Sunday, November 4, 2018

Kirton Brickworks Res 1-2 Keyworth Utd Development

It's April 30th, 2014 and the final whistle has just been blown at Dunkirk FC's Lenton Lane ground. Dunkirk U18s have beaten Keyworth U18s 7-3 - I can't 'arf pick 'em. I shake hands with the opposition and wearily trudge off towards the dressing room for the final time, where I thank each and every player for the efforts over the season and for the twelve years they have represented the Club and village

I've also coached the Keyworth U16s all season, with my good pal Jon - another team I've been involved with for over ten years. I'm fagged out, stressed out and over and out. We have a joint presentation evening; it's emotional and I'm desperately fighting to hold back a flood of tears, but I have to let go for my own sanity. I had hoped the club would run an Under 19 floodlit team the following season - that invitation never came; I felt my vision and passion wasn't shared, it was a massive missed opportunity that would have an impact in the years to come. The blame lays squarely at the foot of my door, but my fuel tank was running on empty.

Fast forward the clock four years and I'm stood down Clifton All Whites one evening watching CAW Dev v Keyworth Dev in an NSL Division Two fixture. The visitors are going through the motions. Nobody seems to be enjoying it. Both my boys are playing; it's breaking my heart to witness it when I know I can make a difference. I want to give it one last go and suggest to someone at the Club that if a vacancy arises next season, I'd be willing to step in. "Why not come now?"

It's Wednesday evening and I'm sat in the Platt Lane clubhouse two hours before kick-off with Keyworth Utd Dev manager Chris Thompson (the lads love this guy). We both have a passion for the game, but more importantly, share a vision for the future. We want to work with the first team and provide a pathway for our young guns. A club can't function properly if teams are run as separate entities, as they were last season. I don't want a side choc-a-bloc full of mercenaries who drift from club to club, not giving two hoots about playing for the badge or wearing the famous green shirt.

I've been involved with the Dev team for over a month now. Chris Thompson, since his involvement, has turned the team on its head. They shipped 50 goals in their first 9 games and only registered one win. We're now unbeaten in the last three games, and guess what? 15 out of the 16 playing squad have come through the youth system. Three lads out of the back four are 16 years old - "you'll never win anything with kids." Training is compulsory, which all the boys have bought into. We're very lucky to have a FA Level Two coach called Phil Anstey onboard, who generously gives up his time to help the lads out.

AFC Clifton are tonight's visitors. We get the boys pumped up and warmed up for kick-off. I take my place in the dugout for the first time in four years. Some folk will say 'what's all the fuss about, Sticky, it's only NSL Div Two?' Just seeing these boys with smiles on their faces, enjoying the dressing room banter and sharing a drink with each other after the game, win or lose, means the world to me.

I say to Chris that I'll sit back and have a look at the opposition for the first 15 minutes. It lasts for all of 45 seconds when hesitancy at the back should see us go a goal behind. I'm pointing, cajoling and gesturing to the lads. We concede a goal to a well-struck free-kick that's poorly defended, before our talisman, Tom Siswick, gets us out of jail, after being slipped in with a slide rule pass by 'Woody.'

Our fitness levels are astounding in the second half as we swarm all over the visitors up the famous Platt Lane slope. Chance after chance goes begging. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' sees an effort tipped onto the crossbar and young Shyan sees a close-range header sail over the bar. A stonewall penalty is turned down in the dying embers. The lads have given their all and are disappointed to only take a point against a team who have lost one game in ten outings.

The drive back from Bury St Edmunds on Saturday evening was a nightmare. It was teeming down with rain for most of the journey. I'm exhausted and pretty much hit the sack on arriving home. I wake up to the tragic news of the death of five people in a helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. One of the dead is said to be the Club's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Our great friends, The Boltons, are Foxes through and through. They are 'both totally numb.'

It's a bit of a Keyworth themed week, folks. Ironically the first team are down at AFC Dunkirk on Tuesday evening. I say hello to manager Ian Marley and his assistant Sam Ralph before viewing proceedings to the right of the away dugout. The Green Army are under the cosh for the first 20 minutes, before taking a vice-like grip on the game. Things are looking good at 2-1 up at the break.

I'm joined by Sticky junior, Stolly and Sizzers for the second half. A trim-looking 'Tank' (Scott Litchfield) gives a masterclass in the art of finishing as he bags a hat-trick ensuring that Keyworth make it five consecutive League victories in a row.

Thursday is the most exciting day of the week. Today will see the arrival of a brand spanking new cribbage board from the Amazon depot in Bardon Hill, Leicestershire. I follow the tracking on the parcel for most of the day - crikey Moses it's been on the van since 10:am and it's now 6pm. Where the chuffing hell is it? I'm fuming readers. I head up to the Elwes Arms on Oakdale Road for a couple of pints of Guinness to calm down. Ms Moon is all beams and smiles on my arrival back at HQ. The eagle has landed. I'm still quite cross because I wanted to sign the parcel off with the driver; it's my board.

It's Friday evening and I'm flopped out in my armchair after a one-hour demonstration of the software I sell with a customer from the USA. The console of my phone lights up; it's James 'Tosh' Turner the first team manager at the world famous Clifton All Whites. He's holed-up at a wake at a community centre in Clifton. He wants to know if he can jump in for a lift to watch Keyworth United v Wollaton under the lights for some Friday night football.

I drop Ms Moon off up at Mapperley Tops. She's meeting her best friend Jill for a two hour Strongbow sesh in the poshest 'Spoons north of the river. I'm pogoing in the car and banging my head on the roof to 'New Rose' by The Damned as an unsteady Tosh staggers down the road in a 'whistle and flute.' He's had a couple of scoops and appears to be speaking Swahili as 'Relight My Fire' from Lulu belts out of the radio on the Tony Blackburn Golden Hour on Radio 2.

