Saturday, August 29, 2009

Basford United 3 Newark Flowserve 1

He’s my best friend. We speak first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We go for walks together. I’ve known him for three years. We are inseparable. But now our relationship is in tatters. It’s all my fault. How could I forget his birthday? I stroll down to his crib with a peace offering in my hand. He’s not interested. He’s turns his back on me. Shuns me. I dangle the carrot. I’m sorry Finley. It won’t happen again my furry little friend. Happy belated third birthday son.

American singer Chris Brown has been given a community service order for beating up his former girlrfriend, Rihanna. What I can’t work out is why she didn’t fend him off with her ’Umbrella ....ella, ella, eh, eh, eh.’

Kids’ football is back. ‘The Skipper’ and Sticky junior are well into their pre-season schedule. Junior bagged a goal at Bingham Town, whilst ‘The Skipper’ had a steady debut for Clifton All-Whites, during a 6-0 romp.

It’s Friday. I’ve took the day off work to mind the kids. On Bank Holiday Monday it’s the annual Twenty20 cricket match up on our local recreation ground. We decide to go for a net at Plumtree Cricket Club, where both the boys play. I haven’t turned my arm in over a year. I’m comfortably the worst batsman in the history of the South Notts Village League.

I shoot down Meadow Lane in the afternoon. I need to collect some new balls that I promised a club in Nottingham last week. Portugal under 17s are beating Italy under 17s 2-0, in a friendly match.
Saturday morning follows a similar pattern to the previous week. At the crack of dawn I’m on the World Wide Web researching the inner city area of Nottingham called Basford, and its local football club.

I’m browsing through their website when I stumble upon an incredibly sad piece of news. The son of one of the players has an incurable disease. They have set up a trust fund for this brave little boy. Sticky Palms wants to help. No, sorry, has to help. I phone my boss at Notts County. I give him the details of a Basford United club official, for him to get in touch with. Even if we can just get a signed match ball and auction it off, surely it can help raise important funds.

The story has touched me and saddened me. It’s made me appreciate my two boys and their good health. I’m delighted when ‘The Skipper’ says he’s coming groundhopping to Greenwich Avenue this afternoon.

I go for a cruise around Nottingham, searching for talent. There’s not much doing though. I watch a couple of games but nothing takes my fancy. I drop into the inner city and deliver the new footballs to a delighted chairman. We share a cup of coffee and put the world to rights.

I’m walking back to the car. A group of boys are playing a small-sided game on an all weather surface. There’s a host of different nationalities. There are Poles, English, Jamaicans and Africans. One of them is a cut above the rest. I grab him and ask him how old he is. He is Nigerian. He is quality. It’s a good morning’s work.

I have a ham and Emmental cheese baguette for lunch. The three of us play cricket in the back garden. Mrs P is preparing a three course dinner. The Taxman and his wife are due round tonight.

Sticky junior is off to watch Notts v Worcestershire in the Pro40 at Trent Bridge. King Billy’s Tricky Trees are 3-0 up against staunch rivals D***y County. We’ve live commentary on in the car. The Sheep pull one back and then another. Sticky junior swears .... And so do I. Please God don’t let this happen again.

White Van Man has been ‘on it’ since 9am. His posse met up in the Monkey Tree, in West Bridgford. His full English will have been washed down with lashings of alcopops.

We drop Junior right outside the ground, just in case there are any stray sheep roaming about. The Rozzers are on every street corner. I hope my brother- in- law isn’t working, as he’s a Ram and a police officer. He’ll definitely want to feel some Tricky Tree collars.

Plod have blocked off the Embankment. I have to drive through the old Meadows. It’s like a time warp. I get myself in a right old pickle. I seem to be going round in circles. Sat Nav is at home. Ooh eck.

Finally, after what seems an age, we end up on the ring road. We drive past the old Commodore nightclub and hang a right onto Stockhill Lane. We pull into Greenwich Avenue just as referee Martin Atkinson blows for time at The City Ground.

