Sunday, March 29, 2020

Neon Raptor 30-0 Covid-19

I sing for most of the day on Sunday, 'Every Day is Like Sunday' by Manchester-born singer Morrissey. Ms Moon and I enjoy our social distance walk at Gedling Country Park, high up on the old colliery spoil heap. The village of Gedling is just a couple of miles down the road from us. I've many happy memories of playing cricket here in the early 80s. The two teams, post-match, socialised together superbly at The Willowbrook Club on Main Road - which always reminded me of Arthur Daley's and Terry McCann's local, The Winchester Club, in Minder.

Back in those days professional footballers played cricket when it was out of season. Former Chelsea and Mansfield Town 'keeper Kevin Hitchcock played for Keyworth. It always lifted your spirits when 'Hitchy' was in the team. He was an incredible batsman and phenomenal in the field. Gedling had a couple of footballers too. One was Steve Burke who was tipped for the very top at NFFC. He ended up with 156 League appearances, mostly for QPR and Doncaster Rovers. 'Burkie' was great fun in the pub after a game, and never took himself too seriously. The other lad was Steve Hodge, who always kept his distance and seemed painfully shy. He famously ended up with Maradona's shirt after the 'Hand of God' incident in the 1986 Mexico World Cup quarter-final. His autobiography is a great read too. Ironically The Willowbrook is now on one of my Sunday lunchtime rat runs.

Bad news arrives from Trumpy Towers on Tuesday morning. Blog legend Trumpy Bolton has been 'Furloughed.' With all pubs shut and no work for the foreseeable, it's going to be a long Spring for our man south of the river. We exchange a few 'are you okay?' texts before I throw caution to the wind and phone him up. He says being off work does have its benefits, at least he doesn't have to listen to 'Jim 't**t White.' He is quite cross that Rylan Clark-Neal is 'on everything' - he recently announced that Rylan was in his top 5 pet hates. The Boltons were meant to be 'sunning' themselves (drinking) in Lanzarote this week, but Covid-19 has put the kibosh on that. Place in the Sun and Wish You Were Here are off-limits on the TV schedule. Trumpy signs off with "got to go chap, it's the bidding stage on Bargain Hunt."

Christ on a bike, I'm having to work from home. My company has taken the decision to close our offices until further notice. I'm climbing the walls folks. A few deals drop out due to Covid-19. We have early morning Team calls, in an effort to lift morale. It's great to hear the voices and see my colleagues. They are spared a look at 'the perfect face for radio' as my laptop camera isn't working - I'm surprised the Chinese lads forgot to put one in on the Dell production line.

I'm not really a big fan of TalkSport, but Max Rushden and Hawksbee and Jacobs have been great value all week. Max Rushden even got Forest skipper Joe Worrall to read out 'The Hungry Caterpillar' live on air - well-played Joe. Paul Hawksbee has a razor-sharp wit that always makes me chuckle. They replay some of the clips from the recent World Cups in Brazil and Russia - it's comedy gold.

It's Thursday tea-time and it's been another tough time of coping with lone-working. I promise myself a treat at the end of each day, whether it's the one hour walk permitted by CV19 victim Boris Johnson or a can of Neon Raptor to get me through Emmerdale Farm or Tipping Point, on catch up. I pick up a coat, lace-up the old faithful black and white striped Adidas Samba trainers (the ones your old PE teacher used to wear) before sliding open the French window door and heading down to Carlton Square.

Netherfield is a ghost town - it's probably for the best. I like some of the touches on the high street when you actually bother to look around your surroundings. The War Memorial, the soldier and poppies stop me in my tracks and bring a lump to my throat. A mate called Jim Henry reminds me on Facebook that he saw plenty of action in a flat where he lived above Graham Reeds on Victoria Rd (now Hawk Cycles). Sadly it wasn't watching his beloved Scotland in the World Cup finals as they failed to qualify.

I end up on Victoria Retail Park. I had hoped that DIY stores were open. I find a staff member leaning against a stack of empty pallets, basking in the sunshine. "Click and collect for essential items only, love" is the response I get when asked if they're open. "I need some moss killer," I reply. She gets all stroppy "Sir, that isn't really essential is it?" "It bloody well is, my grass is dying on its arse" I remark as I slope off to the Marks and Spencer Food Hall (Jitz Jani's favourite store).

It's Friday morning and I'm so depressed folks. I'd normally be meeting Ms Moon for a few tea-time scoops. The good lady would then be watching that spiv Eric Pollard and the lads and lasses from 'The Farm' whilst I sunk a couple more rocket fuel ales in Neon Raptor, the best taproom in the world.

There's a knock at the door. My heart races ten to the dozen. It'll be Jeff Brazier from the People's Postcard Lottery waving a big fat £30k cheque. I'm shaking as I unlock the door, the surprise is bigger than expected. It's 30x cans of Neon Raptor craft ale. I ask the APC courier driver if I can kiss him. He declines and asks for my name. "How about an 'Elbow Tap?" but he's not having that either.

I cradle the two boxes of ales for most of the day, kissing a few cans occasionally. I listen to the hysterical calls on the Jeremy Vine Show. Vine stokes up the fires of the Daily Mail readers, who flood his phone lines. He either talks about his cycle ride into work and his contempt for car drivers or brags about £40 haircuts. Old Ted, God rest his soul, from City Barbers on Market Street in Nottingham will be turning in his grave. He cut (butchered) Roy Keane's mop a few days before the League Cup final in 1992 v Man Utd, for £2.50 - it went down as the worst trim in history. To cheer us all up Vine plays 'How Soon is Now?' by The Smiths.

All the days morph into one another, but at least I can spend some time with 'The Princess' at the weekend. I scarify the lawn 4x times in two days, tearing up all the moss (minus killer). We walk to the retail park and back, buying a few snacks from Marks' Food Hall. I post a couple of lip-syncing videos for a gag on social media. I watch a few more episodes of The Test on Amazon. The Nest on BBC i-Player has been recommended too and is set in Glasgow. It feels like Christmas, but without the fun and family.

