools was that a draw would give it to Rushden. And of course that's what happened. We drew. They were Champions. And after Pools had been top of the league for almost the entire season, we had to politely applaud them as they were presented with the trophy and medals after the match.

The nearest we ever came to winning anything (if you don't count Cardiff).

Anyway, Max still runs Doc Martens from the white building near Bell End in the picture.

But Bell End reminds me of another Pools away game, this time a bit more recent. in 1997 Leeds United had come down to visit us in League One after having gone bust and been reincarnated in dubious circumstances which had allowed Ken Bates to remain in charge. At the time he, manager Dennis Wise and their fans were playing the "everyone's against us" card for all they were worth. So it was that Pools had to play at Elland Road in front of more than 20,000 baying Yorkshiremen (and a fair few Poolies) early in the season.

So for the edition which coincided with that match, we at Monkey Business decided to print one of our double-ended issues, with the second section being a spoof guide book of Leeds, thinly disguised as Leades. And for the spoof city's football team (whose dodgy history didn't go unmentioned), we gave its home as Bellend Road. I remember being outside Elland Road trying to sell MB, and for one of the few times ever, deliberately avoiding any chance of the home fans even seeing it, let alone buying it!

That match was one of the best I've ever seen Pools play. Pools dominated from start to finish, and apart from their two goals without reply, Leeds were hardly in it. Still it was good to be at a Pools league match in a famous stadium in front of over 26,000 people, and not disgrace ourselves, even if we lost.

So there you have it, two memorable Pools matches, both with connections to Bell End - and barely a mention of Ken Bates.