Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I got the call-up for the Boss Hogg Sunday X1. They had their final fixture of the cricketing season at the picturesque setting of Colston Bassett, which is where Stilton Cheese is made.
All was going well for yours truly, a couple of catches and some tight bowling, and there was I thinking this game is a piece of p*ss. Unfortunately for me, Duncan bowled one donkey drop too many. With the ball travelling at the speed of sound I made a heroic attempt at a hat-trick of catches.
I’m in Sally Gunnell driving like a lunatic down the quiet country lanes of the Vale of Belvoir towards the QMC. I’ve split my ring finger open and it is dislocated. If things couldn’t get any worse the Eastenders Omnibus edition is on at the A&E Department, on my arrival. Ninety minutes of Ian Beale could tip me over the edge.
Six hours later nurses have administered more injections on my hand than an afternoon surgery with Dr Harold Shipman. I’m sorry to say this but the NHS are a bigger joke than D**by County. It’s like a scene from Carry on Doctor.
White Van Man is driving tonight; we are joined by HM Inspector of Taxes. We meet in the Fairway Public House car park. I saw a crane in this excuse of a watering hole on Saturday and smiled at the delight of it being knocked to the ground; sadly there was a charity bungee jump being held.
We drive down the old A38, it’s years since I’ve been down here, and boy can WVM drive.
Hednesford is in Staffordshire, close to Cannock. It’s Forest legend Stanley Victor Collymore’s patch – he often took his “dog” for a walk down Cannock Chase. Former Man City and Macclesfield manager, Brian Horton, was born in the town. He has managed over one thousand league games. Hednesford has a population of 7,000. It’s famous for stock car racing and coal mining.
Both teams tonight are managed by former Forest players: The Pitmen by Phil “Bambi” Starbuck and Ilson by Nigel Jemson. Both are under pressure. Hednesford Town won the FA Trophy in 2004, a fantastic achievement for a town and club of this size.
We pay £9.50 to sit in the Main Stand behind the dug outs. It’s a bit fresh tonight and my ring finger is playing up. The ground is large but deserted, it’s soulless.
The Managing Director of the Pitmen has made a scathing attack on the players in the club’s programme. It’s no holds barred and an interesting read. Philip Starbuck’s patience has snapped too, Club Captain, Dave Macpherson has been stripped of the armband and placed on the transfer list.
Ilkeston are a bit light tonight. Two of my favourite players Paul Robinson and Chris Adam, now ply their trade for thehe Pitmen and not Ilson. Ironically Adam scores against his old club after six minutes, after being allowed too much time and space.
Ilkeston create very little, Holmes and Walker huff and puff. Jermaine Palmer, the son of Pies’ legend Charlie, is the Ilson centre forward tonight. WVM saw him rip Lincoln United to bits a few weeks ago, but he is powder-puff on this showing. The Pitmen have him in his pocket.
Jemmo is pure entertainment on the Ilson bench; he kicks every ball and questions every decision. “Gerd” Muller runs his socks off without reward.
Rene Gilmartin is the home team’s Achilles heel, but Ilson fail to exploit this. They have a good spell of pressure before the break but the ball just won’t drop for them.
WVM is a happy soul. I treat him to a Jumbo Hot Dog and a cup of tea, as a thank you for driving. There’s a non-league who’s who in the crowd tonight: Steve Burr at Stalybridge Celtic and Eastwood’s Paul Cox sit in the stands, as well as a couple of Lincoln United players.
The second half is dire. I’m desperate for it to end. Jemmo rolls back the years with a 45 minute appearance at centre half; it’s cringe worthy.
The game is effectively over in the 52nd minute after a sixty second game of pinball in the Ilson box; Tom Marshall finally puts the ball in the back of the net.
The Pitmen shut up shop; Jemmo goes 4-3-3. Former tricky tree, Ross Gardner, is far more effective in the centre of the park and goes close on a couple of occasions but Ilson rarely trouble the home keeper.
Hednesford Town 2 Adam and Marshall Ilkeston Town 0
Man of the Match: Paul Robinson
Monday, September 24, 2007
A pleasant night at Plumtree Cricket Club last night with Sticky junior picking up the Bowling Award for the u11s. “The Skipper’s” team returned to form this morning also, but once again I chose to stay away, I’m not ready to watch my team yet.