There's a good attendance at the 'Floody Friday' game. There's bad news for Sticky Palms though; half his team have rocked up and are on the sauce. Thank the Lord the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' is piloting tonight. Keyworth cruise to a 7-0 victory following a horror tackle by the Wollaton centre back, which sees the excellent referee Mick Leslie brandish a Red card - the youth is still protesting his innocence half an hour later as I wander back into the bar to check on the state of my gin-swilling star striker.

I'm like an excited little kid on Christmas Eve on Friday night as I toss and turn in bed, restless and excited for the game. Who's taking the free-kicks? What about the corners, both sides? Throw-ins? Penalties? Is it just me?

I drop Ms Moon off in town on Saturday morning as she has an open day at work. I'm mooching down Platt Lane by 11am; a full hour before the agreed departure up to north Notts. Chris and I chew the cud over a cup of tea and discuss tactics, as the lads begin to roll up - two are missing in action (Bingham) and need to be picked up enroute.

'Our Joe' is back from Uni in Leeds for his bro's birthday tomorrow. He travels as a fourth sub in case there's a no-show or late withdrawal. I'm as nervous as hell as we pull into the car park (the lads will be laughing when they read this).

The boys are blasting out the tunes on the Bluetooth speaker in the changing room. I was going to ask if we could listen to Paul Gambacinni's Pick of the Pops on Radio 2. 1967 & 1983 are today's years. I choose to set up the warm-up instead. We have a long chat about any complacency that might be creeping in, as our opposition are lower than us in the table.

I chat to a timid referee and explain we're trying to instil discipline with lads and are working with them on ways to accept decisions when they don't go their way. The first 15 minutes is scrappy and disjointed. We get a foothold in the game and start to play at a tempo we expect. Chances come thick and fast, but the Kirton 'keeper is equal to everything we throw at him. His performance is alien to anything I've seen at this level. I jokingly ask their manager if he's on loan from Mansfield Town.

Chris says not to be too harsh on the lads at the break. He's dead right; we've done everything but score. One and all have given 100% and played for the badge. Anyhow, Sticky doesn't do 0-0s.

The second half is a crazy game of football and not for the faint-hearted. We fanny about with the ball at the back, a clearance is hurried and returned back, wind-assisted from 55 yards, our keeper is caught cold and off his line. I turn away, my stomach churning, as I hear the ball hit the back stanchion and nestle into the net. 'Harby' our 'keeper is concussed and dazed. We make changes, bringing on 'Shirty' as an emergency 'keeper (he's 6ft 6").

These boys never know when they are beaten. We go 3-5-2. Incredibly our 16-year-old sub defender, Ben, puts us on level terms, following a brilliant move from open play. Woody coolly slots home from the spot to maintain our unbeaten run. Kirton are a very welcoming club and are sporting in defeat. I console their tearful 'keeper at the final whistle.

Man of the Match: Kirton 'Keeper

KUFC Man of the Match: Josh Stolworthy

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bury Town 3-0 Tilbury

I'm absolutely out on my feet after returning to HQ from Chippenham, following a day out with blog legend Trumpy Bolton, watching a dull as dishwater FA Cup tie. Ms Moon is slouched on the sofa watching Strictly Come Dancing. I enquire as to whether former Notts and England cricketer Graeme Swann has put a shift in, as I have a vested interest, having placed two 50p each way bets at 25/1 and 40/1. Ms Moon says he's scored high marks again - I can't 'arf pick 'em.

We walk for an hour around Colwick Country Park, adjacent to Nottingham Racecourse, on a beautiful, autumnal Sunday morning. The leaves are changing colour; the setting is peaceful and tranquil until we bump into around 200 bleating Canadian Geese sat on the lake - I avoid these buggers like the plague, particularly when I'm cycling.

I exit the car on Weekday Cross and slip down a passageway next to the Ibis Hotel. I swing open the front door of the Herbert Kilpin and shout up a pint of Kilpin from the Black Iris Brewery. I watch the fag end of a seven-goal thriller in Serie A - Sticky doesn't do 0-0s. I pop into the Six Barrel Drafthouse on Carlton Street and the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton before settling in for the evening.

I have a daft £1 bet on Crystal Palace, Serbian international midfielder, Luka Milivojevic, to score the first goal of the game up at Goodison Park on Merseyside; he's at a juicy odds of 28/1. I'm proper cross six hours later when I see the blithering idiot fluff his spot-kick on Match of the Day.

Monday is Lincoln manager Danny Cowley's 40th birthday. This living legend has turned our Club on its head with his younger brother, Nicky, and has brought back a feel-good-factor around the city not seen since the late great Keith Alexander was the manager of the Imps.

The Club have given Danny the honour of picking a playlist of his favourite tunes to be played before the clash with Carlisle United. Being a Cockney he's bound to have some Blur, The Jam and The Clash up his sleeve. I'm so excited about the sell-out game at Sincil Bank as I hurtle down the A46 on Tuesday tea-time.

I park the 'Rolls Royce' at my lucky spot outside the old people's home on St Botolph's Crescent, where my Nana, Lucy, spent her last few years. I peg it up the High Street past the Ritz, where I'll have an all-nighter if we beat 'Dirty Mansfield' on November 24th. I slip down a walkway onto the Brayford Waterfront. I like having some pre-match pasta at ASK Italian, which is rammed full of Imps fans. As per normal, I'm one of the first folks to go through the turnstile at Sincil Bank just before 7pm. I sit high up at the back of the Selenity Stand, where I have no recollection of the last time I saw the Mighty Imps lose a game.

There's some strange music blasting out of the PA. Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and Lionel Ritchie's 'Destiny.' I look at Lincoln's Twitter account and notice DC's playlist - blimey they were his picks, along with Elton John. Danny, are you sure you're only 40?