Nathan Tyson auditions for his role as Great Britain’s flag bearer for the 2012 London Olympics, by waving the corner flag at the Bridgford Upper Tier. Bleating Sheep in the Lower Tier are not amused. They have short memories. Robbie Savage wound us all up last season, twirling his scarf around the air, after a 3-2 win in the FA Cup.

Basford United joint first team manager, Chris Munroe text me earlier and told me to pop up to the changing rooms. Blimey, perhaps he wants me to give the team a pep talk. I’m not going in if they’ve got Chris Brown on the changing room CD player. Anyway, it’s too late; the teams are on their way out.

I saw them play at the fag end of last season at Magdala. There were a few tears and tantrums that day. Any chance of a NSL title was blown out the water with a 1-0 reverse. They were their own worst enemy and should have let their feet, rather than their mouths, do the talking.

Greenwich Avenue is bleak and open to the elements. It stands on the border between Cinderhill and Bulwell. The Club have an 80 year lease on the ground. Plans are in place to erect floodlights, which will be a major boost to the senior and junior teams.

Ground development is moving along swiftly at Greenwich Avenue. The Club recently won an online vote to secure the probation services, to carry out a spruce up of the surrounding area. Sticky, of course, voted for them. They are also hopeful of installing additional hard standing, new floodlights and, most importantly, a new tea bar.

Basford kick down the slope. The game is no great shakes but Walker, Manders and McPherson look dangerous for United. Player of the Season, McPherson, runs with his head down and doesn’t like to pass, but he doesn’t half keep the full back busy.

Newark Flowserve have dropped down to the NSL from the Central Midlands League. The travelling had become a farce. Four players have fled to neighbouring Newark Town. Two more have emigrated to Australia. They’ve recruited from their Academy. They play a pretty passing game but struggle to create in the final third.

Livewire Basford striker, Kev Walker, is as good as it gets in the NSL. He wriggles like a snake. He hoodwinks the defender, feigning to go one way and accelerating, with a drop of the shoulder, in the opposite direction. He clips the bar.

Basford take the lead. McPherson drives down the right, gets his head up and pulls the ball back for an emerging Bowers, who blasts the ball onto the underside of the crossbar and into the net.

Chris Munroe has kindly asked us upstairs for a cup of tea but I don’t want singling out for any special treatment. I’m sure he’s got better things to do than look after some sad old groundhopper. I play a bit of footy with ‘The Skipper’ instead.

Basford notch it up a gear in the second period. Oakes cajoles and cuddles the ball in the middle of the park. He spreads the play. Manders slide rule pass sets up Walker to scamper away. He rounds the ‘keeper and slides the ball into an empty net. The boy is class. His Achilles heel is his anger management.He foolishly got himself sent off in a pre-season friendly and starts a 35 day ban on Bank Holiday Monday. But Sticky loves him. He just needs an arm around his shoulder now and again.

‘The Skipper’ has enjoyed watching Ben, the Jack Russell, chasing a tennis ball for most of the afternoon. Sadly it ends in tears when he bumps into three Staffordshire Bull Terriers whilst retrieving the ball from the long grass near the fence. You can hear the yelp in Bulwell.

Basford also have the craziest supporter of the season. He is a Greek Cypriot version of Alan Green. He shouts and screams at every pass. But entertains all 31 of us.

Flowserve beat the offside trap and reduce the deficit with a left foot finish from Sharp.

Basford send on Will Heath as their substitute. He’s put some timber on since I last watched him but his feet are fantastic. He wins a corner, which is expertly curled into the near post by Richard Oakes. Heath nods home. It’s game, set and match to Basford.

Man of the Match: Ben the dog.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Linby CW 3 Attenborough 2

‘The Skipper’ is open-mouthed. He gazes up at him. He tries to speak but his tongue is dried up and tied up. He’s totally and utterly star-struck. He’s never met anyone, in his short life, of such legendary status. He walks across to shake his hand. “‘Are you ‘The Skipper?”, enquiries the elderly man. “Yes” stammers a startled ‘Skipper.’ He signs an autograph or two and bids us farewell.

