Monday, November 23, 2015

Pickering Town 2-1 Barton Town Old Boys

It's Wednesday evening, and I'm stood next to Keyworth United Chairman Rob Clegg, at the coldest place on this planet. It's called Platt Lane, and is open to all the elements. There's a swirling wind and it's pelting it down with rain. Holbrook St Michaels from Derbyshire are the visitors in tonight's Central Midlands League fixture.

An old guy walks by, chuntering and moaning about the blustery conditions. He has a northern accent. I'm flabbergasted to hear he's a groundhopper who has travelled down here on the train and bus from Preston in Lancashire to take in the game. He's staying overnight in the village at a bed and breakfast. I give him the swerve at the end of the game, as the match has finished 0-0.

The highlight of the week was when we went to Nottingham Broadway Cinema to see Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, starring Dame Maggie Smith. I celebrate the end of the working week with a couple of pints of Harvest Pale Ale at the Bear and Lace (previously Chambers) on Maid Marian way in Nottingham city centre. I constantly scroll around on the BBC Weather app. The outlook looks depressing oop North.

We're on the road to Whitby at 8:00am. Murphy Palmer, my canary and green budgie, is going to be kicking off. I've left Radio 2 on for him. Sara Cox's 80s show is on this evening - we both can't abide her. I leave him pecking away at a millet spray, as we abandon him for the weekend.

Marske United and Guisborough Town have already bit the dust. All our hopes are hanging on the ancient market town of Pickering. The North Yorkshire Moors has succumbed to snow. Cars are wheel spinning their way up the steep gradients, as they fight the extreme weather.  A Subaru has taken a corner too quickly and smashed into the barrier.

We finally roll up at the Met apartments on Whitby's West Cliff. The road is shut. A Force 10 gale has seen a 100 year old Victorian shelter topple over. Its remains are strewn all over the road. A stranded motorist's car fights with the high tide, as the waves crash into the harbour wall.

Whitby Town's Turnbull Ground backs onto the flat. I'm saving that for a rainy day. The flat is owned by my late father's solicitor. My spine tingles when I see all my Dad's books lined-up on a shelf in the lounge.

We are blown all the way down to the harbour. We gratefully trudge up the steps into the warmth of the Magpie Cafe, where we tuck into Haddock, chips and mushy peas accompanied with a piping hot mug of tea. A couple of Japanese tourists on the next table are scoffing a cream tea at the same time as mussels, crab and salmon. It's like a Japanese game show that Clive James used to show on ITV.

I snap up a beanie hat in a half price sale at Tog 24 on Church Street. I hang my nose over a nice olive green coat, with a bit of fur on it. It'll have the women of Grantham in all of a lather when it gets its first outing for the visit of FA Cup giant-killers Salford City next week.

Pickering Town are tweeting that they are enjoying uninterrupted sunshine with little wind. We drive back over those bloody Moors again. I bet that bone idle so-and-so Ventriss and his pals PC Rowan and Inspector Blaketon from Heartbeat are putting in a shift today.

Ms Moon parks the Land Rover adjacent to the cricket pitch, where Barton Town OB are warming up. She needs to slap some make-up on. With it being half an hour before kick off, will she have enough time ? I wisely choose not to comment.

It's £5 on the gate, with £1.50 for a programme, which is right up there with Tony Squires's masterpiece at Heanor Town. It's clearly a labour of love. We get gassing to some friendly folk in the stand before seeking the warmth and shelter of the clubhouse, as it's bitterly cold. Ms Moon shouts up a couple of steaming hot drinks from the Pikes Pantry. I flick through the programme, where I notice that former Blackburn, D***y and Notts County defender Craig Short is the President of Pickering Town. His brother Chris wasn't a bad player either. Neil Warnock bought them both for a song when at Scarborough Town and the Pies.

I glance up at the TV screen. Bristol City manager Steve Cotterill is explaining away at more dropped points. A poster on the Gents toilets is advertising an Elton John and Billy Joel tribute act to held at the club in the next few weeks.

We position ourselves next to the Barton Town dugout. There's that many folk shoehorned into it, that it resembles the film set from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I viewed Barton the last Good Friday. I was particularly impressed with how their forward Scott Phillips led the line that day. Sadly, he has a long-term injury.

The referee is subjected to a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse from a member of the Barton coaching staff. I'm surprised stronger action isn't taken, with the referees' assessor scribbling away into his notebook in the stand. Manager Dave Anderson chews gum more furiously than Big Sam or King Billy Davies.

The Pikes take the lead on 7 minutes. The visiting 'keeper can only parry a long-range shot from Joe Danby, the rebound is pounced upon by Ryan Cooper, who tucks the ball away into net. Barton equalise on 35 minutes with a cool finish from Ashley Lattimore.

I check the latest scores at the break. Lincoln City are coasting down on the English Riveria. Top Valley goal machine Liam Hearn has bagged again. All the talk is of Jamie Vardy's goal at St James' Park, in Newcastle.