Man of the Match: APC Courier

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Boris Johnson 2-1 Trumpy Bolton

It's Friday evening. A ruddy-faced man, driving a pick-up truck, switches off the radio after listening to his hero, Boris Johnson, give his daily media briefing. He's shaking with rage and feeling betrayed as he reverses his truck close to a beer cellar trapdoor. Not only has the British Prime Minster taken away his love of watching the beautiful game that Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City play, but has now delivered a further, devastating hammer blow.

That blithering toff, Johnson, has announced that all pubs and restaurants will have to close for business at midnight until further notice. Imagine absorbing that information when your life revolves around taking your missus away to watch footy each weekend and tick off pubs you've never frequented before (one or two folk fall into that category, Sticky).

'True Blue' Trumpy Bolton barges his way through the front door of the White Lion in Rempstone, shouts up two pints of Bass, wanders over to the pub jukebox, puts his ten pence in, makes his selection and returns to the bar to negotiate with the landlord on pricing for a couple of barrels of Bass to get him through one of the bleakest weekends in his lifetime. 'Cry Me a River' by Justin Timberlake booms out of the dukey as Trumpy breaks down in a flood of tears. He has a sneezing fit and races to the toilets, but they're out of bog roll (aren't we all?). For the first time in a 43 year devoted, drinking career, our man, T Bolton will not be gracing any U.K. licensed premises this weekend. A couple of barrels of beer is merely a consolation goal for the blog legend #prayfortrumpy

Ms Moon and I enjoyed a cracking weekend in Edinburgh and feel fortuitous that the desperate measures put in place by BJ weren't rubber-stamped a week earlier, as it would have taken away a lot of pleasure and fun away from our Scottish experience.

It's Monday morning and we're checking out of a deserted Hotel Motel One in Edinburgh. Ms Moon wanders over the road to a kiosk to grab a coffee. We make the short trip to Waverley Station. Pret A Manger is deathly quiet as we pick up some food for the three-hour journey to Newark Northgate. All the talk on the train home is COVID-19 - the travelling American citizens are particularly vocal and anxious about it.

It's a bit of a walk to Lovers Lane, where we've parked the car up for three nights, at a bargain £12. Ms Moon suggests we call by Waitrose in the town. I'd normally enjoy perusing the selection of beers, wines and cheeses on offer, but today (Monday afternoon) is utter bedlam. The shelves are bare. Shelf-stackers and till staff are stressed, rushed and harried. It's good to finally get home.

I work for a fantastic company that provides governance, risk and compliance software. They put the employee first, unlike many others. I read an email on Monday evening from our operations director that says we are to work from home until further notice - I shed more tears than Trumpy Bolton.

Many folk would be doing handstands and cartwheeling down the street given this option; Sticky Palms isn't one of them. I chuffing hate working from home. I took the decision, a year ago, to come off the road, which included home-working, and swapped my role to an office-based account manager, as I was seriously concerned about my well-being. Working in an office has been like a breath of fresh air, even if I'm the oldest member of staff on the sales floor by a country mile. The young 'uns have made me welcome and included.

I drive into the office on Tuesday to pick up my headphones. It's eerily quiet with only a few colleagues scattered around the sales floor. I build a siege mentality for the rest of the week, working from home, rewarding myself with walks at the end of each day.

I bury my head into a book called Test Match Special Diary, that I bought for £20 a few months ago. It's 500 pages long and beautifully written by Jon Surtees, who captures the highs and lows of a wonderful summer of cricket from the TMS commentary box, including the World Cup and The Ashes. Ms Moon meanwhile enjoys Emmerdale, Corrie, Masterchef and Hunted. I wound up the good lady and the Big Man (Bish) on social media earlier in the week when I posted that filming on Emmerdale Farm was to be suspended until further notice. The Big Man fell for it hook, line and sinker, taking a massive bite,' but as Gabriel said in 1993 'Dreams Can Come True.'

You can still have fun during dark days, even if it's for only ten minutes or so. A few of the lads on twitter set up a group to take part in Ken Bruce's Pop Master on Radio 2. I've not listened to the show for over 12 months as the music he plays is bloody awful, but do have a soft spot for the quiz. Jitz Jani, Mr John Harris (wife Jackie too busy working at Sainsbury's) and a few other folks participate. I'm a bit ring rusty on Thursday, but post respectable scores of 21pts and 24pts on Friday. I look forward to recommencing battle on Monday at 10.25 a.m.

It's Friday evening, a time of day I usually get all excited about. A glimmer of light appeared on twitter earlier in the week. Neon Raptor Tap Room announced that take-out craft beers will be available from the fridge at their Sneinton Market HQ - a two-mile stroll from Chez Sticky's.

I walk up over Carlton Hill past empty takeaways, pubs and shops; it's so bloomin' depressing and doesn't even feel like the weekend. I pop my head through the Neon Raptor Offy and watch my booty get bagged up. 4x cans of Night Time Radio and 4x cans of Levitating Tactics. £26 might seem a bit steep folks but it's the crack cocaine equivalent of the craft ale world.

I'm not slogging it back up that chuffing hill. Ms Moon is leaving work and says she'll be 20 minutes. It's just a few minutes before BJ addresses the nation. I shoulder my way through the double doors of Castle Rock's Fox and Grapes and shout up a pint of Snow White before distancing myself on a barstool in the corner of the pub. BBC Breaking News music is played on my phone. Johnson has taken drastic measures. I neck my pint, wish the barman good luck in his job search and trudge up the road to Lidl where I'm picked up by Ms Moon.

The Princess and I plan the weekend. I'm one of those blokes that has to look forward to something even if it's eight hours of back to back episodes of Heartbeat. Ms Moon fires up the grill on Saturday morning as I'm dispatched down to Carlton Tesco. I beat the hoarding, stockpiling imbeciles to a pack of bacon medallions from their finest range yesterday. All we need now is some bread.

Jesus wept, Tesco looks like it's had Supermarket Sweep filming here for 12 weeks - Trumpy will be pleased to know Rylan isn't in sight. I somehow locate a few stray cobs that I find here and there. I have a laugh and joke with the girl on the till - actually I was telling the gags and rest assured she wasn't laughing.

Neither is Ms Moon folks, as I've lined up an 8-mile walk that'll test her stamina after the hike up Arthur's Seat last weekend. We walk down Carlton Road, bathed in early spring sunshine, before turning right towards Netherfield. We cross the road at Tommy Thompson's Boxing Club, also the Fox and Hounds (they're always scrapping in there). It leads us onto a narrow track and onto a woodland path called the Midland Railway, which is alongside the Nottingham to Lincoln line.

