Sunday, December 20, 2020

Meadows Utd 4-6 Poets Young Boys

It's lunchtime on Sunday 13th December. I slide open the French window patio door and step out into the pouring rain. I've a massive golfing umbrella for company, as I slog it out, in blustery conditions, up towards Carlton Hill. I shed a tear as I pass The Brickyard pub, on the corner of Standhill Road. It's been close on 9 months since I last set foot in there.

I cross the 'Gaza Strip' entering into Sneinton. I glance across the road at the Fox and Grapes pub; the artist formally known as Peggers. Behind it is Sneinton Market, now rebranded as the Creative Quarter. Housed in one of the units is the greatest brewery on God's earth - more on that later.

The road banks to the left. Directly opposite is the Nottingham Arena. Little Mix are playing two nights in a row in May. My old budgie, Murphy Palmer, used to love whistling in his cage to their string of top ten hits - he'd have made the short two-mile flight down Carlton Road. He'd have fooled a doorman and blagged his way into the gig, before taking his perch high up on the gantry. He'd be gutted to hear that Jesy Nelson has quit the band  - she was his favourite.

The wind whips up on London Road as I tightly grip onto my brolly for dear life. Notts County's Meadow Lane ground is to my left. The City Ground comes into full view as I cross over Trent Bridge, before swinging left onto Bridgford Road, with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club's Test ground adjacent to me - does any other city have such an exciting vibrant area as this?

So what am I doing down 'Bread 'n Lard Island?' A quick re-cap folks. In early September I had a detached retina and four large tears. Life has been hard. I can't drive and to be honest, can't see out of my right eye. It would have been easy to get down-hearted and depressed. But I have taken the bastard on. I laugh at every setback; there have been a few too. It's 50/50 if I'll ever see out of the eye again. A toss of the coin. Life's that simple.

Mr Zaman, my legendary consultant at the Queen's Medical Centre, has suggested I get fitted out with some prescription glasses for my 'good eye only.' I waltz through Specsavers' door on The Avenue. I put the new 'magic specs' on. A real tear rolls down my cheek. I can see as clear as a bell. What a moment after three months of hell.

I skip down The Avenue whistling 'I Can See For Miles by The Who.' West Bridgford Conservative Club is deserted. I peer through the windows to make sure that arrogant tosser Dominic Cummings and his Tory chums haven't partaken in an illegal lock-in. I celebrate my short-sighted success with 8x cans of rocket fuel craft ale from the excellent Hopology beer shop on Melton Road.

I feel like throwing the new specs in the bin following numerous episodes of Emmerdale, Corrie and ITV stooping to an all-time low with The Real Full Monty on Ice. Thankfully, I have the run of the TV on Friday evening, as Ms Moon is on a social-distanced outing.

I race back from Tesco to watch Hull v Pompey - being a Lincoln City fan it's of great interest to me. I love a 50p bet for fun on the first goalscorer. Ex Imps legendary defender Sean Raggett is good value at 33/1. I'm just setting the bet up on the app when a corner comes sailing in and Raggett opens the scoring. I'm fuming folks - later it's announced it's an own goal  ... lol

A Facebook video catches my eye before bedtime. Well-travelled Notts Non-League legend, Ryan Perkins, is winding a few folk up on social media about a feisty local derby taking place on Sunday morning, on the banks of the Trent, between Meadows United and Poets Young Boys - book me in Ryan.

It's Saturday morning and I'm all excited for my first football fix of the weekend.I get a text from Radford manager Big Glenn Russell to say there's a pitch inspection. Undeterred, I pack my rucksack with a hat, gloves, water and a sandwich - today I'm a proper hopper. Selhurst Street, home to the Pheasants, is a four-mile walk away; there's no better way to blow away the cobwebs and it's a beautiful day too.

The journey to the ground takes me down Private Road in Mapperley Park. It's Millionaires' Row. I turn left up Mansfield Road and head towards Carrington. Folks form an orderly queue at the award-winning chippy, The Cod's Scallops. I head up Gregory Boulevard. Last time I walked here I had £1200 in my pocket following one of Roberto's charity games at Forest Recreation Ground. I wasn't 'arf relieved to hand the money over at The Grosvenor, an old Berni Inn, back in the day.

I pick up the pace up Radford Road, passing another abandoned pub called The Cricket Players. It's £5 on the gate. Big Glenn tells me to keep an eye on new signing 'Prince.' I ask if he wears a Raspberry Beret? I hook up with blog legend Mr John Harris and daughter Lucy's boyfriend, Tom, a cricketer in the Notts Premier League. John fishes some tuffees from out of his coat pocket. There's a choice of Fruit-tella or Double Dipped Chocolate Toffees. The PA announcer, shouting out the teams, does a cracking Norman Collier dropped microphone routine (one for the kids).

It's an FA Vase third round tie versus Westfields, who make the 230-mile round trip from Herefordshire. They race into an early two-goal lead, both Christmas gift-wrapped presents from Radford. At half-time the raffle numbers are shouted out. Tom, the jammy sod, has won a cider box set.

The visitors score a further three goals in the second half and are a class above. Big Glenn will be slinging his baseball cap to the ground in a fit of pique as the goals rain in. I text him later in the evening asking for a refund. The reply is not suitable for these pages.

I'm up and at 'em on Sunday morning. There's time for a coffee and a couple of slices of toasted fruit loaf before I bolt out of the door. It's a similar walk to last Sunday. I dash over London Road and pass The Embankment; it's one of my all-time favourite watering holes. 

I adore the walk down Victoria Embankment which was constructed between 1898 and 1901. I pass the Memorial Garden and War Memorial. In the distance, I can see acres of unused, green, open space, where once upon a time every football pitch would be booked up on a weekend.

The game is taking place on the far side behind the pavilion where back in the 1980s my slow medium-paced trundlers were dispatched back over my head and into orbit by Pakistani taxi drivers in the Notts Cricket Evening League.

I was down here a few years ago, enjoying a stroll, when I was approached by a chap walking two Doberman Pinschers. He asked me where the nearest toilets were. It was none other than ex NFFC striker Jason 'Pineapple Head' Lee. It was a surreal moment and his head was shaved too.

