A man rang the local paper to place an obituary for his recently deceased wife. He only had a pound and could only afford three words. He wrote “Margaret is dead.” The clerk felt sorry for him and gave him three more words for nothing. He wrote “Margaret is dead, fiesta for sale”
I wake up to the news that Tollerton resident Ryan Sidebottom has become the first Englishman to take a hat trick for four years. I’ve a feeling today is going to be a good day.
“The Skipper’s team win a penalty shootout against arch rivals West Bridgford to reach the YEL Cup Final. He scored his penno, smashed it straight down the middle. He misses this afternoon’s trip to Eastwood. He’s getting measured up for his cup final suit at Tweedies.
I was delivering catalogues for Mrs P the other day when I bumped into Keyworth United Community Football Reserve Team Manager Alan Jackson (Jacko). The stingy sod didn’t buy anything but he did invite me to blog his team And why not? They were due to play Caribbean Cavaliers at Ilkeston Rugby Ground in the Quarter Finals of the League Cup.
I’m sat in Las Iguanas Mexican Restaurant, with friends from work. The phone goes, it’s Jacko. Caribbean Cavaliers have been booted out the cup for fielding an ineligible player (allegedly). The game’s now at Hall Park, Eastwood against Kimberley MW Reserves.
I pick up The Nuclear Scientist. I’m driving Sally Gunnell (not much to look at but a bloody good runner). We’re off to watch Showbiz, Woolley, Moley and the crew. Hall Park, Eastwood is where my U9’s last season played some champagne soccer against the mighty Priory Celtic, in front of the chairman.
Keyworth and Kimberley play in the Nottinghamshire Senior League. It has the best message board in the world. I often lurk on there, watching them all fall out. This week we’ve had managers’ resigning, teams kicked out the cup and players admitting they don’t shower after games. It’s quality!
Keyworth is in South Nottinghamshire and has a population of 9000. Former Forest manager Frank Clark lives up Nicker Hill, in the same house that Neil Webb lived in. Other famous residents to have lived in the village include cricketers Richard Hadlee and Franklyn Stephenson. Big Franklyn was also a pro golfer. I bet you could hear a pin drop when Franklyn first walked in the Mens Bar at Stanton-on- the Wolds Golf Club. Brian Stubbs, Biddy Riley and Mick Waite have all played for Keyworth United and made their way into the professional game.
We park the car and walk up the hill. Jacko emerges from behind a cloud of cigar smoke. He has his Great Britain overcoat on. He is a real character and a lovely fellow. He went out of his way to make me feel welcome at the football club when my sons first started playing. He has a season ticket for the Keyworth Tavern Lounge and a standing order with Hamlet cigars. He runs through the team for me.
Simon Tuckwell (Tuckers) is there. It’s great to see him back. He was taken ill recently but looks as fit as a butcher’s dog. He is the housewives choice at our local school.
We can’t get a cup of tea for love or money. The ressies can’t be bothered to go back to the changing room for a team talk as it’s a bit of a trek.
It’s only a parks ground but the pitch looks a darn sight better than D***y County’s Pride Park. The standard of football is a pleasant surprise. Both teams keep it on the deck. Shaw and the bustling Litchfield both go close, drawing fine saves from the Kimberley keeper’. The Keyworth stopper Ryan “Showbiz” Jennings is only small in stature but he’s agile and has a spring like Zebedee off The Magic Roundabout.
The more experienced Kimberley MW begin to find their feet and start to outmuscle the youthful visiting midfield. Jacko has six Under 20’s playing today. When I used to watch the first team a few years ago it was a resting home for the elderly. Keyworth United have finally put their faith in youth, and it is paying dividends. The first team are in their highest position for years and have won eight on the spin.
Jacko junior has a long throw only comparable to Tranmere Rovers defender Dave Challinor. It’s like winning a corner, particularly with the cross wind.
“Showbiz” pulls off a point blank save, but can only wave at the resulting, inswinging corner, palming into his own net. It’s harsh on the visitors, moments earlier Jackson junior had hit the foot of the post. There’s controversy in the 35th minute when “The Chief”, Kimberley’s greyhound mascot, pisses all over the home team’s water bottles. He gets a smack on the nose from his owner and a pat on the head from The Groundhopper.
The Nuclear Scientist is concerned about the low dark clouds. I reassure him that in fact it’s only Jacko and Cowlard lighting up again!
At the break Keyworth veterans Woolley and Moley tell the youngsters to play with a bit more belief. They fly out the traps in the second period. Jackson junior clips a cross in, Mickey Shaw makes it look so simple, tucking the ball away in the right hand corner. Keyworth are rampant. Young Tom Maddison gets hold of the game. He is spraying passes all over the park. He and young Joe Bellis are running the legs off the Kimberley midfield. Number 6 and 8 for the Welfare are good players but they don’t like it up em.
Wheeldon is sent tumbling and Keyworth win a free kick. Woolley asks the ref if he “fancies a quickie” and rolls back the years with a peach of a shot into the top left hand corner.
But Kimberley will not lie down. Keyworth lose possession on the right hand side and are punished. 2-2. Young Cozy has been blowing a bit and needs to preserve some energy for a night out in Leeds. He’s replaced in the final quarter by Craig Warren. It’s a Jackson masterstroke. Warren makes it 3-2 with a powerful shot following a great move and release from Mickey Shaw.
On 75 minutes I can hear the theme music from Beverley Hills Cops, it’s Jacko’s ringtone. Reports from HQ are that the first team are one to the good.
The grand finale is worth waiting for. Warren picks the ball up from around about the A610 and unleashes a thunderbolt from way out. Tuckwell, on ball boy duties behind the goal, takes evasive action, there’s no need to, it crashes into the roof of the net. I have seen over 80 games of football this season but have not witnessed a strike of this quality. The boy has been laid out on the grass all afternoon, looking fairly disinterested. But he has burst into life with his first touch of the ball.
Kimberley come roaring back, they hit the top of the bar. They score again with three minutes to go when Keyworth fail to clear. Jacko’s hair turns from grey to white. There is the rattle of cellophane. It’s Jacko opening another packet of Hamlet. We are surrounded by a sea of nub ends. It’s like a scene from the slight seconds department at the Hamlet factory.
Mrs P rings up on 89 minutes to see if I like Chicken Jalfrezi. “Never mind that love, we need another goal.” The referee finally blows the whistle. “We” are in the semis. “Tell me mam me mam to put the champagne on ice we’re going to Wembley twice.”
The game has been a fantastic advert for the NSL. There are a few contentious offside decisions but the Keyworth coaching staff, players and subs show remarkable restraint and RESPECT.
We retire to the best pub visited this season, bar none. We’re sat in the snug of the Nelson and Railway Inn in Kimberley. The lads have made me feel welcome. There’s plenty of banter with Woolley at the hub of it. He has been brilliant today. He’s 45!
There is a spirit and togetherness about these boys. I have searched for the soul of football for two years now. And today I found it, right on my door step. Thanks Jacko. Do you want to buy some polish from Mrs P’s catalogue for that trophy cabinet?
Final Score: Kimberley 3 Keyworth 4
Man of the Match: Ian Woolley