We finally reach our destination, Colwick Country Park, close to Nottingham Racecourse. The scenery is spectacular with trees beginning to blossom, you can also enjoy the views of the lakes and the River Trent. Fagged out, we take a short water break. Nottingham Forest diehard fan Jitz Jani walks by with his family. We enjoy a brief chat and discuss how we're coping with the Coronavirus outbreak. Jitz says he's called by Aldi every day to food shop, but has ended up buying a bottle of red wine and a bag of crisps each time .. lol.

We're settled in for the day at 4 p.m. Ms Moon's trash TV continues with Tipping Point, Catchpoint and Ant 'n Dec. The star of the show is the Diego Maradona documentary on Channel 4 at 9 p.m. It's a beautifully crafted piece of work that lasts for over two and a half hours. It's not for the bitter and twisted, but for the football purist. Let's not forget he played in an era when tackles were brutal and eye-watering, particularly in Serie A where he won two League titles and a UEFA Cup.

As Ms Moon summed up, "a dislikeable bloke and a flawed genius."

Attendance: 2 (Sticky and Ms Moon)

Man of the Match: Neon Raptor Off Licence

Monday, March 16, 2020

Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic P-P Gala Fairydean Rovers

I'm in the car travelling back from Stoke. Trumpy Bolton is riding shotgun. He's supped and slurped Abbey Hulton Utd's clubhouse dry of Newcastle Brown Ale. His beer count is about to hit double figures for the day, as I park up outside the White Lion, in the village of Rempstone, close to the Notts/Leics border. I'm due to meet the 'Mad Jock' and his partner, Sarah, later this evening at the 'World Renowned Trent Bridge Inn', adjacent to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. The plan is to leave the car overnight in County Hall car park and hook up with Ms Moon, who will be arriving by taxi (like Royalty) at just after 7 p.m.

We're greeted by a cheery landlord at the community-owned pub. He pours two world-class pints of Bass - that can only be matched at the nearby Wysall Plough. The pub is one of Bolton's Friday night haunts. We chat to one or two of the locals, who crowd the bar, watching the Six Nations rugby between Wales and England. I drop Trumpy off at his yard, just after 6.30 p.m. before enjoying an evening at the TBI - where I had my 21st birthday party back in 1985.

On Sunday lunchtime I peg it up to Mapperley Tops for a couple of pints at Castle Rock's Bread and Bitter. It's a steady 45-minute stroll with one hell of a steep incline, to negotiate, at the top of Cavendish Road, where all you can see before you is the sky. I don't sleep too well on Sunday evening as I'm having a tooth out in the morning.

I'm not too sure what's more painful, the tooth coming out or the dentist playing Take That's Greatest Hits on the dukey. It takes near on half an hour for the tushy peg to be dislodged and extracted. I ask for a badge (like Muttley off Wacky Races) for being a brave lad and proudly place a Peppa Pig sticker on my coat. My work colleagues laugh at the sticker but are less than amused when I fiddle around in my jeans pocket and unearth my badly infected gnasher.

My gums start to ache as the anesthetic begins to wear off. I spend the evening up at Radford FC's delightful Selhurst Street ground. The company is good too. I chat to Heanor Town Press Officer, Tony Squires, who is always great value, before strolling around the other side of the ground to catch up with John Harris and 'Wife Jackie.' One person, who's none too chuffed to see me, is Radford manager 'Big Glenn Russell.' He shakes his head at me and snarls an obscenity - I'm a Jonah you see; Radford usually lose when Sticky's in the building. Tonight is no exception, as they are well and truly thumped 4-1, with the visitors' Jamie Sleigh outstanding once again.

We're both super-excited about the up and coming long-weekender in Edinburgh. The weather looks set fair and I've shoehorned a game into the schedule, up at Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, in the Scottish Lower League. The Club confirm a 3 p.m. kick-off.

I ply Ms Moon with coffee on Friday morning before the short trip to Newark Northgate train station. The good lady bagged the train tickets, a few months back, for a bargain-buy £75 each return fare. What could possibly go wrong?

Ms Moon enjoys her fourth brew of the day as we sit around with nervous and anxious passengers in the waiting room. Everyone is keeping their distance due to Coronavirus. The train heads out of the station at a fair old lick. I'm scrolling down my twitter timeline, feeling as happy as Larry, when suddenly I turn a whiter shade of pale. "Are you alright honey?" asks Ms Moon. I read the tweet over and over again. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, (aka 'Janette Krankie') has instructed the Scottish FA to suspend all professional and grassroots football. I start blowing my nose and shed a few tears. I reassure passengers, sitting close by, that I'm not COVID-19 positive. Ms Moon asks if I want to put 'Mardy Bum' by the Arctic Monkeys on the dukey? A 450 mile round trip with no chuffing football folks.

I sulk for half an hour, with my bottom lip quivering. Events take a turn for the worse when I'm charged £4 for a bacon roll at the buffet cart. I sing to Ms Moon on my return to Carriage D "This is the worst trip I've ever been on."

It's a two-minute walk up the hill from Waverley Street train station to the Hotel Motel One, where we're staying for three nights. It's our favourite hotel chain, having stayed a few times at the one on High Bridge in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

We check-in and head out into the streets of Edinburgh pretty darn quick. We turn off Cockburn St onto the Royal Mile. There's a commotion and gathering outside the Court of Justice. Ms Moon asks what's the craic? I know, instantly, that the sea of TV cameramen, reporters and photographers are waiting for former Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, to emerge from the court.

Salmond has denied 14 charges of sexual assault on 10 women. Ms Moon muscles in with the Paparazzi whilst I stand around the corner chatting to a camera crew. A black Mercedes van appears from a side street and parks up close by. I point out to a police officer that there's a sign clearly saying 'No Parking.' Without humour 'Taggart' removes the sign as Salmond hotfoots it out of court, with his wife in toe. The blacked-out car speeds off into the rush-hour traffic.