I saw a neighbour earlier today, whilst washing the car, and asked him how he was. He replied he was nervous at the prospect of watching England v Samoa. To be honest I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It turned out that it’s the Rugby World Cup Finals, I was totally unaware, and personally I’d rather have a night out with Lee Bowyer than watch them egg chasers.
I’m off to Gedling today, not Town, but Miners’ Welfare; they are playing Atherstone Town, from Warwickshire in the FA Vase. The visitors play two rungs further up the non-league pyramid. It will be a good test for Gedling.
Atherstone has a population of 10,000 and lies close to the River Anker. The Coventry Canal, with its eleven locks is nearby. In years gone by it was famous for hat-making. They were previously known as Atherstone United, and once sold Andy Rammell to Manchester United for £40,000 back in 1989.
I pass the old entrance to Gedling Colliery. There’s a plaque outside with 1899-1991 on it. The mine produced some of the best coal this county has ever seen from its High Hazles Seam – Maggie got personal and closed it down.
I park in the Welfare car park (it’s now called Mapperley Social Club). It’s a mandatory £4 admission and a £1 for the programme, which once again is of a high standard and has won many awards.
The ground lacks atmosphere, it’s neat and tidy and on a slope, and is hidden away from the busy main road.
I take my pitch in between the two dugouts. The Adders have come in a posh coach and are sponsored by Aldi.
Gedling start the game well and youngster Ryan Johnson thumps a shot home from the edge of the area after Atherstone had failed to clear a corner.
Gedling are rampant, midfielder Matt Richards hits a pearler from distance to make it 2-0 after 7 minutes.
The Gedling management are an amusing duo and have a little chat with me now and again.
The Atherstone bench are livid with their team. They don’t have to wait long for a comeback with Reece ghosting in at the far post to nod home a Wells cross. It’s 2-2 after 12 minutes with Tomlinson the quickest to react to a loose ball.
Atherstone take hold of the game by the scuff of the neck. Gedling can’t get near them, their movement is the key. Dunkley is top drawer for Atherstone.
Sticky gets hit the face by a stray ball, at half-time: “no wonder you’re a sub” I shout at the guilty Adders’ player.
I meet a lovely old guy from Gedling who has painted the whole ground pre-season. And I also chat to a fellow Hopper who tips me a few grounds to go to.
Atherstone don’t enjoy playing with slope second half, and slowly but surely Gedling’s confidence begins to increase. A dreadful mistake by Adders’ Civzeis leaves Henson in the clear, his finish is clinical.
The Adders’ coaching staff are a miserable pairing they could moan for Warwickshire. Dollies are out the pram over where the spare ball should be kept. Atherstone coach Jimmy Ginnelly calls Gedling’s John Bartlett a “p***k.” The crowd roar with laughter.
They are poor losers and aren’t used to it. They’ve lost their sparkle and have begun to look predictable. Ryan Johnson, on the wing for Gedling is mustard. They use him as an outlet in the last 15 minutes and he’s unlucky not to add to his early strike. A few league clubs have been sniffing about, and I’m not surprised, he’s a raw talent.
The final whistle goes, the Gedling bench are euphoric; their team are good value in the second period. Lessons will have been learnt by the visitors.
Gedling MW 3 Johnson, Richards and Henson Atherstone 2 Reece and Tomlinson
Attendance: not many.
Man of the Match: Matt Richards
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I was sitting in bed on Monday night, reading When Saturday Comes, when Mrs P gave me the shock news: “Barry McGuigan has won Hell’s Kitchen” she shouts, “Did he say thank you very much Mr Eastwood?” I enquire.
Brooker has sloped of to Menorca for a week, so I’ve blagged his ticket, and arranged to meet up with Homebird in “B” Block.
The traffic is nose to tail down the A606; most of Leicester have clocked off early from knitting jumpers and making shoes and are heading for The City Ground.
A Traffic Cop sits in a lay-by at Wheatcrofts Roundabout; he’s probably playing on his PSP. In front of me is a car full of Foxes’ fans dressed in Burberry; it’s the old skool Baby Squad.