Pickering score a wonderful goal just before the hour. A free kick whipped in from the left is met with a bullet header by centre half Ryan Turnbull. A lunging challenge and retaliation results in an early bath for Pickering's Ward and Barton's Belcher, as the players keep the assessor busy.

I enjoy a post-match pint of Yorkshire Blonde at the Station across the road from the harbour in Whitby. A local in the boozer, who suffers from insomnia, tells me that he heard the shipping forecast in the middle of the night. He said it was the first time he can remember a Force 10 gale being forecast for Whitby. I can't arf pick em.

Attendance: 91

Man of the Match: Matty Turnbull

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Shaw Lane Aquaforce 1-2 Matlock Town

We're walking around the perimeter of Nottingham Racecourse late on Sunday afternoon. It's drizzling with rain, and close to darkness. I'm reflecting on a cracking weekend. A few beverages were downed last night in Canning Circus with 'The Zuffler.' What is at the forefront of my mind, though, is how sporting the Heanor Town supporters were in clapping off a victorious Sporting Khalsa yesterday. In 10 years of groundhopping, it's right up there with moments that have touched me on my journeys around England watching Non League football.

The inclement weather puts paid to any midweek football action. Table-topping Clifton All Whites U19s have a two week break. I notice that Dunkirk FC's twitter account are having some beef with the Mighty All-Whites. Dunkirk were recently beaten 2-0 in the FA Youth Cup by Basford United, who one or two of the Clifton boys play for. Maybe its sour grapes, as on Tuesday evening Basford travelled up to League Two Accrington Stanley in the first round proper.

I meet up with Sticky jnr and The Skipper at the Rancliffe Arms in Bunny for a Monday night carvery. Sticky jnr is salivating over the choice of meats as the chef slices into a huge joint of roast beef. It's good to see my lads. I really miss them.

It's Friday evening, and I'm hurtling down the country lanes of the Vale of Belvoir towards Harby. I pick up the 'Mayor of London' and take him out for a meal at the Nags Head in the village. The treat is on me, as he was there for me in my hour of need.

We're polishing off a bottle of Bordeaux a few hours later at his Southfork Ranch, pissing ourselves at Alan Partridge on Dave, when I'm alerted to breaking news on social networks of acts of terrorism in Paris. We stay riveted to the BBC news channel as the events and shocking images unfold.

I don't sleep well. I think about those poor, innocent people and their families caught up in the bloodshed. I swing into Morrisons at Gamston and collect my suit, as I need it for a two day conference in Birmingham next week. I wolf down a full English, as I'm on the sauce with blog legend Trumpy Bolton today.

Bolton has just polished off some crumpets and cheese, accompanied with a bottle of Brakespear's Gold, as I knock on his front door, it's 9:45am.  Graham Norton kicks off with 'Sometimes' by Erasure, as we head towards to town - I immediately turn it off before Trumpy blows a gasket.

The last time I heard from the great man was a few weeks ago at 10:30pm on a Saturday evening, when he phoned me from his Southampton hotel room to tell me after a 12 hour bender that 'Jamie Vardy was having a party.'

Ms Moon is piloting today. Trumpy is introduced to her. As ever, he is the perfect gentleman. He makes a beeline towards Murphy the budgie. They whistle to one another and talk some waffle. We head up towards Junction 29 of the M1. Bolsover Castle is sat on top of a hill in the distance. I'm toing and froing on where to go today. Shaw Lane's FA Trophy game was the original choice, but it's high up in Barnsley, and exposed to the weather. Curzon Ashton, FC United of Manchester and Stockport County act as back up, with Lancashire expecting a battering according to those muppets at the Met Office.

I'm held accountable for us taking a wrong turning, despite clear instructions from the Garmin. Trumpy nicknames me Sat Nav. We pull into the car park of the Elm Tree in Elmton, just south of Clowne. Trumpy downs a couple of Robinson's Dizzy Blondes. Shaw Lane and Matlock fans will be astounded to hear that Trumpy Bolton's sole mission in life is to try and drink in one pub in every town and village in England, Wales and Scotland. He has pursued this hobby for over 35 years. He has a dog-eared old atlas with all place names highlighted off. I've asked him to leave it to me in his will.

I've had the thumbs up from Shaw Lane on twitter, the game is confirmed as on. It will save a trip up to Manchester. I clock a boozer in the Good Pub Guide on the outskirts of Barnsley, close to the Trans Pennine Trail. The Strafford Arms is a pretty stone built pub, with a roaring log fire. We plump for Farmer's Blonde with some rump steak and beef sandwiches. Shalamar's 'I Can Make You Feel Good' is on the jukebox.