Tonight's visitors, Carlisle, have a makeshift central defender who usually plays as a striker and Steven Gerrard's cousin, Anthony Gerrard , playing as his partner. It's an exciting first half which ends 2-2. Carlisle are great value and have caused our defence some uncomfortable moments with their hassling, harrying and movement. The second half is a non-event with the game ending in a stalemate. Danny Cowley is furious at the end of match Press conference, not only at the sloppy defending but also that they were unable to water the pitch due to an internal cock up - I prefer to blame it on some of those song choices, Danny.

The highlight on Friday is a reduced 20p off a cheese and pickle sandwich at Tesco. I spend the early evening with 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' and 'Sizzers', the hottest property in the Notts Senior League. I've allowed them a night out - we haven't got a game tomorrow. We have some tea at the 'World renowned iconic Trent Bridge Inn' (a posh 'Spoons) in West Bridgford. I've got my 50p off CAMRA vouchers again and Liberation is a guest ale - it's a steal at £1.65 - you wouldn't get a Latte, Mocha or Flat White for a sniff of that down 'The Avenue', the coffee capital of Notts. We sink a few more at a refurbished Southbank Bar, before I'm very kindly dropped off at base camp by Sticky jnr's girlfriend, Alix.

Blimey Charlie, I've got a banging head on Saturday morning. It was well worth it though, to spend some time with Sticky jnr. Ms Moon is off to Cheltenham at the weekend to help her daughter find some accommodation, as she has just landed a job as restaurant manager at The Botanist. I won't need any excuses to visit the Regency spa town and get the odd game in somewhere in the Cotswolds.

I'm off out to the Fens to pick up my best mate from school, 'Ackers' for a day out in Suffolk. He has legendary status in our village for being accident-prone and the worst driver since Maureen off Driving School. I pick him up in Thorpe Meadows, at the Peterborough Rowing Club, where he's enjoyed a few strokes on the water - I hope for the crew's sake he wasn't the cox or they might have ended up in The Wash.

He's still dressed in his rowing gear as we head down the A14 towards the village of Great Finborough, in Suffolk. I park on a sleepy road adjacent to St Andrew's Church. Back in 1978 when I was at school, I was still into disco and pop music. Ackers mentioned a late-night DJ on Radio One called John Peel was worth a listen - it was a life-changing moment in my childhood.

John Peel died in 2004 at the age of 65 years old from a heart attack whilst holidaying in Peru. He was laid to rest in the village churchyard. On his gravestone are the words "Teenage dreams so hard to beat, lyrics from The Undertones classic 'Teenage Kicks.'

I stick the car in a long stay car park right outside Ram Meadow - home of Bury Town. We head into town for a spot of lunch at the Mason Arms - and very nice it is too. Ackers eats like a horse.

Bury St Edmunds is a historic market town in Suffolk with a population of 40,000. It is known for brewing and malting (Greene King Brewery) and for a British Sugar processing factory, where Silver Spoon sugar is produced. On the 3rd March 1974 a Turkish airline jet crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 346 people on board. Among the dead were eighteen members of the Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club who had been watch and play rugby in France. There are two memorial stones in the area to remember those who passed away in the tragedy.

The town's main football team, Bury Town, were founded in 1872 and are the fourth oldest Non League team in England. English actor Bob Hoskins was born in the town. He appeared in many well-known films including: The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

It's £9 on the gate and £1 for a golden goal ticket. The ground is a snorter and has been on the hit list for a while. I love the unusual stand with it's angled roof. There is plenty of cover, which isn't required today with clear blue skies; albeit a tad chilly.

Tilbury, from neighbouring Essex, are today's visitors. The DJ just seems to be playing what he likes - without consultation from Danny Cowley. The first half is lacklustre with hardly any goalmouth action. The most exciting thing to happen is to see the smoke billowing and drifting across the ground from the nearby sugar factory. Bury play a nice passing game but lack any nous in the final third to exploit a defence that is there for the taking. Tilbury are reduced to ten men after a scene of handbags that TOWIE would be proud of. 'The Big GC' (Gemma Collins) would pack a bigger punch.

Bury take advantage in the second half scoring three fine goals. The second one, in particular, is worth the gate money. Ten-man Tilbury plug away but don't get a goal their efforts deserve. 'The Lincoln' have had a miserable time of it 40 miles down the road in Colchester - I saw that one coming a mile off.

Attendance: 287

Man of the Match: Ackers

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Chippenham Town 1-1 Maidenhead United

We jump in a cab from what I can only describe as the worst 'Purple Palace' on earth (Burgess Hill, Sussex, for the record). The Beefeater bar still has no Guinness on, despite having two lit up pumps and a moaning Sticky Palms on their case. A gin-crazed British public have been left with the choice of Gordon's only. I shake my head in disbelief as we wander through Reception - "have a pleasant evening sir" says the lass behind the counter, trying her utmost to salvage the situation.

Ms Moon's brother, Andrew, is having his 40th birthday bash at the Cock Inn in Wivelsfield Green, out in the sticks. It's a joint do with the landlady, who has turned fifty. I have a couple of pints of Harvey's best bitter; a barrel that has been very kindly bought by the birthday boy. I'm dog tired - talking of which, Ms Moon mentions that there's an unpleasant whiff and pong in the air. I turn up the heel of my shoe; Jesus wept folks, I've traipsed into some poop in the back garden, which matches the colour of my shoes. I spend the rest of the evening wiping my dog shit coloured and covered shoes clean on a nearby grass verge, much to the amusement of onlooking partygoers.

It's an early exit from the Premier Inn on Sunday morning. There's no second chance for the buffoons on the Beefeater waiting staff to serve me a cooked breakfast, after yesterday's omnishambles. A rare outing to McDonald's on a nearby retail park, to bag a sausage and egg McMuffin, is relatively successful. Not the same can be said for an hour of Steve Wright's Love Songs with Ms Moon's Mum riding shotgun - the company is better than the disc jockey.