‘The Skipper’ does nothing but talk about it for the rest of the evening. Mrs P and Sticky junior are green with envy. He’s the talk of the town. People want to pose for a picture with him. He has cult status on this blog. That’s right folks, ‘The Skipper’ has just met …… wait for it … Trumpy Bolton. We dropped him off in the Keyworth Tavern car park on our way back from Collingham.

In years to come the inevitable question will be asked: Where were you when England won the Ashes in 2009? Well, I was at my brother-in laws. Regular readers will know there is a bit of history between the two of us. It’s nothing personal. Life has dealt him a cruel hand. He’s a policeman. He supports D***y County. He reads the Daily Mail. He likes rugby union. Do you get my drift?

Mrs P is approaching the big forty. We’re having a shindig to celebrate. I have to say she blossoms with age. They often tease me at work that I’ve punched above my weight.

She came back from the hairdressers on Saturday afternoon with a classy hair-do. The Groundhopper made a polite enquiry about the cost of the scissoring and blow-drying. Let’s put it this way readers, I could watch ten Central Midland League games for the price of a perm.

Well, I’ve finally met Sven. Our paths crossed last Sunday morning at Arnold Town’s Eagle Valley Stadium. The Notts County junior teams were all playing down there. He looked relaxed, with his jumper draped over his shoulder. I’d got my kit on. He strolled over to me and shook my hand. I mumbled to Sven about being a scout. I was going to ask him who he thought might win the X-Factor. But I didn’t want to spoil it for him. Perhaps he Sky Plussed it. It was a surreal moment. He was the perfect gentleman though, during our brief encounter.

I didn’t get back home from Arnold until 3pm. The reception was a cool one from Mrs P. I mowed the lawns and kept my head down for the rest of the day.

Mrs P fails a late fitness test. I have to drop the boys off at Gedling Colliery Cricket Club, en-route to Linby. There’s no time for tea. Mrs P nipped into Marks and Spencer, whilst on a shopping spree in town, and bagged The Groundhopper a triple decker sandwich.

There’s a four car shunt on the Colwick Loop Road, involving two Porsches. We’re subjected to Sticky junior’s iPod. The music is morose. We have Jeremiah, Flo Ryder and Chipmunk blasting out the speakers. Where’s Heart FM when you need it?

I kick the pair of clowns out the car on Mapperley Plains. They have bored the pants off me for the entire journey. I wish them good luck.

I’m proud that the little un is playing three years above his age group. I’m riddled with guilt that I’m not supporting them, but I need to tick off Linby Colliery Welfare’s ground. Black clouds are circulating but I’m confident their game will go ahead. They’re both playing for Plumtree under 14s.

There’s a heavy shower as I turn off the A60 and pass the Griffin’s Head pub at Papplewick.

Linby village is picture-postcard. Sticky used to roll up at Linby Colliery, for ‘work’ nearly 30 years ago. They were halcyon days. We used to play dominoes and crib in the Horse and Groom at lunchtimes. I had summer holidays away with the surface electricians in Ibiza, Corfu and Tenerife.

I pull up in the pub car park and pop in for a soft drink for old times’ sake. Nothing has changed about the place except that it has six real ales on hand pump. Two blokes are sat in the corner. One of them can moan and groan more the entire Kinsley Boys FC 1st team. And trust me, that takes some doing.

As I head towards the ground, I notice the dark skies lighten. A rainbow illuminates the village. A Sparrow Hawk hovers above some wasteland, searching for prey.

I miss the entrance to the ground. I’m guided back in by a retired miner.

Linby is a small village near the town of Hucknall. It lies on the River Leen. It won the Best Kept Village in Nottinghamshire Award in 1997. Football has been played in Linby since 1903.

November 1950 saw Linby entertain Gillingham in the FA Cup 1st round (proper) in front of a record crowd of 6,850 at the Old Gatehouse ground. In 2005 the Club achieved FA Charter status.

There’s no admission fee and sadly no programme, although I’m led to believe that they do issue at a weekend.

