Sunday, January 14, 2018
I scroll down the BBC website Premiership fixtures for Saturday January 13th until one catches my eye. It's a game that both teams will believe they can win. I punch out the Huddersfield Town ticket office number out on my mobile. The phone is picked up instantly. I receive a warm and pleasant customer service experience. I bag two tickets for £30 each in the lower stand of the 'Fantastic Media Stand' behind the goal. The phone call is in complete contrast to the one made minutes earlier to those buffoons on reception at Eden Hall, near Newark, when trying to book Ms Moon and her daughter a spa day as a Christmas pressie. After a heated conversation, a bad-tempered email and provocative tweet, calm is restored, soothed with the thought of a trip up to West Yorkshire.
I'm roused from my sleep early on Friday morning by the Nottingham Post app pinging on my phone. I rub sleep away from my eyes before fumbling for my glasses. Blimey O'Reilly, the recently refurbished Nottingham Railway Station is on fire. Crikey, I hope they're no casualties, including the new pub (BeerHeadZ) on Queen's Street, that opened up a few days ago.
More breaking news is coming in from Ms Moon on Canal Street. An emergency trip to the dentist on Carlton Hill has resulted in a couple of back gnashers being whipped out - I can't see the good lady being too chipper for the rest of the day.
I have a couple of tea-time real ales (Liverpool Pale) at the cosy Old Volunteer on Burton Road. Ms Moon joins me in the Willowbrook on Gedling Road. Back in the day it used to remind of the Winchester Club in the TV series Minder. She sips on a prosecco having removed a full bag of blood-stained cotton wool from her back gums. I mention Joe Jordan, Shane McGowan and 'Jaws from James Bond - it doesn't crack a smile. I just receive the death stare. The 'Sheffield Steel' derby is a bore draw. I turn the lights out and head up to bed. I slip a £2 coin under the Princess's pillow.
Ms Moon is as fresh as a daisy on Saturday morning after a twelve-hour snooze-a-thon. We're up, at 'em and on the M1 heading north by 11:30am. Trumpy Bolton's favourite disc jockey, Graham Norton, is on the air on Radio 2. West Yorkshire born Young Ones actor, Ade Edmondson, is his special guest. I've always thought of him and his Cambridge Footlights cronies as a bit smug, but we both enjoy his endless, charming anecdotes.
Sat Nav guides us into a car park on St Andrew's Road, a ten-minute stroll away from the town centre. The good lady needs her coffee fix. It quashes any chance of a pub lunch. After a saunter up to the railway station and a couple of photos of the Harold Wilson statue, we ask a friendly policeman where the nearest Costa Coffee shop is, before Ms Moon turns into the Tasmanian Devil.
Huddersfield is a large market town in West Yorkshire with a population of over 160,000. It's a town of Victorian architecture with the railway station being a Grade 1 listed building. John Betjeman described it as "the most splendid station facade in England."
Famous people to come from the town include: pipe-smoking Prime Minister Rt Hon Harold Wilson, footballers Andy Booth, Cameron Jerome, Jon Stead and Frazier Campbell, Hollywood actor James Mason and Gordon Kaye from 'Allo 'Allo!
We put more hard yards in as we slog it through town, across the A62 and onto the Kirklees Stadium. Incredibly 'our lass' needs another caffeine infusion - at this rate she won't sleep for a fortnight. I take my place in the lower section of the Media Stand as 'Chelsea Dagger' by Glaswegian indie band The Fratellis blasts out of the PA system. My only other visit to Huddersfield was at their old Leeds Road ground for a Sherpa Vans Trophy game versus Scarborough Town back in 1989 with Trumpy Bolton on a filthy Monday evening. The Terriers lost 2-1. Compare the two clubs now?
Jesus Christ, every seat has one of those bloody clappers on them. They won Leicester City the Premiership, as they kept putting off the opposition. A little lad comes skipping down the row behind me and immediately starts shaking his clapper. In his excitement a huge Frankfurter sausage falls out of his bun and rolls next to my foot. He sheds a few tears as I offer him the 'ten-second rule.'
The DJ set comprises of Madness (twice) Gala, 'Freed From Desire' (twice) and randomly 'Runaway' by Del Shannon. I admire the Hammers; always have. They have a fanatical fan base and believe in youth. The much-maligned Moyes has named a few young guns on the bench. I remark to Ms Moon that ex-Culture Club drummer Jon Moss is the referee today. "Is he?" she replies. Before noticing my smirk and digging her elbows into my ribs.
It's a tame game in the opening 25 minutes. The Terriers enjoy the lion's possession of the ball with only Tom Ince having the courage and guile to prise open the Hammers rearguard. On 15 minutes there's applause for 15-year-old Katelyn Dawson who tragically died in a horror crash whilst waiting for her school bus. The West Ham fans clap as one.
The game turns on a sixpence. A ridiculous pass from the 'keeper to Joe Lolley sees him surrounded by the Irons. Mark Noble on his 361st appearance gets a foot in before a clinical finish.
Former Non-League attacker Lolley makes amends on 40 minutes with a sublime finish after cutting in from the right and leaving Adrian with no chance following a left foot curling finish. Mascot 'Terry the Terrier' joins in the celebrations. He throws in more shapes than Arsenal striker Alex Iwobi at an early hours North London house party.
Huddersfield are still in the changing room when West Ham retake the lead just ten seconds into the second half (is this a record?). Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic, a £20 million Slaven Bilic signing, catches the Terriers napping before smashing the ball home.
A flurry of substitutions by David Moyes ensure their lead is protected and that their rich vein of form continues. Huddersfield, on this shaky performance, will need reinforcements to bolster a fragile backline.