The first night isn't without incident either. After a pleasant few pints with a Middlesbrough fan in the Halfway House, on Fleshmarket Close, we venture out into New Town. Ms Moon loves a 'Spoons and in particular when it's her round (cheap as chips). I'm at the bar at The Standing Order (yes, an old bank) and shout up a Pentland IPA from Stewart Brewing. I'm presented with a beer that has more clouds than the view from the top of Kilimanjaro.

I've already paid for the round. The barman says he'll pour me another one. I'm not having it. "I'll have my money back and a free Tanqueray Seville, please. That bad pint could have wiped out my weekend." My request is refused. Long story cut short readers, after 15 minutes negotiation with the 'Manager' (a twonk) I'm refunded £2.69 and get a cloudless 6.5% abv rocket fuel ale for free. As we exit the pub I see a guy huddled in a blanket, shielding from the cold air. I handover the £2.69 and a bit more and say "but don't buy an out-of-date real ale in there, Son."

I'm full of beans and up and at 'em on Saturday morning. We enjoy breakfast at an independent cafe called Em's Kitchen on St Mary's St. We did a recce yesterday, so Ms Moon knows what lies in wait for her. Arthur's Seat is a hill that rises above the city to 823 feet. The views over Edinburgh towards the Leith and Hibernian's Easter Road ground are breathtaking. According to Wikipedia "it's relatively easy to climb." Try telling that to a panting, puffing and hungover Sticky Palms. An exhausted Ms Moon and I retire to Cafe Palace to stock up on caffeine after two hours of hard yards.

I break down in tears at 5 p.m. Ms Moon asks me if I'm still upset about the cloudy beer at 'Spoons and the nasty 'Shift Manager.' I reply it's chuff all to do with that and it's more about not being able to check the final scores as lots of games have been cancelled.

The non-footballing weekend in Edinburgh has been a blast. Cafe Royal was the standout pub and The Witchery was a restaurant to die for. Thanks to Scott in projects and G J Dunkin in sales (no relation to PJ and Duncan) for the pub tips - we loved The Hanging Bat and Fierce Beer. Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, we're gutted that we missed you; maybe another time. Ms Moon loved the visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia too.

Attendance: 2

Woman of the Match: Ms Moon xx

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Abbey Hulton Utd 1-1 Cammell Laird 1907

I turn off Radford Rd, in inner-city Nottingham, and stick the car in Asda Hyson Green Superstore. The maximum parking time is two hours. I'll be longer than that this evening and run the risk of being clamped by a jobsworth security man. Don't panic if you're the Store Manager at Marks and Spencer Food Hall in Netherfield and are reading this drivel - I'm neither deserting you or shopping at Asda.

A tram passes by, as I cross the road and head down Selhurst Street, in one of the most multi-cultural areas of our city. I sidle through a turnstile. The floodlights are turned off. The ground is dimly lit with lighting from the clubhouse.

I handover £15 to a guy holding a Tupperware box in the corridor. Former Nottingham Forest manager, and one of Sticky's favourites, Paul Hart, is a guest speaker at Radford FC this evening. Radford manager, Big Glenn Russell, clocks me in the bar and beckons me over towards him. I'm invited to sit on his table. I upset the barman by handing over a Euro for a can of Diet Coke. The excuse of being in Tenerife recently falls on death ears; I'm well and truly rinsed.

I'm sat with Alfreton Town Sporting Director, Nicky Hawkins, and Dunkirk legendary full-back 'McGoo.'Former Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year 'Swifty' is mein host. Paul Hart had a distinguished playing career, making over 500 senior appearances. There are the inevitable Clough anecdotes from Hart's time at The City Ground. One of them is a gem.

Barca v NFFC in a pre-season friendly after the World Cup finals in 1986, at Nou Camp, in front of a six-figure crowd. The players are lining up in the tunnel. Diego Maradona suddenly emerges from a chapel room after saying a prayer and takes his place in the line-up. Brian Clough clocks Maradona and makes a beeline towards him. He puts his hands down his shorts before grabbing his testicles and says "Now that's the Hand of God, Son"

I'm sick to the back teeth of the wind and rain. I announced to Ms Moon, after a couple of rocket fuel ales at Neon Raptor Tap Room, last Friday evening, that football is off tomorrow's agenda. We have a wander around Nottingham city centre. I show Ms Moon the plaque of Peter Pan author J M Barrie, that rests above Tanners estate agents on Pelham Street. Barrie worked for the Nottingham Journal before finding success as an author.

We enjoy lunch at Bar Iberico, a Spanish tapas restaurant on Carlton Street. I kill a bit of time in Rough Trade on Broad Street, bagging a bucket hat that I can wear on sun-drenched evenings at Trent Bridge cricket ground. I collect two tickets at Nottingham Broadway Cinema for the 2 p.m. showing of Dark Waters starring Tim Robbins and Anne Hathaway - it's a cracking film and definitely worth a peek.

My hat fetish takes a further twist, with my second purchase of the day, at Neon Raptor. A flat-peaked baseball cap doesn't go down too well with Ms Moon, who says she'd prefer it if I didn't wear it in her company   ...  lol. I'm 56 years old btw.

I've enjoyed my 10-day winter break from football, but feel as ring rusty as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. Tuesday evening is spent up at the old mining village of Rainworth, in north Notts. In 1975, armed robber, kidnapper and murderer Donald Neilson (the 'Black Panther') was overpowered by two burly mineworkers, outside a chippy, who had just clocked off from the afternoon shift at Rufford Colliery, after Neilson had kidnapped two police officers.

I get a nice welcome from the Radford management team, tonight's visitors, and legendary groundhopper Malc Storer, who does so much to promote the Non-League game in Notts. It's good to see folk take action on players that they are tipped off about. I saw 21-year-old Lucas Cotterill bag a hat-trick for Cotgrave a few weeks ago. He's off the mark for his new club, Radford, early in the second half. Simon Hore makes it 2-0 from the spot in the 48th minute. Radford look to be home and hosed. Rainworth claw one back after a horror show from the visiting right-back and equalise with a brilliant header from a set-piece. Big Glenn is fuming, but at least he doesn't fling his baseball cap to floor in anger, which normally makes me chuckle - even though I love Radford.