The ground is picturesque. It’s outstanding feature being the towering St Michael’s Church, which dates back to the 13th Century.

The game kicks off with Church Lane bathed in glorious evening sunshine. It’s like a playground scrap in the first 20 minutes as both teams take time to settle. Everything seems rushed and hurried. No-one has the nous or inclination to put their foot on the ball. The game is narrow and without quality.

I get a call on ten minutes from Sticky junior. Their game has been rained off. Alternative arrangements are made to get them home. Somebody else can put up with their crap music on the iPod.

Linby mess up a good free kick opportunity, when Attenborough are penalised for a back pass. The set-piece is way too intricate. Boro’s Stephen Oldham fires into the side-netting when handily placed.

Boro are on the referee’s back in the early stages. “There’s two teams playing you know ref” pipes up one of their players.

A member of the Linby coaching staff is not impressed with the game and asks for my thoughts. I tell him I’m enjoying it. The match is pure, real and honest. It’s grass roots.

Jonty ‘The Yo Yo’ Bradshaw provides some width for Linby. I call him a Yo Yo, as he seems to leave this club at the drop of a hat but always returns. His feet are good and so is his radar. In the 35th minute he plays in Julian Wright down the flank. He manages to get his cross in, despite being pole-axed. Keetley comes steaming in to smash an unstoppable shot, off the inside of the post, into the back of the net.

Attenborough get no reward for their passing game, and are unfortunate to be down at the break. I saw their beautiful game desert them when the going got tough at Awsworth Villa, a year to the day.

They’ve proper got the hump with ref for turning down a penno. It looks like the linesman’s call from where I’m standing.

Barthez texts in live from Elms Park. Ruddington are beating Keyworth 1-0 in the local derby.

I mooch on over to the clubhouse for a cuppa. The lady is performing what is known in the tea trade as a re-brew. The pot is poured to perfection. It receives the highest mark of the season: an 8.5.

Attenborough restore parity on 50 minutes. Stephen Oldham can hold up play and pick a pass. He’s deceptive and has a turn of pace. His lack of aggression and movement off the ball let him down though. He spins his marker and strikes the ball goal wards. It somehow beats the ‘keeper on his near post.

Parity is brief. The Attenborough keeper’ upends Linby livewire striker, Kyle McDermott. Former swine flu victim, Julian Wright, makes no mistake from the spot, leaving the Boro ‘keeper on the seat of his pants.

Wright and McDermott play as a partnership. McDermott is sent racing away down the wing by Wright. He cuts inside onto his left foot, and hits a delicious, curling shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net. It reminds me of Peter Beardsley in his prime at Anfield.

Boro are deflated and punch drunk. They don’t have the pace and counter-attacking skills of Linby. They begin to look sluggish and take an age to pass the ball. A goal is pulled back with the mostly anonymous Andy Johnson lookalike, Dave Constable, miscuing his shot into the net. But it’s too late, as the referee, moments later blows for time.

Man of the Match: Clubhouse teapot

Attendance: 31.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Newark Town 2 Kinsley Boys 0

Barthez is lovin the whole Notts County saga right now, despite being a confirmed Tricky Tree supporter. He was tipped the wink by an unknown source that a takeover was imminent at Meadow Lane, a few weeks ago, and dipped his bread with Joe Coral. The Pies were 33/1 at the time. He’s had £20 each way. You’d do well to get 7/4 this morning.

Sitting by the pool from 9am until 6pm everyday in Majorca for the last few weeks does have its advantages. It’s meant I’ve caught up on some reading. I managed five books in ten days. The one that topped the lot was the autobiography of Specials rude boy, Neville Staple. He churns out anecdote after anecdote. I’d read it inside two days. If Two Tone is your tipple, then I’d recommend you splash out on it, or pay 20p for it, from your local library, like Sticky did.