Man of the Match: Marko Arnautovic - class
Monday, January 8, 2018
I clock a bit of hot totty, out of breath, slogging it up the hill - it's Ms Moon. I open the door for the good lady to step into Bar Iberico on Carlton Street. It's 5:30pm on the nose, just in time for the 'Rapido Deal.' We tuck into four delicious tapas dishes accompanied by a glass of Rioja. The rest of the evening is spent with friends diving in and out of the splendid bars and pubs that Nottingham is famous for - *fails to mention that he popped into the Herbert Kilipin, on Bridlesmith Walk, when he stated weeks earlier that he wouldn't step foot in the place again - was outed on social media*
I arrive at the foot of our stairs on Sunday morning to be met by Ms Moon who has breaking news on her Facebook feed, that Mark Warburton and his Scottish backroom staff have got the hoof. The job was too big for him. At least the club won't need to shell out any more fees, to the same agent, for sub-standard players from north of the border.
There's been chuff all midweek football on, the inclement weather has put paid to that. I can't even be bothered to climb out my armchair on New Year's Day - we watch six episodes of Gavin and Stacey instead. We're booked in at a trendy boutique hotel in Newcastle on Saturday evening. The plan was to have some lunch at Tynemouth (Newcastle by-the-Sea) and then drive further up the coast to Croft Park to take in Blyth Spartans v Gainsborough Trinity. It's tipped it down with rain for most of the week and they are forecasting 40mph winds in the north-east. I pull the plug on our weekend away. I spot F.C. United of Manchester are taking advantage of the opportunity of playing on a Sunday with 'United' in FA Cup action against D***y on Friday and 'City' at home on Saturday.
Oh, what to do on Saturday? It's dank, damp and miserable again in our neck of the woods. I ask Ms Moon if she fancies some brunch in town with a trip to the cinema and a few drinkies after - she about snaps my hand off. I've read rave reviews on Molly's Game starring Idris Elba.
There's a heavy police presence in the area, with several roads cordoned off, as we walk to the bus stop on Carlton Road. A police car is being loaded onto the back of a lorry as we jump onto the No.25 bus into town.
After some brunch at the Hideout on King Street (had to use Google maps to find it), we pitch up at the Broadway Cinema to watch the film and are blown away with the fast pace of the plot (I can't arf pick 'em). We enjoy a few tea-time scoops at the Curious Tavern and Fox and Grapes before heading home back to Carlton for the evening.
It feels a little strange going to football on a Sunday. Ms Moon waves me off after very kindly making me a bacon cob. I decide to go up the A1 and across the M62 as there are no 50mph maximum speed limits. Five Live are broadcasting a documentary of tales of folk who have been stalked. It has me gripping the steering wheel. It scares the living daylights out of me. Ms Moon phones up to see how I'm progressing on the motorway. I tell her to stop stalking me and end the call.
Alastair Bruce-Ball and John Hartson are commentating at Rodney Parade as Newport County and 'Dirty Leeds' cross swords in the third round of the FA Cup. It's one of ten grounds left for me to tick off.
I'm up in Moston in less than two hours and parked up in St Matthews RC High School by 1:30pm. Even the car park attendant hasn't started his shift yet. I listen to the fag end of the game. A wry smile lights up my face as Newport snatch a late winner. I cough up to the car park chap that I've been here for ages and part with £3.
Moston is a district of Manchester two miles to the north-east of the city centre. It has a population of 14,000. Notable folk from the area include: the actress Marsha Thomason, former Man City, WBA and Nottingham Forest striker Ishmael Miller and Major Henry Kelly, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action in the First World War.
The ground is a five-minute stroll up the road. I nearly fall arse over tit on an icy patch on the pavement as I approach the stadium. I'm only saved by the sturdy grip of my Adidas Sambas. Broadhurst Park is bathed in glorious sunshine and already a hive of activity an hour before kick-off. After taking a few snaps, I pay £10 on the gate (a sensible price, compared to the rip-off at some National League North grounds). The programme is £2 and is, without doubt, the best of the season.
F.C. United of Manchester is a semi-professional club based in Moston, Manchester. They were founded in 2005 by disenchanted Manchester United fans opposed to the takeover of the club by American businessman Malcolm Glazer. After sharing multiple stadia across the Greater Manchester region between 2005-2015, they finally opened their own ground, Broadhurst Park in May 2015.
F.C. United of Manchester are a fan-owned club which is democratically run by members who have equal voting rights and own one share each in the club. The club badge is based on the Manchester coat of arms and features a ship at sea and three stripes for the three rivers that run through the city. Karl Marginson was the manager for over twelve years, until recently parting company with the club.
I'm taken aback at the huge amount of flags erected in each stand. As new builds go, the ground is a beauty with no stone unturned. It's the little things like the recycling stations and real ale bar that catch my eye.
I'm leaning on a red-painted crash barrier towards the rear of the St Mary's Road End as the ground begins to fill up. Five minutes before kick off the crowd begin to sing relentlessly 'Bring on United' until both teams emerge from the tunnel.
Player-manager, Tom Greaves, soon has the majority of an astonishing 2,863 crowd in raptures with a cool finish on twelve minutes. The fans poke fun at the Main Stand for not singing, but they're soon at it. Southport play ball to feet and are dangerous down the flanks, but nobody can get on the end of some crosses whipped in, that flash across goal. They are managed by former Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers striker Kevin Davies.
The second half is scrappy and littered with fouls. Southport have to open up, but leave gaping holes at the back that FCUM try to exploit. The visitors do have the game's best player in 4 jacket David Morgan. The Belfast-born, former Nottingham Forest and Ilkeston Town midfielder prises open the home defence on countless occasions, but they fail to capitalise on his pinpoint passing. FCUM run the clock down to continue their good form under Greaves and climb up the table.
Man of the Match: David Morgan
Monday, January 1, 2018
I race out of the house. I open up the Mondeo on the A46 towards Lincoln. The road is as clear as a bell. I'm parked up in Lincoln United's Ashby Avenue beautiful, tree-lined ground in less than 40 minutes. It's my third viewing this season of 'the Lincoln Real Madrid', in their all-white strip.