The plan on Saturday was to travel up to Barrow AFC v Notts County with Trumpy Bolton. But, with the weather being unreliable, particularly up in the Lake District, I decided to play the safety card and go somewhere nearer to home. I tag Abbey Hulton Utd (in Stoke) in a tweet to say we'll be in attendance and receive a very friendly and welcoming tweet back from them. I'm already excited for the day, and so is Trumpy when it's confirmed the ground has licensed premises.

It's Friday evening and I'm driving home from work. TalkSport are waffling on and on and Five Live are scaring us all to death over Coronavirus. I flick on Radio 2 expecting to hear Steve 'Silly Boi' Wright's 'Serious Jockin'. I'm pleasantly surprised to hear his replacement is the excellent Leicester-born presenter O J Borg. What's even better is that he playing New Order's 'Temptation' from 1981 - which only reached number 29 in the charts.

I enjoy a pint of Shipyard with Ms Moon at the worst 'Spoons in England - The Free Man on Carlton Hill. It's been a bad day for leading Brexiteer and Wetherspoons Chairman Tim Martin, as shares have tumbled due to nervousness in the market about Coronavirus.

I wave Ms Moon off to Emmerdale Farm and the cobbled streets of Weatherfield and jump on the No.27 bus into town, before alighting at Southwell Road. Neon Raptor have four new lines of beer on offer tonight. Sticky's fave, Naughty Luggage, is back on the production line. I guzzle down a half and another half, and on and on - you have to show respect readers at 6.8abv; it's the Black Mamba of the drinking world. I catch up with Tony 'Dog' McDonald before returning back to basecamp slightly worse for wear.

I'm as rough as a badger's arse on Saturday morning - I didn't have any tea or supper the previous evening. Fuelled with a couple of extra-strong Nescafe Alta Rica coffees I head over to Trumpy's yard. He emerges from his crib carrying a Kwik Save bag which he reckons he can get £50 for on eBay.

The Boltons spent last weekend in Norwich. They witnessed the Canaries beating the Foxes 1-0 on Friday evening. My old budgie Murphy Palmer would have enjoyed that one (and Finlay my rabbit). We were meant to join the Boltons on Saturday as the plan was to watch Wroxham v Bitton AFC in an FA Vase quarter-final tie (Wroxham is only a few miles outside Norwich) sadly we didn't make the trip due to the deteriorating weather conditions.

First port of call is a 'Spoons called The Arnold Machin in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a suburb of Stoke. I like to wind Trumpy up, as he guzzles his way through his litre of cider. The mere mention of Jim White, Jeremy Corbyn, Rylan Clark-Neal, Nicola Sturgeon or women football commentators gets his face ruddy red or causes a coughing fit. There's an embarrassing episode in the car park when we have to beg a random stranger for some coinage for the parking fee - thank you for your act of kindness.

Trumpy shouts up a couple of pints of Ruddles (for him) and asks me if I would like anything to eat. I say a bacon and Brie panini would be nice, but without the chilli jam. There's a monumental cock-up on the catering front, as I'm served up a panini plastered in chilli jam - Trumpy explains it may have been lost in translation when ordering. 'Spoons shares will be dropping again when I grass them up over this faux pas. I ask the legend what were the last two films he watched. "Jungle Book and Debbie Does Dallas" he replies.

The second pub visited is in the picture-postcard village of Bagnall (population 765) It's a corker folks. Trumpy has a pint of Bass and a pint of Peregrine from the Peakstones Brewing Company. I thought Steve 'Silly Boi' Wright was on the decks when I hear What is Love? by Haddaway on the pub dukey.

The ride to the ground is Laurel and Hardy-esque. After two wrong turns, a three-point turn on a bend and plenty of head-scratching we finally roll into the car park. We're greeted on arrival by Twitter man, 'Dave', who makes us both very welcome. Trumpy asks where the bar is and soon disappears, whilst I have a good chinwag with Dave, who is such a lovely bloke.

I take a stroll around the ground and bump into frisky four-month-old Springer Spaniel, George. Today's visitors are from Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, a famous old shipyard that is still in production. I followed them for a while, 10 years ago, when they had some great players such as Ronnie Morgan and Jamie McGuire, who went onto play for Mansfield Town. Don't forget Clough signed Peter Davenport from here, who later on went to play for Man Utd,

Bolton is holed up in the bar, downing his second bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, as the home side kick with the wind behind them. I've left my chuffing hat in the car boot and am already moaning about how cold it is. I'm joined by Trumpy who is saying the game has 0-0 written all over it. A stray clearance heads our way. I nonchalantly stick my left foot out, to cushion the ball, which hits a divot (honest) and ends up nestling in the overgrowth. There's a huge groan from folk around me, while play is interrupted, as I retrieve the ball.

The home side take the lead with a spectacular 'PlayStation' overhead kick. Joy is short-lived when Abbey Hulton are sadly reduced to ten men, just before half-time, after a one-way 'Glasgow Kiss.' Whilst Trumpy drinks the bar dry, I'm introduced to Lee the Chairman and the girls in the cafe. They rustle me up a local delicacy called an oatcake - I thought it was a biscuit, but it turns out to be a cross between a chapati and a pancake and is filled with bacon.

The second half is tough going for Abbey Hulton. Playing into a stiff breeze and with only ten men, proves challenging. The equaliser has been coming as the visitors up the tempo. The 17-year-old home keeper', who has been outstanding, is finally beaten. Abbey Hulton hold their own despite being a man down and thoroughly deserve the draw.

I find Dave standing by the PA system. What a guy he is. He's announced all the substitutions, read out all the teams and played some top toons, including Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Dario G and Faithless. He's 'The Stoke Judge Jules.' He points out a guy who's stood behind the goal. "You see that bloke stood there? His name is John Wightman and he's been involved at this Club since 1953, when his Dad first brought him down. He's spent countless hours down here looking after the playing surface" I saw a plaque in the clubhouse with his name on and a stand named after him. It makes my spine tingle and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Attendance: 80

Men of the Match: 'The Stoke Judge Jules' and Sir John Wightman 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Keyworth Utd Res 3-0 Nottingham FC

We head out of a windswept Gainsborough. Trumpy Bolton ('The Keyworth Oliver Reed') has drunk the Lincolnshire town dry of real ale. The social club has broken its 136-year-old record for the most barrels changed during a 90-minute football match. Trumpy needs another ale to quench his thirst before spending an evening in back at his crib on the 'Keyworth Bronx.'