Ryan Perkins has done a helluva good job on social media promoting the game, as a healthy crowd, full of characters. approaching three figures, have pitched up. The Meadows has been a hotbed of footballing talent. Jermaine Pennant, Wes Morgan, Julian Bennett and the late, great Pedro Richards were brought up in the area.

I catch up with lots of folks on the touchline before joining 'Our Joe' and 'The Keyworth George Best.' (my two lads). 'Our Joe' has got the hump with me as I said not to put Lincoln on the coupon yesterday; we won 4-0.

 Ryan Perkins walks past the referee and shouts out "let's go to war ref.' It's an exciting game from the off, and played in a good spirit, with no malice. Everyone seems to enjoy it. Young Poets take an early lead but are pegged back to 2-2 just after half time. You just can't take your eye off the game and I'm taken aback at how good the standard is.

The referee is outstanding. He continually plays advantage and keeps his cards buttoned up in his back pocket. The players make it easy for him on both sides; they just want to play football. Perkins is comfortable on the ball and rarely gives it away. He puts a shift in too. Sadly, his team can't defend on the day and leave themselves wide open. Meadows equalise on two separate occasions but concede again twice within minutes.

Poets restore a two-goal advantage and see the game out comfortably. It's certainly whetted my appetite for more Sunday morning football. Next stop is Carlton Top Spot, a ten-minute walk from home. I can't 'arf pick 'em.

There's time to call in at the world's greatest off licence in Sneinton. I look forward to tucking into a few brews from Neon Raptor after a great morning out. 

Man of the Match: Ryan Perkins (your videos on FB make me laugh out loud)

Attendance: 90 headcount

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Keyworth United 1-3 Woodthorpe Park Rangers

I stretch out in my armchair, wearing just my underpants (sorry if you're reading this just after your tea). I feel like 'The Carlton Jim Royle' as I shout, swear and gesticulate at another dumb contestant on Tipping Point. I'm soaked to the skin. It rained like no tomorrow at Carlton Town's Stoke Lane ground. Despite being in possession of a massive golfing umbrella (thanks Keebo) for the entire 90 minutes of the game; we both resemble drowned rats as we dash back to the car. Carlton have been passed off the pitch by visitors Leek Town. Sticky's favourites 'Bally' and 'Clarky' were absent and sorely missed.

My spirits are lifted by another win for 'The Lincoln.' The Imps are fortuitous to have landed a great manager, coach and mentor in Michael Appleton. We headhunted him from the wilderness of West Bromwich Albion's Under 23s. He shipped out 20 odd players, replacing them with a younger squad who are hungry to succeed. We've climbed to the summit of League One as we approach the 'sacking season'. My worry is that a Championship owner will look to make a move for Appleton, who has previous for upping sticks and walking out.

It's been announced that Nottingham and some surrounding boroughs are to enter Tier 3 later in the week. I awake each morning to leaked news headlines on the BBC website that the plan for a back-pedaling Conservative government is an imminent national lockdown - at least it'll buy me some time for the QMC to sort out my dodgy 'mince pie' (detached retina   .... yes folks, that again). I can then start enjoying watching football again with two perfectly good eyes.

An extraordinary incident takes place on a back road in the village of Hotten, on Emmerdale Farm on Tuesday evening. I witness the whole sordid scene as I peer over my Kindle whilst reading Keith Gillespie's fast-paced autobiography. A blonde-haired lass, called Charity, has had a car accident. She exchanges contact details with the other driver, a random Glaswegian who's more incandescent with rage than former Nottingham Forest manager 'Wee Billy Davies.' They end up having some hanky-panky on the back seat of the car. Unbeknown to Charity, local hardman, Cain Dingle, is bound and gagged in the boot of the car - if you think 'Wee Billy' gets cross I can assure you that Cain can take it to another level. Having performed an escape act on par with the Hungarian, Harry Houdini, he attacks the Scotsman in Moira's kitchen with a crowbar.

I don't sleep too well that evening. Those Dingles aren't right in the head. I prefer the gentle pace of Coronation Street. Or at least I thought I did. Johnny, the landlord of the Rovers Return, has got himself into a right old two 'n eight. His old partner in crime has returned to the cobbled streets and is keen to forge links and plan one final robbery. Johnny bottles it after an MS attack and ends up grassing his pal to the local plod. The robbery at the Bistro is a botched attempt. The baddie, wearing a clown's mask, mows down the fat ginger copper, who usually frequents Chesney's kebab shop (actually he's lost some timber). I'll keep you posted folks. 

Radio 2 hasn't got much better this week as we both continue to work from home. The good news is that Ken Bruce and Jeremy Vine are both on annual leave. The bad news is 'Ooh Gary Davies' and Steve Wright are both on daytime shows. No doubt Vine will return next week, from half term, with a string of near-miss incidents to report where motorists have tried to knock him off his bicycle.

There's no midweek live football to report on. Evening kick offs have been canned until my next eye operation. I listen to Marseille v Manchester City on Five Live on Tuesday and the Marcus Rashford Show the following night - the lad can do wrong, blasting home a hat-trick in a whirlwind 16 minutes, after coming on as sub. 

It's Friday evening and the month-long National Lockdown rumours just won't go away. I log onto the Neon Raptor beer shop and order a couple of brand-spanking-new lockdown brews. I neck a few cans during the soaps as I scroll through my Twitter timeline. Tomorrow will be my last game for a while. It could be the last ever game that Keyworth United 1st team will play on their grass pitch too. 

I have a couple of slices of toast smothered in marmalade as I listen to Bananarama and U2's Adam Clayton on Dermot O'Leary's Saturday morning show. He plays 'Killing Moon' by Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen. I saw them back in their pomp, in the early 80s, at Nottingham's Rock City. Lead singer Ian McCulloch used to be as cool as Clough, as he chain-smoked his way through a set.

Ms Moon binge watches her way through a couple of episodes of Four in a Bed as I prep my blog and get ready for the afternoon ahead. We drive over Lady Bay Bridge as Paul Gambacinni plays Mad World by Tears For Fears - how apt. I saw them play at Rock City when they supported the Thompson Twins in 1982. There's sad breaking news on social media: James Bond actor, Sean Connery, has passed away, aged 90 years old.