It’s been a full on week. Monday evening I was down the training ground. On Tuesday it was Kimberley Miners’ Welfare, watching an excellent game of football, in Sticky’s favourite league, the NSL. On Wednesday Sticky junior put on his brand new dancing shoes and waltzed his way through the Asfordby Amateurs under- 13 midfield. On Thursday ‘The Skipper’ bowled an atrocious over at Kimberley CC, but redeemed himself with a textbook spell of batting, against the quickest bowler I’ve seen this season.

Yesterday (Friday) was a cracking day for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. Notts bowled out Australia for a measly 160. We watched it at work on the desktop scoreboard. The Auctioneer and I have little side bets on how many runs will be scored in a session and how many wickets will fall.

The kids have erected a tent on the back lawn and have slept in it for most of the week. I was going to drive down to the local fancy dress shop and loan a fox outfit, so I could pop my head through flap and scare the living daylights out the pair of them. I didn’t have the heart to do it.

It’s Saturday morning. It’s dawn. I’m restless in bed and can see the sun peering through the bedroom curtains. Mrs P’s shoulder injury has cost us all some sleep this week. I start researching the Newark blog.

Both cars are washed and vacuumed out. The garage is tidied up and looks spick and span. I take Mrs P’s empties up to the bottle bank. The good lady has gone to the hairdressers.

I rock up in inner city Nottingham at 11am. I’ve an important meeting with the chairman of one of Nottingham’s biggest multi-cultural junior clubs. The guy is charming and shares a vision for the club that I believe in. I’m appalled to hear that they receive less than £2000 in funding each year from the Football Foundation. How can you keep kids off the street with this lack of encouragement?

I promise him that I will get some new balls and equipment for the club. Sticky knows this is where he will find future professional footballers. The last five or six players Notts County have sold for good money have been black, mixed race and more importantly within a two mile radius of the city centre – David McGoldrick, Leon Best, Michael Johnson, Kelvin Wilson and Jermaine Pennant.

I nip down Highfields to watch the closing moments of Notts County Youth versus Doncaster Rovers. ‘We’ve’ lost 4-3 with ten men. I don’t hang around for the post-mortem. I walk back to the car park with former Nottingham Forest player and twice European Cup final winner, Ian Bowyer. He’s now a scout at Portsmouth.

It’s back home to pick up ‘The Skipper’ who’s making his seasonal bow. He went to a donkey sanctuary with nana and poppa yesterday in Derbyshire. I asked him whether he’d been on a scouting mission for ’King Billy’ at Nottingham Forest, as all and sundry know, from his radio and paper interviews, that he’s after a couple of defenders.

We pick up a heavily fatigued White Van Man. Boy does he look drained. He’s had a ‘shit week.’ ‘The Skipper’ doesn’t help matters by asking WVM if he supports Burnley. (WVM is a Man Utd fan) ‘The Skipper’ announces that mummy is seething that I’ve invited that ‘drunken bum’ Trumpy Bolton to her 40th birthday bash.

It takes WVM a full fifteen minutes before he’s effing and blinding. ‘The Skipper’ is chuckling his big head off on the back seat of the ‘Rolls Royce.’

We drive down the A46. The village of Scarrington is to our right. It’s a place that Ipswich Town manager, Roy Keane, resided at during his spell at Nottingham Forest.

Newark-on-Trent is a market town in Nottinghamshire with a population of 25,000. Its main industries have been: clothing, bearings, pumps, agricultural machinery and sugar-refining. Well known folk from the town include: former England rugby union full back Dusty Hare, ex West Bromwich Albion and D***y County left back, Shane Nicholson and former Leyton Orient defender Mark Smalley.

I had noticed that the glass shattering, appalling soul singer, Whitney Houston, was born in Newark, but thankfully, for all concerned, it was Newark in New Jersey and not Newark in Notts.

‘The Skipper’ is fed up with listening to Lewis Hamilton whizzing around the track in preparation for the European Grand Prix in Valencia on Sunday. He twiddles with the knobs on the car radio and tunes into Radio Trent. It’s a station that’s normally banned from the car when I’m piloting. He’s happy enough though, singing along to Welsh singer Duffy.