By 2pm I'm sat in the King William IV (better known to the locals as the King Billy). It's an old Victorian boozer in the heart of Sneinton, with bags of character. I have a few ales from the Black Iris stable, as a couple of old boys play out a game of cribbage. A wry smile comes across my face as I think of the time I locked Ms Moon out on the balcony when she beat me at crib by two legs to zero in Spain back in early September.

No games catch my eye on Tuesday evening; it's a rare night in, where I suffer in silence at endless soaps and cookery programmes. It's a relief to be back on the training ground the following evening. Our army is growing; even some of the first team lads are buying into the philosophy of giving their limbs a midweek stretch.

I officially take the team over (Keyworth United Dev) in early January. In the meantime caretaker manager, Chris Thompson, is doing a cracking job lifting the spirits of the young guns after a mixed start to the season. I address the boys at the start of the session and congratulate them on their Cup win at the weekend that puts Us into the quarter-finals. I'm keen to find out who has been booked and sin-binned as discipline is high on my agenda.

Ms Moon and I meet in the Free Man, a 'Spoons establishment on Carlton Hill, at 6pm Friday teatime. Anglo Saxons gave Carlton their name. Coerl is the Anglo Saxon word for freeman, while ton or tun means an enclosed settlement. Anyhow, the beer is spot on. Liberation real ale is a snip at £1.49 per pint with my 50p off CAMRA voucher.

It's an early start on Saturday morning, as I head over to the village of Keyworth, in South Notts, to chauffeur HRH King Trumpy Bolton. Chippenham and Maidenhead fans I need to explain something to you (sorry about this regular readers). For forty years Trumpy Bolton has travelled the length and breadth of England, Scotland and Wales, making a financial transaction (usually a pub) in every village and town. He highlights the place off in a crumpled old atlas, once he receives a credit card statement telling him where he went on his beer-fuelled visits.

The Legend is loitering half way down Spinney Road, on the 'Bronx', swinging a Co-op carrier bag full of Koppaberg mixed fruit cider. He 'fesses up to having Ardenne smooth pate (on offer at Fine Fare) on toast, smothered in butter, accompanied with a bottle of Lancaster Bomber ale, for breakfast. There's a release of gas as he untwists his bottle of booty, before taking a huge swig of 'apple juice.'

I know all the right buttons to press. I ask him if he wants to listen to the Graham Norton Show. He immediately starts fiddling with the DAB radio before settling on 6 Music. I enquire if he's listened to the Jim White Show recently on TalkSport. It's met with a full-on ten-minute rant about the celebrity-obsessed, name-dropping Scottish presenter.

We opt to drive the scenic route into the beautiful surroundings and towns of the Cotswolds, rather than the laborious, mind-numbing journey down the M42 and M5. Trumpy can name every pub on every corner, a mile before you reach it. He really ought to apply for Mastermind, with his specialist subject being British Pubs since 1976.

After sweeping through Moreton-in Marsh (where Gloucestershire CCC used to play Sunday afternoon John Player League Cricket) Stow-on-the-Wold (where I once saw Morris dancing) and the market town of Royal Wooton Bassett (where military funeral repatriations take place) we finally pitch up at at the picturesque Dumb Post Inn in Bremhill, near Calne.

Bolton's not mucking about, he shouts up two pints of Butcombe Bitter and a lime 'n soda for Sticky. They vanish in ten minutes and before you know it we're entering the ghastly Pheasant Carvery on the outskirts of Chippenham. There are kids chasing about the place squealing and crying. Even worse than that, 20 or so 'Manchester Utd' fans crowd around a TV cheering on 'their' team - we're in Wiltshire by the way, a 340-mile round trip away from Manchester. We chuckle later when Chelsea equalise at the death.

We're driving up Rowden Hill, where on April 17th 1960 American rock and roll legend Eddie Cochran lost his life at the age of 21 years old, after his speeding taxi blew a tyre, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle - Gene Vincent, also in the taxi that night, survived the crash.

Huey Morgan from the Fun Lovin' Criminals is spinning some tunes on his lunchtime show on 6 Music. He plays the 12" version of 'What' from The Damned's Captain Sensible. I give Trumpy a full rendition - he remains unmoved.

The town's turned out in their numbers for this FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie. A mouth-watering £25,000 is up for grabs to the winners. Folk are saying they've never seen queues like it at the turnstile, as we pay £12 in and £2.50 for a programme. I daren't tell 'True Blue' Trumpy that staunch Red, Jeremy Corbyn was born in the town. Ex Chippenham Town player Tyrone Mings signed for Ipswich Town for £10,000, before AFC Bournemouth shelled out £8 million for his services - crikey I hope there was a sell-on clause negotiated by Chippenham.

Trumpy has retreated to a jam-packed social club for a few pints of Old Speckled Hen. I'm on the far side of the ground, opposite the lovely old main stand, basking in the glorious sunshine, which is shielded by my Lincoln City baseball cap.

Maidenhead United, from Berkshire, are managed by ex-West Ham United fleet-footed winger, Alan Devonshire, who stands motionless in the technical area sporting a flat cap. I fancy their chances as I saw Chippenham capitulate at the fag end of last season at Hemel Hempstead.

The playing surface looks uneven and bare in places. The first half is utter dross, with neither 'keeper being tested. Trumpy emerges from the bar to ask what the score is. I tell him to trot back as neither team are going to score in a month of Sundays.

Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel and Pinball Wizard by The Who fail to lift my spirits at the break. Sticky P doesn't do 0-0s; hasn't done for 18 months, but this has one written all over it. The fans swap ends without fuss; it's the beauty of Non League.