We take a diversion to Morrisons in Gamston. The plan was to drop me in Keyworth, my old stomping ground, so I could have a walk around the old bus route which goes up Nottingham Road, onto Selby Lane, towards Willowbrook and down Nicker Hill (Millionaires' Row) where Frank Clark and Neil Webb used to live (not together). Incidentally, Leicester City manager, Brendan Rodgers, is a resident a mile or so away in Wysall and is often seen in the village Co-op. A torrential downpour of rain puts paid to any trip down memory lane.

The Reserves have been playing for half an hour or so and the score is 1-1. I have coached most of these boys. It's a community side who play in Notts Senior League Division 2. I managed a Keyworth development side in the same League a few seasons ago. We (Chris Thompson and I) packed it out with young guns, mostly from the village or had come through the youth system. I wanted to test them the season after by requesting to be placed in the league above. I asked the lads but they were uneasy about being out of their comfort zone. Winning at ease breeds complacency. You learn more about your players in defeat and in the face of adversity. The pace of the game is pedestrian as the Green Army limp over the finishing line 4-3, with a late rally from the visitors, despite being reduced to ten men.

The main event is on pitch one. I'm joined by KUFC chairman Chris Thompson, a diehard Sheffield Wednesday fan. There's a moral dilemma coming Sticky Palms' way next season. He might have to dance with the devil, with the news that KUFC will be playing on a 3G surface. I'll have to watch them away or sneak in for night games undercover.

Woodthorpe Park Rangers are today's visitors, a team that caught my eye last season when I saw them blow away Cotgrave Welfare. Sadly they are without their grand fromage and talisman, Markell Bailey, the best striker in the NSL We're joined by Dringy and Dafty, who turns 50 on Monday. I fish out a birthday card from my coat pocket. 'Jacko' and 'The Taxman' stroll across from the far side - Rule of six applied folks, for now.

Jacko loves a pint at his local. He's had to get creative to navigate around Tier 3 rules. He ordered gammon, egg, chips and peas the other night, with the chef given strict instructions to "take his chuffin' time." Rumour has it, he sent the plate back into the kitchen six times, as the egg wasn't runny enough. Six pints of Doombar later and he finally forked the final pea off his plate.

The Taxman is full of the joys of spring. He reminds me of Mr Barraclough, the prison officer from the BBC comedy series Porridge, such is his gentle demeanor. His outlook on NFFC's trip up to Middlesbrough is bleak - "Not even had a shot on target yet" he moans.

Woodthorpe have been peppering the Keyworth goal with shots. Two of them have the ball nestling in the bottom of the onion bag. The first is from a corner on the right-hand side. It hangs in the air and isn't dealt with. The second goal is, as youth say, a 'banger.' Woodthorpe are lightning on the break. a raking ball is played inside from the wing. It's touched from out of the player's feet before being blasted into the top corner from 22 yards out. It takes my breath away and is worthy of applause.

I check the half-times. Radford are winning in the West Midlands in the FA Vase. Dringy and I do a little jig of delight. The Millers of Carlton are also a goal to the good, up at Sheffield FC; the oldest existing club in the world. 'The Lincoln' are 1-0 down up at Donny.

Dringy keeps producing cans of Stella from out of his clothing. It's like he's got a wizard's sleeve. The visitors score another worldy. The game looks dead and buried. Keyworth pile on the pressure and pull one back following a great strike by Russell.

The best two players on the pitch are the two 7 jackets. Rangers' No.7 has ran the show for an hour but has run out of steam. 20-year-old Keyworth winger Callum Wolloch steps up to the plate. The Green Army get him on the ball. He beats his man, and a few more, time and time again. The boy can deliver too. 

The end of the game is frantic. Keyworth waste chances. The woodwork is struck and there's a goal-line clearance. Woodthorpe have a lad sent off and a couple sin-binned. 11 goals in an afternoon, eh? I can't 'arf pick 'em.

Attendance: Can't headcount with my 'mince pies'

Man of the Match: Sean Connery and the two 7 Jackets

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Carlton Town 1-2 Leek Town

Ms Moon drops me off, after the Hucknall game, on Mapperley Tops, close to where Freddie Mercury's sister lives - that's the word on the street. Former Liverpool and Notts County striker, Tony Hateley, (Dad to Mark) and the greatest wicketkeeper the world has ever seen, Chris Read, have resided up here at some point too.

I walk past The Woodthorpe Top, a 'Spoons I used to frequent until founder, Tim Martin, started spouting off. I open the front door of the spit and sawdust Castle Rock real ale house, Bread and Bitter. I check-in for track and trace and get seated in a booth, that is sealed off either side by large plastic screens. Castle Rock brew some lovely session ales. I down a pint of Elsie Mo, a name derived from its Low Colour Maris Otter malt. I finish off with a Citra Smash, from Lenton Lane Brewery, before calling a cab and heading home.

Sunday lunchtime is spent with the wee man, 'Bruiser', down the banks of the river, in the Trent Bridge area. We wander past County Hall towards the village of Wilford, crossing over the old toll bridge where south and north Notts are now connected by a tramline. Victoria Embankment is peaceful due to the road being closed to traffic. There is a sobering reminder of a time gone by as we stand in silence gazing at the Great War Memorial and the 13,501 names inscribed, including civilian casualties, who lost their lives over 100 years ago. 

Refreshment is required. We have a sandwich on the patio of Waterside Bar + Kitchen, observing the rule of six, Tier 2 restrictions. Nottingham has come under the COVID microscope since the return of students to the large universities in our city. Some of the blithering idiots aren't helping themselves by holding parties and blatantly flouting the laws. Later in the week, four students are fined a total of £40k, placing our city not only in the media spotlight but teetering on the brink of Tier 3. 