I park at Bridgford Library and walk down Hound Road and onto Radcliffe Road. It’s a sea of blue. There’s a real atmosphere in the air tonight. The fans all drink outside the numerous takeaway establishments. Proper fans would have been drinking Everards Tiger in the Stratford Haven. Plod lurk on every corner, waiting for the first sniff of trouble.
I plonk myself down in the Main Stand. A cover version of 'You Keep Me Hanging On' is on the tannoy. There’s only a 1000 or so lost souls in the ground. I have some good mates who follow Leicester. I’ve been on many an away trip with them. I particularly remember Friday night’s in Hull and Tranmere under the Brian Little regime and an unsavoury FA Cup tie at Oxford’s Manor Ground when Leicester fans invaded the pitch.
There are a dozen or son young lads sat in front of me, they’re all Under 16, but are well up for it. Of course, the tie is being replayed tonight because of the sudden illness to 27 year old Dubliner, Clive Clarke. There’s an extra bit of spice also, one of the club’s most unpopular managers in recent times, is back in town: Gary Megson.
The three things I remember about Gary Megson’s tenure at The Reds are as follows:
He was good at chewing gum, he bought all his suits from C&A and he fell out with Reds’ cult hero David Johnson. On the field he achieved nothing, the football was vile, he flooded the club with journeymen footballers, and he was a disaster.
You have to wonder how Nigel Doughty has survived in business because he wouldn’t know a good manager if he stared one in the face (Paul Hart excepted). "Old Big Ead" summed him up (Megson) in one sentence: “He couldn’t trap a wet bag of cement”.
Martin “Mad Dog” Allen has bought wisely, they won’t be lacking in fight and spirit. Gareth McAuley is their No.5 this evening; we used to call him “The Big G” at Sincil Bank. Keith Alexander paid £10,000 to Coleraine for his services; you’d get a million for him now. He went to Leicester on a Bosman, he is crucial at set pieces.
Forest rewarded their August Player of the Month, Sammy Clingan with a place on the bench on Saturday. Former Reserve Team Coach, Ian McParland, can relate to that, he won the Pontins Reserve League last season, there was no pat on the back for Charlie, just his P45.
Calderwood makes a bold move from kick-off, electing to play without a goalkeeper. Paul Smith waltzes through the Leicester midfield and defence unchallenged and finishes with aplomb, 1-0. Rumour has it that the Foxes had nominated. Scott Dobie to carry out the sporting act, knowing full well that the ball would have ended up in the River Trent.
The crowd are in shock, the guy next to me still thinks its 0-0 20 minutes later. Forest begin well, the pace of Tyson and Agogo unsettles the Leicester defence. On the half hour Kelvin Wilson once again fails to clear his lines, DJ Campbell, once of Yeading, pounces on the ball, but is upended on the edge of the box. The resulting free-kick is expertly bent round the wall by Irishman Alan Sheehan. 1-1.
Hungarian born Marton Fulop, on loan from Sunderland, is the busier of the two keepers.
Forest are different class second half and swarm all over the visitors, they take a deserved lead in the 65th minute, with Nathan Tyson timing his run perfectly to latch onto a Commons through ball and finish with style.
Forest are now pouring forward and Blocks A and B are in full song, sadly it is cheap jibes at Leicester’s multi-cultural society: “Rule Britannia” “England” and Small Town in Asia” leave a sour taste in the mouth. It’s so unnecessary, and ignorant, the game is played in an excellent spirit. The chants, once again, will go unreported, and be swept under the carpet.
Forest are running the clock down, and are close to empty, they will deserve this win. They balls up a short corner, and leave themselves short at the back. Leicester sweep forward down the right flank, sub Stearman bundles the ball home.
Forest are fragile, on the ropes, and the Foxes go for the jugular. They once again attack with pace down the right, with this time Stephen Clemence finishing from the edge of the box. Daylight robbery, smash and grab, call it what you want, but it can only happen at Forest right now.
Homebird is a diehard Red, but he’s in a state of shock, for once he’s lost for words. “We’ve outclassed them” is all he can mumble.