We're soon turning into Shaw Lane. The Club were only formed in 2012, and have had a meteoric rise up the Non League Pyramid. I notice a van parked up with Aquaforce Plumbing Services emblazoned on it. I saw Shaw Lane put a shift in at Walsall Wood on their FA Vase run last season. Notable people from Barnsley include: Michael Parkinson, Dickie Bird, Seth Armstrong and a boat load of footballers including John Stones and Mick McCarthy.

Trumpy pays us in on the gate at £5 per pop. The programme is a cracker for £1. He is cringing a few moments later, ducking behind his programme, when Sticky Palms has his photo taken with the Duck mascot. The Rolling Stones are on the PA system, 'Paint it Black' is the song of the day.

Bolton is soon tucking into a few cans of Strongbow dark fruit cider. Ms Moon and I opt for a Nescafe coffee. The bar, set up on trestle tables, is doing a roaring trade in pasties and sausage rolls. The Gladiators of Matlock have brought a large following with them. The players emerge from the dressing room to 'Let's Go' by  Calvin Harris.

An impeccable one minutes silence is held in driving rain, beneath slate-grey skies. for the victims of the atrocities in Paris last night. The first half is bloody awful. Both sides persist in long range passing on a squelching surface. Neither 'keeper is tested in the dullest half I've seen in ages, as Bolton begins his shuttle run to and from the bar. Shaw Lane's captain is former Nottingham Forest and Hibernian midfielder Matt Thornhill. He played over 30 times for the Reds, but somehow finds himself playing at this level at the age of 27 years old.

I'm moody and morose at the break, this game has 0-0 written all over it. Sticky P doesn't do 0-0s. I've not seen one in four years. Ms Moon and Trumpy Bolton taunt me that I'll be walking home if the game ends goalless. Trumpy confides to Ms Moon and I that he once had the hots for Rita Fairclough, back in the day in Coronation Street.

The second half is a classic, as both teams up their game. Matlock have clearly had a rollicking in the changing room. They score a beautifully executed goal through the game's best player Nicky Travis, who has been immense in the Gladiator's engine room.

Shaw Lane rattle the woodwork, before Steven Istead smashes home an equaliser. Trumpy is boogying with the 'Shaw Lane Baby Squad' to the Real Thing's 'Can You Feel the Force' as the PA guy ups the ante. Back come Matlock. Skipper, Danny Holland restores their lead on the hour. There has been a goal blitz, three in eight minutes to be precise. There's no sign of Bolton. He's necking his fifth tin of cider in the warmth of the clubhouse. Trumpy is wobbling a bit now. He claims to have spotted Jeremy Corbyn amongst the crowd of over 200.

Matlock rattle the upright, before the referee finally calls time. There is a sense of relief from the visitors.

Attendance: 232

Man of the Match: Nicky Travis

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Heanor Town 1-2 Sporting Khalsa

We're driving back to Colwick from Stoke Bardolph. The mighty Clifton All Whites have completed the mother of all comebacks at Real United.  At 4-1 down, with 15 minutes remaining, they looked dead in the water. Tosh 'n Steve will be on the sauce at the Ferry Boat Inn. My car suddenly loses power, I manage to pull into a farm lane. I turn the engine over, again and again. She's having none of it. Bloody hell, I've got a make-up artist booked in for 6:30pm.

Those tossers, Green Flag, are saying they are going to be two hours. Darkness descends on Stoke Lane. Taxis refuse to pick us up, as they need an address. A man and wife are walking up the lane with a German Shepherd dog, and three English Pointers. He very kindly hooks up a tow-rope.  We nervously negotiate a ten minute terror ride up the Colwick Road. The guy won't accept a gift from me. What a lovely bloke he is. Piers' Halloween Party is a resounding success. Boy, does he know how to put on a show. It all gets messy, later, in the Riverbank Bar, where we party into the early hours.

I'm without a car for three days. I have to cancel business meetings in Ipswich and Cambridge. This wouldn't have happened when I had 'Sally Gunnell' (Citroen Saxa) - she might not have been much to look at, but what a bloody good runner.

Logistics dictate that The Taxman and I are unable to attend Dunkirk v Heanor Town on Tuesday evening. The final score was 0-10 (ten). I get my usual fix of under 19 football on Thursday. The boys are on fire. We wallop Long Eaton 7-0. I wouldn't usually crow about it, but some of the comments I hear coming from their dugout are disgusting and disturbing.

Both clubs from Nottingham are involved in prime-time televised games on Friday evening. The performances are contrasting. Forest play D***y off the park. Notts Clownty - as 'Barthez' likes to call them, put in a gutless performance at Northern Premier League team Salford City.

I sleep like a baby on Friday evening. Murphy the budgie turns his back on me in the morning, as I flick the kettle on for a brew. The mardy little sod asks for the radio to be turned on. It's gone 10:00am. He's missed Brian Matthew's 60s show. He gets a rollicking off Sticky, as he's gnawed his way through half his Wilko's honey bar. I only put it in his cage last night, they're meant to last a week, the greedy little sod.