Ms Moon and I continue to work from home. It's particularly challenging being in the same room (working) as I haven't sorted out an office yet. We grapple over which DAB radio station we should listen to. We meet halfway with Radio 2 - it's an upgrade on Capital FM, Absolute 80s and TalkSport. It does have its downside. Steve Wright in the Afternoon is cringeworthy. Events take a turn for the worse. 'Silly Boi' is on his jollies and is replaced by Gary Davies. Older readers may remember GD from his days on Radio One in the 80s. Whilst New Wave and Indie music were exploding onto the scene and happening right under his snout (and let's face it, what a big 'un) Davies was playing Five Star, Womack and Womack and Milli Vanilli on his show.

There's no midweek football fix for Sticky. The floodlights dazzle my eyes and I can't see chuff all. And besides, I don't expect to be driving the car until next year at the earliest - this will come as a relief to the residents of Carlton, Keyworth and Ruddington. 

The first time I pop my head out of the door is on Thursday evening and what a special moment it is too. Ms Moon and I part company in Victoria Retail Park. Sticky keeps it real and visits Morrisons. Ms Moon legs it across to Marks and Sparks. Tears of joy stream down my face as four slices of haslet are sliced, wrapped and bagged at the butcher's counter for the princely sum of 55p. Add to that a box of Yorkshire Gold tea bags and four cans of Northern Monk craft ale for £6. I skip back to the car beaming from ear to ear.

Three hours later I'm in the depths of despair and at my lowest ebb. The good lady has flicked over to ITV. The worst presenter in living memory, Philip Schofield, is hosting a load of twaddle called The Cube. Blog regular, Mr John Harris, nails it good and proper on his Twitter timeline, saying it's 'torture' and calling out ITV for 'scraping the barrel.' I head to bed to listen to Celtic v Inter Milan on Five Live.

I've put a decent shift in at work this week, with my half an eye, (stop going on about it). I've pencilled something into the diary on Friday morning at 11am. It's non-work-related but a matter of life and death. With Tier 3 on the horizon and all wets pubs about to close, I log onto Neon Raptor's Beer Shop and order a mixed case and a new glass - it should see me out for a week.

Today is 'We Hate D***y Day' in our fair city. A beer-fuelled Sticky switches on after Corrie. 'Cocu's Clowns' begin to get the upper hand and take the lead with an excellent free-kick from Waghorn. One of Danny Cowley's old lads, Lyle Taylor, opens his account for the Tricky Trees. He gives a great interview after the game, explaining why he has pink hair and the tireless, voluntary work he does for cancer charities. 

Marcus Rashford has run the Tories and Paris St Germain ragged this week. The buffoon of an MP for Tory held Mansfield (did I really say that? #BREXIT) has proper put his foot in it with a massive Twitter faux pas and is now backpedaling quicker than the PSG defence on Tuesday evening. Non-League has embraced the campaign and are hurriedly organising Food Bank collections for this afternoon's fixtures, as it's half-term next week. 

Carlton Town Football Club, as expected, step up to the plate. They ask for donations from supporters. It's where socialism comes to the fore. A good friend, sunning himself in Spain, messages me on Twitter to make a pledge. Ms Moon very kindly pops to the supermarket where she fills up three bags with emergency supplies.

I pull up my armchair to about five metres from the TV screen on Saturday lunchtime, so I can view 'The Irons' v 'The Citizens,' Ex NFFC forward, Michail Antonio, scores a spectacular bicycle kick to give West Ham a deserved lead. 'Citeh' send on the ace up their sleeve, 'The Stockport Iniesta' {Phil Foden). He looks a proper 'rum 'un; well he was in Iceland. His impact on the game is instant, scoring a cracking goal on 51 minutes. His movement and intelligence keep me on the edge of my seat. Southgate needs to forgive and forget.

Carlton Town's ground is a 25-minute walk from our crib. Black clouds are rolling in, with the forecast set for torrential rain. I double-check that the 'golfing' umbrella is in the back of Ms Moon's Fiat 500 with the go-faster Italian stripes.

Because of the short journey we've only got time for one toon from Radio 2's Pick of the Pops. Would you Adam 'n Eve it, when Milli Vanilli pipe up with 'Girl You Know It's True'. I ask Ms Moon if Gary Davies is sitting in for Paul Gambacinni?

We park off Stoke Lane, just over the railway crossings. We lug the three bags of shopping over the road. It's £9 on the gate and £2 for a couple of raffle tickets. We put our masks on before venturing into the clubhouse to drop the food off. The DJ is playing the best set on the Non-League circuit. Today's bands include: The Jesus and Mary Chain, The House of Love and The Mission - Gary Davies won't have heard of any of 'em.

We stand over the far side of the ground. Ms Moon is unfamiliar with the Carlton team as I often slope off down Stoke Lane for evening games whilst the Soaps are on. She's fully briefed on my love for and obsession with 'Clarky' and 'Bally' - sadly both are missing today. 

The heavens open as the referee blows his whistle to kick off proceedings. There's not much in it early doors as the game settles down,  Opoku opens the scoring for the Millers with a left foot swinger that the defender should have blocked. The visiting 'keeper doesn't move.

The conditions deteriorate as the rain becomes relentless. We're pretty much the only people stood on the far side of the ground as supporters scurry towards the stands like drowned rats. Leek look dangerous going forward. I suggest to Ms Moon we stay where we are for the second half, as we stand in six inches of water. She fishes a pair of armbands and a snorkel from out of her handbag.

Leek are magnificent in the second half, playing some scintillating footy on a boggy, and in patches, waterlogged surface. The equaliser is a well-crafted goal. Their 11 jacket is running the show down our side. He whips in a corner that is nodded home. Ms Moon says rainwater is dripping from my eyes. I burst into tears. "How can we win the game without Oliver Clark"? I blubber. 'The Carlton Cattermole' would love an aqua-plane tackle on this surface. 

We slope off a few minutes before the final whistle, soaked to the skin with footwear squelching and overflowing in rainwater. I can't 'arf pick 'em.

Attendance: 163 (I salute you all)

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Hucknall Town 0-1 Heanor Town

I can't describe how much the day out in Radford with Dringy and Craig has lifted my spirits. Big Glenn is beaming from ear to ear as we exit the clubhouse and dash across Radford Road to the nearest tram stop, close to Hyson Green Asda. We alight the tram in Hockley and call by The Curious Tavern, a pub situated in the oldest hotel in Nottingham, now called Mercure, previously known as the George Hotel, where Notts County's Committee and Officers were elected in 1864.