The 1pm kick-off suits me down to the ground. I could have gotten greedy, as the Imps entertain Stevenage Town at 3pm, but one game is enough for me. It's a rather pricey £9 on the gate and £1 for a golden goal ticket. I'm absolutely 'Hank Marvin' so dive into the tea bar and grab a steak pie and rancid cup of tea.
The game is a thrilling end to end Christmas cracker with the visitors from Cleethorpes running out 5-4 victors. I meet an eccentric groundhopper from Rugby. He says there are 23 teams in the UK who are named the Magpies. His intention is to visit all 23 grounds - I daren't tell him that Lincoln are nicknamed 'The Whites.'
Coventry Copsewood v Ilkeston Town was the nominated game for Saturday afternoon. It's hosed off/snowed off by 10am. I've had my beady eye on happenings at The City Ground. Defeat today against relegation-threatened Sunderland will surely see a 'Greek tragedy' with Mark Warburton shown the door by owner Evangelos Marinakis. He was fortunate to inherit an Uwe Rosler assembled squad at Brentford's Griffin Park. Our Scottish office said that his recruitment policy at Rangers was poor, frittering away money on a string of average, unproven players.
I ring up the ticket office. I'm placed 12th in the queue. Excellent customer service sees me secure a ticket for £27 in Block 'E' of the 'Peter Taylor Stand.' There's time for breakfast with a perked-up Ms Moon at Copper on Mapperley Tops, before catching the bus to the bottom of Carlton Road and pegging it up London Road, passing by Notts County's Meadow Lane ground. I get chatting with a Tricky Tree fan as we battle against a bitter, biting wind chill blowing off the canal. He seems optimistic despite a recent poor run of form.
My last outing here was against Neil Warnock's Cardiff City, who cruised to a 2-0 victory without getting out of second gear. Sticky junior was fuming that day. He ripped up more losing betting slips than Paul Merson. I decide it's best not to let him know I'm down here today. I walk along the banks of the Trent and queue up at the ticket collection point to the rear of the Brian Clough Stand. I'm sat in my seat before 2pm - even the 'keepers aren't warming up yet. I like to hear the Forest DJ's set. It's not up there with Atherton Colls, Radcliffe Borough or Salford City, but at least he puts some thought into it.
Sunderland is a city in Tyne and Wear in north-east England with a population of over 175,000. It is a coastal city at the mouth of the River Wear. It is well known for its coal-mining, shipbuilding and the automotive industry. A person born or living in the area is known as a Mackem. Famous people from Sunderland include: actor James Bolam, journalist Kate Adie, actress Melanie Hill, the inventor of the electric light bulb Sir Joseph Swan, singer and 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne, musician Emeli Sande, David A. Stewart from the Eurythmics, footballers Nigel Clough, Michael Gray and Jordan Henderson and former England Test fast bowler Bob Willis.
Sunderland A.F.C. were founded in 1879 and are nicknamed the Black Cats. Notable former managers include: Bob Stokoe, Terry Butcher, Peter Reid, Roy Keane and Gus Poyet. Biggest transfer fee received is £30 million from Everton for 'keeper Jordan Pickford. Biggest fee shelled out is £17.1 million for forward Didier N'Dong from FC Lorient.
The Forest DJ must have been on the sauce over the festive period, he spins Rod Stewart's 'Young Hearts Be Free Tonight' - previous owner Fawaz would have issued a P45 for this faux pas. He redeems himself as the Prodigy's 'Breathe' booms around the stadium as the teams emerge from the tunnel.
Forest USA full back Eric Lichaj is being skinned alive by McGeady and Matthews as crosses fly in from the Sunderland left-hand side. Forest are playing that boring, possession football which sent me to sleep against Cardiff City a few weeks back. 'Keeper Jordan Smith has a kick like a mule, but never has the chance to show it off. It's ironic that Joe Worrall lumps a ball forward which catches John O'Shea napping, Daryl Murphy fails to convert.
Forest pay the price for another cross that comes sailing in from the impressive Adam Matthews, Paisley-born, Irish international, Aiden McGeady gets between two defenders to nod the ball home. I'm shocked to hear the boos ring out around the ground as the referee blows the half-time whistle. I've only ever booed once at my team (Lincoln City) and that was at the manager Alan 'Sniffer' Clarke back in 1990, when the Imps were 3-0 down to Darlington at half-time.
Sunderland shut up shop in the second half, but play a more purposeful brand of possession football. Forest's only shining light is 34-year old David Vaughan. He dances on the ball and is brave with his decision-making; taking risks with his passing, unlike his teammates. My pals have raved about tricky winger Barrie McKay. He's been hooked by Warburton on the hour in both games I've seen. Everton loanee Kieran Dowell is another they've talked-up; again he flatters to deceive.
Former Black Cats' Irish international Daryl Murphy is removed from Tricky Trees' attack with a lower back injury. The bloke behind me remarks that he hasn't been the same since the Republic of Ireland's failure to qualify for the World Cup finals. He's replaced by misfiring, unsettled striker Jason Cummings, another Warburton bum signing.
Sunderland run the clock down, and are fortunate to see an Eric Lichaj effort thump off the post in the final kick of the game. The boos ring out around The City Ground, as the vultures' circle with Warburton edging ever closer to the trap door.
Attendance: 26,830 (1,990 away fans)
Man of the Match: David Vaughan
Sunday, December 24, 2017
The fur coat 'n no knicker brigade are out in full force on 'Bread 'n Lard Island. It's the poshest place in Notts with barely a decent pub in sight - the wonderful Stratford Haven is its saving grace. My Dad opened this pub, back in the day, for the owner of Tynemill, Chris Holmes. It took Chris five years to be granted a license for the 'Strat', which was previously a pet shop. Rushcliffe Borough Council are missing a trick. 'The Avenue' will be a pub graveyard in a few years time, unless they open their eyes. I quaff a couple of real ales in there, still reeling from the shock of stumping up £83 for two rounds of six in the pretentious Botanist on Bridgford Road (the artist formerly known as Fire 'n Ice another poncy pub).