The Trews (Notts County's owners) will be putting up the for sale signs soon. Ray Trew achieved his wealth through recruitment. Sadly, there is little evidence of this skill set at Meadow Lane. He's hired 12 managers in six years. Even Newton and Ridley can't top that at the Rovers Return.

I've had my beady eye on a top of the table clash in the West Midlands Regional League between Cradley Town and Shawbury. The weather chart has been a sea of blue all week over Birmingham. The game is hosed off later in the morning.  

Ms Moon is piloting the Freelander out towards Junction 26 of the M1. I have a pub to chalk off in the village of Awsworth.  The Gate Inn is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac. It's a friendly red bricked Victorian free house, with a cosy bar and coal fire. A welcoming youth from behind the bar pulls me a pint of Pretender. He knocks me up a massive cheese and onion cob. Ms Moon says she wont be talking to me for the rest of the day, as my breath stinks. She mentions this when inhaling on a Silk Cut Silver cigarette.

We pitch up in Heanor market square. There's not much doing to be honest. I'm gutted to see a new Turkish barber is opening up on Monday. I've not had a shave today, so that would have come in handy. I get my haircut further down the street by a Southampton fan. He waxes lyrical about Matt Le-Tissier and Jimmy Case, whilst I nod off in the chair. He's a proper Edward Scissorhands.

Heanor sits on the Notts and Derbyshire border in bandit country. I guess the PA guy is a Tricky Tree fan, as he plays 'Hi Ho We Hate D***y' and 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling.' Nigel Clough and Nigel Pearson have both represented the club.

Its my third visit to the Town Ground. They're proper folk up here. I love them to bits. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for the programme of the season. It's brilliantly put together by editor Tony Squires. I snap up a couple of raffle tickets. Ms Moon treats herself to steak pie, mushy peas and gravy. We stroll around the ground, before deciding to position ourselves towards the end to the 18 yard box that Sporting Khalsa will attack.

I'm taken aback that there is no minutes silence for Remembrance Day. The tempo of the game is fast and furious on a fantastic rain-soaked playing surface.  Both teams rattle the woodwork. Heanor are top of the table. Sporting Khalsa are playing catch-up due to a successful FA Cup run.

Khalsa's manager is giving the referee and linesman dog's abuse. He calls them both cowards, as decisions don't go his way. I ask the Khalsa fans if he has gone 'Big Time' following the Cup run - "No, he's always like that" is the reply. The Heanor fans take the rise. There's no flies on them.

There's a bit of a commotion on 20 minutes when I chase an alehouse clearance that has bounced over the advertising hoardings.  I've scuffed my dog-shit coloured best shoes from Dolcis on the concrete. Folk tell you straight up here. A wag in the crowd shouts at the Heanor winger: " You're not Barca Fecking Lona, get the ball into the box."

Ms Moon likes Khalsa 5 jacket Tesfa Robinson; she's got the hots for him. 'He's a good organiser and talker.' She says he should be captain. He wellies the ball into the back of the net, following a goalmouth scramble.

In the second half, Khalsa's Craig Bannister is sent racing away down the right wing, he pings a cross to the back stick, where middleweight boxer Matt Martin sends a bullet header into the roof of the net. Heanor score a consolation goal with five minutes remaining, which causes a few anxious moments in the Khalsa defence. They manage to hang on for a deserved win.

As we exit the ground the players are entering the tunnel. To a man, the Heanor supporters applaud the visitors off the pitch. I'm not ashamed to admit that it brings a tear to my eye, as it does now, as I write this. Non League; I bloody love it.

Man of the Match: Tim Jackson (Khalsa 3 Jacket)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Real United 4-4 Clifton All Whites

It's Monday evening, and I'm waiting with anticipation for the first round draw of the FA Cup. Salford City, FC United of Manchester and a rejuvenated Lincoln City are teams of interest to me. Notts County are drawn away to Salford. It's a rare moment of joy for comedy owners, Mr and Mrs Raymond Trew. They'll pocket £67,000 from TV coverage and can also expect a 2000 following with the visit of Portsmouth to Meadow Lane this Saturday. Their manager, 'Louis Van Gaal' will be able to add to his 40 man squad, the biggest in League Two. FC United will pit their wits against Chesterfield, whilst Lincoln will face a 500 mile round trip to Sussex to face Whitehawk of the the National South league, if they can overcome Tranmere Rovers at Sincil Bank on Tuesday evening.

Oh where to go on Saturday ? I miss my friend Finley the rabbit. He's holed up in his hutch in Keyworth. He was nine years old on August 28th. I still snigger at his crap score predictions over the years. I ring him up for a natter. We chuckle about the time he predicted a 4-4 draw for Real United v Holbrook St Michael's a few seasons ago.. I promised him a huge bag of carrots, that day, from Londis, if he was on the money. The visitors made it 5-4 in the 95th minute of the game. Finley's blinds were shut early that night. I decide to re-visit Real United again this Saturday. They're taking on the legendary Clifton All Whites, where so many Premiership stars first started out in junior football.

