Saturday, February 27, 2010
Keyworth United U14s 1 Cotgrave Colts U14s 3
She’s livid. I’ve never seen her so cross. She’s stomping around the house with a face like thunder. I try to console her but she’s having none of it. Her Friday night format is in tatters. She’s trying to find the customer complaints number on the internet. I wouldn’t fancy being on the other end of the line when she gets through.
Yes you’ve guessed it – Mrs P has just found out that EastEnders has been cancelled tonight. In its place are egg-chasing Sheep and Frogs. Why can’t they put this on BBC Wales?
The corporation are rumoured to be axing one of my favourite digital stations – 6 Music. Why can’t they get rid of the rugby from their schedule? We settle down with a bottle of wine and watch Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun (from Nottingham) and the Winter Olympics – now that is money well spent.
It’s Saturday morning. Finley and Groundhopper have had another spat. The little monkey has ripped up his Sunday Times bedding and scattered it all over his yard. He gets a finger-wagging off Groundhopper. As a punishment his new bedding will be a copy of my brother-in-law’s Daily Mail.
‘The Skipper’ and Sticky junior both have big games today. I’ve promised junior that’ll pop up the ‘Rec’ and watch his fast feet. Finley predicts a 2-1 away win for Cotgrave.
I was on my way up to the Frederick Gent School in South Normanton when I got the call to say the pitch was waterlogged. Faced with a backlog of domestic chores, I inform Mrs P that I’ve been commandeered to the Highfields Sports Centre, on University Boulevard, where Notts County u18s are playing Chesterfield u18s.
It’s bitterly cold and drizzling with rain. I park the car behind the Stick and Pitcher pub, where Beeston Hockey play, and walk across the boggy field towards the main pitch.
It’s Notts County’s first year back at under 18 football. The team was hastily cobbled together last season. It’s a collective of lads released from professional clubs or plucked from the obscurity of local junior league football.
The manager of the youth team is former Birmingham City, D***y County and Notts County defender Michael Johnson.
The Pies’ young guns take the lead with a scrappy goal. I recognize the Number Four for Chesterfield. His name is Craig Clay and he is from Clifton near Nottingham. I had him down the Pies four years ago when Howard Wilkinson controversially rubber-stamped the approval of the closure of the centre of excellence.
The boy is a cut above the rest. It breaks my heart that he wears the blue of Chesterfield and not the black and white stripes of the Magpies. He is to be offered a pro deal and has already been on the bench for the first team. I exchange pleasantries with his father.
Young Notts cave-in. It’s 3-1 as I depart. I later learn that the defeat is even heavier. I make a brief visit to the technical area to speak with Mick. It’s best to keep your head down in these situations.
I’ve a game on in Carlton at 1pm at the Richard Herrod Leisure Centre. I drive up Carlton Road. I’m still shocked with the amount of pubs that are boarded-up or up for lease. I think of the legendary pub crawls on Friday nights to the Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Devonshire, Smithy’s and the March Hare.
I turn left in Carlton Square, past Carlton Police Station and swing a right into the leisure centre car park. An adult’s team hang around the changing room doors.
I introduce myself to the manager of the boys’ team. He is abrupt and unfriendly. His handshake is limp. He says he doesn’t like scouts coming to watch his team (I rang him up earlier in the morning to tell him I’d be on site).
The pitch is a mud bath. The boys are already struggling 20 minutes into the game. I’ve seen enough; nothing has tickled my fancy. Besides I have a more important appointment at Keyworth Recreation Ground.
I drive down London Road. I’d like to say that the place is a hive of activity with it only being an hour before the Notts County v Hereford United game kicks off – but it isn’t.
This week fans voted online for their favourite toon for the players to run out to at the start of the game. Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ was declared the winner. One wag remarked it should have been the Three Degrees 1973 hit – ‘Sven Will I See You Again.’
