I took a days holiday on Friday to look after the kids. Dirty, dirty, cheating Yorkshire Cricket Club were visiting Trent Bridge. We set up passport control on the gate to check out their nationalities. The laws of the game clearly state that you are only allowed to play one overseas player. This is something they overlooked in a recent Twenty20 fixture with the Outlaws. Luckily they didn’t field on Friday, otherwise we’d have been checking they didn’t sneak twelve players onto the field of play.
Revie's "Dirty Dirty Leeds." Bremner, Giles and Hunter. It's just history repeating itself.
We spanked their backsides. Our veteran bowler Mark Ealham rolled back the years. A mediocre Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club top the LDV County Championship. “We are top of the league; I say we’re top of the league.” It’s proper cricket, not the carnival Mickey Mouse Twenty20 version.
Mrs P is livid, she has invited round The Architect, his wife and sons for a barbeque. It had completely slipped my mind to tell her that I’m off to Chasetown for the afternoon. The barbeque is rescheduled for a 6.30pm evening kick-off. I’ve cleaned the car, mowed the lawns and generally kept my head down for most of the morning.
I watch the first few overs of the Twenty20 game between Essex and Kent. Robert Key is clubbing the ball to all parts of the ground. Sticky junior and ”The Skipper” are booing every shot. Key refused to sign them an autograph last season. They’ve never forgotten it!
White Van Man makes his seasonal bow this afternoon. He picks me up at 1.20pm. It’s a 100 mile round trip to Staffordshire, so I’ve said I’ll pay him in.
We roar through the streets of our village. He’s tooting his horn and waving at all and sundry. It’s like working a shift with Postman Pat. His piloting is legendary. He overtakes a little old lady driving a Subaru Mpresso on Bunny Lane; he’s roaring with laughter.
He’s looking tired and drawn after his long weekend in Poland. There’s tales of lap dancing clubs and full body massages; no extras involved.
It’s down the A50 and along the A38. White Van Man drives his car as if he’s on a gaming machine in some seaside arcade. We hit Chasetown in fifty minutes. We are held up en-route to the ground by a wedding. Car Parking is free.
The ground is in a delightful setting. It’s £6 admission and £2 for the League Programme of the Year 2007/2008. It’s a gem with no stone unturned. There are match reports, player profiles and it’s packed with statistics.
Chasetown has a population of 9000 and is an old coal mining area. Former Forest legend and serial “dog walker” Stanley Victor Collymore is well known in the area. Northern Irish comedian Frank Carson is on the board of directors.
Chasetown were formed in 1954. They play in the eighth tier of English football and are the lowest ranked club ever to have reached the third round of the FA Cup. Their magnificent run was finally ended by eventual finalists Cardiff City. It cost the Staffordshire club promotion.
Their manager Charlie Blakemore has been here for years. Today he is on holiday. Last Friday Mick McCarthy’s Wolves came to Church Street and won 4-1. Player-coach Andy Turner was once the youngest player to have scored in the Premiership, when netting for Spurs in 1992 at the age of 17.
Today’s visitors Port Vale are from Burslem in Stoke. Famous people from the area include: heavy rock hard man Lemmy from Motorhead, darts player Phil “The Power” Taylor and local pub singer and Stoke’s Karaoke King, Robbie Williams
Former Farsley Celtic manager Lee Sinnott is now the Vale manager, and he has sent a full first team squad. It includes former Chasetown pair Kyle Perry and Chris Slater, who were snapped up from the Scholars following the successful cup run.
The heat at the Church Street ground is stifling. We dive into the modern clubhouse and order two pints of blackcurrant and soda. I know I will get some stick for this, as I’m meant to be a connoisseur of fine ales and strong lagers, but it’s way too hot for alcohol. The bar is busy but the service is swift and friendly. Chasetown is a wonderful club.
We hunt for shade from the scorching sun and stand beneath the huge trees and woodland that tower above the ground. White Van Man is sweating up like a racehorse in the starting stalls. He eyes up the talent as he wanders past the burger bar.
The Chasetown PA man plays some random tunes: Nine Till Five by Dolly Parton and Change by the Lightning Seeds are the pick of the bunch.
The players struggle with the heat and there are endless water breaks. Chasetown look a useful outfit and try to play it out from the back. But they rarely work the highly-rated Port Vale ‘keeper Joe Anyon.
The purse strings have been pulled tight at Vale Park. They have a young and hungry squad, mostly between the ages of 21-26. Perry goes close with a header and flashes a shot across the face of the goal.
I notice that former Shrewsbury and Crewe forward Luke Rodgers is in the visitors’ squad, although it’s a no show today. He has often courted controversy in the past. Five years ago he had to serve 100 hours community service, and was forced to pay £5000 in compensation, after being found guilty of disfiguring a 16 year old girl with a firework.
Louis Dodds plays on the wing for Port Vale. He has recently arrived from Leicester City, but spent the whole of last season on loan at Lincoln City. I saw him score a peach of a goal at Field Mill last September. He has a change of pace and an eye for goal. Vale fans, enjoy him.
Neither team can break the deadlock in the first period. Message for Frank Carson: You’re not missing a cracker Frank.
It’s back in the bar for another blackcurrant and soda. WVM has clocked an attractive, slim, young blonde sitting on the next table to us. I remark that she is a WAG. She is drinking WKD, a revolting alcopop that WVM drinks in large amounts on nights out in West Bridgford. He is drooling over her and is convincing himself that they have something in common. A guy in his fifties joins her at the table. It must be the player’s dad.
The players trot out to Dance the Night Away by The Mavericks. We pick a spot level to the eighteen yard area where Port Vale will attack.
It’s a good choice, as Port Vale finally take the lead, just before the hour. Their impressive captain Sam Stockley hurls a ball into the box from the right, sought after striker Marc Richards leaps between two defenders to head home. Richards is up for it today, and loses little in the air. He’s as strong as an ox. He could have made it two but for the outstretched leg of Scholars' ‘keeper Evans.
Like most friendlies, the game turns into a procession of farcical substitutions. We leave with a couple of minutes to go. WVM is in top gear. He turns on Heart FM, his favourite radio station. The Bee Gees track Stayin Alive is on the airwaves. It will be a miracle if I can survive the next 50 minutes.
Chasetown 0 Port Vale 1 Richards
Attendance: 622 (loads from Burslem)
Man of the Match: Marc Richards and White Van Man