Maidenhead score from a free kick with a wonderfully executed left-foot shot from Christian Smith. Chippenham finally start to believe in themselves. Chances going begging before a last-gasp strike from Mike Jones puts them into Monday evening's first round draw - it's nothing less than their team and fans deserve.

Attendance: 706

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton (who else)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Eastbourne Borough 2-4 Torquay United

Ms Moon mentioned a month or so ago that her brother's 40th birthday celebrations would be taking place in Burgess Hill, Sussex, in mid-October. I couldn't crank up the computer quick enough to peruse the fixtures and towns in the county on google maps. The fixture list threw up an interesting Conference South game between Eastbourne Borough and a beleaguered Torquay United.

Monday evening is spent in the northern city of Carlisle following a windswept journey up to Scotch Corner and onto the exposed A66. My boss and I have a meeting in the morning with a rail company in the area. We jump into a taxi outside the 'Purple Palace' and head into the city centre. We have a quick jar in the Kings Head on Fisher Street before legging it up to The Thin White Duke - named after a David Bowie persona in 1975 and 1976. It's a converted monastery building which is now a fashionable bar. My ears prick up when I hear a familiar tune coming out on the Spotify playlist. It's 'How Much Are They?' by Jah Wobble (ex-Public Image bassist) from 1981, a record I bought as a kid on 12" from Selectadisc on Nottingham's Market Street. The barman says it was a hit on the New York club scene.

I'm fagged out on my return to HQ, the following day and decline an invite to Owen Street to watch Coalville Town v St Neots Town in an FA Cup replay. The game is an epic with the visitors clawing back two goals at the death to make it 3-3. They eventually win on penalties - I can't 'arf miss 'em.

Wednesday evening is spent on the training ground, introducing myself to the Keyworth United Development team, who I'll be managing in the New Year. The lads enjoy a great session that leaves me bursting with pride on the short journey home.

I pick up Ms Moon's mum, Val, at just gone twelve bells on Friday lunchtime, as a convoy of cars head 'down 'Sarf.' Sat Nav is predicting a three and a half hour journey. We're sailing along the M1 with not a worry in the world, and only two miles away from the M25. I'm dreaming of slumping on my 'Purple Palace' double bed for a lovely cat nap when suddenly the traffic comes to a grinding halt during Terry's weekly allotment update from Merthyr Tydfil on the Jeremy Vine Show. We don't move for two hours as a seriously injured lorry driver is air-lifted to hospital by a helicopter.

We've pretty much polished off the mint imperials and Murray Mints by the time we get going again. The torture continues with the Steve Wright Show on Radio 2 - I didn't think Val would appreciate Hawksbee and Jacobs on TalkSport. I wince and shake my head in disbelief and embarrassment at 'Silly Boy' and his Serious Jockin' - and no, I'm not saying it.

The Beefeater bar at the Burgess Hill Premier Inn is in disarray. They've no Guinness on and only Gordon's gin. Big Tony shouts me up a Doom Bar - it tastes like dirty washing up water (sorry Tony). The meal is top notch at Buon Appetito. I'm on Amaretto, Aperol Spritz and an expensive Merlot - as you probably realised there was no real ale on.

I feel sick on Saturday morning. Scoffing that birthday cake on top of everything wasn't a good idea. The service at the breakfast bar is nothing short of a shambles. Waiting staff play with their hair, giggle at hushed conversations and saunter around. I twice have to chase up coffee and breakfast  - Ms Moon can be a madam without her early caffeine fix.

The sleepy village of Rottingdean is our first port of call. The purpose of our visit is to pay our last respects to Thin Lizzy, Belfast-born guitarist, Gary Moore, who died in Estepona, southern Spain, a resort we stayed at a few weeks ago. Moore is buried in the churchyard at St Margaret's.

Our timing isn't great, it looks like a funeral is about to take place, as we snoop about the graveyard, before Ms Moon frantically waves at me from the far corner. I'm quite cross, as I like to find the celebrity headstone first as a rule (we have done this a few times - gravehoppers). Ms Moon clocks Kipling Gardens. I mention that they sell exceedingly good cakes there - it falls on deaf ears. Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling lived in the village for several years.

We by-pass the channel ferry port of Newhaven, where the abandoned car of Lord Lucan was found in 1974 on a residential street following the murder of the nanny of his children, who was bludgeoned to death with a piece of lead piping in Belgravia, London.

We arrive on the seafront at Eastbourne with plenty of time for a mooch around. The pier is a beauty, despite being seriously ravaged by fire in 2014. It was bought by a local hotelier a year later for a reported £5 million. Ms Moon and I part company for a while (Caffe Nero). I peg it up through town before turning onto Lushington Road. There's a blue plaque on a property at No.7 (now a dental surgery) where Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll used to holiday in the late 19th Century. I manage a quick pint of lukewarm London Pride ale at The Marine, a cosy residential pub tucked away on a back street off the front.

As we stroll back to the car, two yellow Coastguard vans with flashing beacons accompanied by a police car are speeding up to Beachy Head, where we later hear a glider has crashed-landed into the sea, with no injuries reported.

Eastbourne Borough's ground is a short three-mile ride out of town. Eastbourne is a seaside town and resort in East Sussex with a population of 100,000. It's east of Beachy Head where I'll be visiting later today if 'The Lincoln' come away from Port Vale empty-handed. The MP for Eastbourne is the Liberal Democrat, Stephen Lloyd, who holds a 1,609 majority - the party only have twelve seats. Eastbourne Pier was built between 1866 and 1872 at the junction of the Grand and Marine Parades.