Forest 2 Smith and Tyson Leicester 3 Sheehan, Stearman and Clemence
Man of the Match: Luke Chambers
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
A week to forget for Sticky, I coached my final session for my beautiful team on Wednesday. I have witnessed some appalling behaviour. I want no part of this. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders; I should have walked away in the summer. I am rock bottom, and my heart is broken. It’s an impossible job, but I go with my head held high; the boys have been a credit and a joy to be with. Child Protection is paramount, sadly, not all see it that way.
To complete a miserable week, Leeds United have coasted to victory in the south west of England last night. My favourite front pairing of Beckford and Kandol have bagged again.
I’ve been busier than a Northern Rock Building Society cashier this week: football, cricket and my wedding anniversary. It was so convenient of Burton Albion to bring forward their game by 24 hours so Mrs P and I could slip down to Perkins Bar Bistro at Plumtree, on Tuesday night.
I missed “The Skipper’s” first game in 3 years this morning. My stomach churned from the moment he left here at 9am until he got back. I knew things hadn’t gone well because I didn’t get a text update. He scored so at least he’s happy.
I washed the car and cleaned the windows, but my mind was elsewhere; I’ve enjoyed coaching the boys and will miss it more than the 20 Embassy Number 1 I used to smoke years ago.
Carlton’s ground is just down the road from Gedling Town, who I visited the other week; they are also at home today. The Millers have had four successive promotions. Chairman Mick Garton and manager Tommy Brookbanks can take all the credit for this.
It’s a charming ground, which looks out towards Gedling Church. A railway line runs close by. It’s a FA Cup 1st Round Qualifier today against Unibond Premier League giants Matlock Town, who currently lie 5th in the table. Carlton play in the league below, and are mid-table.
Admission is £6, with an additional £1.50 for a programme which puts Burton Albion’s poor effort to shame: take a bow Andy King. Because of it’s poor location Carlton Town only average around 80 people a game, Matlock bump this up considerably, there’s double that today.
The Bill Stokeld Stadium is bathed in glorious sunshine, the huge away following sit on the patio outside the clubhouse, basking in the glorious conditions. Just a Lucozade today for me, I’ve a feeling I’ll be downing a few tonight. Portsmouth and Liverpool play out a goalless draw on Sky TV; personally I’d rather buy a season ticket at Derby County than watch this drivel.
There are a few sore heads around the ground today as last night a testimonial dinner was held for Tommy Brookbanks at the Village Hotel in Chilwell. Former Premiership referee Jeff Winter was guest speaker.
Since I last saw The Gladiators a few weeks ago there star striker Ian Holmes has moved on to Mansfield Town, but they have an able replacement in Steve Taylor. Marquin Smith, a player I raved about a few weeks ago, has recently joined Carlton.
The Millers edge an entertaining first half on a bumpy and uneven surface, with Bignall twice going close. He’s a big strong lad who Notts County were watching a few years ago during my scouting days. He gives Matlock defender James Lukic (nephew of Arsenal’s John) a rough ride.
Matlock keeper, Andy Richmond, looks like his partial to the occasional slice of Bakewell tart and a dollop of cream but he commands his area well. Aidan Brady’s trickery prevents Matlock left back Paul Riley from getting forward.
Matlock have a good whinge and moan at the ref first half and would have been better concentrating on the job in hand, they can have been relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
At the break I spot a lad I signed up for Notts County called Simon Wilkinson, he’s strolling round the ground, he’s only 17, and not quite ready for the cut and thrust of the Unibond League, but it won’t be long.
The Gladiators’ management team get their players fired up; the game is all but over on the hour. A sloppy piece of defending by Carlton Town defender Dominic Thomas lets in Taylor for the first. Taylor doubles their lead shortly after, with another one on-one effort. Simon Barraclough finds the Carlton defence napping again to make it 3-0. Taylor completes his hat-trick on the hour with a simple close range finish.
Thomas and Chaplin score consolation goals for The Millers but their early slipshod defending means they pay the price. It’s a year of stability for this young Carlton Town team and who knows what would have happened if they took their chances.
I spend the second half with the Grandparents of one of the keepers that used to be at the Pies Centre of Excellence; their Grandson is now in Carlton Town Under 16s and is once again enjoying his football just like I have this afternoon.