WVM begins to wake up and tells us a few anecdotes from his Ladies’ Day outing at Southwell racetrack last Sunday.

Newark Town somewhat bizarrely play in the village of Collingham, which lies 4 miles outside the town centre. Why on earth Newark Town Council doesn’t provide facilities or land for the Club I do not know.

We pass the picturesque Collingham Cricket Club. Sticky stops the motor and takes a few snaps. Twelve years ago at this same ground, blog legend, Barthez, threw down the stumps on the final ball to put Keyworth Cricket Club into the Sunday cup final.

We are met with the friendly face of Newark Town FC secretary, Jim Todd. He’s been involved with the club for over 40 years. The ground has a village green feel about it. We’re charged £6 in total for the three of us, which includes two programmes.

We lean on the barrier, as the sun beats down and the game kicks off. Kinsley Boys, from Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, arrive with a big reputation. They gave six of the best to a shell shocked Forest Town last weekend. Sticky can smell a few goals.

Kinsley start well and camp themselves inside the Newark half. The right back has an enormous long throw. He hurls in a few missiles at their forward, who is a Brian Deane lookalike in physique and running style. Two long range efforts are tipped around the post by the Newark ‘keeper.

‘The Skipper’ has seen enough after only fifteen minutes. He’s hooked up with a gang of lads. It’s jumpers for goalposts and five a-side.

Newark have made five changes from the midweek win against Ollerton Town. A few of the younger players are given a chance. Sam and Tom Wilford are 18 year old twins who patrol the right hand flank for Newark. They are both exciting and direct players. Sam rampages down the right in the 21st minute, he crosses to former Newark Flowserve striker, Calum Fraser, who blasts the ball into the back of the net.

Newark remain on top for the remainder of the half. Kinsley show very little evidence on how they managed to bag six the previous week.

The clubhouse is smart and cosy. WVM shouts them up. We all have Coke (that’s the drink and not the recreational Columbian drug). WVM and ‘The Skipper’ snaffle up a bag of crisps each.

Lincoln are losing at home to Burton Albion. The Pies have scored two in two minutes at Meadow Lane against John Still’s Dagenham and Redbridge. King Billy’s Tricky Trees are one down at Loftus Road.

On 46 minutes Sticky Palms is chased 60 yards down the touchline by an angry wasp, whose took exception to me not wanting to share my Coke.

In four years of groundhopping I’ve seen some fantastic names that players have. Newark Town have the best though. Their number 12 is called Liam O’Looney. He looks like Jesus Christ.

The Kinsley Boys 5 jacket is a scary looking geezer. He must run the doors on a Saturday night in Wakefield. He’s a dead ringer for former Northern Ireland centre half, Gerry Taggart. His style of play, though, is more Inspector Jim Taggart, than Gerry Taggart.

Calum Fraser wraps up a comfortable win, latching onto a whipped in free kick from Ellison. Fraser had earlier seen a deflected shot crash off the bar.

Kinsley Boys are awful. They’ve no width or game plan; unless it’s a throw-in. They’ve perfected the art of moaning and groaning. One after another find their way into the referee’s notebook for dissent or foul and abusive language. What must be going through the mind of my eleven year old son, who leads his village team with exemplary behaviour?

White Van Man has a smile as wide as the River Trent. He’s parked himself up next to the best piece of totty in Collingham. The smirk on his face is firmly wiped away when her boyfriend appears on the scene.

Newark could have won by five or six. As for Kinsley; well six goals last week, but not even six shots on or off target today.

Man of the Match: The Wilford twins.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kimberley Miners' Welfare 2 Bilborough Pelican 0

We’re walking towards the main strip in Alcudia. It’s day seven of our family holiday in Majorca. The four of us are off out for a bite to eat. We amble past a bar full of ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds’ fans, who are watching their Carling Cup clash at Darlington on Sky TV. The Groundhopper, The Skipper and Sticky junior poke our heads round the door and shout in unison: “Come on the Quakers.” Mrs P founds it hard to scarper with her high heels on.