The service in this place is usually an omnishambles. I've had the misfortune, in the past, when with Ms Moon after a few hours relaxation at Broadway Cinema, to get stuck behind a hen party (remember them?) who are ordering about 16x cocktails which will take about two hours to make and shake. Bar staff are having to earn their corn these days, dashing about the place, continental style, with table service only. Our barman is as miserable as sin. We give him the run around with a few rounds of craft ales before heading down to Sneinton Market and it's 'Creative 'Quarter.

I want to show off the UK's Number One taproom to Dringy and Craig. There's no room inside at Neon Raptor but we do manage to grab the last table outside. We finish off on an 8% double Indian pale ale (us hipsters call it DIPA  ... lol). It's goodnight Vienna and lights out for Sticky Palms on arrival back at HQ.

We have breakfast, on Sunday, up at Copper Mapperley, close to one of my favourite haunts, Castle Rock's Bread and Bitter. The plan was to blow away the cobwebs up at Gedling Country Park, but I'm feeling a tad delicate. I make an excuse that my eye is hurting (it's a hangover). I remain rooted in my armchair for the rest of the day, writing the Radford blog. 

It's 8am on Monday and I'm slumped in the back of DG taxi which is fighting its way through the congested roads of Nottingham city centre in rush hour. The taxi takes a familiar path I've become accustomed to over the last five weeks. I settle up with the driver outside the main doors of the QMC's Eye Clinic.

There's the usual comedy eye test with the nurse, where I laugh out loud that I'm unable to see any letters on the board. Today is different though; I can actually see the first three lines. For any new readers, I've had a detached retina and four large tears. I'm called in to see the consultant. My stomach churns as he shines a torch into my eye. It's good news, the retina is still attached. They want to see me in two months' time, when hopefully they'll drain all the silicone oils, sitting behind an air bubble, that protects and heals the retina. My sight should then, fingers crossed, start to improve.

It's no Blue Monday at our crib. I celebrate the good news about the dodgy 'mince pie' with a couple of tinnies. It's looking bleak for Paddy the vet on Emmerdale Farm. His missus, Chas, is playing away, and I don't mean for the Hotton Ladies' team. Serves Paddy right. Didn't he do the dirty with a lass he met on the school run? Anyhow, he's batting well above his league.

Carlton Town v Stamford AFC is the nearest game to me within walking distance on Tuesday evening. Because I've got two cataracts (stop going on about your eyes Sticky) and the aforementioned retina issue, I really struggle with the floodlights shining in my eyes. The choice is: the match with impaired vision or that big wet blanket, Paddy the vet on the Farm shedding a few tears.

I wander down Burton Road past the Blacks Head and Old Volunteer. I've already had a chippy tea from Oceans Fish Bar on Carlton Rd. I walk by Apollo Fish Bar, at the bottom of Carlton, on the border of Gedling. I notice a queue that snakes around the corner. It's definitely one for the notebook the next time the Millers are at home.

There's a feel-good-factor down at Carlton Town. I check-in with track and trace, part with £9 on the gate and buy a raffle ticket with the change. I arrive early so I can tap my feet to the best Non-League playlist on earth that includes The Fall, Killing Joke and The Smiths.

The football is to die for too and is played at a fast and furious pace. Carlton take the lead following great work by Niall Davie down the left. What a moment it is for the 17-year-old winger, Joel Daft, who taps the ball home at the far post to notch his first senior goal.

The second half is one-sided with an experienced Stamford side swarming all over the Millers. They hang on for dear life until the visitors draw level 13 minutes from time. The young Carlton side see the game out, to gain a valuable point, following heroic, resolute defending, by Martin Ball and Toby Moore in particular.

It's official, Nottingham has the fastest-growing infection rate of COVID-19 in England. Students at the University are copping the flak for it. To cheer up all us proper Nottingham folk, Banksy, the street graffiti artist, pays our city a fleeting visit. His/Her latest piece shows a girl hula-hooping a bicycle tyre in the student area of Lenton. 

It's Saturday morning and Sticky Palms' Cleaning Services are running at full power. The highlight of the previous evening was a fridge raid down at Neon Raptor, with Nottingham on the brink of Tier 3. Ms Moon has a full schedule today, but still very kindly runs me over to Hucknall in her Fiat complete with Italian go-faster stripes.

I can see a bald gentleman, wearing a Harrington jacket, necking a dark beer whilst sat at an outside table at Hucknall's Station Hotel. It's a place that holds fond memories for me when I 'worked' in the offices at nearby Linby Colliery from 1982-1985.

Tony McDonald is a Keyworth and Hucknall legend and today he's making his blog debut. I enjoy a pint of Longbow from the Lincoln Green Brewery - it's a beauty - as Mac and I chew over the cud. There's time for another swift one before we make the 25-minute walk down memory lane.

We cross over where the Byron Cinema used to be and head up the High Street with the depressing sight of abandoned pubs. We swing left onto Watnall Road past the Green Dragon where I used to pot a few in my wasted youth. Mac points at the Co-op further up the road on the left. "That was The Flying Bedstead, Sticky." 

It's £5 on the gate. Mac very kindly pays me in. There's time to visit the little boys' room before we take our position further up from the dugouts. Someone up the line shouts "hello Sticky." It's John Harris and wife Jackie. 

The first half is dire and a poor advert for Step 6 football. Attention turns to what Mr and Mrs Harris are having for tea this evening. There has been a faux pas on the food front. Wife Jackie has picked up a fish pie from Sainsbury's 'finest range' only to be told by daughter Lucy, who has invited her parents round for lunch tomorrow, that she is rustling up, yes you've guessed it, a homemade fish pie.

Just shy of 250 folk have rocked up at Watnall Road today. That's some pulling power for this level of football. It's also a good opportunity to cover off payments and expenses for the three officials with a raffle or 50/50 draw - sadly there's no evidence of either (could be COVID related).

Nottingham Forest captain Joe Worrall is a Hucknall lad. I remember seeing his swan song for Hucknall Sports Under 12s in a cup final up at Clipstone Colliery's ground before he signed for the Tricky Trees. I stood that evening with my boss at Notts County, Mick Leonard when I scouted for the Pies. The lad could tackle and head for fun. Forest could do with his passion and leadership right now.

