Thursday, November 8, 2007
Greenwood Meadows 5 Radford FC 2
I missed my second Saturday game in a row due to The Architect’s brother getting married. But every cloud has a silver lining. I’m sat with my bro-in-law, at the reception. Life has been cruel to him, not only is he a copper, but he also supports D**by County. How unfair is that?
He’s looking a bit sheepish. I’ve had the best part of three bottles of red and we’re having are normal row about the police. I’m taking the p**s out of our beloved Metropolitan Police and their bungled attempts to catch Brazilian illegal immigrant Jean Charles de Mendes. Pc Plod suddenly mentions he worked in the notorious Meadows area of Nottingham for four years. I have a cunning plan: “Another bottle of red, officer?”
It’s Bonfire Night, 7pm. We park in the Portland Leisure Centre. We head down Arkwright Walk. The new Meadows have been described as an architectural disaster; town hall planners of that era should be named and shamed. It’s a series of rat-runs, alleys, snickets and cul-de-sacs. The paths are narrow; I feel hemmed in. The houses are crammed together without thought or feeling. They may not fill the skyline like the tower blocks of the sixties, but they are ugly and characterless.
It’s an impossible place to police. To our right is St Saviour’s Church built in 1863; it’s an outstanding creation of beauty surrounded by ugliness.
We sweep left past a closed circuit television camera into the Bridgeway Centre. Here lays a shrine to 17 year old gun victim Nathan Williams, cruelly taken away from his family and friends with a single gunshot wound in broad daylight. It brought a shell-shocked community together in grief. A year on from this senseless killing, pinned to a post, at the scene of his death, are cards, flowers, poems and messages from those he left behind. I am moved.
We walk past Poets Corner under a dimly lit subway and peel off the main drag down a narrow pathway.
After a few moments we are in the old Meadows, the streets are alive with children playing and fireworks being launched at garden parties. The houses are three storeys high just like the Albert Finney movies filmed in Radford in the sixties. There is a spirit and soul to this community. Whatever negativity life throws at them they dismiss, and soldier on together.
When I scouted at Notts County’s centre of excellence I was obsessed with the inner-city. I often watched Meadow Colts, and landed a boy for The Pies at 15. He’s an apprentice at Field Mill now. I watch his progress with interest.
Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant is Meadows born and bred. He lost his mother to cancer at a young age and is the oldest of four children. Football gave him an outlet. He escaped the ghetto. He couldn’t even read or write.
Greenwood FC and Meadows Albion FC amalgamated twenty years ago. Radford first started playing in 1964 under the name of Manlove and Alliots, a local engineering firm. In 1977 Radford became the first amateur league side to wear advertising on their shirts. Both teams play in the Central Midlands Football League. I enjoyed the friendship, warmth and camaraderie of the Radford people on my visit last season.
I pick up The Taxman at just after 7pm. We are parked up at the ground in less than fifteen minutes. It’s £3 admission and a £1 for the programme.
I have a chat with Greenwood’s secretary Dennis Wakelin. I’d phoned him up the night before and told him I would introduce myself: “You won’t miss me” he replied: “I’m the fat bloke.”
I’m saddened to here that the Under 19 side has been disbanded due to cost-cutting. Surely there should be some sort of funding to keep these young lads off the street and give them a life experience.
Greenwood Meadows have had to spend £10,000 of club funds on fencing around the perimeter of the ground in the close-season. The whispers are that they have aspirations to play at a higher level next season. They currently lie second from bottom of the league, but they impressed me at Radford last season.
The Taxman gets the teas in at the snack bar; he’s as white as a sheet. He’s seen a sign behind the bar it says “No Loaded Firearms Allowed in the Clubhouse.” Apparently they have a Country and Western night on Saturdays.
The game kicks-off, there’s a waft of cigarette smoke in the air from the nearby Imperial Tobacco factory.
There are early chances at both ends in an open encounter. But it’s Radford keeper Scott Flinders who misjudges the bounce of a through ball; Greenwood’s Donachie rolls the ball into an empty net.
Radford strive for an equaliser, but on the half hour Donachie makes it 2-0 to the home side, pouncing on an aimless ball and finishing smartly.
Radford are in shock, they clearly fancy their chances but Meadows never let them settle or get into a rhythm. Speedy right winger Daniel Miller latches onto a long ball, and once again keeper Flinders is caught out of position, 3-0. Greenwood Meadows are still celebrating when Radford’s John Manders seizes on some hesitation in the home defence to reduce the deficit.
There are some guys from the FA here tonight, they are poncing about the joint and are suited and booted. I swear I actually caught one of them watching the game for one moment. They won’t go in the bar, no chance, not with that sign up behind the bar.
At the break we have a stroll around the ground and meet an inner city legend: Maurice Samuels. Maurice is a social worker in St Anns and is trying, through sport, to bring the communities of the Meadows, St Anns and Radford together. He has formed a football club called Unity FC. They have played youth teams at Forest and Blackburn and have acquitted themselves well. Blackburn Rovers have signed a 17 year old from Nottingham on a one year contract. Samuels mentors these boys and gives them hope not hate, love and not war. I know Mo well, we used to work together.
Radford drive forward in the second period but the Greenwood Meadows defence are immense; Miles, Miller, Wilson and Morgan fight tooth and nail for every ball. Donachie completes his hat-trick with a well taken header from a free-kick. The rout is completed ten minutes from time with his fourth of the night following a mix-up in the Radford defence. Substitute Bailey scores a late consolation.
Radford manager Julian Garmston is not a happy chappy and has moaned and groaned all night. The referee has felt the wrath of his tongue, unfairly in my opinion. He should look more closely at his team’s performance than that of the man in black, who may have missed a few tackles, but has allowed the game to flow.
Radford number seven Darren Garmston is a fine player, and at 23 can look forward to playing at a far higher level than this. Tonight he is, like his Dad, a frustrated figure.
Tonight has thrown two troubled communities together under one roof. Football is the winner.
Greenwood Meadows 5 Radford FC 2
Attendance: probably more than watched Channel 4’s Property Ladder
Man of the Match: Dave Donachie