I take a left-hand turn off the A46 southbound carriageway and park up adjacent to a village green, It's over 25 years since I last visited the Royal Oak at Car Colston. It was after a Sunday pub league game of football on that very green. I sink my first pint of the day as Bolton ups the gears. I'm surprised to hear that the landlord has been here for over 16 years. The bar is cosy and the restaurant is doing a roaring trade. It's definitely one for the notebook and is also a Good Beer Guide entry.

I spend Sunday lunchtime holed up for a couple of hours in Lillie Langtry's on Nottingham's South Sherwood St, opposite the Royal Concert Hall and Theatre Royal. Summer Lightning from Wiltshire's Hopback Brewery is on at £2.50 per pint. I dip my bread folks, before knocking up a blog that's well-received in Gainsborough and Stalybridge.

I've proper got the face on at work on Monday. It's post-holiday blues readers. The weather is pretty darn awful too. Football looks like being wiped out for the week. Carlton Town are due to play Gedling Miners' Welfare at Basford United in the Notts Senior League, but Sticky Palms doesn't do 3G, and in particular that one.

I listen to Atletico Madrid versus Liverpool on the radio in the bath on Tuesday evening and the following night politely ask Ms Moon if she can sack off Love Island for Spurs v Lokomotive Leipzig. I 'accidentally' downloaded the Love Island app a few summers ago and even took part in the voting. I'm ashamed and apologetic about this. The Germans are good value for their 1-0 victory with Chelsea on-loan defender/midfielder Ethan Ampadu outstanding. That big baby Jose Mourinho fronts up for the cameras, post-match, with a face like a slapped arse.

The weekend can't come quick enough. I've had a shocker at work and the weather is getting me down. I'm offered a couple of tickets at The City Ground for NFFC v QPR and have the option of Lincoln City v Gillingham at a flooded Sincil Bank. The third option is of more interest and closer to the heart too.

Keyworth United Ressies are playing Nottingham FC in the Nottinghamshire County FA County Trophy semi-finals. I lived in Keyworth for 45 years and have coached at the club for a number of teams. The question is whether the pitch will hold up after the incessant rain of late.

No alcohol has passed my lips since last Sunday. I keep up my recent good form by offering to drive on Friday evening. Ms Moon asks if I'm off colour. The lovely Maxine at work has invited Ms Moon and me to her 50th birthday party at Stadium Leisure in inner-city Basford, close to Vernon Park, where I spent many weekends scouting for the Pies.

We park the car in a dodgy area and jaywalk across a busy Nottingham Road taking our lives into our hands. I manage to see out two hours sipping on a couple of bottles of J2O's (mango and orange if you're asking). There's a cracking turnout from Ideagen PLC. I'm not surprised as Maxine is a popular lass who greets one and all with a flashing smile on arrival in Reception at work.

I'm woken at the crack of dawn with rain pouring from a leaking drainpipe onto a wheelie bin. Next door had a moan about it the other week - I wouldn't mind but they only moved in the other chuffing week, the cheeky blighters.

We both laze around in the morning playing our favourite tunes on YouTube. Ms Moon gets all teary-eyed at a James Blunt track, whilst I pogo to The Stranglers. I've been in conversation with KUFC chairman Chris Thompson and Our Joe, in the last 24 hours, regarding the prospects of the game taking place. Fixtures are falling left, right and centre as I browse legendary Notts groundhopper Malcolm Storer's excellent On the Road twitter updates.

Confirmation of 'Game On' comes from an unlikely source. Stanton-on-the-Wolds Golf Club Manager, Paul Keeling, one of my closest friends, texts me to say he's heard on a what's app golf group that the match is to take place. I arrange to meet him at the home of football shortly before kick-off. 'Golf is a good walk spoiled' said Mark Twain.

I drive down Carlton Road and swing by the 'King Billy' before sweeping left off Meadow Lane onto Lady Bay Bridge. Five Live are over at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane. The presenter Mark Chapman is teasing an out of breath commentator Ian Dennis, who has had to peg it up a few flights of stairs to the commentary box.

Dennis tells an extraordinary tale from earlier in the day. He's just interviewed Blades manager Chris Wilder who has confessed that to cope with the stress and strain of a home game that he likes to jog from his house to the ground on a matchday. He got stopped en route to the ground by a club volunteer who completely oblivious to who he was talking to, asked Wilder, dressed up in club gear, if he would answer a few questions for a survey of a matchday experience of a Sheff Utd supporter. He answered all the questions before continuing on his run. The volunteer had no idea it was Chris Wilder ... lol.

I roll into Platt Lane car park 45 minutes shy of kick-off. I get wrapped up and take a stroll around the perimeter of the ground. A very young Nottingham FC side are laughing and joking during the warm-up. They arrive in Keyworth on the back of six-match unbeaten run, with confidence soaring high.

I wander along the side of the train track that groundhoppers (glorified trainspotters) get excited about when the occasional Virgin test train speeds by. The award-winning Perkins Bar and Bistro is the other side of the fence. The junior pitches at the bottom of the slope are under water, but the four main pitches seem playable underfoot.

I peg it up to the top of the hill and walk towards the cricket square. Miller Homes are building new houses on a plot called Spinners Croft - it can only be good news for both the Football and Cricket clubs that families will be moving in soon. A new 4G playing surface is on the horizon; I'm going to have to grin and bear it, as Sticky doesn't do 4G. It's the community that is going to benefit and not one greedy owner.

I say hello to Keyworth manager Steve Cullis and wish him good luck. Steve's a great lad who helped me out last year with the Development side I ran. Scott 'Tank' Litchfield is giving him a hand with some of the drills. The lads look 'on it' and I know they will win.

You have to know Platt Lane to win a game. Keyworth kick down the slope after winning the toss. First rule of thumb at 'The Lane' is to kick down the hill in blustery conditions as a game can be won in the first 45 minutes.

Both teams appear nervous and jittery with chances going begging at both ends. I stand with Keebo and the Big Man (Bish) opposite the 18-yard box that Nottingham FC attack. Keyworth 10 jacket, Tom Siswick, the best striker and finisher I've ever seen at junior level, is in a rich vein of form of late. He puts the Green Army 1-0 up on 16 minutes to settle his team's nerves.