Carlton 2 Thomas Chaplin Matlock 4 Taylor (3) Barraclough
Man of the Match: Steve Taylor.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Mrs P is as happy as Larry; Hell’s Kitchen is back on TV, with its assortments of freaks and wanabees. Sticky is a happy man, it means a cheeky midweeker in Burton.
I had a stroll round the NFFC Academy last Saturday lunchtime, the highlight being a Lancaster Bomber circling the area. Liverpool U18s were in town, the gulf in class was enormous. Be assured, there is no Dawson or JJ amongst this current crop. Forest Youth are predictable and unimaginative; typical of the type of footballer academies produce these days. Keep an eye on the progress of Kop duo: Astrit Adjarevic and Marvin Pourie; they ran the Tricky Trees ragged.
Tonight, top of the table Torquay travel to the Pirelli Stadium, to take on Burton Albion in the Blue Square Conference. The architect joins me; it’s a 40 minute drive down the A453, past the new Nottingham Forest White Elephant Stadium. We’ve arranged to meet Robbo; he’s an old school friend and lives near Ashbourne.
Torquay is in South Devon, and is commonly known as the English Riviera. Famous people from the area include: Basil Fawlty, Soccer AM presenter Helen Chamberlain and murder mystery writer Agatha Christie. How Nottinghamshire Police could do with a Miss Marple to solve all the shed burglaries and attempted robberies at Sainsbury’s they’ve had of late.
Back in 1985, Sticky was on tour in Torquay. I had endured a winter of discontent during the miners’ strike and had witnessed at first-hand the sickening actions of our beloved Metropolitan Police on the front of the picket lines and their brutal assault of a workforce fighting for their future.
I found myself, one balmy summer’s evening, standing outside Torquay Central Police Station singing at the top of my voice: “Maggie’s Boot Boys”, but they were too busy dunking McVities digestive biscuits into endless cups of tea, to bother feeling Sticky’s collar.
In 1987, Torquay, Burnley and Lincoln are all one game away from reaching the Conference. It was looking good for The Imps until the 89th minute at Plainmoor, when a police alsatian dog, called Bryn, took a chunk out of Gulls’ midfielder Jim McNicoll’s leg,. the referee played 4 minutes added time, in which Paul Dobson grabbed the winner; Lincoln were relegated. The Mayor of Torquay supplied K9 with free steak for a week and people wonder why I’m anti-police.
We meet Robbo in the bar; there’s still no sign of a social club, a vocal point where all the community can meet. He’s brought his 13 year old son, Tom; he is sport mad and wears a Brewers’ replica shirt, good boy. It’s £12 entry and Dafty treats me to a programme; it’s poor, 30 pages out of 48 are adverts; for £2.50 it’s a joke.
The pitch is like the baize of a snooker table, guest Neil Warnock would not have seen anything like this in the steel city. Burton are still part-time. The young man continues to perform miracles with his hands tied behind his back. Combative midfielder John McGrath has arrived from Tamworth along with the unpopular Jake Edwards. Sam Aiston and Mark Greaves are other new signings.
Ten things to do before you die should include watching Emerald Isle winger Keith Gilroy; the boy just blows me away with each breathtaking performance I see. He forces Torquay full-back Hinshelwood into an early booking giving him license to dribble. The ball sticks to his foot like evostick.
The Brewers are peppering the Gulls’ defence but it is in bizarre circumstances that they take the lead. Defender John Brayford punts an aimless free-kick 60 yards up field with ex-Imp and Torquay keeper Simon Rayner hopelessly out of position. There are hush tones as the ball sails over his head and into the back of the onion bag; it’s nothing more than they have deserved.
Burton go for the jugular, they are sweeping the ball all over the pitch with pace. Andy Gooding, on loan from the Sky Blues makes it 2-0 sneaking through the tightest of gaps with a beautiful finish. Torquay look laboured and are walking the tightrope.
They remain under siege in the early part of the second half but after a few substitutions begin to edge their way back into the game. Bedeau is having an impact down the right hand side and provides an inch perfect cross for Elliott Benyon, on loan from Bristol City to slide home. He could have equalised minutes later but his control lets him down. The tireless former Magpie Shaun Harrad clinches the game for Burton from yet another Gilroy assist; he has worked himself into the ground.