The Taxman and I call in on Greenwich Avenue on Tuesday evening to watch Basford United v Newcastle Town. Chances are few and far between. We have some banter with former Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year, Neil Swift. I spot a blade of grass missing on his billiard table playing surface. Clifton Under 19s are battered by a team from Rotherham two days later. Sometimes I really hate football.

I can't wait for the weekend to begin. I meet Ms Moon for a drinky poo in the Cross Keys on Weekday Cross in Nottingham city centre, before strolling up to Edin's Deli Cafe on Broad Street, opposite the Broadway Cinema. We're at a Halloween Party in Stanley Road, West Bridgford tomorrow. I have to be back for a 6:00pm appoinment with a make-up artist.

It's been a long week. I don't rise until 9:45am on Saturday. Murphy is crying like a little baby, because he's still got the towel draped over his cage, and has missed most of the Brian Matthew's 60s radio show. A bit of the Four Seasons cheers up my feathered friend. He's soon sinking back into a deep depression when that bungling fool Graham Norton spins Olly Murs new single. Murphy and Murs have previous.

We give the house a Mrs Doubtfire two hour once-over, before retiring for lunch up at the Elwes Arms in Bakersfield.  It's an old haunt of mine, that I used to visit when following the Keyworth Tavern pool team, back in the day. Marvin Gaye's Motown classic 'What's Going On' is on Tony Blackburn's Pick of the Pops. I shed a tear that Murphy will be riding on his swing listening to it, crystal clear on his new DAB radio.

Team news has been leaked to me from the Clifton camp. Sweeping changes have been made, as this is a game they can ill-afford to lose in a somewhat disappointing campaign so far. We pull up in a nature reserve car park in the village of Stoke Bardolph, on the banks of the River Trent. It's a beautiful day for messing around on the river.

Real United's Stoke Lane ground is adjacent to one of those dreadful two meals for £10 Fayre and Square pubs. I quite fancy half an hour in the ball pit of the Wacky Warehouse, though. We troop up a narrow path which leads up to the ground. The NSL is Step 7 in the football pyramid. In 10 years of groundhopping, I've never had to part with cash to watch this League. "£3 each" says a chirpy chap on the gate. I don't mind, of course, but do quibble it. "Take it up with Roger," is what I'm told.

Roger Henry is the Executive Officer at Real United. I remember him starting the club up in the corner of the Forest Recreation Ground (Goose Fair Site) a few years ago, when I worked for the Pies. He's a good lad, Roger is, and he's bigger than me, so I don't mention the admission charge. Roger received a Point of Light award, in the summer, from the Prime Minister, for his work in the community.

We bump into South Normanton groundhopper Scott Ward. There's plenty of craic about the Midlands football scene. Clifton manager James 'Tosh' Turner walks across the pitch to greet us. I was going to tick-off West Bridgford today, but thought that WB might struggle to raise a side as all the players would be with their wives in the Marks and Spencer Food Hall, or the endless cafes on the Avenue in Bread 'n Lard Island.

The game has a great tempo to begin with, as both teams look to attack. I notice some fool at the gate with shorts on. He is going to be unhappy at coughing up £3 - it's White Van Man. He's got a runny nose, and is a tad under the weather.

Real attack at break-neck speed. Clifton are left short at the back, a slide-rule cross from the right is swept home by the impressive 10 jacket. Clifton equalize on half-time with a looping header from Martin Ball.

We're in Rolie's Tea Hut at the break. Roger is rustling up some coffee, which Ms Moon marks with a 7 out of 10. I can hear Real manager Gary Hayward blow-torching paint off the dressing room walls. The language is colourful, to say the least. I don't understand his aggression, as his team have shaded an entertaining first half.

Clifton's management duo of Tosh 'n Steve must have given their half-time instructions in Scottish, as they are at sixes and sevens in the second half. Real race into a 4-1 lead. I can't keep up on twitter postings. White Van Man departs with the game out of Clifton's reach.

Sam Leggitt bags what appears to be a consolation goal. Martin Ball rifles home a free-kick with a minute remaining. Sensationally Danny Blanchard blasts home an equalizer, with effectively the last kick of the game. Tosh 'n Steve do the Highland Fling. Hayward can't look them in the eye, as he sportingly shakes their hands. He'll be hurling more stray football boots than Sir Alex Ferguson.

Man of the Match: Real United 10 jacket.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sporting Khalsa 1-3 FC United of Manchester

It's a sultry summer's evening in mid August. I'm stood on the banks of the River Trent, close to Nottingham city centre, with The Taxman watching Dunkirk FC in the Midland League. The visitors are wearing yellow shirts and blue shorts. We are left open-mouthed and aghast at the quality of their football in the first 30 minutes. They see efforts thump the woodwork, or tipped over the bar, as they spurn chance after chance.