I’m driving down the Melton Road and enter the leafy suburb of West Bridgford. It’s the home of the fur coat and no knickers brigade. Fake bar Fire ‘n Ice is just around the corner.
The Groundhopper is ravenous. I pull into a side street and dive into Canterbury’s Delicatessen and Sandwich Bar. The shop radio has the Dale Winton Show on. The camp DJ is playing the 1971 hit ‘The Pushbike Song’ by The Mixtures.
There’s huge queue at this popular deli. Sticky selects a bacon, Stilton, mango and mayo granary baguette. I wash it down with a bottle of Fanta fruit twist, whilst listening to the excellent John Murray describing Carlos Tevez’s equaliser at Stamford Bridge.
I pull into the Keyworth Recreation Ground car park, on Elm Avenue, ten minutes later. The local derby between the u14 sides of Keyworth and Cotgrave has just kicked off. My son, Jack, wears the green Number Seven shirt. He has played for this Club for eight years. There was no set-up like this when I was a youth.
Keyworth is a village 7 miles south-east of Nottingham city centre. It has a population of 7000. Former Notts County centre half Brian Stubbs was born in the village. Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Family – Ed Balls – went to the school at the top of my road.
International cricketers Franklyn Stephenson and Sir Richard Hadlee have both lived in the village, as have England international footballer Neil Webb and former Nottingham Forest manager Frank Clark.
Keyworth United Community Football Club were recently awarded a large grant from the Football Foundation to upgrade their facilities. Work has started on a new clubhouse and changing facilities.
Sticky Palms raised some money for them back in 2004 with a whistle-stop tour of 107 football grounds over a six day period. It nearly killed me.
I spot ‘The Angler’ (junior’s grandad) standing by the Village Hall. He’s chatting to the legend that is Arthur Oldham – the greatest manager in Keyworth United history. In his time at the helm he introduced two players to the Football League: David Riley (Nottingham Forest) and Mick Waite (Notts County).
Arthur’s son, Bobby, coaches the team. I will be forever in debt to this guy for introducing me to scouting and Notts County Football Club. He is a brilliant coach. Winning is not the be all and end all. He has sixteen players at his disposal today, each is guaranteed 35 minutes.
Another impressive stat is that all 16 boys go to the same school. It’s not just about football, but is also a social occasion and get together. The boys are tight-knit and some would say too nice.
Cotgrave can go joint top with a win today. Keyworth have different ideas though and exert real pressure on the visitors’ defence, kicking down the hump-backed slope. Sticky junior is on top of his game. He puts the Green Army one up with a close range finish. He looks embarrassed to of scored. Dad gives him the thumbs up. The Cotgrave management raise their voices.
The Cotgrave ‘keeper, Darren, keeps Keyworth at bay with a string of spectacular saves from make-shift striker Sam Dixey.
Cotgrave Colts level things up with a tap-in from Siswick (junior’s best mate) following some spillage by the goalkeeper.
In the second half Cotgrave turn up the heat. Their midfield imports from Bulwell and Gedling take a stranglehold of the game. Sticky junior’s a fit lad but the heavy going has done for him.
Josh Stolworthy is a colossus at the heart of the Greens’ defence. Two years ago he had a serious illness. What a player he is turning out to be. He’s powerless to stop a further two goals from hitting the back of the net.
I drop a dejected junior back home. I nip down Platt Lane (KUCFC HQ) to watch the second half of the first team’s game against high-flying Bilborough Pelican. The Greens are already three to the good.
Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year Neil Swift is in the Pelican technical area. Groundhopper roars with laughter down the phone to him. Big Glenn (BP manager) stands motionless with his trademark baseball cap and tracksuit on.
Both are back in the dressing room before the final whistle is blown. They’ve had a man sent off and have been spanked 6-2. Barthez is all smiles.
I’m walking past the Pelican changing room. There’s steam coming out of the door, not from the showers but out of Big Glenn’s tabs.
Man of the Match: Josh Stolworthy.