Two days later we are in The Flying Scotsman pub, near the Sea Club complex. England are being pummelled by the team in brilliant orange. Scottish fans mock our inept first half display. They dance, jig and cheer as Holland take a two goal lead. I pass their smiling ‘Sweaty Sock’ faces, on my way to the loo. I’ve got my England shorts on. They’re ripping me to shreds. I ask them how they went on against Norway earlier in the evening (I honestly didn’t know they’d lost 4-0) There’s no time for the toilet now, as we all beat a hasty retreat. Mrs P is none too chuffed. She didn’t manage to finish her ‘Sex on the Beach’ two for one cocktail.

The Virgin Mobile phone bill landed on the doormat yesterday. I noticed that Sticky junior had texted the same number 54 times in the last few days, whilst we were abroad, at a cost of £5. He’s asked to ‘step in the office’ to discuss the matter. He goes bright red when presented with the evidence. He grabs a pen and tries to scribble the number out. He’s fidgeting and scratching his head. He’s making out it’s his best mate’s number. I tell him I’ve phoned it (I hadn’t really). He coughs up. His romance is back on with the barrister’s daughter from Plumtree Park. Good work fella.

There was a bad smash on the way back to Leek from Macclesfield on Saturday evening. I exited Moss Rose immediately after the youngest player ever to have played for Nottingham Forest, Craig Westcarr, had rolled the ball into the corner of the net to put the richest team in Nottingham ‘four to the good.’ Thankfully Sat Nav skilfully steered me from Cheshire to Staffordshire with minimum fuss. I was watering the garden by 6.30pm; watched by a startled Mrs P.

Saturday evening was ruined by a text from English football’s friendliest chairman, Terry Damms of Staveley Miners’ Welfare. Having endured a nightmare journey on a clogged up M61 in Lancashire, they then fell victim to a 94th minute penalty, to draw 2-2 in an FA Cup tie up at Squires Gate. I bet a few sorrowful Black Velvets were downed that night.

I’m up at 6am Sunday publishing the Macclesfield blog. I head out to Highfields, at Nottingham University, to watch Notts County’s juniors train. I’m more than impressed.

There’s time for a spot of gardening before the highlight of the day, watching Big Ron Atkinson make a complete fool of himself on Celebrity Wife Swap. What a buffoon this man is.

It’s Tuesday August 18th. NSL champions Bilborough Pelican open this season’s campaign up at Kimberley Miners’ Welfare. Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year, Neil Swift texts me at lunchtime to confirm he’s had his first shave of the summer. He normally prefers to shave his grass rather than his face.

I dash home from work as ‘The Skipper’ is appearing on the BBC1 children’s programme ‘Beat the Boss’ at 4.30pm. We all crowd around the television. It’s lucky we’ve got a widescreen TV otherwise they’d never fit his big head on it. His moment of fame is over in a flash.

I drop Sticky junior off at Plumtree Cricket Club. He’s playing for the under 14s this evening. Mrs P is in a foul mood; she’s wrenched her shoulder and has been up the doctors’ surgery for a pain-killing injection.

I’m on the ring road and it’s rush-hour. Smooth operator and fellow Lincoln City fan, John Inverdale, is broadcasting on Five Live from the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

Kimberley is six miles north-west of Nottingham and lies on the A610. It has a population of just under 7000 people. It was once famous for coal mining, brewing beer and hosiery manufacturing.

Mass producing beer-makers Greene King have bought out Hardy Hansons. It’s another nail in the coffin for this proud county. Three times British Superbike Champion, John Reynolds, was born in the town.

I turn into Digby Street with plenty of time to spare. I grab a space for Sally Gunnell in a crowded car park. I like the ground. It’s enclosed and tree-lined. Traffic roars up the nearby A610.

Nottinghamshire grass guru, Swifty has already cheesed me off. He’s got a better tan than me and I’ve been abroad for nearly a fortnight. He’s been working hard, freelancing at Arnold Town’s Eagle Valley.

His godson is Pelican forward Matt Eastwood. He became a father for the first time today and has failed to board the team coach.