I've only got one visit lined up with work this week, and that's only to Doncaster. I'll go stir crazy if I have to stay in the house. Big Dick Durrant comes to the rescue. He's the President of the Notts Senior League - it used to be 'the best league in the world.' His lad, Ross, ex NFFC, is in the nets for North Ferriby United, up in the East Riding of Yorkshire, for their Tuesday night Conference North clash with Curzon Ashton - a club who sold jinking winger, Steve Wigley, to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1981.
There's time for a superb pint of Wainwright in the Duke of Cumberland public-house before viewing the game. The moneyman has pulled the plug on Ferriby, and a new owner is in, who I'm introduced to. Ferriby can consider themselves to be unlucky, with a new-look and patched-up side putting on a brave performance. Ross is excellent in goal and should have no trouble pushing onto a Conference side next season. His handling is exemplary and distribution first-class.
It's Wednesday evening and the night of the office party. I'll be comfortably the oldest person there. I jump off the No.25 bus at the Southwell Road stop, and peg it up London Road, before turning right down Station Street. I've a new Castle Rock pub to tick off on Arkwright Street called the Barley Twist, which was previously an old sweet shop. I bump into a good mate who I haven't seen in ages - we worked together for close on 15 years.
I catch the Newark to Matlock train, alighting at the picture-postcard village of Attenborough, close to the nature reserve. It's a short walk up to the Village Hotel, in Chilwell, the venue for the party. It's not my scene and quite a tame affair. I'm tucked up in bed for 1am.
I've been kindly invited, on Friday afternoon, to the 31st edition of the Tollerton Air Hostess FC Christmas party. I've a few loose ends to tie up at work, so don't arrive in 'North Bridgford' until later in the afternoon. Some of the lads have already been 'on the sauce' for a few hours, but are looking rather glum as I swing open the door of the Brewhouse and Kitchen, situated on the banks of the River Trent. It transpires that one of the boys, only half an hour ago, administered CPR to a man who had collapsed outside The Embankment pub - tragically the guy didn't make it. The afternoon is tinged with sadness.
The Larwood and Voce pub on Fox Road, next to the cricket ground, is a major disappointment. Timothy Taylor Landlord and 'Rockin' Rudolph' beers are flat and rancid. 'Trevor Nelson' is on the decks and spinning Kool and the Gang, Shalamar and The Whispers - I remind the clown it's Christmas after another sharp exit.
'Our Joe' and his mates rock up in the Stratford Haven. I coached some of the lads at football until they were 16 years old. I love it, that they still take the time-out to make a fuss and have a chat. I hit the wall at 9pm, bowing out with a Doner kebab and DG cab home.
I'm as fresh as a daisy on Saturday morning. I brave Tesco in Carlton before leaving 'the Princess' with her runny nose and high temperature. I'm off to Peterborough to meet up with one of my best mates of over 40 years. A whinging Alan Green and insightful Leon Osman are commentating from Goodison Park as Everton and Chelsea meet in a lunchtime kick-off.
I see signs for the village of Scarrington, close to Bingham. Back in 1990, Roy Keane signed for Nottingham Forest from Cobh Ramblers, in Ireland, for a paltry fee. He ticked off more watering holes in Nottingham than blog legend Trumpy Bolton, often getting himself into more scrapes and rucks than Oliver Reed. My father had to fly out to Jersey to cover a story after a mid-winter break (remember them) involving Keane and a hotel waitress. Brian Clough told him to find a girl and settle down. He met a lass called Teresa from Bilborough, and took up Clough's advice, moving out into the sticks and residing in Scarrington, a dry village, near to Newark. He's still married to her to this day.
The A52 and A1 are as clear as a bell. Sat Nav navigates me into a tasty-looking housing estate. I can see the players warming up, but there's no access to the ground. Some youth is smoking a spliff in his front yard. I ask him directions to the ground. I might as well of asked my thick-as-a brick old budgie Murphy Palmer.
Peterborough is a cathedral city in east of England Cambridgeshire with a population of over 160,000. The River Nene flows through the city centre. It was designated a new town in 1967. The city is well known for Perkins engines, British Sugar, Indesit, Pearl Assurance and Thomas Cook. Famous people from the area include: actor Paul Nicholas, TV Presenter Jake Humphrey, Talksport gobshite Adrian Durham, Erasure lead singer Andy Bell and former Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder David Bentley.
I stumble across the ground on the Lincoln Road and stick the car in a medical centre, to the rear of the stadium. My mate Ackers is propping up the bar, drinking a pint of mild (or a frothy Coke). It's a lovely old-fashioned clubhouse with plenty of memorabilia adorning the walls. The club i-Pod shuffle has a stuttering start with Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan, but quickly rectifies itself with 'Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds.
It's £8 on the gate. I think they've sold out of programmes, but manage to buy a golden goal ticket. I saw the reverse fixture back in the autumn, as both teams cancelled each other out in a goaless draw. I like Sports' manager Jimmy Dean. I witnessed only one of two defeats last season, when they were beaten by a wonder-goal at Eynesbury Rovers - he was very sporting in defeat.
Lincoln United are the visitors. I like them very much, as they try to play an intricate game. You wouldn't mess around with their backroom staff, as they are the land of the giants. One of their Management, Stuart Reddington, was signed from the Club by Chelsea when Gianluca Vialli was the manager.
We stand on the far side, exposed to the slight wind chill blowing in from the east. A dour first half with both teams poor in the final third livens up when defender Liam Marshall is red-carded for pulling back a Lincoln striker who is through on goal.
Lincoln start to pull the strings with creator supreme Rob Norris spraying the ball to all corners of the park. This can't be matched with the lack of firepower up front. We take advantage of the kind offer of mulled wine and a mince pie at half-time.