German philosopher Friedrich Engels' ashes were scattered from Beachy Head at his request and the author of The Graduate, Charles Webb, is housed in a far-from luxurious hotel, in the town, by social services. Current (not for long) British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was born in the town along with BBC weatherman Michael Fish, as were footballers Joel Lynch and Solly March (a bargain buy from Non-League, Lewes) and cricketer Ed Giddins. Legendary Radio 2 presenter Charlie Chester resided in the town -one for the kids there. Eastbourne Borough FC were formed in 1964 and play at Priory Lane. Notable former players include: Ashley Barnes, Carl Jenkinson and Lyle Taylor.

It's £13 on the turnstile and £2.50 for a programme. It's Non-League Day today, but I'm not aware of any discounts. Ms Moon notices that I have a face like thunder and that I'm pointing at the playing surface. It's 3G - Sticky doesn't do 3G. Oh well, it's a decent tick off. We stand on the opposite side to the dugouts, nearer to the goal the Gulls will be attacking. Their large following are housed behind the far goal. The DJ is in fine fettle. He plays Modjo, David Guetta and Babyshambles - no relation to Omnishambles at the Beefeater 'restaurant.'

The first half is nowt to write home about. Torquay are toothless in attack. Eastbourne work the 'keeper and thoroughly deserve to take the lead shortly before half-time through Alfie Rutherford. Torquay United manager Gary Johnson will be blow-torching the paint off the dressing room walls after witnessing that lacklustre display; they are sent out early onto the pitch.

I fancy Torquay will win this one. We decide to move up to where their following are gathered. Ms Moon has heard a couple of racist remarks made by a moron next to her (Eastbourne fan). Had I heard them I would have sparked the bloke flat out. It's for the best we stand elsewhere.

A Jake Andrews wonder strike from 25 yards with a wand of a left foot restores parity for the visitors and has the Torquay supporters mobbing Ms Moon. Minutes later a tap-in from Jamie Reid puts the Gulls 2-1 to the good. They are pegged back to 2-2 when their fragile defence leak another goal, scored by the excellent Dean Cox. A stonewall penalty is dispatched by Jamie Reid, who completes a hat-trick in the dying embers to give Torquay a flattering victory.

Attendance: 929

Woman of the Match: Ms Moon's Mum, Val

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Magdala Amateurs Res 3-2 Keyworth Development (Match Abandoned on 85 mins)

The trip back home from Wrexham is a darn sight quicker than this morning's hard slog - Ms Moon handles the car like she's a competitor in the RAC Rally. I'm soon slurping a few sherbets in one of my favourite haunts, a Flipside tap called the Old Volunteer, on Burton Road, Carlton at just gone seven bells. I arrive back at HQ just in time to see Graeme Swann score some low marks in Strictly Come Dancing. I'm fuming folks, I've had 50p on the former England and Notts off-spinner at odds of 25/1 to win the competition. Craig, in particular, is scathing of Swanny's hips.

I put my headphones on as Ms Moon catches up with Bodyguard; everyone's chuffing talking about it. I shed a little tear as 'Troublemaker' by Olly Murs appears on the YouTube shuffle. Murphy Palmer my old budgie, used to whistle his wee head off to that tune. He never liked the bit where Flo Ryder starts singing in riddles - he only had ears for Murs.

On Sunday, after a morning's graft in the garden, I saunter down to the bus stop on Carlton Road and head up into town. I alight the bus opposite Nottingham Arena, before crossing over London Road and pegging it up towards the railway station. There's a lovely little pub, licensed for 36 people, called the BeerHeadZ at the Cabman's Shelter, on Queens Road. Next port of call is Castle Rock's VAT and Fiddle, an open plan 1930s brick pub on Queensbridge Road. I was going to risk the wrath of the good lady by potting a third pint at the Barley Twist on Carrington Street, but the place is closed on a Sunday.

Tuesday is spent up at Kimberley Miners' Welfare's Stag Ground, where table-topping Selston FC are the visitors. The Taxman and Johnny Buttery are also in attendance. We witness a poor game, with plenty of huff and puff from both dugouts and loads of 'handbags.' Priory Celtic legend John Harris wanders over at half-time with his wife and daughter, who I 'accidentally' blanked when I arrived at the ground earlier. I get a good telling off - sorry Jackie and Lucy. The game ends in a 1-1 draw.

Wednesday evening is the highlight of the week. I'm loitering outside the Nottingham Forest ticket office, having, a few days earlier, snapped up a couple of tickets at £20 a pop to sit in the notorious 'A' Block in the Peter Taylor Stand; my favourite area of the ground, where you can hear boot on leather and the players shouting. A pumped-up Sticky jnr has a quick jar in the Hubble Bubble bar just around the corner on Pavilion Road, before hooking up with Dad.

We bump into East Midlands Today sports reporter Angela Rafferty who is hanging around with a camera crew outside the turnstile. Angela's husband, Johnny Haslam, is a good friend of mine and an 'A' Block diehard.

We're sat in the ground (stood actually, as you do) half an hour before kick-off because Dad likes to watch the warm-ups, see the crowd file in and listen to the tunes on the PA system. The Forest DJ loves his alternative music. He plays snippets of 'Gangsters' by The Specials and 'I'm Free' by The Soup Dragons.

Millwall, tonight's visitors, have had somewhat of a rough ride this season, which finds them languishing in nether regions of the Championship. The atmosphere is terrific in the 'Main Stand' as I like to call it. The Forest faithful sing a little ditty about manager Aitor Karanka to the theme tune of Heartbeat. It goes on for about 15 minutes and makes me chuckle. How Millwall aren't 3-0 up in the first 20 minutes, Lord only knows, as the Tricky Trees have no answer to the Lions' aerial bombardment.

Sticky's favourite Championship striker is Millwall's Lee Gregory. I've always had a soft spot for him since I saw him playing for Staveley Miners' Welfare up at Borrowash Victoria in 2008, whilst on loan from Sheffield FC. I stood chatting with Lee's Dad at that game, aghast at why he was playing at such a low level when it was clear to see that he had all the right tools for the job. I phoned a well known and respected Midlands Non-League manager after the game to tip him the wink. His reply was "Nick, if he can't get in Sheffield FC's side, what chance has he got in getting in mine?" In 2011 Millwall paid Halifax £250,000 for his services. 57 goals in 146 appearances is a great return on investment. Gregory sees a header bounce off the bar in the opening minutes of the game.

