It should have been a weekend double-header watching the beautiful and majestic boys in blue from Birkenhead near Liverpool: Cammell Laird FC. Mrs P has finally put her foot down and scuppered all my plans of sloping off to Spalding United; she’s off shopping. Naturally I’m disappointed, but I’ve no complaints. Let’s face it; I’ve racked up some matches this season.
It’s Saturday lunchtime and I’m with a few friends at the Nottingham Forest Academy. Youth Cup finalists Manchester City U18s are on show today. Forest give them a game in the first 45 minutes. The second half, however, is an onslaught. The visitors are not flattered to win 4-1.
Throughout the afternoon I’m updated with score flashes from the Lincolnshire fens by Cammell Laird Programme Editor Paul Mcloughlin (Glocko) Crowd favourite and wing wizard Eddie Jebb ensures victory, with a last gasp goal
On Saturday night the players stop over at the Holiday Inn near East Midlands Airport, whilst the fans stay close by at the Travelodge at Lutterworth.
Cammell Laird FC have been thrown a lifeline, runaway leaders Retford United have failed the ground grade inspection, required to enter the Unibond Premier League; they will not be eligible for promotion.
It’s Sunday and the Lairds play their second game in twenty four hours in the picturesque setting of Quorn in Leicestershire.
It’s just over a year since my last visit where I witnessed a storming FA Vase tie against Stratford Town. Quorn won 2-1 that day, but have since changed managers twice. They have also lost defensive lynchpin Robert Betts, who has immigrated to Australia.
Quorn FC were formed in 1924. Former players include Dion Dublin and Charlton Athletic’s Luke Varney. When Quorn sold Varney to Crewe for £2,500,000 there was a 25% sell-on clause. It was bingo for the little Leicestershire club when Varney was transferred to The Valley. The money has been used wisely by Chairman Stuart Turner and his committee. They have almost finished the completion of a covered terrace behind the goal.
White Van Man is driving, and we are joined on his debut today by The Reaper. WVM has had his Sunday lunch and will not be partaking in the fine cuisine available in the Quorn clubhouse.
It’s £6 entry and £1.50 for the programme. I finally meet up with Glocko. He’s a bit of a Jasper Carrott lookalike. He got me a programme, as they sold out at 1pm and has also brought me some goodies down from the north-west. He’s a top lad.
I’m not ashamed to say the the Lairds are my favourite Non-League team. They pass the ball quickly and with purpose. They look to get the ball wide and play a crisp passing game. I saw them put in slick performances at Belper and Eastwood last season. Star performers Jamie McGuire and Ronnie “Rocket“ Morgan have both flown the nest.
The threatened heavy downpours never arrive. All credit to the Quorn ground staff; the pitch is in perfect nick. The PA system is crystal clear as the players run out to Get It On by T-Rex.
We stand to the right of the Lairds’ dugout. Eddie Jebb’s ball skills and trickery are already causing endless entertainment for the fans who sit in the stand on the far side of the ground. He’s upended in the early stages; it’s a cast-iron penalty. Former Buxton striker Mark Reed puts his spot kick too close to the Quorn ‘keeper, who beats it away.
Quorn are not as slick as they were on my previous visit, and try to get the ball forward quickly. The orange booted Liam Hearn is impressive, and works the channels well in the final third of the pitch. His partner today is former Lincoln United striker Justin Jenkins; White Van Man is not a big fan. He is forced to choke on his free peanuts at the bar, when on half an hour Jenkins rises unchallenged to head home a corner.
The Lairds look weary from yesterday’s excursion. They are seriously under the cosh as Quorn try to grab the initiative. Despite the efforts of the visitors nothing is really happening. They restore parity on 42 minutes with a smart finish from former Northwich Victoria striker Ian Cooke, who has won everything in the air today, following a cross by Chris Adamson. The Reaper comments that Adamson reminds him of former Runcorn and Forest winger Ian Woan.
I notice that Quorn’s Assistant Manager is ex-Notts County defender Charlie Palmer. The Notts County roadside used to sing to him: “We’ve got Charlie Palmer he smokes marijuana la la la la.”
It’s a cold Guinness for The Reaper and me and a cup of tea for WVM. The barman is an elderly chap with a few interesting tales to tell.
Glocko’s phoning my mobile, he’s asking me where I am. He’s waving at me, I don’t recognise him as he’s now sporting a seventies wig. We watch from the clubhouse as Mark Reed is sent clear, only for him to dwell on the ball too long and allow the defence to recover.
I decide to have a saunter round to the back of the goal where all the Lairds’ fans are standing. I’ve been chatting away for only a few moments to Glocko when once again Jebb races away down the wing, his cross finds an advancing Reed, who kills it stone dead and fires it out his feet. The Quorn ‘keeper blocks bravely but the ball spins up, trickles over the line and nestles into the bottom corner of the goal. I find myself jumping up and down. “We’re” 2-1 up.
The away support is in buoyant mood and Glocko’s lad is banging on his drum; I don’t think Ringo Starr need worry just yet. We show no mercy on the appalling kicking exploits of the Quorn goalkeeper. This guy can shank and slice a ball for Leicestershire. At least six goal kicks go straight out to touch. He’s quite a hefty guy too, perhaps he ought to attend a couple of fitness guru Rosemary Conley’s classes; she lives in the village.
Cammell Laird’s right back’s dad is walking towards the away end complete with Rastafarian hat and dreadlocks. He maintains that sub Chris Nezianya is really his lad not ex Bury defender Derek Ward. Nezianya comes on and is greeted with this little gem: “Nezy is a Scouser, Nezy is a Scouser, but he’s alright, but he’s alright."
Cammell Laird are run off their feet; there’s very little left in the tank. They are dropping deeper and deeper. Their coaches are being a bit hard on them now. The two centre-halves are getting some grief, but have been magnificent. What a box of tricks Eddie Jebb has up his sleeve. But it is their number eight who has been star man today. His name is Joe Gibiliru and he has covered every blade of grass for his team.
The final whistle is celebrated like a cup final win. Six points in two days edges them ever closer to the Unibond Premier League.
We clap the players off and I say cheerio to Glocko and the boys. What a fantastic day out, both sides have played their part in an entertaining game.