I mention to Forest diehard, Ackers, that 18-year-old hot property Ben Brereton has put the Tricky Trees 1-0 up at Deepdale in Preston - crikey at least they've seen a goal. Lincoln finally break the deadlock, and not before time. Jimmy Dean throws on his Christmas cracker, a Polish lad plucked from the District League. The return is instant. Much-travelled captain, Mark Jones, sensationally puts Sports 2-1 up from a torpedo long throw.
The Lincoln technical area, who have been chirpy, are lost for words and ideas. Sports spurn a glorious chance to put the game to bed with Jones aiming skew-wiff from close range. Lincoln throw the kitchen sink at it. Oliver nods home an equalizer before a last-ditch winner from Wightwick brings home the bacon for the visitors.
I'm gutted for Jimmy and the lads; they've given their all and played near three-quarters of the game with ten men. Their luck is down right now.
Man of the Match: Ashley Robinson
Merry Christmas, Sticky 'n Ms Moon xx
Sunday, December 17, 2017
I've been confined to the bargain buy Next armchair for most of the week, reading a book called 'Six Stickers', which has raised a few smiles. It's about a guy who discovers an old 1996 Panini sticker album in his parents' loft. He flicks through it, only to discover that six stickers are missing. The book records his comical, laugh out loud attempts at tracking down the players across Europe so he can take a photo of them to complete the album. The players, who are good sports are: Keith Curle, Lars Bohinen, Stuart Ripley, Phillipe Albert, Scott Minto and Gary Penrice.
I can still confirm that 99% of contestants on Tipping Point are as thick as a brick and that Bradley Walsh is still dyeing his hair on The Chase. In other news, the M1 is still going straight through the Dingles' yard and Oscar-winning actor, Michael Le Vell, (Kevin Webster) is back on the set in Corrie.
It's Friday tea-time and I've hot-footed it through the streets of St Ann's, onto Mansfield Road and waltzed through the door of Wisdom Hairdressers- the best barbers, bar none, in Nottingham. All the lads, with scissors in hand, are from Kurdistan - Sticky loves them all to bits. The old 'Barnet Fair' gets a good old shearing - it's changing colour (grey) faster than Bradley Walsh's.
Blimey Charlie, this Christmas shopping malarkey is thirsty work, I think I'll nip into the Herbert Kilpin, my favourite watering hole, for a quick scoop. Crikey Moses it's a bit quiet in here. My tongue is salivating at the prospect of a real ale, as I clock the Kilpin beer pump on the bar; it'll be down the hatch in the blink of an eye. The landlord is sat in a corner of the downstairs bar tossing it off on his tablet. "Sorry mate, we have a private party on, we're closed." I feel the red mist beginning to descend with a hate that is only reserved for Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans.
The Herbert Kilpin has sold its soul to Santa. It's a different story on Sunday lunchtimes when I'm handing over lolly in an empty bar, whilst watching another dreary 0-0 in Serie A. Well I tell you what, I'm done with all those beard-stroking hipsters!
It's Saturday morning 4:15. My outstretched hand reaches out to the bedside table, as I fumble around for my phone. I check the cricket score from Australia. Jeez, Steve Smith's scored another big ton. I don't bother switching the TV on five hours later. The Ashes are gone and Greengrass is up before the beak on Heartbeat for the umpteenth time.
We're on the road at eleven bells. I'm in radio heaven as Colin Murray is hosting the brilliant Fighting Talk. They asked a cracking question the other week: Who scored the fastest ever goal in the Premiership? (answer at the bottom of the blog).
Ms Moon's got the 'face on', she's sick and tired of Five Live. We have to switch over to Absolute 80s (yawn). I continue my tour of the UK's best fish and chip shops as we pull into the 'Sea Queen' on Rookery Lane, on the outskirts of Lincoln city centre. Britney Spears' 'Toxic' is on the chippy radio as two mini haddocks, chips and peas are served up
We're parked up two hours before kick-off and only a ten minute walk away from Sincil Bank. Ms Moon randomly announces she fancies getting her nails done. There's no shortage of takers as Lincoln's High Street has more nail bars than Albert Square.
I spend lunchtime sitting on a wall gazing at Lincoln Cathedral, which is bathed in winter sunshine. An eastern European trio, playing an accordion, saxophone and keyboards, strike up some tunes. I do a little jig before throwing some money into the hat.
Third-placed Accrington Stanley are in town with an in-form Imps chasing their tails. Accrington is a town in Lancashire four miles east of Blackburn and six miles west of Burnley, with a population of over 50,000. It is well known as once being the centre for cotton and textile manufacturing. It is also famed for producing the Accrington Brick which was used to build the foundations of the Empire State Building and Blackpool Tower. Another well-known association the town has is the 'Accrington Pals' the nickname given to the smallest home town battalion of volunteers formed to fight in the First World War - 865 men were killed from the town during the War. I'm raising money next season for Help for Heroes to commemorate 100 years since the end of the War.
Notable born and bred from Accrington include: Dire Straits drummer Andy Kanavan, Jon Anderson the lead singer of rock band Yes, Coronation St actresses Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley Cropper), ex-Test cricketer Graeme Fowler, Sky commentator David 'Bumble' Lloyd, astrologer 'Mystic Meg' and former Manchester United defender Mike Duxbury.
Sticky Palms and Ms Moon had a lovely afternoon and evening out in Accrington a few seasons' back. Before taking in the League Two game versus the Stags of Mansfield, we visited the picture postcard town of Whalley in the Ribble Valley and dined out for tea at the Aspinall Arms in Great Mitton. We both adored The Crown at Accrington Stanley (the ground, not the pub). I seem to remember that less than 1,000 turned up on a balmy summer's evening. Their brilliant manager, John Coleman, and his backroom team deserve more than that. They sit third in the table on a shoestring budget. Accrington have the 23rd lowest average crowd (1,699) in League Two, Lincoln on the other hand top the table at 8,608 as the Cowley affect continues.