The second half picks up a wee bit, particularly for Hucknall. There are a succession of corners and crosses flying into the Heanor box, but they fail to convert their chances. The inevitable happens and even I have a bird's eye view of it with my dodgy 'mince pie.' Lewis Weaver, who has been marginally flagged offside a few times, beats a high line and offside trap. He races down the right flank, cuts inside, ignores an unmarked colleague before firing a shot into the bottom corner of the net - Sticky Palms doesn't do 0-0s.

The final whistle is blown. Hucknall are worth a point but have been wasteful in front of goal. A drunken home fan, worse for wear, hasn't taken kindly to defeat. He bad mouths the Hucknall manager who wants to front him up. It's a sour ending to the afternoon's proceedings.

Attendance: 248

Man of the Match: Tony 'Dogman' McDonald

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Radford 3-3 Ollerton Town (Raddy Win 4-3 on Pens)

It's Sunday 6th September and I'm at Woodthorpe Hospital, two miles outside Nottingham city centre, for what should be a routine cataract operation on my left eye. I've become concerned about the sight in my other eye, which also has a cataract. I ask the Consultant to check it. I'm immediately carted off to Eye Casualty at the Queen's Medical Centre University Hospital in Nottingham. There, I'm met by a grim-faced doctor who says I might not be able to regain my sight.  I have a detached retina with four large tears. I put on a brave face for a distraught Ms Moon. I sit silently in my armchair, for the remainder of the day, gazing out of the window, thinking about what lies ahead and what the future holds.

I go under the surgeon's knife first thing on Tuesday morning. The operation is called a vitrectomy and is complicated. Silicone oils are injected around the retina and are protected by an air bubble. I wake up feeling groggy. I hang around a side room for a few hours of recovery before being discharged. I feel like I've been hit by a bus.

I've been told to posture for 50 minutes every hour, ten hours a day, for the next two weeks. We order some equipment where I put my head down a hole and have to keep still. It's mentally challenging, soul-destroying and deadly boring, but an important part of the recovery process. I thank the Lord for the mindfulness classes I attended a few years ago - my positive thoughts keep me upbeat.

I take a turn for the worse on Saturday evening. My head feels like it's having a hemorrhage and my eyes are dripping blood. I'm rushed into Eye Casualty. My eye pressure is off the scale. An on-call doctor arrives from his Beeston home and doubles my dosage.

Ms Moon has been by my side (and has been my rock) for every second of this sorry saga. She administers all the eyedrops and dishes out all the bollockings when morale hits a low. She has a well-deserved short break near to the east coast as I'm ferried up to my brother's crib in York, for a few nights away. Even with only 40% vision in the other eye I still manage to spot England Test bowler 'Fiery' Fred Trueman's grave in the churchyard at Bolton Abbey - I can't 'arf pick 'em. 

Fast forward the clock a few weeks and I'm up at Plains Road in Mapperley. Two of my favourite sides: Gedling Miners' Welfare and Radford are crossing swords. I can't see a lot, to be honest. Vision is blurry; it's like opening your eyes when you are swimming underwater.

I walk past the Radford dugout. 'Big Glenn' pops his head out and is as nice as pie with Ms Moon. "And how are you, you four-eyed t**t?" he says to me - it's a back-handed compliment, I think. His young Radford side, a work in progress, are magnificent in the first half and are 2-0 up at the break. Ms Moon pops across the road for a coffee with her bestie Jill, leaving 'Stevie Wonder' to fend for himself. 

It's backs to the wall for the Pheasants, in the second half, as they are pinned back by a rejuvenated Miners. Gedling claw a goal back as Radford hang on for dear life. They are in debt to Club stalwart Matt Hopewell who puts his body on the line, bravely blocking a certain goal with his head and face. He's dazed, dizzy and requiring treatment. I love Matt. He's not one of those lads who ups sticks at the end of each season, drifting from club to club. He'd be my first name on the team sheet if I was the gaffer.

I hook up with The Taxman at Carlton Town's Stoke Lane ground on Tuesday evening. It's for the best as there's a double helping of Emmerdale Farm on the box. It's six months since I've seen The Taxman. He moans about the plight of Nottingham Forest for most of the evening. 

The Millers are a joy to watch these days. They wipe the floor with Wisbech Town, playing some beautiful fast-flowing football. Well, I think they did, as I couldn't see chuff all out my battered black eye. The visitors couldn't cope with the pace and power of 9 jacket Aaron Opoku. Sticky's favourite, Oliver Clark, ('The Carlton Cattermole') bagged again, keeping him on track for the Golden Boot. 

It's Friday evening and I'm sat in the armchair supping a few strong craft ales I purchased from Hopology, on Melton Road, in 'Bread 'n Lard Island.' Six Barrels is my usual haunt on a Friday teatime with my old sparring partner Tony 'Dog' Mcdonald. But I've a big day out set up for tomorrow with Matt Dring and Craig Farina, in town, prior to the FA Vase encounter between Radford and Ollerton in inner-city Nottingham. It's lights out for Sticky straight after Gogglebox.

Ms Moon has fired up the grill as I traipse downstairs. I sink a strong, half-filled cup of coffee before hoovering up two crispy smoked bacon sandwiches, smothered in soft blue cheese. It's a faff getting into town these days as Canal Street has been shut permanently. Nottingham is also under the microscope as cases of COVID this week have soared, particularly in the student community, where 75% of all cases have been recorded.

I jump out of the car on Friar Lane. I wander past Cafe Sobar; I won't be popping in there anytime soon.  'Dringy' and Craig are already tucking into some ales. I shout up a New Dawn Pale from the Navigation Brewery as I relive my eye horror story for the umpteenth time (you're getting boring now Sticky).

We have been enjoying some 80s music on the pub dukey; particularly Big Country. The big sports screens are turned on and the volume is ramped up - it's chuffin' egg-chasing and time for a sharp exit. We get masked up and jump on a tram in the Old Market Square. We're so fascinated by the buildings we pass that we miss our stop; alighting in Basford rather than on Radford Road. A tram is coming in the opposite direction. We dash across the tracks, avoiding getting knocked down like Alan Bradley did in Corrie a few decades ago when he was hunting down Rita Fairclough or whatever her name was, in Blackpool.

