Having The Chime Of Their Lives……
Norman Bell has found himself as chairman of the board as he helps prolong a lengthy lineage and love affair with professional football.
Three generations of his family have earned a living from the game, which still draws the former Wolves striker to the touchlines most weekends.
His uncle Harry, a wing-half, played 290 League games for Middlesbrough just after the war and 126 for their north-east rivals Darlington, as well as opening the batting for Durham in the Minor Counties Championship for many years.
Norman’s 100-game stint at Molineux (with 24 goals) was followed by a slightly shorter spell at Blackburn and now there’s his son Andrew, who had a couple of years as a professional at Ewood Park and went on to play League football at Wycombe and York.
“I watch him and his brother, who is also a Norman, most of the time now,” said the Sunderland-born 57-year-old.
“Andy plays for Bamber Bridge in the Evo Stik League Division One North and Norman for Old Blackburnians – a side formed from the school he used to go to. Unfortunately, their home games sometimes clash but I keep tabs on them both.
“They are both enjoying it and I love to see them play as they have left home now and have their own places.
“Andy might well have made it as a professional. He’s a striker as well and has had a good career in non-League. In terms of ability and fitness, he’s better than I was and he certainly has a nicer touch. Perhaps he’s not as daft about going in where it hurts!”
It is Andy’s pursuit of his UEFA B coaching badges that has helped keep Dad hands-on in the game.
Both work with young offenders and Andy’s setting-up of the charity Opportunity Sports Foundation has required some assistance and guidance.
“The charity helps the homeless, offenders and the disabled to take part in sport through a series of programmes in football, basketball, badminton and even netball for girls.
“He runs it part-time because he’s also doing a soccer school at Bamber Bridge and I do some work as chairman of the charity as well as on the coaching side.”
Andy has painful first-hand experience of having faced Wolves’ first-day opponents Preston in pre-season. He was left with a broken rib after a collision in Bamber Bridge’s 5-0 home defeat against Simon Grayson’s side.
They beat a young Blackburn team, though, and also faced Southport at their base not far from the Tickled Trout – the hotel right by the M6 where many a transfer has been agreed between managers, players and agents down the years.