Livewire, Joe Lolley, puts Forest ahead with a low shot that nestles into the bottom corner of the net. Everything is going to plan until with 25 minutes remaining some of the floodlights go out."We'll play in the dark" rings out from the 'A' Block. The players return after a short break with the result a formality after a 25-yard free-kick from a largely anonymous Joao Carvalho crosses the line after hitting the underside of the bar.

Neil Harris throws on a few subs, with Karanka slow to react to the visitor's aerial supremacy. Romanian 'keeper Costel Pantilimon is having a 'Weston Super Nightmare.' His kicking has been skew-whiff and his distribution, in general, is appalling. He hesitates as a cross is swung in for an alert Shaun Williams to head home. Michael Dawson is thrown on to soak up the pressure and win a few headers; he performs heroically. One final ball is driven in from the left for poacher Lee Gregory to stab home at the far post. Sticky jnr boots the seat in front of him before exiting the ground - he best be fit for Saturday.

I'm desperately trying to get a large deal over the line at work in time for the weekend. I inch towards it as I have my hair cut at a.j.richardson just off Mapperley Tops. It's a well cool barber that has 'I'm in Love With the German Filmstar' by The Passions piping out of the speakers on the Steve Lamacq Show on 6 Music. I share a drink with Ms Moon at the Woodthorpe Top before settling in for the evening.

There's a change of plan to the Saturday schedule. We were planning to travel up to Sheffield to watch Swallownest v Armthorpe Welfare (birthplace of Kevin Keegan). Duty calls to watch the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' aka Sticky jnr. He currently plays for the Keyworth Development team in the Notts Senior League. I have agreed with the club to run the side from January 2019 in an attempt to keep hold of the flowing production line of youngsters that the club produces. Don't worry, I'll still keep knocking the blogs out to report on junior's latest yellow card.

A busy day lies ahead. I have time for a couple of crumpets with smoked salmon (sell by date is today) smeared in horseradish sauce (weird I know). First port of call is the Highfield Sports Complex, just off University Boulevard. Notts County Under 18s are playing Preston North End. There are quite a few boys still playing that I've scouted over the years. A young Pies team concede two late goals, whilst chasing the game and end up losing 4-1.

My new team are playing Magdala Amateurs at the back of ROKO gym on Wilford Lane. It's a bolthole for blog legend 'The Big Man' who has just completed a ten-day tour of Scotland - think they call it NC500 - basically it's a 516-mile scenic route in his camper van. We catch up for coffee in the bar along with Fod and Lou, who have come to watch 'Sizzers' (Fod's lad).

As we stroll towards the touchline my stomach begins to tighten and my heart starts thumping, just like it did four years ago when I coached the 16s and 18s in my final season. Today I'm just observing, as Chris Thompson has kindly stepped into the caretaker role until January.

Sticky jnr is captain (nowt to do with me) and looks fired-up. I immediately phone up Sky Bet to see what odds he is for a yellow card. Keyworth set about Magdala, refusing to be muscled off the ball by their older opponents. The Green Army survive an early onslaught and begin to settle into a rhythm. 16 year old Ben Antcliffe opens the scoring with a delicious curling shot that goes into the bottom corner of the net. Just after half-time Antcliffe becomes the creator supreme, setting up Tom Siswick to fire home from close range.

The team have conceded 50 goals in nine games, morale has been low in the camp. Statistics suggest they meet need another goal. Sadly they come thick and fast and at the wrong end. The third goal is a smart finish with our 'keeper stranded.

We're running out of legs, gas and air. Milo the Jack Russell has been told to warm up. The game is abandoned on 85 minutes with a horrific knee injury to the game's best player, young Ben, who is carted off to the Queens Medical Centre in the back of an ambulance. Get well soon, Son.

Our young guns retire to the Tailors Arms for a drink and some food with the opposition. The team-bonding has started. I can't wait for January 5th 2019, when the journey begins.

Man of the Match: Ben Antcliffe

Yellow Card for Sticky junior on 70 mins - Sky Bet refused to give me odds.

Gag of the day:

Fod to Lou: "She's come out of her shell."
Lou: "Who?"
Fod: "Amy Turtle."

One for the kids there!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wrexham 1-0 Barnet

We're tucking into breakfast on a sun-drenched patio at the H10 Estepona Palace in the Costa Del Sol. I don't recall Ms Moon and I chatting about anything in particular when the good lady suddenly drops out a pearler: "I used to love watching Soldier Soldier on ITV; it won lots of TV Times Awards. Robson and Jerome did a brilliant version of Unchained Melody; it blew The Righteous Brothers' version right out of the water."

A piece of bacon dangling from my mouth drops onto my plate. I have a coughing fit and wave frantically in the direction of waiting staff, gasping for air and a glass of water. It's a good half an hour before I get my breath back. I spend the rest of the day shaking my head in disbelief. NB 1,872,000 copies of THAT song by those two Herberts were sold in the UK (don't drop your bacon sandwich or Five Guys burger when you read this fact).

On Saturday teatime I get a clear run down the A1 southbound, after attending the Auckland derby, and arrive back home at 7pm, following my County Durham footballing weekend bonanza. I adore the Northern League, and can't wait to get back up there again, before winter sets in. I'll sling some bait out to see if Ms Moon fancies an overnight stay in Corbridge or Hexham.