There’s over 2000 here tonight (a school night), the referee has been excellent. The game has flowed and Torquay return home empty-handed and end the game with 10 men, when their only player with any real desire, Lee Mansell, is red-carded for a cynical challenge. All I want from Mrs P for Christmas is a Burton Albion half season ticket.
Burton 3 Brayford Gooding Harrad Torquay 1 Benyon
Man of the Match: John Brayford
Sunday, September 9, 2007
There was a knock at the door yesterday just before 7am.; (this is not a gag). I was propped up in bed reading the greatest cricket book of all-time: Fatty Batter by Michael Simkins. Mrs P was dispatched to the front door. It was only PC Plod. There had been an attempted robbery down at Sainsbury’s, and they had parked the getaway vehicle outside our house.
Unfortunately for Junior Cop there was only one witness who saw them jump in the car and speed off: his name is Finley Palmer and he is our pet rabbit.
He’s keeping stumm and is refusing to answer questions; he like me has a mistrust of the Nottinghamshire Constabulary. They make PC Ventriss off Heartbeat look like Hercule Poirot. The witness protection scheme in Nottingham has taken a turn for the worse and Finley knows he’ll end up in the pot if he goes on that.
The Tricky Trees are playing The Posh tonight in the JPT. The man from the revenue is a season ticket holder but is on board with Sticky tonight at a FA Cup replay.
Gedling is 4 miles outside Nottingham. My father in-law worked down Gedling Colliery for 35 years, in four foot seams; he struggles to walk some days. Mr Gedling they used to call him. A 60 hour week was the norm.
Former England international Steve Hodge is from these parts. I have had a few good nights slurping beer in the Grey Goose and Westdale Tavern.
We drive past the sewage works at Stoke Bardolph and park the car in thee Ferry Boat Inn. We are greeted by Emimen on the PA system. It’s a tidy ground with a lush playing surface. There are a couple of stands behind the dugout but it’s spoilt by a number of portakabins behind one of the goals.
Gedling Town were founded in 1986 and play in the Northern Counties League. Meir KAFC are from North Staffs and I suspect play in a lower standard. Admission is £4 and the programme a £1.
It’s a disastrous start for Meir when an outrageous piece of showboating from their keeper ends in tears, with the ball falling to Whitehead who somehow contrives to hit a post with the entire goal at his mercy. Alan Jeffries converts the rebound.
Meir are dire, the worst I’ve seen in a while (Racing Club Warwick excluded). Jeffrey hits another, following quick thinking by Gedling keeper Spriggs.
There’s an advert for Bridegate Security in the programme, it wouldn’t surprise me if the home team’s centre backs work there. Matt Millns and Lee Soar are immense, huge and powerful. Tthey make me wince with each header they win.
It’s a massacre in the second period. Diminutive left winger, Ben Cobley, curls in a beauty and Will Heath, who used to play for my local team, rampages down the right before planting a cross on to the rising head of former Nuneaton Borough striker Nicky Kennerdale to make it 4-0.
Carl Westcarr, brother of Kettering’s Craig, makes it 5-0 at the death. Mickleover Sports await in the next round. Forest have been beaten again, 3-2 by Peterborough.
Gedling Town 5 Meir KAFC 0
Man of the Match: Ben Cobley
Monday, September 3, 2007
Apparently it was a bit chilly today at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, still minus 3 at 5pm. My new friend Dennis Wise collected another three points, courtesy of another Tresor Kandol goal.
Memories came flooding back for me this week, with the sudden collapse of Leicester defender Clive Clarke at The City Ground. Seventeen years ago I was on a stag weekend in Amsterdam, it was a gorgeous day and we all congregated around the TV to watch Final Score with Des Lynam.
Lincoln’s game at York was match abandoned, Sticky was flapping, my Dad and brother were there. A quick phone call to mum left me with the devastating news that Minsterman midfielder and former Forest apprentice, David Longhurst, had died on the pitch at Bootham Crescent, at the age of 25.
Today it’s Liberty Way for me, the new home of Nationwide North club Nuneaton Borough.
Nuneaton is the largest town in the county of Warwickshire, with a population of 70,000. Famous people born in the town include: camp 'comedian' Larry Grayson, film director, Ken Loach and footballers John Curtis and Matty Fryatt.