The visitor's manager is a tall, blonde-haired fella called Ian Rowe. He stands with his head in hands, wallowing in self pity, as Dunkirk hit the back of the onion bag three times in 10 minutes. The game has gone for Sporting Khalsa. I make a mental note to check them out again. I can't forget that spell-binding 30 minutes of beautiful football. I clock the result of the return fixture on Twitter at their joint. They win comfortably 4-0. I'm not in the least surprised.

Fast forward to the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round draw on Colin Murray's TalkSPORT radio show. The pundits eugolise over some mouth-watering ties that have been pulled out of the famous velvet bag. I check to see who are the lowest ranked team left in the Cup. I can't believe my eyes when I see who it is, and who they are playing: Sporting Khalsa v FC United of Manchester. Book me in Danno.

It's my first blog of the season. There are reasons for this, that I can't really share with you. My blog has always featured my family. They were major players in the cast. I live in Nottingham now. Murphy the budgie has been released on a Bosman, and has been reunited with Sticky Palms. I meet regularly with Sticky jnr and 'The Skipper.' I've even put the tracksuit back on as joint-manager at Clifton U19s in the Midland Floodlit League. Life goes on. We move forward.

The week has been a whirlwind. I've been in Stockport and Birmingham on business for most of it. There's some light entertainment on Thursday evening. Dafty and I watch stand-up Mancunian comedian Justin Moorhouse. in Loughborough Town Hall. There are less in attendance than your average Midland League game. He has us in stitches, though. On Friday evening, I have a few swift jars in the Royal Children, the Bear and Lace and the Crafty Crow, near to Nottingham Castle.

It's Saturday morning, and I can already hear my little lad (Murphy) whistling his head off to 'For Your Love' by The Yardbirds on the Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2.  Murphy loves Brian. He even sent him an 87th birthday card in September.

I'm in town with Ms Moon. We're in Luvyababes fancy dress shop in Nottingham's Victoria Centre. Piers is having an Halloween bash next Saturday, and I need to make an effort. I see a guy in there who looks like Lord Sutch from the Raving Monster Loony Party.

We're soon sailing down the A38 on our way to Willenhall, in the Black Country, as the dark clouds roll in from the west. The Four Tops and Frankie Valli are on Smooth Radio. It's tipping it down with rain as we park outside the Aspray Arena. Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke of  'Dirty Leeds' was born in Willenhall. He is the second ever worst manager of my team, Lincoln City. Only to be topped by that buffoon Chris Sutton.

Sporting Khalsa emerged from a group of Sikh lads who used to have a kick-around on the local park in Willenhall They have left no stone unturned on their big day. Both sets of supporters have fan zones with huge marquees erected. It's £8 on the gate and £2 for a programme. They usually print 20 programmes for home games, today they will sell 1000. I notice a trestle table, tucked away in the corner of the Khalsa marquee, selling memorabilia, T-Shirts and scarves. £12,500 is up for grabs for today's winners. Both teams have turned down the chance for this game to be shown on a BBC football app.

Many FC United fans have dropped into Dudley, just down the road, to pay their respects to Busby Babe, Duncan Edwards, who lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958 at the age of 21. There is a statue of Edwards in Dudley town centre.

Everyone is so friendly and obliging. I have a bottle of a cider, Ms Moon has a Kenco coffee. We both wolf down a portion of homemade curry and rice at a bargain £3 a pop. We've two hours to kill, as I wanted to witness the build up. We squeeze past a dozing security guard and sneak into the FC United end. Their marquee is packed to the rafters with folk.

There's a break in the clouds. We walk from under the covered stand and lean on the wall, as the players go through the motions of endless drills. Everything is bubbling up nicely. The Khalsa PA guy is banging out some serious Club Classics from a Wendy house across the far side of the ground.

Suddenly there's a commotion near the players' tunnel. Youths begin to clash. Punches are thrown and dustbins hurled. The scenes are ugly and alien to the Non League game I adore. A couple of guys the size of Cee Lo Green and Wes Morgan restore order. Some of the youths were masked and hooded. Rumours sweep around the ground that they are infiltrators from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

FC United are a club that fascinate me. They have made a stand against the Glazer family, who have made watching Manchester United unaffordable to the working classes. I get gassing to an FC fan who is draped in a red, white and black scarf. He actually lives ten minutes down the road in Brownhills near Walsall. He watches FC home and away.

I've only seen FC play once, back in 2010 at Stocksbridge Steels near Sheffield. A 23 year old Jamie Vardy should have been playing that day, but was suspended. What a find he would have been, if I'd clocked him that day. FC flags fluttering in the breeze add a picture to the scene. A TV cameraman from China is filming the game today. It's to be shown on Chinese National TV.