The visitors are rattled and aren't used to losing. They start to run off at the mouth and lose their cool. It's a shame as they've played some good football and look to have a goal in them. The referee handles the occasion brilliantly with a flurry of yellow cards. One imbecile runs 70 yards to protest with the man in black - he's sent to the sin bin.

Keyworth play some champagne football and go for the jugular with their opponents a man down for ten minutes. Samuel Lund is the standout player. I brought Sam to the Club back in 2012. He told me he was a 'keeper. I said to him that I'd already got a goalie and asked him if he was good at anything else. "Well I do cross country running" he replied. "Excellent, you can play centre-midfield then."

I burst with pride at his lung-bursting runs, intelligent play and the heart the size of a bucket. He ghosts past three players before tormenting and teasing the full-back. He pirouettes on the ball inviting the defender like a matador does to a bull. Finally bored he delivers the ball into the danger area, Conor Pauley does the rest, punishing a team with a player sat in the sin bin.

The biting wind sees us retreat to the clubhouse for a warm. Bish slopes off to watch the Emmerdale Farm omnibus edition. I catch up with Ian 'Fod' Siswick Louise Dixon and Celtic fan David Reilly who also coached some of these boys when they were younger. I bag an excellent programme produced by Chris's lad, Jamie Thompson, which is bound to bring a smile to the face of NSL committee member and well-known groundhopper, Rob Hornby, who I've caught up with today with his lad Shawn. Get well soon Rob!

I catch the eye of Steve Cullis and say that I expect the visitors will shoot themselves in the foot and probably see the red mist and a red card. It happens sooner rather than later. 5 jacket, dizzy from being twisted and turned by 'Sizzers' falls over and cradles the ball in his arm. The referee has no choice but to wave a yellow card and produce a red one from his back pocket. No.5 is sent to the dressing room but not before a verbal volley at the ref. He boots an advertising hoarding in anger; he's kicked fresh air and blown hot air for most of the afternoon. The resulting spot-kick, taken by Pauley, is telegraphed and weakly hit, the 'keeper makes a smart save though.

'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (my eldest lad) has got the face on as he hasn't make the starting XI. At least it shows he cares for a club he's represented since the age of 6 years old. He's not one of these glory hunters and mercenaries that go from club to club pot-hunting before doing a disappearing act. He's been warming up for a while (and I don't mean smoking a Mayfair tab or sinking a can of Carling Black Label). He's let off his leash with 15 minutes remaining, replacing Siswick who has played his heart out and ran himself into the ground.

The 'KGB' gets on the ball and ruffles one or two feathers. His feet are made of magic dust and are the fast on the ball. He bamboozles a couple of defenders before winning a corner. Lund sends in another pinpoint dead ball, Pauley leaps like a salmon and sends a looping header high into the net to put the lads into their first final in over a decade.

There are great scenes as the lads pile onto one another. Our Joe has played at CDM. His performance is mature and his game is simple. Two touches and the ball is away. He has a telepathic understanding with Tom Siswick; playing him in countless times

Frame and Stolworthy at the heart of the defence have been like nightclub doorman - thou shalt not pass. They'll be on the doors at the village pub called The Pear Tree later in the evening. The Green Army bring on 'The Terminator' (Harry Stolworthy) as Cullis looks to run the clock down.

There are a few unsavoury scenes when the final whistle is blown. The referee's performance is only bettered by Sam Lund. A visiting spectator leaps over the barrier and runs onto the pitch. He confronts a few Keyworth players who just laugh at the moron. The two sides are separated. I'm saddened to hear later that the opposition 'declined' the offer of post-match hospitality.  I did like it when I heard their manager shout above the 'handbags' "come away lads, we've been beaten fair and square." Well said, Sir.

Congratulations to Steve Cullis and the lads. I just hope those clowns at the Notts FA see common sense and play the final on grass and not at Basford United or Eastwood Town's artificial surface in 80 degrees of mad dogs and Englishmen midday sunshine, in May, like they did last season. But I won't hold my breath.

Man of the Match: Sam Lund

Attendance: 74 on a bitterly cold day

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Gainsborough Trinity 1-3 Stalybridge Celtic

It's 3 a.m. on Friday 7th February. I sit bolt upright in bed, as an alarm rings from my phone. I shave and shower in silence as Ms Moon wakes from her slumber. Hubert, my no.1 favourite taxi driver, collects us at 4 a.m. on the dot. The journey to Birmingham Airport via the M42 is without incident and very little traffic too.

Check-in with Jet 2 is a breeze in the park. We enjoy breakfast in 'Spoons (sorry, no beer consumed Trumpy). Ms Moon needs two pints of coffee to fight the tiredness and lift her mood. What could possibly go wrong, as our flight is called ahead of schedule? Ms Moon is informed by a sheepish air stewardess, posted at the top of the plane steps, that the 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' (French Air Traffic Control) are on strike.

We're sat on the tarmac for over two hours without shifting. Ms Moon has managed to read: Chat, Take A Break and Women's Realm before our pilot is given the all-clear for take-off to Tenerife South Airport. I bury my head into a book written by the comedian and Farnborough Town fan, Andy Smart, called A Hitch In Time, whilst Ms Moon flicks through a few pages of Sir Elton John's autobiography.

Our patience is rewarded with an upgrade to our apartment, situated halfway up 'Heart Attack Hill' at the resort of Los Cristianos. Base camp, 'early doors', is spent on a bar stool, high up in Manhattan's Bar, overlooking this wonderful, old resort.

We enjoy a long walk up to the harbour village of La Caleta and a bus ride to the coastal town of Los Gigantes, with sweeping views of the island from the hotel clifftop. The highlight, of course, is the groundhopping up into the hills of the south of Tenerife.

I've managed to find a new league where I haven't ticked off many teams. I sent CD San Lorenzo Constancia a message on Facebook asking them to confirm the Saturday kick-off time. 6 p.m. allows us both a few extra hours of sunshine by the pool.

I wander across to Hotel Sur Tenerife and show the address of the ground, on my phone, to a bemused, head-scratching taxi driver. I mumble San Lorenzo (it's only 10km up the road) and receive the thumbs-up and a "si senor" from our man in the driving seat.