Kimberley MW secretary Stephen ‘Hobo’ Hobster greets me. He played skittles with my father in-law last night for the Lord Nelson at Basford. He has a confession to make: he’s forgot the teapot. It’s not a good start.

Hobo and Swifty are soon talking about ‘leaving the top on’, mowers and weed killers. It’s the perfect cure for Sticky’s insomnia, as I grab the chance for a quick forty winks.

Media man Neil Frazer is on the scene tonight. He’s had more clubs than Phil Stant. He’s a good lad though and promises to e-mail me a few photos over of tonight’s match.

I glance at the Pelican team-sheet that Swifty’s written out. I recognise most of the names. There still waiting for international clearance for their Polish import.

Bilborough Pelican kick down the sloping, grassy surface. Poor old Hobo has been here most of the day preparing the pitch. He’s left a bit on it, which is fair play for this time of year. There’s a series of misplaced passes and skew-wiff clearances. The game takes an age to settle down.

Pelican create the clearer openings and look the more likelier team to score in the opening 20 minutes. Former Stoke City trainee Neil Thompson blasts a shot over the bar. Centre forward Danny Blanchard sees the Kimberley MW ‘keeper make a brave block with his feet.

KMW have bundles of energy. Rather than trawl the NSL and Central Midlands League looking for cast offs, they prefer to rear their own. Their under 14s and under 10s are the best in the county. It’s a club I’ve always enjoyed watching and scouting at. Nick Walters, their under 14 coach, is the friendliest coach on the circuit.

KMW take the lead on the half hour. It’s been coming to be honest. Pelican look very creaky in defence. The ball is pinging about in the visitors’ penalty box. It finally falls to Emmet Edwards who blasts home from 12 yards out. Swifty goes as quiet as a mouse.

KMW burst forward again,Tobias Clayton shrugs off the challenge of the gangling Pelican number 5. He slides the ball across the face of goal but no-one can get on the end of it.

Hobo comes round with the raffle tickets. I fancy my chances of breaking my four year duck tonight as there are only 40 or so people in attendance. I buy two pounds worth.

At the break I buy half the ground a cup of tea as I’ve only got a £20 note. East London rapper, Tinchy Strider’s ‘Number One’ track is playing on the radio. I look at where the dial on the radio is positioned. It appears that the KMW clubhouse are fans of Heart FM. I don’t know, no teapot, Heart FM. It’s another black mark, Hobo.

A few Pelican fans complain that their team ‘haven’t woken up yet.’ I didn’t want to point out it’s nearly 8pm at night.

I stand on my own in the second half. Swifty might not be good company. I’ve no idea if the guy is a good loser or not. The Club means so much to him that I know he’ll be hurting right now.

I’m on the opposite side of the ground. I act as a glorified ball boy for the entire second half. Pelican come out all guns blazing. Their right back, Tony Boulton, looks one hell of a player. He plays with drive and determination. He rarely wastes possession and leads the team from the back. He sets up Danny Blanchard who can only find the side netting.

Neil Thompson hits the top of the bar with dipping free kick from distance. Gadsby has a great first touch, a brilliant range of passing, but no longer the legs to get past the opposition. It’s not their night. Their twenty minute spell of intense pressure doesn’t pay off.

Bilborough Pelican chairman, Glenn Russell, is a source of amusement on the NSL message board, with his no-holds-barred postings. Excellent referee, Billy Bingham is not impressed with Glenn’s humour. After being grassed up by the linesman, Big Glenn is sent to the stands (well the other side of the rope actually)

Kimberley go at them again. The young number eight, who looks a class act, and whose twin brother has been immaculate in goal, drives through the midfield, teeing up Jake Fisher to smash home the winner.

There’s still time for KMW to hit the upright and spoon a gilt edged chance over the bar. But they’ve stuck at it and deserve their win for ruthless finishing and effort alone.

I double-check with Hobo the winning raffle numbers. My miserable four year losing run continues.

Attendance: head count 40 and a Jack Russell.
Man of the Match Tony Boulton.