It’s no coincidence that QPR have had a miserable run since Curtis joined them. My favourite footballer of all-time, Sir Trevor Peake, was born in Nuneaton; he has the freedom of Lincoln.
I’m driving down the A453 towards the A42; a Boeing 737 hangs beneath the cotton wool clouds, waiting to land at East Midlands Airport. I’m getting old, I’m listening to Radio Nottingham; the nauseating tones of Ronan O’Keating fill the airwaves. ”You sound best .. when you say nothing at all” .. couldn’t have put it better myself Ronan!! Mrs P has cooked many a Sunday Roast singing along to this clown.
The football question is good on the radio this week: Who is the only Englishman playing in the Spanish Primera Liga?
I turn off the M42 onto the A444, it’s interesting road with a plethora of pubs and hotels. I pass the Battle of Bosworth Visitor Centre: final score Henry 1 Richard 0.
One man and his dog give me directions to the ground, it’s out of town and on an industrial estate, and it reminds me a little bit of Hinckley United. I park the car for £2 (tut tut) and walk down a dusty dirt-track.
It’s £10 to get in and £2 for a programme that has over 20 pages of adverts. The guy on the turnstile has a wad of tenners in his grasp, a cigarette dangles from his lips, he reminds me of a shady bookmaker.
The pitch is lush and wide. I have a mosey round the social club; there’s a real vibe in here. It’s £1 for a glass of coke. Sheffield Wed are playing Bristol City on Sky, no-one is watching it, The Owls are losing. Brian Laws will be throwing plates of Chicken again. Pictures of the current squad hang on the wall.
The DJ is playing the best track I’ve ever heard at a football ground: The Killers, 'Everything will be Alright.'
Cheerleaders greet the players as they make there way to the pitch. Celtic’s squad looks strong, Tricky Tree goalkeeper, Paddy Gamble, is in the nets, I’ve seen him down the Academy and like him. Former Imp, James Dudgeon, is at the heart of their defence. In midfield they have Ashley Burbeary, who caught my eye for Alfreton last season.
Nuneaton have a few injury/suspension problems and have not started the season well, I fancy an away win. I’m leaning on the wall, level with the eighteen yard area, a steward tells me to move, she’s unfriendly and I don’t like her tone, I ignore her.
Nuneaton start well, their right back Simon Travis gets down with increasing ease. Celtic keeper, Paddy Gamble, has safe hands. Neil Moore goes close for Borough. Stalybridge take the lead, a cross from the right by Sykes is flapped at by Borough keeper Darren Acton, on his 200th appearance for the club; Chris Hall heads home. Hall recently retired from the professional game with Oldham and is now an actor by trade; he’s still only 20 years old.
Borough are undeterred and press forward but they lack a cutting edge. I get my first touch of the match ball on 20 minutes. Lee Ellington and Barlow go close for Celtic. Former Stag and Pie, Tom Curtis, equalises from the spot after a blatant shove on Collins by Stringfellow. It’s a fast, flowing and entertaining game.Both sets of fans swap ends at half-time; it’s the beauty of non-league.
I‘ve noticed a Dutch groundhopper behind me at half-time. He has an Ajax shirt on and has bought plenty of Borough memorabilia. I was going to engage in conversation with him but he looks so bloody miserable. It’s just another ground for him to tick off. I can’t imagine him with his finger in a dyke preventing his homeland from flooding.
Nuneaton start where they left off, with Travis having more success down the right flank, and it’s from one of his many crosses that Collins wins the game for Borough with a bullet header; Gamble is helpless. Acton tips over a Barwick screamer in the dying moments, it would have been unjust had it sneaked in.
Celtic are mediocre second half, Ellington and Hall are starved of any real service, they never get it wide. Even a blind man can see that Nuneaton keeper Acton is suspect from crosses but they never exploit it.
For Borough the midfield are strong and tenacious, they look to play it wide. Bradley Pritchard, who I believe is at Loughborough University, has great poise and balance on the ball. The experienced Neil Moore at the heart of their defence has a muscular approach. They could have won by more.
Nuneaton 2 Curtis and Collins Stalybridge Celtic 1 Hall
Man of the Match: Simon Travis.