FIRSTLY today, let us clear up a common North-East misconception: Willington Quay and Bill Quay are not related, unless distantly by morganatic marriage, nor is Willington Quay simply Bill to its friends.

Bill Quay is on the south Bank of the Tyne, nudging Hebburn. Willington Quay is across the river, next to Howdon Pans, and it is to Willington Quay - and its audacious attempt to join the Football League - that we turn.

"A real mystery," says Dave Twydell, "I mean, why should some obscure little football club want to do that?"

It was 1903 and the Quay players, having lost more than they won, had finished fifth in the Northern Alliance behind Morpeth Harriers, Wallsend Park Villa, Mickley and Leadgate Park.

The sloping pitch was next to Howdon station and to the grey, grim gasworks; the changing hut wasn't great, either. Still, it probably seemed a good idea at the time.

"To be honest it was bloody crazy," says Dave, who has been striving to unlock the mystery of Willington Quay.

A prolific football author, he is the chap behind the "Rejected FC" series - histories of former Football League clubs thrown out on their arrears.

His latest volume is more challenging yet - a chronicle of all 77 who since 1888 have come knocking and never even got over the doorstep.

There were the Argonauts, an amateur side ("a sort of English Queens Park" says Dave) who in 1930 were so confident of admission they'd even booked Wembley Stadium for their matches. There was Salford United, undeterred by finishing bottom of the Manchester League, and Wallasey United, who only asked because they'd fallen out with New Brighton and wanted to queer their pitch.

Annfield Plain, Consett, North Shields and Stockton were among 27 unanswered postulants in 1947, Newcastle East End applied in 1892, Newcastle City in 1912, West Stanley when the Third Division was formed in 1921.

West Hartlepool, then in the Northern League, sought admission at the same time as Willington Quay, failed to stir support, but still won the FA Amateur Cup two season later, beating Clapton 3-2 at Shepherds Bush.

Dave Twydell, at any rate, was researching rapidly - 74 down, just Willington, Worcester and 29 times unlucky Yeovil to go - when he hit the big hurdle.

Contemporary accounts simply listed the 1903 hopefuls as Willington, leading him to suppose it must be the south-west Durham club of that name - until he discovered that they weren't even formed until 1906.

They were known, incidentally, as Willington Temperance and still, no doubt, offer teetotal obedience. .

Even Simon Inglis's semi-biblical "League Football and the Men Who Made It" simply recorded the windmill tilters as Willington.

Dave then wondered if it might be a misprint, traced Wellington Town from the Telford Senior League to the Birmingham League and then thought better of it.

"It was unthinkable," he says, "that Simon Inglis might be wrong."

The Backtrack column, alas, was precious little help, either. The Echo of May 26 1903 merely listed "Willington" among eight applicants, an item about California Syrup of Figs - "prompt and effective, a most agreeable family remedy" - propping up a tight-set column of sports news.

"Very interesting," said Dave, and decided to go it alone.

So bookishly to the British Library, where finally he learned more about the Quay side.

Once Willington Athletic, they'd won the Northumberland Senior Cup and claimed that they had the potential to be "one of the finest Football League sides in existence." A likely average gate of 3,000, they added, would bring in almost £100 a week.

"The application was almost casual," says Dave, "as if they'd had a smoke one night and decided to join the Football League."

Unlike West Hartlepool, they gained a vote - Middlesbrough, 13th in the first division that season, assiduously having been courted.

Bradford, Burnley and Stockport County were elected. Though the playing field remains next to Howdon station, the gasworks gang never again sought the big time.

Dave Twydell, meanwhile, moves effortlessly to Worcester City and to Yeovil. "Most people mightn't give a stuff," he concedes, "but for me it's a real problem solved."

It'll be a bloody good book, he adds, and after all that showing Willington, there's no doubt that it will.

T HE Great North Run has hit the wall, all 47,000 places filled already - "an unprecedented rate" says Nova International events secretary Jo Wells. Forty six thousand, nine hundred and some off are doubtless already in training for the Run on Sunday September 16. The odd one out may best be said to be conserving his energy - but more of that later.

LUCKY omen, if ever, most of the races at Huntingdon on Tuesday were named after football club mascots.