Drummers lead both teams onto the pitch. The atmosphere is electric. It's something you rarely encounter in Non League. The crowd has swelled to over 2000. It would have been probably been more had Wolves and Walsall not been at home today.

Nerves get the better of Khalsa in the early stages, as they let FC bully them and boss the game. I love the Khalsa 10 jacket Marvin Nisbett. He was the stand-out player at Dunkirk, and looks the business today. He has a deft touch, low sense of gravity, a spring in his step and covers the ground like a gazelle.

FC's pressure finally pays off with Luke Ashworth heading home from a corner. On 41 minutes Greg Daniels mugs Tesfa Robinson before lobbing the 'keeper to make it 2-0. FC United's fans are rapturous. They begin to chant KC and The Sunshine Band 1976 hit "That's the Way I Like It .. Aha Aha." I love FC's back catalogue of songs. They are anti-Glazer and anti-Sky to the tunes of 'Dirty Old Town' and 'Anarchy in the UK.'

FC are showboating in the second half. Khalsa have a never say die attitude. The game turns on its head with two substitutions. Khalsa manager Ian Rowe shows tactical nous. The ineffective 7 jacket is replaced by No.14, who looks a unit. My man Marvin is moved down the middle, and plays on the shoulder.

FC fail to clear a corner, Robinson sweeps home the loose ball. It leads to a wonderful grand finale. Khalsa can't get on the end of some dangerous crosses. FC break and former Liverpool youth player Craig Lindfield put the game to bed, and FC United into the live draw on BBC 2 on Monday evening.

It's been a wonderful spectatcle, superbly organised by the good folk of community supported Sporting Khalsa. I'll be back to watch both. For now I'll draw breath on another exciting day in Non League football.

Attendance: 2252

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Here Comes the Summer

Got these lined up for next season: Accrington Stanley, Barnet, Luton Town, Shrewsbury Town, Southport, Wrexham, Curzon Ashton, Marine, Ramsbottom Utd, Whitby Town, Salford City, Witton Albion, Lancaster City, Clitheroe, Silsden, Winsford Utd, Barnton, Cheadle Town, Shaw Lane Aquaforce, Cleethorpes Town, Pontefract Colls, Knaresborough Town, Boston Town, Northampton Sileby Rangers, Ely Town, Boldmere St Michaels, Bridgnorth Town, Alvechurch, Bromsgrove Sporting, Bilston Town, Lichfield Town, Pelsall Villa, Bilsthorpe, Thoresby, Harworth, Bentley Colliery, Mickleover Royals, Mickleover RBL and Swanick Pentrich.

See ya Soon

Sticky, Murphy and Finley xx

Monday, April 27, 2015

Burnley 0-1 Leicester City

It's 10:00pm on a Saturday evening. I'm slouched on the sofa, glass of Merlot in hand, watching the news headlines before Match of the Day. I glance down at my phone when the message alert bleeps. I reach out for my spectacles and stare into the console. The message from Trumpy Bolton reads: "Do you fancy going to Burnley next week?"

I can tell he's been on the sauce all day, when he finally phones up. There's an outside chance of a ticket, despite the Foxes selling out their 2469 allocation. He will have forgotten in the morning. We've no chance of going. On Monday morning at 9:15 the legend confirms he has two tickets. He says that he'll have to kill me if he tells me how he bagged them.

I pick him up on Saturday morning. Trumpy is swinging his carrier bag of full of pear cider and is sporting a St George's Polo shirt. He untwists the top off another plastic bottle full of blue liquid. I thank him kindly for bringing some screen wash. He begins to mix the liquid with his cider, which turns the colour of green. It's only WKD that he's poured in!

Trumpy is not too chuffed to hear that 'The Jester From Leicester' - Mark Selby, has exited the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. The legend is a massive Leicester City fan. He has seen the club play at over 60 different grounds.

Supporters of Burnley and Leicester best be seated when you read the next line. Trumpy Bolton's hobby in life is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland. He's heard on the quiet that there's a new Wetherspoons open in Otley, up in West Yorkshire. It's the birthplace of England rugby union player Mike Tindall and our first port of call on today's trip.

In less than two hours I'm squeezing the 'Rolls Royce' into a tight parking spot on the High Street. Trumpy poses outside the Otley Conservative Club - he loves the Blues. 'The 'Bowling Green' is opposite the fire station. Back in 1857 it was a court and session house. It's been transformed by Wetherspoons and tastefully renovated.

Trumpy has already seen off his cider and WKD. He shouts up a pint of Golden Sheep and a pint of Thatcher's Gold. It's just a full English and a cup of coffee for Sticky Palms. We're soon heading North again, as we crawl through Ilkley towards the village of Glunsby. The Dog and Gun is in a lovely spot. Bolton has soon guzzled his pint of Timothy Taylor's. Burnley is only a short drive away.

