It’s Saturday 19th September. I’m at a black and white themed 40th birthday party. The star of the show looks a million dollars. She’s parading around the Buzz Fitness Club, in Keyworth, in her sexy, new Karen Millen outfit. The good lady doesn’t look forty. The Reaper and Gormhead often say that I’ve punched above my weight.
It occurs to me, whilst sipping another pint of Guinness, that something quite remarkable has happened tonight, something that will probably never happen again until my wake. The following characters are all in the same room: Mrs P, Sticky junior, The Skipper, The Nuclear Scientist, The Taxman, The Taxlady, The Factory Manager, The Architect, The Reaper, The Comedian, Taggart, Gormhead, Jam Fool Chulan, Cooperman, The Angler, JK, and a sober-looking Trumpy Bolton.
One person is missing. He’s lying in bed, brushing flaky pastry from his Pukka pie, off his duvet. The big lump of lard is watching X-Factor. He claims to have left his black and white suit at the dry cleaners. Mrs P has black-balled him. His name is White Van Man. He is a let down.
Scouting for Notts County youth has begun to take over my life. It’s becoming obsessive. I signed more players in the last two weeks than Harry Redknapp. I’m taking the piss in Leicester. Nobody seems to scout it. It’s one of the most multi-cultural cities in England.
Is there room in my life for both groundhopping and scouting? Mrs P says not. I keep turning up player after player. It’s like a gambler having a run of consecutive good hands at Poker.
I’ve already spent Monday night down the training ground, when I get the call to ask if I’d mind popping down to Northampton to watch a lad. I must have typed in a wrong letter on the Sat Nav. I ended up nowhere near the ground. Northampton Spencer beat St Neots 3-2. I can’t half pick em readers.
It’s Saturday morning. I’m still chuckling away to myself about last night’s events. I took a call from a giggling Sticky junior. He’d found a tramp fast asleep on a park bench up ‘The Rec.’ He couldn’t rouse the poor old bugger. I got him to check that it wasn’t Trumpy Bolton. “How will I know Dad?” “Just check for any empty Carlsberg Special Brew cans” I replied.
He sensibly called the police to get the guy checked-out and moved on. Apparently old Plod weren’t too chuffed. They were sharing a flask of tea and doing the Daily Sport crossword in a lay- by down some country lane, when they took the call.
Mrs P asks if I would like some crumpet. It’s a bit early, but hey, why not? It tastes so much better with some butter and Marmite on it.
Mrs P and the kids have gone to Nottingham shopping. I’m left with strict instructions to clean the bathroom and wash the ‘Rolls Royce.’ It’s 9.01am. I drop Trumpy a text. He’s just opening his first can of the day and is replenishing two empty one litre plastic bottles with some cider. Oh dear.
I’m outside Trumpy’s and White Van Man’s house at 11.30pm on the dot. Trumpy flies out the traps. He has a Sainsbury’s carrier bag full of goodies and I don’t mean chocolate bars and biscuits readers. He’s already cracked off three tins.
Trumpy is in full flow. He excitedly tells us he’s booked his Christmas and New Year holiday in Inverness and Aviemore. Skiing is not on the agenda. He’s more interested in the off-piste activities that the Scottish ski resorts have to offer.
We all have a squabble about which road to take. Trumpy and I prefer the scenic route through Chesterfield, although Trumpy later admits he prefers this route as he often nips into a sex shop in Brampton to buy a few ‘gadgets.’
Trumpy is waxing lyrical about the sea blue sky and rolling Derbyshire countryside on our way to the High Peak. Bruiser phones in to see if Heart FM is on the car radio. He’s told in no uncertain terms that we’ve got on the Jonathan Ross Show on Radio 2.
I ask Trumpy if he prefers premium lager, real ale or cider. He replies that he will drink ‘anything.’
New readers to this blog will be unaware with Trumpy’s sole aim in life. It is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England. Today he is taking us to the delightful village of Mellor, in Greater Manchester. We will be dining at the Oddfellows Arms.
We pile into the pub.WVM has a blackcurrant and soda, Trumpy a Timothy Taylors and Sticky has a pint of Copper Dragon from the Skipton Brewery.
Trumpy treats us to lunch. He has sausage and mash, WVM a steak sandwich and The Groundhopper a breakfast sandwich. The landlord supports Hyde United. Trumpy comments that the club were wound up in the High Court on Thursday.