We're shoehorned into a corner of the back row in the Selenity Stand. To view the goal at the Stacey West end of the ground we have to look through a dirty old window (can we have it cleaned please, Danny?).
The Lincoln DJ plays it safe with the Dave Clark Five, Bruno Mars and Tears for Fears. My stomach begins to churn as the players emerge from the tunnel - if I came to every game then St John's would be on full alert. My last viewing of the Imps was at Swindon Town's County Ground. We played them off the park but left it late when my hero Sean Raggett brought home the bacon. I sang in the car all the way home.
It's nip and tuck in the first 20 minutes as both teams eye each other up. Lincoln begin to get on top. I love watching Harry Anderson galloping down the right flank. He's a speed merchant with a much improved final ball. It's the same old story as 'The Lincoln' are either thwarted by the 'keeper or by last-gasp clearances.
The game is officiated by Sebastian Stocksbridge (it's no surprise he's a school teacher, sorry Danny Cowley). I remember this bungling fool down at Meadow Lane earlier in the season. We were controlling the game until the blithering idiot sent off Billy Knott for a 'foot up' as it was trending at the time from a Sadio Mane incident at the Etihad Stadium - we lost 4-1 and fair play to Notts who were terrific in the second half. He must still have a guilty conscience as Lincoln are given the softest of soft penalties. The industrious Matt Green dusts himself down before planting the ball into net for his fourth goal in four games - thank you Steve Evans for letting him go on a Bosman.
The game's been on simmer for some time. Big Rhead is putting himself about and Stanley don't like it up 'em. Cowley drapes an arm around his shoulder and pulls him away from a baying pack of seething Stanley players at half-time. Lincoln are physically and mentally stronger than the Lancastrians.
The Lincoln DJ goes hell for leather and proper old skool with 'Rappers Delight' and 'The Message' at the break. Ms Moon has drunk more coffee than PC Alf Ventress off Heartbeat. Sticky knows 'The Lincoln' need a second goal to be sure. Accrington are down to ten men with 'Seb' controversially sending off Nottingham lad Farrend Rawson (on loan from D***y) - a boy who I scouted at 11 years old that Forest didn't fancy.
The game's never in doubt following a cool finish by Matt Rhead who's celebrating a contract extension until 2019. Credit to Harry Anderson and Neil Eardley for great work down the wing. I can chillax for the first time in ages - Stanley aren't going to score in a month of Sundays. I spend the rest of the second half having banter with 50/50 ticket seller, Paul, who's a cracking lad.
Attendance: 7,696 (135 from Accrington)
Man of the Match: Paul the 50/50 ticket seller - great banter
Quiz answer: Ledley King
Sunday, December 10, 2017
I've got 'Radio Red' on. They're live and exclusive at Portman Road, where Big Mick McCarthy's Tractor Boys are giving NFFC a pummelling. Commentator, Colin Fray, is saying through his Tricky Tree rose-tinted glasses that 'You Reds' have been unfortunate. Anybody at the Cardiff game would have seen it coming. I do like though, how Mark Warburton has stuck in a few kids from the endless conveyor belt of talent feeding in from the Academy. You'd never see 'King Billy' do that.
I'm back home for 5pm and showered, shaved and changed for early doors. We jump in a cab and head over the water to a J D Wetherspoon's 'professional drinking' watering hole called the Trent Bridge Inn. The cricketing theme continues, after visiting the birthplace of Notts legend Derek Randall this afternoon, tonight we're attending the Keyworth Cricket Club Christmas Party at the Long Room inside Notts CCC's pavilion - ironically the Derek Randall Suite is adjacent to this, where I had my wedding reception in 1993.
Keyworth Cricket Club is very dear and close to my heart. More importantly, it's on the up, due to a dedicated committee and huge army of volunteers. The Mayor of London and his 'Team' can be very proud of where we sit right now. It's good to catch up with folk that I've not seen in a while. The meal is distinctly average, but the drinks flow all evening. My close friend, Rob Baker, hosts a hilarious game of 'Irish Bingo.' I'm dog tired and Ms Moon is recovering from her long haul journey back from Johannesburg - we turn in before twelve bells.
I treat Ms Moon to a surprise lunch out in the Vale of Belvoir at the Staunton Arms, in Staunton in-the-Vale, on Sunday. I have a pint of Bass real ale that can only be rivalled by the Wysall Plough.
It's Tuesday evening and deja vu. I flash my season ticket at the chip shop assistant at the Plains Fish Bar on Mapperley Tops - mini fish 'n chips is a steal at £3.50. Sat Nav takes me up the A60 and through Forest Town and its spectacular Christmas lights display that line the main drag.
I pay £5 on the gate for Clipstone FC v Gedling Miners Welfare in the Notts Senior Cup. I hook up with Tony Hay, one of my favourite characters on the Non-League circuit. We're privileged to witness one of the games of the season, with the visitors dead and buried at the break. The Miners claw their way back into the game and are unlucky to bow out of the Cup 5-4 after a breathtaking tie. I phoned Ms Moon at half time to tell her 'we' are 3-0 down, only to learn the devastating news that Hotton Council have given the thumbs up to a relief road being built straight through Zak Dingle's home (tip) on Emmerdale Farm. I shed a few tears before watching the second half.
I'm up at Kimberley Miners Welfare, another friendly club, the following night. Their foghorn of a manager isn't spoken to by the referee until the 40th minute for gobbing off, which must be a personal best for him. 'Hobbo' makes me a proper cup of tea in a mug at the break. I spend the rest of the evening chatting to Priory Celtic 'Big Cheese' John Harris who's always good company.
My mate 'Babs' is on a flying visit from Spain. We've sank enough beers over the years to sink the Bismarck. It's ironic that we meet in 200 Degrees Coffee Shop on Flying Horse Walk, late on Friday afternoon. It's like a scene from Nicky Campbell's Long Lost Families as we embrace; Davina McCall would have been in bits. It's the same old Babs as he tries to diddle the barista with a dusty (old tender) £5 note. I meet Ms Moon in the Fox and Grapes for a swift one, before jumping on the No.27 bus home.