It's a six-mile death ride, readers, that's reminiscent of a scene from the 1970s TV series Sweeney Todd Flying Squad, with George Carter driving a Ford Granada and Jack Regan riding shotgun. We're also tuned in to the Spanish version of Capital FM which has Sticky raising his eyebrows and gesticulating to our man to change channels. After a few false dawns, which include two rubber-burning emergency stops, whilst asking locals for the whereabouts of Calle Joao Garcia Allo, the ground is finally located.

We both emerge from the taxi mentally drained and 15 Euros lighter. The ground is perched on top of a hillside in the village and at the bottom of a mountain. The views are stunning and surreal. It's 6 Euros each on the gate and a further Euro for a raffle prize which is a box of overripe fruit.

After negotiating the 'San Lorenzo Baby Squad' (eight kids under 12, who could out-sup the South Normanton Shandy Squad') we stand on the 'Spion Kop', which has four steps, and admire the view.
I've set out a low expectation to Ms Moon which prove to be wise words after a dull as dishwater first half - in hindsight, I'd have been better off staying in the resort and watching the 'Tricky Trees take on 'Dirty Leeds.'

Thank the Lord we don't win the raffle, although I could have bartered the fruit with the returning taxi driver instead of parting with 15 Euros. San Lorenzo hit the back of the onion bag on three occasions in the second half after some comedy defending from the visitors, Guancho, who are located in Puerto De La Cruz, in the north of the island.

That utter buffoon of a taxi driver arrives on time and rattles down the hill at breakneck speed, tooting his horn and gesticulating at anything or anyone that dare get in his way. White as a sheet, I climb the steps of Players Lounge and shout up a Jameson and ginger. I stare out to the Atlantic Ocean with its crashing waves and thank our lucky stars that we're both still alive to re-tell the tale. Unlike 'Fat Fraudster' media mogul, Robert Maxwell, who was found in the 'soup' (man overboard) only a few miles from this very spot, after a final meal in the island's capital Santa Cruz on 4th November 1991.

There are no complications on our journey home, although Hubert, the taxi driver, avoids Clifton Bridge like the plague, as it's closed indefinitely due to structural damage. I turn in for an early night, leaving Ms Moon to catch up with Love Island.

I sleep fitfully and end up in the spare room. I'm grumpy and moody when I eventually roll out of bed at 8 30 a.m. Royalty are travelling to Lincolnshire today on the groundhop, so I need to get the car washed and valeted by the eastern European lads at the Gedling branch. I smother toasted crumpets in butter and Brie (I've forgiven the French ATC lads) and say goodbye to Ms Moon who will no doubt watch back-to-back to back-to-back episodes of Emmerdale Farm.

It's the same old scenario that I'm met with on Spinney Road, Keyworth. Blog legend, Trumpy Bolton, has legged it up the road even though I'm bang on time. He throws his coat on the back seat and his plastic bag of booty (litre of 'apple juice') into the footwell. I've already turned off Graham Norton as a precaution and double-checked that both Adrian Durham and Jim White aren't on TalkSport, as the Ledge will blow a gasket.

I mention that I don't do 0-0s as he discusses his beloved Leicester's bore draw at Molineux the previous evening. He's slightly concerned and miffed at their recent form. He scrutinises the performances of Kasper Schmeichel - I agree and say that Brendan Rogers will replace the Danish 'keeper in the summer.

Gainsborough and Stalybridge fans, please be sat down when I roll out the next line. Trumpy Bolton has had a mission in the last 42 years of his life to visit one pub in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland. He has a crumpled, old, dog-eared atlas, where each place visited is highlighted off. There aren't many places left to visit, but one is the village of Stow.

The Cross Keys has been in the Top 3 Lincs dining pubs and has had a Chef of the Year winner. It's a bit too posh for us. Bolton settles for two pints of Lincoln Gold (the litre of cider in the car has long vanished). Linger by The Cranberries is on the dukey as we head out of the door towards our next destination.

I'd been umming and ahhing all week on whether to venture up to Humberside and tick off Hall Road Rangers in the Northern East Counties League - the weather has put paid to that. We choose Gainsborough over Grantham, as it's a far better ground and town.

Trumpy has eyed-up a traditional fish and chip restaurant called Adam's Bay which also has rave reviews and has the added bonus, for Bolton. of a licence to sell alcohol. He washes down mini Haddock, chips and mushy peas with Magners cider and settles the bill to the dulcet tones of Rock Your Baby by George McCrae.

Gainsborough is a town in the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire with a population of just over 20,000. It's 18 miles from Lincoln and 15 miles from Scunthorpe. Well known personalities from the town include the actor John Alderton (Please Sir), actress Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndyke and Coronation Street producer Bill Podmore.

Gainsborough Trinity have played football at The Northolme since 1884. The ground is a belter and would definitely feature in my all-time top ten. They became Football League members in 1893 and remained in the Second Division until 1912; ironically replaced by newly-elected Lincoln City. Trinity are managed by former Sheffield United and Birmingham City midfielder Curtis Woodhouse, who is also a former British light-welterweight champion.

We stick the car at the rear of The Ping Stand - custom made golf clubs from the leading supplier are made in the town. We watch the fag end of WBA v NFFC. Trumpy is in heaven when he hears that three real ales are on offer in what must be the greatest social club on the Non-League circuit. He nearly chokes on his Kelham Island beer when Matty Cash, from arch-rivals Forest, scores with a breathtaking last gasp strike.

A barrel has gone as Trumpy emerges from the bar just in time to see some slack defending from Lincoln City loanee Jordan Adebayo-Smith, who gifts the visitors an early lead from the penalty spot. Stalybridge look far sharper and brighter of the two teams. Their big number 9 Craig Hobson poses problems, but sadly can't keep his gob zipped up. He's shown a straight Red before half-time, with Trumpy Bolton already cosied up in the bar, tucking into a pint of Exmouth Gold.

Even with ten men Stalybridge are comfortable on the ball. They score a beautiful goal on the break and despite Trinity reducing arrears, manage to hold on and add to their tally, following a faux pas by a defender.

Attendance: 457

Man of the Match: Matty Cash (NFFC)