Radford is one of my favourite areas in Nottingham. It has an unfair and unjust reputation. I have met nothing other than good people during my frequent trips here in the last 15 years of groundhopping. Radford FC's Selhurst Street is a ground to die for. It's £5 on the gate. We do a circuit of the ground. I can see the lads are impressed.

Big Glenn is loitering outside the clubhouse. He clocks I'm wearing sunglasses. He roars "Here he is, Lennie Peters", a reference to the blind singer from the duo Peters and Lee, an Opportunity Knocks act from the 70s TV talent show. He says he's sick of reading about pubs and fish and chip shops in my blog and is there any chance he can have some credit and a good write up. "It's not about you Glenn, and anyway I'm one of the few people in Notts who actually likes you" I reply as I step on the gas.

Ollerton are highly-rated and will fancy their chances as they are talked up on social media. It's a no show from them in the first half. They look jittery, listless and disjointed. Radford race into a two-goal lead. The first to hit the onion bag is a beauty by 18-year-old winger Buba Ceesay, who turns the full-back inside out before unleashing a shot which gives 'keeper Levi Owen no chance. The fast feet of Mamoke Akauna sees Radford double their lead. Ollerton hit the post as the half draws to a close. I catch Big Glenn close to the tunnel area and remind him that they were two the good this time last week.

We ask Levi in the Ollerton nets what was said in the changing room at half-time. "I'm just relieved to be out here", he smirks. The inevitable happens. Ollerton restore parity with 20 minutes remaining. They start to show what all the hype is about. They take the lead on 78 minutes following some fantastic play on the flank, which results in a floated cross to the back post that isn't dealt with.

I try not to catch Big Glenn's eye as I sneak past the dugout. I've been a proper Jonah over the years. If he clocks me I'll get booted out of the ground. There's one minute remaining when the referee awards a corner. Another of Sticky's favourites, Joe Meakin, sends in a peach of a dead ball, 'keeper Joe Searson-Smithard has raced up into the area, he leaps like a salmon to nod the ball home, before racing to the crowd to celebrate. It's a beautiful, heart-warming moment that ends a breathtaking game.

We're back in the bar refilling our glasses whilst the referee sorts out the spot-kicks. You have to feel for Levi Owen who saves a penalty but is flagged by an eagle-eyed assistant for coming off his line - it was marginal and appears a tad harsh. Ollerton's fifth penalty is skied over the bar and lands in Asda car park on Radford Road.

We enjoy a drink with the Big 'Un in the bar again. "You can bring these two lads again Sticky" says Glenn. We jump on the tram back into town, partaking in a few scoops in The Curious Tavern, before I introduce the lads to the delights of Neon Raptor in Sneinton Market and its outside drinking area. I can't 'arf pick em.

I jump in a cab after a 8% finisher and ring up Ms Moon. "Princess can you put on 'Welcome Home' by Peters and Lee on the YouTube dukey, please" 

Attendance: 115

Men of the Match: Big Glenn, Dringy and Craig - proper lifted my spirits, lads.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Out of Action

 Recovering from an eye operation. On the sidelines for a few weeks more. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Carlton Town 1-1 Loughborough University

An extraordinary afternoon has been spent in the Manchester suburb of Whalley Range, a two-minute drive away from Moss Side. We have witnessed our first-ever 'live and exclusive' fly-tipping incident, 15 minutes into the game. I'm still chuckling away to myself as we shoot down the M60, jumping onto the M56 towards the Cheshire town of Knutsford, which forms part of the 'Golden Triangle' that includes Wilmslow and Alderley Edge - where the reality TV show 'Real Housewives of Cheshire' is filmed - don't start me off!

We check-in at the Rose and Crown, a beamed and panelled 17th Century inn. Ms Moon is on the bubbles in the cosy, warm bar. No real ales take my fancy. I shout up a BrewDog Punk IPA, which I've not tasted in years. 'The Princess' takes a stroll around the narrow streets of this quaint town, whilst I hunt down another bar. I sniff out a craft beer taproom, tucked away on a back street, called Project 53. I quaff a Mobberley Brewhouse ale called Illuminate, which goes down a treat at 6.2% abv.

Ms Moon and I are reunited on the upstairs, open terrace at the impressive Wine and Wallop bar. I sink a couple of Jesters from Oakham Ales, in Leicestershire. We spend the rest of the evening eating tapas and drinking wine at Evuna, a Spanish Restaurant.

There's the usual din and noise associated with sleeping upstairs above a pub. Folk are shouting and yawping in the early hours, on the terrace, which sits level to our bedroom window. The night porter gets a proper rollocking off Sticky Palms, as the perpetrators slink off into the night.

A full English breakfast and strong coffee is enjoyed the following morning. We check-out and head up to Tatton Park, a National Trust owned estate. We won't be enjoying the 50 acres of landscaped gardens because of a faux pas by Sticky Palms - how was I supposed to know you had to book a separate ticket? I wouldn't mind, but we're NT members, and the cheeky sods still had the audacity to fleece us of £7 to park the car.

The best part of the day comes with a surprise visit to my Godparents, who I haven't seen since my father passed over 20 years ago. They are overwhelmed to see us, as we enjoy coffee and biscuits on the patio in their beautiful back garden. My godfather, Tony, was a journalist on the Daily Express and Daily Star for over 40 years and is also a massive Man City and Lincoln City fan too.

It's Tuesday tea-time and deja vu. It's Pizza Express, in West Bridgford once again, but this time with my eldest lad, 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' - who has been in free-scoring form during pre-season. I wander down 'The Embankment', again, admiring the prowess and strength of the rowers who are heading west down the Trent.