In a moment of madness I purchased a top of the range Sony TV. It's taken me three months to work out how to turn the chuffing thing ON. The Flying Scotsman fully briefed me the other week, after a heavy session, on how to shout at the TV to play your favourite tunes on You Tube. Ms Moon shouts out in her poshest West Bridgford voice "The Alan Parsons Project." I kid you not folks, I'm asleep within the flick of a switch.
I'm off to Leeds to pick up 'Our Joe' on Saturday morning. The plan was to have some lunch up in the hills above Bradford before viewing Eccleshill United v Yorkshire Amateur in the NCEL Division One. A heavy frost has scuppered any chance of the pitch being passed fit.
Another option is to travel back down the M1, nearer to home, to take in the top of the table Midland League Div One clash between Ilkeston Town and Walsall Wood. 'Ilson' owner, Alan Hardy, in between a Twitter rant with Rushcliffe Borough Council, has informed me that the game is 100% ON - I reckon he must have lent them some frost covers from Notts County's Meadow Lane ground?
I can see the floodlights of Headingley Cricket Ground as I circumnavigate around the backstreets of the suburbs of Leeds. We pile up Joe's luggage into the boot of the car and head back south. We're parked up within an hour in Ilkeston town centre.
Ilkeston is a town in the Borough of Erewash in Derbyshire with a population of 38,000. It was well known for coal mining, iron working and the lace industry. It is called 'Ilson' by locals. Ilkeston Town was liquidated in 2010 after a 114-year-old history. It was reformed in 2011, which was in turn liquidated in 2017. Notable residents include: the actors Robert Lindsay ('Wolfie' Smith and William Roache (Ken Barlow).
There's a warm welcome at the Burnt Pig micropub on Market Street. There's a selection of cheeses, scotch eggs and pork pies available. Sticky has a pint of Atlantic Hop from the Merrie City Brewery in Wakefield; and very pleasant it is too. We grab some lunch at Greggs as we stroll through the marketplace. Joe places a few bets at Ladbrokes, including a tip from Dad that the Imps will win at Yeovil.
It's £2 to park the car and £5 on the gate. 'Big Alan Hardy' has brought the feel-good-factor back to the Club and town, following historical mismanagement. Former manager, Paul 'Dutch' Holland, was recently given a suspended sentence in the courts for fraud and forgery, when he admitted siphoning money off into his own bank account when hiring the pitch out to another club. Supporters still question where the money went from the transfer of star striker Che Adams in a six-figure fee to Sheffield United. A few seasons later Adams was sold on for £2 million to Birmingham City - did 'Ilson' get a slice of the cake?
On a positive note the good times are back, and so are the crowds (726 pay in today). The clubhouse is choc-a-bloc. We have a quick chat with 'John Mac', 'Chet' and Robbie before walking across the far side of the ground to view the game. There's a minute's applause to remember a loyal supporter of the Ilkeston.
Walsall Wood look sharp up top with 9 and 10 jacket leading 'Ilson' a merry dance. Home defender Shaw is dispossessed, Sullivan sets up Agar who finishes with aplomb. Ilson have started poorly but begin to find success down the left-hand side with a flurry of crosses coming in from former Notts County Academy youngster Jamie Walker. It's Walker who restores parity a minute before half-time, smashing home a close-range volley.
We peg it round sharpish back into a jam-packed bar. 'Our Joe' is crowing that all his bets are in. He just needs Crystal Palace to beat Bournemouth. I say to Joe that I think the visitors' craft and guile will see them over the finishing line, as 'Ilson' have a few young guns playing including the impressive Charlie Jemson, son of former Forest striker Nigel Jemson.
Walsall Wood score a beauty five minutes into the second half. 'Ilson' 'keeper, Ian Deakin is catching flies as the impressive Sullivan takes a touch, before knocking the ball out of his feet and firing home a shot off the inside of the post. 'Ilson' defender Bennett tries to deflect the blame onto the assistant ref instead of shouldering some responsibility himself. He's told by his own player (Walker) to shut up and crack on.
The Walsall Wood 'keeper looks to have a ricket in him, having been caught 'cleaning windows' from a few crosses in the first half. Gibson hits a speculative shot from distance which somehow ends up bouncing over the keeper's 'jazz hands' and into the back of the net.
Walsall Wood are fortunate to end the game with the full eleven on the pitch. Sullivan is a lucky lad, having being previously yellowed, he scythes down an opponent but escapes a second caution after weak refereeing.
We exit the ground with seconds remaining. Five Live are at Selhurst Park. We hear the dying embers as Christian Benteke fluffs an injury-time penalty to cost 'Our Joe' £150 on his coupon. He can't pick 'em like his Dad.
Man of the Match Jamie Walker
Sunday, December 3, 2017
The 'jam fool' is having a soak in the bath. We watch the fag end of Liverpool v Chelsea before driving over to Carlton. The rest of the night is spent in Nottingham city centre quaffing real ales and putting the world to rights.
On Sunday I drag my weary body out of bed at gone 11am; this ill-feted Ashes series is killing me. I've arranged to meet 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky jnr) outside the Nottingham Forest club shop at 12.30pm. Neil Warnock's high-flying Bluebirds are in town this lunchtime. Dad and junior are sitting in the notorious Main Stand 'A Block' (Peter Taylor Stand). It's my first visit since 'King Billy' lost his crown three years ago. Mark Warburton is the latest incumbent. The jury is still out on him. He was lucky to inherit a good side at Brentford when Uwe Rosler upped sticks to the pie-eating capital of Wigan, and made little impression up in Scotland, at Rangers, with a string of poor signings with results to match.