It's only 12:30pm, we've got bags of time. I turn right, close to Turf Moor, driving past the Burnley Miners' Social Club, before parting with £4 to park the car. It should give us a quick exit onto the M65. We walk towards the ground. There's a party atmosphere and community feel about the place. I came here in the early 90s. Through a drunken haze I vaguely remember Burnley beating Rotherham 2-1 in an FA Cup tie. A boy called Graham Lancashire scored the winner. Shaun Goater was a sub for the visitors.

Burnley Cricket Club seems a popular venue for visiting supporters. It's full to the brim with Leicester fans. I shout Trumpy a beer up and have a Guinness for myself. This could be interesting, the umpires are about to start play. Around 800 beer-fuelled Foxes' fans cheer as the bowler begins his run up. God only knows what the cricketers make of it all. The opening bat, Vishal Tripathi, a former high school pupil from Burnley, pulls the third ball of the game over the deep square boundary for six runs. It's met with raucous cheers from the Leicester faithful.

A batsman is caught in the outfield. He gets the full 'cheerio' treatment. It must be the lowest point in his cricketing career. He fails to make eye contact with the supporters, who are hanging over the balcony, as he trudges back to the pavilion. The infamous 'Zoonie Bus' has just rolled up. Big Derek grabs a chat with Trumpy. They've just rocked up after a heavy session in Rochdale and are well and truly spangled.

We take a short stroll to Turf Moor. Burnley is a market town with a population of just over 70,000 people. It was a prominent mill town during the Industrial Revolution. It's local brewery is Moorhouses which was founded in 1865 and whose award-winning real ales include the Pride of Pendle. Famous people from the area include: Sir Ian McKellan, Paul Abbot, Chumbawamba, Tony Livesey, James Anderson, Jay Rodriguez and Coronation Street crowd favourite Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole).

Burnley FC were founded in 1882 and were a founder member of the Football League. The won the old Division One in 1960 and were European Cup quarter finalists in 1961. Record transfer fee paid out was £3 million for Steven Fletcher from Hibernian. Record transfer fee received is £7 million from Southampton for Jay Rodriguez.

It's £35 for the ticket and £3 for an excellent programme with over 80 pages. We collect our 'Foxes Never Quit' t-shirts on the gate. They are complimentary from the Club, as well as free breakfasts for travelling support at the King Power Stadium and a £5 voucher to spend on a pie and a pint. It's a lovely gesture - other clubs should take a leaf out their book.

The Foo Fighters and David Bowie boom out of the PA. A minute's silence for the 30th anniversary of the Bradford Fire Disaster is impeccably observed by those actually in the stands - some Leicester fans are unaware of this down in the concourse.

Leicester begin nervously. Wasilewski dilly-dallies on the ball, he's dispossessed and is lucky to see a last ditch block save his bacon. Both teams serve up poor fayre in the first half, it's devoid of any real quality, as the nerves begin to jangle. The most memorable moment is the free Holland's pie that Trumpy has fetched from downstairs.

The Clarets wheel out two former players at the break, who scored the goals that saved Burnley from dropping into the Conference in 1987 - at the expense of my team, Lincoln City.

The second half is much better as the game opens up. The pivotal moment is on the hour. Schmeichel saves from Ings, but Taylor is hacked down by Konchesky. Matthew Taylor is making his first start since August and taking his first penalty in five years. Later on TV he appears to slip before striking the ball against the outside of the post.

The Leicester fans are still taunting the Burnley supporters who stand close by, as only seconds later Albrighton is haring into space down the right hand side. He puts in a peach of a cross that Duff can only slice up into the air. In what seems an eternity, 'keeper Heaton back pedals in slow motion to claw the ball back from the goal line, Vardy smashes the loose ball into the back of net, cue pandemonium in the visitors' enclosure. Not many supporters will have gone from experiencing your stomach churning to a moment of sheer euphoria within a minute of each other.

Leicester begin to knock it about, but Burnley aren't quite done yet. Ings twists and turns his way through the Foxes defence before unleashing a shot that Schmeichel beats away. A deflected Ben Mee effort wrong foots the 'keeper, but he still somehow manages to get a strong hand on the ball to avert any danger.

With the clock ticking away towards 90 minutes we make a sharp exit with two Leicester defenders laid-out in the box having collided as they desperately try to scramble the ball away. Wes Morgan is the standout defender for the Foxes. He has tackled, blocked and headed everything that the Clarets have thrown at him.

As I switch the car radio on, there is some good news for the town of Burnley. James Anderson has taken three wickets for one run with the new ball in the West Indies.

Attendance: 19,582

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton

Bolton Beer Watch:

                               The Bowling Green: 1 cider and 1 real ale
                               The Dog and Gun:   1 real ale
                               Burnley Cricket Club: 3 pints of bitter and cider with WKD
                               Turf Moor - 1 pint at half-time
                               Car journey - 2 plastic bottles full of cider with a WKD topping
                               Michelin Star Restaurant (our house) - 2 pints of real ale.