It’s Christmas morning, Sticky junior and ‘The Skipper’ wake up at a ridiculous hour. The Groundhopper has man flu; it’s life-threatening. I will have to have a late fitness test for the Clifton game on Saturday.
Mrs P has spoilt the boys to death; they have a PS3, football shirts, designer clothes and Wii games. After two seasons of getting lost on the non-league circuit, Sticky Palms is finally in possession of a Tom Tom.
We’re downstairs eating smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast; we all share a glass of Bucks Fizz, the moment is as beautiful as a right wing cross from Cammell Laird’s Eddie Jebb.
Pure genius, Terry Wogan, is on Radio 2, he’s playing all the classic Christmas tunes. His repartee is as sharp as a Stanley knife blade.
PC Plod is coming for dinner; he supports D***y County. I’d asked Mrs P if we could have lamb and mint sauce for lunch, to make him feel at home; she was not amused.
We have aperitifs. Our lunchtime appetiser is a game between Nottingham Forest and D***y County on FIFA 09. Sticky jnr is Forest, PC Plod’s son is D***y. Young Sticky is threatened with Christmas dinner for one, in our shed, if he fails to secure victory. His performance is an embarrassment, Forest look disjointed and disorganised. They are soundly beaten 3 -0; it could cost Calderwood his job! I reach a compromise with junior; it’s a table for two, instead ,with our pet rabbit Finley, in his hutch.
It’s Saturday morning. I had the offer of a scouting mission from a non-league club yesterday. We were halfway round Rushcliffe Country Park at the time, when I got the call. Had I elected to go I think Mrs P would have launched me into the nearby lake with all the ducks and carp. I’m gutted because I’m really keen to get some scouting in on the non-league scene. There are some rough diamonds out there that just require a touch of polish.
Mrs P has turned down the chance of a Fray Bentos suet pudding, chips and mushy peas at The Fairham in Clifton and has gone shopping in town with her mum. The boys and I are lozzing around the house.
I cook up a traditional bubble and squeak for lunch; the lads are retching; their faces are contorted, they hate Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
We pick up ‘The Angler’ on our way to the Norman Archer Memorial Ground. I put on the Tom Tom for a gag. ‘Dance Wiv Me’ by Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris is on the CD player. The Angler looks a bit miffed; he’s 65 years old.
Clifton is a suburb of Nottingham and has a sprawling mass of post-war council houses. It was once believed to be the biggest council estate in Western Europe. Many of the houses are now privately owned. Famous Cliftonians include: Band of Gold actress Samantha Morton, who also starred in the critically acclaimed film Control, as the wife of manic depressive Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, and Daily Telegraph journalist and award winning author David McVay. I received his latest offering, Heart of the Game, as a Christmas present from Mrs P.
Clifton ‘All Whites’ Football Club were formed in 1963. They were feared and revered throughout my youth. It’s only ten minutes from Sticky’s house. The players that this club have fed the professional game with is nothing short of astonishing: Garry Birtles, David McVay, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Johnson, Richard Liburd, Darren Huckerby, Jermaine Pennant and England’s first black international : Viv Anderson, are a few off the top of my head.
They were called ‘All Whites’ and play in the same kit as ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds.’ A ludicrous decision was made in 1995, with the club being forced to change their name, as the ‘All White’ brand could potentially have been misconstrued as a racist undertone. Look at the list of players above, count the number of black and mixed raced players in it.
Both clubs playing today have attained the FA Charter Standard; they don’t dish them out in Corn Flakes packets. The committees of both teams should be applauded in gaining that status.
Clifton FC have received a large amount of funding from the Football Foundation. They have a new pitch and improved changing facilities.
I have had some titanic battles at junior level with Clifton, during my ill-fated spell as a coach, but have made sound acquaintances and good contacts at Clifton FC.
For those that don’t know, I am from Keyworth, and my two boys play for their U11 and U13 sides. I will make this report as impartial as is possible.