We’re soon into the bustling town of New Mills. It has a population of 10,000. It is well known for its cotton and paper mills. Sweet manufacturer, Swizzels Matlow is the town’s biggest employer. Their brands include: ‘Refresher’ chews, ‘Drum Sticks’ Parma Violets and WVM’s favourite: Love Hearts.
A line from the indie band Half Man Half Biscuit goes: “No frills, handy for the hills, that’s the way you spell New Mills.”
WVM pays me in. It’s £1.50 for what looks to be a quality programme (sadly I let this fall out my pocket on a garage forecourt, and never get the chance to read it).
Trumpy doesn’t hang around and heads straight for the bar. Sticky Palms is taking a few snaps when he’s suddenly pounced upon by a couple of friendly New Mills officials. One is the secretary the other the website editor. What a pair of friendly chaps they turn out to be.
Incredibly, New Mills notched up 104 points last season and yet still failed to gain promotion. I can see this still rankles with these guys. It doesn’t help that I mention I visited Glossop North End for an FA Vase game. The name Glossop is greeted like I’ve spilt out an obscenity.
I’m introduced to Sue, the football secretary. She is a wonderful lady. Her dulcet tones remind me of the comedian Victoria Wood. There’s no doubting her passion for the Club. She tells me about the £40,000 they invested in a drainage system for the pitch, after I’ve remarked how impressed I am with the playing surface.
The Millers are treating me like royalty. WVM and Trumpy look on in envy as Sue orders me a complimentary can of Coke from the bar.
Today’s visitors are former Football League team Nelson from Lancashire. Famous people born in the town include: Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan, Life on Mars actor John Simm and the TV antiques expert Eric Knowles.
Sticky has fallen in love with New Mills’ Church Lane ground and their people already. The view out into the hills is breathtaking. Set on top of the hill with spectacular views of Kinder Scout, Stockport and Manchester is New Mills Golf Club.
The Millers have drafted in a couple on loan from Northwich Victoria. They scored twice in the last five minutes on Tuesday. Nelson are mid table with no real form. Today looks to be a home banker.
New Mills kick down an awesome slope and into the wind. They miss a gift wrapped opportunity inside 30 seconds. Nelson come storming back up the hill. Their Number 10, Ashley Higgins, screws a shot hopelessly wide with just the ‘keeper to beat.
The game is enthralling and the company is charming. Sticky loves the north west. It must be a dream to scout up here.
Nelson are quite direct but their attack is powder puff. The chances start to stack up for the Millers. Nelson keeper’ Chris Thompson pulls off a series of saves.
New Mills take the lead on 30 minutes with skipper Carlos Meakin smashing the ball home following a cross from the right.
Nelson are hanging on the ropes waiting for the half time whistle. Unfortunately for them, on loan striker, Cayne Handley seizes onto a through ball and makes it 2-0.
Trumpy is already in the bar having his third pint of Smooth. He’s none too chuffed to hear that Leicester are losing to Preston North End.
Sue is wandering around the ground shouting out the winning raffle ticket. A crate of Becks is at stake. They have pinpointed an area close to us where the winning ticket is held. I ask for the numbers and am mortified to discover that I’m one strip away. The four year barren spell continues.
Nelson are awful in the second half, but New Mills just can’t put the game to bed. The Nelson ‘keeper is outstanding. His shirt hangs out his shorts. He looks short, stout and dumpy. His display defies belief. He’s tipping them round the post, catching corners and diving at forwards’ feet.
On 60 minutes Trumpy emerges from the bar, as they are having to change the till roll, due to his frequent purchases. He spots Sue who is taking a well earned breather having sold the entire ground a raffle ticket. He saunters across to her and engages in conversation. Lord knows what he’s saying to her.
New Mills’ 8 jacket fires a shot over the bar; it whistles past Trumpy’s head and smashes against the clubhouse window. The legend doesn’t even flinch. He’s gone all ga-ga over Sue.
We’re heading towards the exit. Trumpy and Sue have had a tearful kiss, hug and fond farewell. New Mills swing in another corner, Garry Kharas rises unchallenged to nod home.
It’s my fourth year of groundhopping, but I have to say that bar Staveley MW, New Mills is the friendliest club we’ve ever been to.
Men of the Match: Nelson ‘keeper and Trumpy Bolton.
Woman of the Match: Sue.