I make the short three-mile trip up the A60, through town. I turn left onto Gregory Boulevard, driving past Forest Recreation Ground, where Goose Fair is held each year (but not this October). Tonight, the large, green, open space is alive and kicking with people of all cultures, enjoying games of small-sided football. I park up in Asda, Hyson Green, on Radford Road, an exciting, multi-cultural area of the city

I wait for a tram to pass by before crossing the road onto Selhurst Street. I absolutely adore Radford's ground. The terraced housing. Refurbished clubhouse. The programme shop. It smells of football. The people are for real too and no holds barred. Talking of which, I catch the eye of Pheasants' manager Big Glenn Russell who is seated by the bar. I'm 'called into the office.' He seems a bit subdued and distant at first; maybe it's pre-match nerves, as there's a lot at stake if you win this FA Cup extra qualifying round - £1,125 to be precise.

I stroll around the ground, saying hello to one or two folk(s) I come across. I stand with John Harris and wife Jackie - it's a no show from their daughter, Lucy, who is preparing for her first day back at school, as a teacher, since March. John's always good for a few strawberry bonbons.

Shepshed Dynamo are tonight's visitors - another club I'm really fond of. They are well represented by their away following. Radford are confident of breaking the 200 attendance this evening. The first 45 minutes takes my breath away. Dynamo's pocket rocket, Reece Morris, is causing havoc for the home defence. He scores a well-deserved goal. Radford are rapid on the counterattack. 18-year-old debutant, Buba Ceesay, sprints 75 yards, to latch onto a cross. He keeps his composure and finishes superbly.

The second half is scrappy. The visitors hold their heads in their hands as golden chances go begging the wrong side of the post. Radford see a point-blank header skim the top of the net. With no extra time, it's straight down to penalties. The young Radford winger telegraphs his spot-kick. Brennan, for Shepshed, hits a feeble attempt straight at the 'keeper. Radford miss another penalty and bow out of the competition. It's been an end to end game. Radford can count themselves unlucky to lose out on spot-kicks, having pushed Step 5 Shepshed all the way.

I have my second FA Cup pre-match walk of the week on Wednesday. Colwick Park is tonight's venue. Accompanied by my 'golfing' umbrella, I stretch my legs for an hour or so, with it teeming down with rain. I return to HQ and dash down a cut-through onto Carlton Road. It's a chippy tea at Oceans. I hoover up a 'fish special' before the five-minute drive down to Stoke Lane.

Carlton Town are playing Loughborough University students. There's an added interest to the tie with TalkSport Breakfast following the away team's fortunes. There's a queue of 20-30 folk snaking back from the turnstile. A club official, complete with a clipboard, collects the track and trace details to get the queue moving. It's £9 on the gate to watch my local team.

Carlton is a town two miles east of Nottingham city centre. It has a population of 6,881. Well known people from the area include the late, great actor Richard Beckinsale of Porridge and Rising Damp fame and the boxer Carl Froch, whose mother was a landlady at Elwes Arms, a ten-minute walk from my crib - credit SonofHicks1 on twitter for that gem.

A crowd of just under 200 have turned out, on an overcast but dry evening, now the rain clouds have blown away. There has been real excitement and a great vibe about the place since Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey returned as Management. They have invested in youth, energy and legs, and last season it returned dividends until action was curtailed in March due to COVID.

The signing, last year, of Dunkirk crowd favourite, Oliver Clark, caught my eye. I've followed the 21 year old's progress for some time now. He can be a tough and uncompromising opponent to play against, as he snaps in the tackle, picks up the seconds and wins headers for fun - not forgetting his running off at the mouth which eventually wears down the official into brandishing a yellow card. He's had more bookings than Lee Cattermole. Having sponsored Gedling MW and Radford in recent years I've decided to sponsor 'The Carlton Cattermole' for the 2020/2021 season.

The students are fast out of the blocks. They sweep forward at a rate of knots and fully deserve to take the lead after a misplaced backpass falls short of the 'keeper. There's a sickening collision of heads for two of the visiting players with 'claret' pouring out of head and mouth wounds. Both players require hospital treatment. In another twist of fate, the Students make a third and final substitution due to injury before the half-time whistle.

The Millers are lacklustre and can barely string two passes together. Tommy and Mark will be getting stuck into them. One thing for sure is, that they won't just roll over and die. Carlton Town's DJ has the best playlist in the East Midlands. Tonight we're treated to a couple of tracks from Manchester's The Fall - not to be confused with the Netflix series about a serial killer in Northern Ireland which is currently causing Ms Moon a few sleepless nights.

The second half is littered with fouls, breaks in play and sub-standard refereeing. Carlton up the tempo but can't find that elusive final ball. Loughborough are dangerous on the break; seeing an effort bounce off the woodwork. The breakthrough comes for Carlton on 75 minutes. Niall Davie has been impressive since he switched flanks. He takes an inswinging corner that sails into the visitors' penalty box, it's met with a towering header from Clark, that hits the back of the net. Proud sponsor Sticky Palms raises a clenched fist as 'The Carlton Cattermole' sprints toward him in celebration, sheer relief and joy.

The game turns on a sixpence. Maddison finds his passing range, Davie skips past his full-back and a rejuvenated Clark eats up the ground with boundless energy; marshalling the midfield at such a tender, young age. His Dunkirk spirit, instilled as a junior for the Boatmen, refuses to accept defeat.

The tide turns again as Carlton are reduced to ten men with Dan Brown taking one for the team. The resulting free-kick crashes against the goal frame. Carlton are gung-ho in an incredible final passage of play. Loughborough prise them open. Steggles races off his line to block bravely. They hit the woodwork again. The referee blows the final whistle. For the second time in 24 hours, it's penalties again.

I've been chatting to a couple of lads who are trying to visit all 92 League grounds. Due to COVID they've turned their attention to the Non-League scene. "You'll never look back lads. The game at this level will pull at your heartstrings."

Jack Steggles is in the nets for Carlton. He's full of beans and the joker in the pack. There's no doubt in my mind that he's the man for the occasion; a showman. He saves two penalties to leave the skipper Tom Maddison, a lad who I blogged for Keyworth United Res over a decade ago, to blast home the winning penalty to put Carlton in the next round of the Cup away to Oadby Town, where they'll fancy their chances.

Attendance: 186

Man of the Match: Jack Steggles

Photo credits. Thank you to PA Media, Radford FC, Steve Mack, Lou Lardi and Carlton Town FC