‘Barthez’ is in goal for the visitors; he is a good friend and also a work colleague. He laughed in the face of a serious illness a few years back. He fought it with courage and conviction. He’s also a cult hero in our village, having hit the winning runs off the final ball in a big cricket cup match down at our staunch rivals, Plumtree, a few years back. His season has been hampered by injury. He has given way to a younger rival, but I know he still has a passion for the game and it hurts him not to play: Today he has a point to prove.
It’s an uneventful opening quarter as both teams try and find a footing. Possession is given away cheaply but I admire the way they both choose to play the beautiful game.
Keyworth open the scoring on 18 minutes. Scott Litchfield works his way into the channel and holds up the ball intelligently, he plays in Sean ‘Billy’ Bremner, who unleashes a shot from the edge of the area that finds the bottom corner of the net.
Clifton suddenly spark into life; their prodigal son and my personal favourite ,Karl Mitchell, forces Barthez into a smart save, low down to his left. The visitors choose to rest on their laurels.
Keyworth’s young wingers fail to track back and protect their full backs and Clifton begin to turn up the heat. ‘Tom’ their number eleven is running the show. He can run inside and outside. He has pace and power. The Keyworth 16 year old right back, Lewis, needs protection and encouragement; he only gets the latter. He’s exposed once too often and upends the winger. The yellow card is brandished by a very fussy official. I think he got a new whistle in his Christmas cracker.
'Tom’ – no-one knows his surname, he’s been festering in Radcliffe Olympic Reserves – hits the crossbar from distance, with ‘Barthez’ well beaten. Another Clifton effort comes back off the upright, with ‘Barthez’ once again stranded.
Keyworth are not closing down and panic in rare moments of possession. Mitchell restores parity on 34 minutes with a stunning, breathtaking strike from 22 yards out: It’s my shot of the season.
‘Barthez’ is having a stormer and pulls off a couple more saves for the Clifton Chronicle photographer.
We nip in the bar to escape the biting wind. We have been joined by a less than enthusiastic ‘Taxman’ and ‘White Van Man.’ They are still suffering from The City Ground hangover of yesterday and appear grouchy. We have four cups of tea at a cost of £1.60. There’s no teapot involved just a solitary teabag lobbed into a cup: It only gets a six out of ten.
I’m on my way back out for the second half when people start complaining about the emissions coming from the nearby Ratcliffe Power Station. It turns out to be legendary Keyworth United Reserve Team Manager Alan Jackson exhaling a festive Hamlet cigar.
Keyworth are dreadful after the break. The front two are too far apart and can’t fathom out the Clifton offside trap. The linesman is harsh, though, on one occasion, when Wolloch manages to wriggle his way through only to be flagged. The midfield is being mobbed, despite Bremner’s best efforts. The wingers, or whatever they are meant to be, are anonymous.
Clifton FC are magnificent and play with a soaring belief and confidence. Their game has character and fluency. It really should have been five or six goals for them today. It’s the Clifton number 6’s go at the crossbar challenge as he thumps an audacious shot from distance. It dips and swerves, looping over Barthez, only to smack the bar again.
‘Tom’ has more shots today than White Van Man has had mince pies over the festive period, but Barthez is invincible. The inevitable and much deserved winner comes twenty minutes from time. It’s another outstanding , brave block from ‘Barthez’ but through a crowd of players it appears to be the Clifton 9 jacket, Thomas, who bundles the ball home.
Sixteen year old Jack Henson makes a cameo appearance with 15 minutes to go. It’s a substitution that should have taken place a while ago as so many players have been ineffective. He plays with heart, soul, spirit and technique. He drives into space and puts more crosses in than Keyworth have managed in the entire game. He looks a gem and plays with desire.
It’s a learning curve for the Green Un young guns. Hats off to the management for playing seven teenagers. They manage to carve out a couple of half chances through Litchfield and Bremner but a draw would have been a travesty; at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.
Man of the Match: Barthez