There was the Harry the Hornet Intermediate Chase (Watford), the Cyril the Swan Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (Swansea City), the Elvis J Eel Standard Open Handicap Hunt Flat (something to do with Southend's favourite dish) and - the top prize 4 40 - the H'Angus the Monkey Handicap Chase.

H'Angus, who's done all right by Hartlepool this season, has had links with Huntingdon before.

Last year, recalls Stuart Drummond - the man in the monkey suit - the course staged a mascots' Grand National, won by Harry the Hornet. Due to unforeseen circumstances, H'Angus could only manage 35th.

"We'd not got to the first hurdle before I got into a fight with Sammy the Stag," he says. Sammy, of course, bears the Mansfield motif - where Pool had lost 4-3 the previous day, having led 3-1 with ten minutes remaining.

"You could see there was a smirk on Sammy's face. I decided I was going to knock it off," he admits. York City's mascot, it's recalled, also resorted to gorilla warfare.

"It was a little while before we were able to resume the race," says Stuart.

H'Angus, of course, has been mixed up in earlier monkey business, not least the unfortunate incident at Scunthorpe in which he was alleged to have carried animal instinct a little too far.

Having a race named after him is a sign, he insists, of rehabilitation into society. For the photographs, he even put his outfit in the wash. ("It stank a bit after Saturday".)

Stuart's the second H'Angus. The first, he says, wasn't a proper Pool fan, anyway. "They never named a race after the Darlington mascot..

"Like the Pool, H'Angus is headed for the big time."

A MONKEY in betting parlance is £500, though neither the Oxford Dictionary nor Austin Carney - managing director of Consett based bookies Reuben Page - can satisfactorily explain why.

"Probably barrow boy rhyming slang," suggests Reuben, midfield dynamo of Houghton Mill All Stars, hopefully.

A pony is £25, a bottle two, carpet three, rough four, nifty fifty and a bag of sand - distinct rhyming slang - £1000.

A gentleman in this office reckons that £2000 is known as a Jeffrey, that being the amount which the unfortunate Lord Archer is said to have had given to a young lady at Victoria railway station in order that she might take a foreign holiday. It is pure conjecture, of course.

A LETTER from Allan Newman in Darlington, incidentally, asks if the presence of two Hartlepool players - Tommy Miller and Kevin Henderson - in the third division top ten goal scorers is some kind of record. Others may know.

CHARLIE Blake's a building contractor by trade and a snooker player by preference. When he built his new house at Middleton-in-Teesdale, he made sure it fitted round the full size table.

"I've always been snooker daft," says Charlie. "My 18th birthday present was a game against Dennis Taylor at the Mechanics Institute in Middleton; he beat me 7-2."

These days he plays for Old Shildon WMC, all but invincible in the Langley Moor and District, though it's his 13-year-old son Daniel about whom Charlie rings.

Back on the green, green baize of home, Daniel's just played Billy Goggins - one of Old Shildon's stalwarts - with breaks of 54, 109 and 58 in successive games.

"It was amazing," says dad. "I'm a half decent player but I'd been playing six or seven years before I got my first 100 break. Daniel's only been playing seriously since last summer, can still hardly reach the blue spot, but there's a lovely cue action on him."

He now hopes to develop the lad's potential, hopes for a chip off the old building block and to watch the lad move up the table.

"It's my ambition to stop being a building contractor and to be a snooker player's chauffeur instead," says Charlie.

And if it goes, as it were to pot? "Then Daniel can be a brickie's labourer, instead."

ALLAN Newman again and, coincidentally, on snooker. What, he wonders, is the lowest and closest possible frame score and suggests a match in which player A pots eight reds but no colours and player B seven reds but no colours.

Player A then pots green, blue and pink, making 22 points, while B sinks yellow and brown for 13 points.

After potting pink, A goes in-off, gives 7 to B and the match ends A22 B 20. Can anyone, asks Alan, devise a lower or closer outcome?

THE member of England's World Cup winning team who made over 100 appearances for four different Football League clubs (Backtrack, May 1) was - of course - Alan Ball.

Readers may today care to name the three clubs, apart from Nottingham Forest and Derby, managed by Brian Clough.

More Clough stuff next Tuesday

Published: 04/05/01