Forest are woeful in defence. My mate Druers' and Sticky's favourite, the Canadian "Junior" Hoilett leaps unmarked to nod a header home. A 25-yard pile-driver from Danny Ward soon sees Sticky junior ripping up his betting coupon and sprinkling it as confetti. On a positive note the NFFC DJ was on flames playing a number of classic indie tunes. Warnock gets dog's abuse from the Forest faithful. He cups his ear, begging for more.
Monday night is spent fielding a flurry of phone calls from stressed out, anxious ITV executive producers from Tipping Point, The Chase, Emmerdale Farm, Corrie and I'm a Celeb, who are concerned about dwindling viewing ratings. They're keen to understand why my TV hasn't been switched on for four days. I deliver the bad news that the Princess is out of office in Africa, and that I won't be watching such drivel.
I'm up in York on business on Tuesday, but manage to get back in time for an East Midlands Counties League cup tie between West Bridgford and Big Glenn Russell's Radford FC. I have the hoodoo sign over Radford. There's no need to worry about that tonight as they canter to a 3-0 win against last season's League champions.
Sticky junior pops round on Wednesday evening to re-hang a few doors for me as he's a joiner for Barratt's by trade. He's on the works' Christmas party up at Doncaster Racecourse on Saturday afternoon followed by a scoopathon in Sheffield - Sunday will be written off ... lol.
It's Friday morning 10:30am. I hear the squeak of the side gate, the good lady is back in town. I would love to say it was like a scene from the film Gone with the Wind, but nothing interferes with Ken Bruce's Pop Master. Prince Harry is in town with his new bride to be who I keep getting mixed up with the South African fast bowler Morne Morkel, because his bride to be has a similar name. Big H has a bigger entourage than Mariah Carey as he pops into the Nottingham Hood.
Ms Moon and I catch up in The Willowbrook, on Gedling Road, on her trip of a lifetime to a game reserve at Hanglip Mountain three hours from the capital, Johannesburg. On the safari she saw giraffes, elephants, leopards and lions. She's clearly in the mood to see more animals, as on our return home she begins to plough her way through a back catalogue of ten episodes of Emmerdale Farm on catch-up.
I don't sleep that well on Friday night, so I'm up early doors watching the Ashes. There's an extraordinary incident between Aussie skipper Steve Smith and a sullen-looking Jimmy Anderson. Smith looks set for a headloss at the non striker's end as Anderson stands immediately in front of him at short mid on, blocking his view. A steaming Smith doesn't last long with his stumps knocked over by the 23 year old debutant Craig Overton.
Heavens above, I best get a shift on it's a 2pm kick off. I'm flying solo today as Ms Moon recovers from her sojourn to Africa. She shoots off to the retail park to look for an outfit for the Keyworth Cricket Club Christmas bash at the Trent Bridge Long Room this evening.
Conor McNamara and the monotone Danny Murphy are commentating on Chelsea v Newcastle Utd at Stamford Bridge. Underrated Magpies' striker Dwight Gayle gives them a shock early lead.The car sat nav irritates me, it wants to send me to Newark and onto the A1. I stick on the A614, a decision I soon regret as it takes me through the village of Bothamsall and up a boatload of B roads. First port of call is the village of Rampton, famous for it's prison hospital which has housed some of Britain's vilest and notorious murderers including: Beverley Allitt, Ian Huntley, Bruce Lee and Charles Bronson.
The village itself is quaint. I call in at the Eyre Arms a pleasant enough pub. I have a pint of Pale Ale from the Pheasantry Brewery just down the road in East Markham - it's amber nectar folks. Two guys are propping up the bar watching the Pies take on Oxford City in the FA Cup. Coincidentally one of them is a Keyworth lad who used to be head chef at The Griffin in Plumtree back in the day. I nod at him without saying hello.
I drive to Retford passing Rampton Hospital which is actually in the hamlet of Woodbeck. Retford is a market town with a population of 22,000. The cricketer Derek Randall was born in the town. I can't describe what an impact this guy had on my love for cricket. A brilliant, brave batsman, whose only weakness was nerves. He took on Lillee and Thomson and their barrage of bouncers on hard uncovered Aussie wickets, donning just a cap. He is the greatest fielder I've ever seen down the 'Bridge.' They nicknamed him 'Arkle' after the famous Irish racehorse. I remember bursting into tears when that blithering idiot Geoffrey Boycott ran out Derek in the Silver Jubilee Test in 1977. I was in awe when I met him a few years ago at a charity night.
I stick the Mondeo in the ATS car park and wander up a tunnel towards 'The Rail.' A friendly chap is taking money at a green-painted hut. I pay in £3 and bag a programme at £1.50. I really like the ground. Retford Academy and a SEN school back onto it. It's roped off on the far side with refreshments available behind the goal to the right. I stand close to the dugouts with CMFL media team man Tony Squires, who is the chap in the know.
There's a minute's silence before the game in the memory of a friend of Retford FC. The home bench are visibly moved; it's a very touching, poignant moment.
A guy with a flat cap on and sporting a Prince Buster Ska T-shirt strolls up the touchline. Tony introduces me to Rob Waite the scribe from The66POW blog. How our paths have never crossed in the last ten years, Lord only knows. Rob's a master of story-telling, which is a good job really as all the game offers are a few crunching tackles.
I check my phone, Notts County's on loan attacking midfielder Jorge Grant has scored another last ditch winner, his 14th goal of the season. Club owner, Alan Hardy will be noisy on social networks this evening. Good luck to them, I hope they go on a Cup run and make £3 million like 'The Lincoln' did last season.
I go big and buy two raffle tickets as there are three prizes on offer. Harworth take the lead with a quality cross and looping header over the outstretched hands of 'keeper Jon Kennedy. I peg it round the far side of the ground for a cup of tea as the PA guy shouts out the winning raffle numbers; I've not had a sniff today and neither has Red the dog who won't let me stroke him.
Retford are never going to score in a month of Sundays. Harworth make it 2-0 early in the second half. Retford huff and puff but never blow the house down.
Man of the Match: Derek Randall