Tuesday evening is spent at Owen Street, home to Coalville Town, who are playing Buxton in an FA Cup replay. I pop in en route to see my old mate, Coops, who is recovering well after major heart surgery. The two teams failed to trouble the scorers up at Silverlands, in the first game. The Ravens have Buxton on toast, and coast into the next round with a 4-1 victory and a £9,000 winning check. They play the game at a furious tempo and press' their shell-shocked opponents 'Our Joe's' old team-mate, Tim Berridge, fires home the winning goal.

I'm down at Carlton Town's Stoke Lane ground the following evening, watching a new-look Millers put in a five-star performance. Sticky's favourite, tigerish and tenacious midfielder Oliver Clark, scores a brace.

I'm drip feeding myself the behind the scenes documentary at Manchester City called All or Nothing. It certainly gets across how passionate and caring their Catalan manager Pep Guardiola is. The star of the show, without doubt, is the Belgian, Vincent Kompany. One of the most heart-warming moments of the fly on the wall doc' is when a group of young children are interviewing Kompany. He is asked who he would spend one day with, dead or alive. He says it would be with Nelson Mandela and goes on to explain his cause and that Mandela served 27 years in prison for a crime he committed. A little boy asks Kompany what his crime was. Kompany pauses for some time and swallows before saying "his crime was being black." The room is filled with silence, sadness and bewilderment.

We have coffee and crumpets smeared in Marmite for breakfast on Saturday morning, as we listen to Dermot O'Leary on Radio 2 playing 'Aint No Pleasing You' by Chas 'n Dave, following the passing of Chas Hodges. I noticed on the Nottingham Post Facebook feed that a ten-mile stretch, west and east, on the A50 from Uttoxeter to Stoke, is closed for the entire weekend - this will cause havoc with the schedule. Forget 'Sally Traffic' and Lynn Bowles, there's only one person to put a call into during my hour of need.

'Trumpy Tours' tells me to pull off the A50 onto the A38 towards Rugeley and then pick up the A34 to Stone and onto the A51 to Nantwich. Sounds easy enough but when you've got the irritating Graham Norton on the radio for company, you can soon flip your lid.

After a painstaking two and a half hours we finally pull into the Egerton Arms in Broxton, just shy of the Welsh border, in Cheshire. It's a neatly kept mock-Tudor dining pub. The Welsh Pride ale is spot on; the same can't be said about the snap. We're not perennial moaners or groaners about restaurant food, but the steak sandwich is cold, as are the 'French fries' and Ms Moon's coffee. A waitress asks if everything is ok, I reply, "No, not really, the food is stone cold and so is the coffee, but hey, que sera", and leave it that. A fussing restaurant manager deducts the drinks from the bill. I don't make a song and dance about it and thank him for his gesture. A Will Young tune on the pub iPod shuffle hastens our departure.

It's £3 to park in the neighbouring Glyndwr University, adjacent to Wrexham FC's Racecourse Ground. Wrexham is in Clwyd, in the north of Wales and has a population of 60,000. It is well known for its Wrexham Lager brewery that was established in 1862 and became the first brewery in the U.K. to produce lager beer. Notable folk from the town include: footballers Mark Hughes, Joey Jones, Jason Koumas, Robbie Savage and Tom Lawrence, presenter Tim Vincent and the dance band K-Klass (Rhythm is a Mystery).

Wrexham FC were founded in 1864 and are nicknamed the Dragons. They are the oldest club in Wales and the third oldest professional club in the world. This will be their tenth consecutive season in England's fifth tier of football. Highest transfer fee received is £800,000 from Birmingham City in 1997 for Bryan Hughes. Highest transfer fee paid is £212,000 for Joey Jones from Liverpool in 1978. The Dragons goalkeeping coach is Finland's Jussi Jaaskelainen, who made 474 appearances for Bolton Wanderers.

Well known former managers include: Brian Flynn, Brian Little, Dean Saunders and Gary Mills. Back in 2004, I visited the Club whilst raising money for the British Heart Foundation. Despite their precarious financial position they still donated a signed football which I was able to raffle off - Geraint Parry, the gentleman who helped me with this, is still the club secretary.

Ms Moon nips to the garage to stock up on chocolate and water, whilst a very helpful cashier sorts out our tickets to sit in the Yale Paddock at £19 a pop, right behind the dugouts. A well-produced programme is £3. It's a wonderful old ground that has kept its character despite modernisation. To our left is the sad view of an empty Kop end, with a plethora of red-painted crash barriers. It's hard to believe that over 13,000 people packed this ground out to the rafters in 1992 when the Dragons knocked out a full-strength Arsenal in the third round of the FA Cup.

I saw Barnet  at Lincoln City's Sincil Bank twelve months ago; they played some smashing football and were unfortunate to lose 2-1. Not long after, their young coach, Ross Eames, was replaced by Mark McGhee. They've won three games on their travels and will be a threat today, despite missing a number of key personnel, including star striker Shaquille Coulthirst.

The Dragons are on the back of a 3-0 reverse down 'the Smoke' on Sutton Town's artificial surface and a goalless midweek draw up in Harrogate on the same surface with a 700 following.

To say that the first half is lacklustre and dull as dishwater is an understatement. It's cat and mouse as nobody puts a tackle in. Barnet's colossus is 21 year old on loan Shrewsbury defender Zak Jules. Dragon attackers bounce off him or are ushered out of play. The boy can play too; he has a cigar on, a wand of a left foot and never breaks sweat. The game is desperate for a goal. Wrexham get the ball down and a well-worked move is finished off with a Stuart Beavon daisy-cutter, who is drifting in from the left-hand flank.

The Bees of Barnet are urged forward by their 77 following who have made the 360-mile round trip. Despite a good spell of possession, they rarely trouble the Wrexham 'keeper. We scarper on 85 minutes, confident in the knowledge that nobody could hit a cow's backside with a banjo if they tried.

Attendance: 4,727

Away Folowing: 77

Man of the Match; Vincent Kompany