Saturday, April 10, 2010
Attenborough 2 Boots Athletic 4
It’s Friday 27th November 2009. I’m at work. We’ve all been called into an end of year ‘Company Presentation’ in the canteen. The Managing Director gives us all a ‘heads up’ on the ‘scores on the doors.’ Everybody seems distracted – they have one eye on the weekend.
The MD announces that one or two people in the room have completed ten years service. I start to swallow and feel my stomach begin to churn. ‘Taggart’s’ name is shouted up and he is presented with some ‘Call of Duty’ software and hardware. One of the guys gets some concert tickets. Three of the girls are given vouchers for a health spa.
Suddenly the Power Point presentation displays a photo of an Italian football stadium. The MD talks about a guy who never leaves the office. A guy who is passionate about groundhopping and scouting. Ooh eck. I recognise the bloke he’s talking about. Mrs P and I are off to Florence for the weekend. Next season Mrs P will make her groundhopping bow in Serie A.
It’s Friday morning. I receive a text from Mrs P. Do I fancy a bite to eat at Café Rouge, on Bridlesmith Gate, in Nottingham? Plan is, to pick up Sticky junior and his crew, who are down the road at a ‘Foam Party’ at the Ice Arena. I don’t want him wandering around town at that time of night.
The meal is superb; unfortunately there’s no bitter on draught and they’ve ran out of Stella. We take a stroll around Hockley and stop for a drink at the award-winning Cock and Hoop on High Pavement. It’s half a pint of Blue Monkey for Groundhopper, which is brewed in Ilkeston. We pick junior up. He’s soaked to the skin with foam.
I’m up and out the house on Saturday for 9am. I’ve a scouting assignment in Northamptonshire. Hope I have better luck than last time I was in these parts – I got hopelessly lost and ended up ringing up Notts County’s chief scout, Graham Carr, (father of the comedian Alan Carr) for directions. I put the Sat Nav on.
I drive through the Leicestershire rolling countryside – the home of the pork pie and Stilton cheese and reach my destination within an hour. The welcome is warm but the football is a tad disappointing. I offer a player a six week trial.
Britain’s best broadcaster, Danny Baker, is on Five Live. His phone-in has been Grand National themed for the last 20 minutes or so. He has a fella on the line who lives near a farm. He plays a game with the guy. He reads the runners and riders out. As soon as one of the cockerels cockle doodle doos then that’s the horse to win the National. It stops on Black Apalachi. I immediately ring ‘The Architect to put me a fiver on the nose.
I arrive home to find Sticky junior is having a late fitness test due to horrific blisters on the back of his feet, caused by wearing incorrect sized-footwear at the ice rink. His team are playing our French twin town down at Keyworth United HQ.
They are showcasing the game on the new pitch at Platt Lane. The committee have played it safe and left some grass on the pitch. Passing proves to be difficult, although the French master the conditions superbly. Technically they are streets ahead of our boys. Their passing and movement are simple and effective.
I slip away to Attenborough just as Keyworth are awarded a dubious penalty. The French goalkeeper is annoyed. The enfant terrible kicks out at the new goal post in frustration.
I’m parked up at The Strand in Attenborough within 25 minutes. Is there a more picturesque setting in this county? The ground sits on the edge of the Attenborough Nature Reserve. The Village Green is often flooded. Today the sky is sea blue. The pitch is perfect.
I look towards the clubhouse and notice a couple of characters wandering towards me. It’s none other than Boots club secretary Dick ‘Dastardly’ Durrant and his faithful slim-looking sidekick Muttley (Roscoe). We went to Stoke and Coventry together at Christmas when the non-league programme was wiped out with snow and frost.
The Chemists are looking for a volunteer to look after the valuables. Roscoe wisely keeps his hands by his side. He’d lose his bollocks if they weren’t in a bag.
The youngster has a bit more on his mind – he’s clocked a couple of the Attenborough WAGS loitering around the home dugout.
There’s a minute’s applause in the memory of a young referee called Blaine Thomas who tragically passed away this week at the age of 17 years old.
Boots settle the better of the two sides. Club stalwart Gareth Rees sweeps up in the back five. Alex ‘The Penguin’ Bowles patrols in an unfamiliar midfield role. Patrick Bakone and Jack Smith terrorise the Attenborough backline.
The Chemists score twice early on. Both goals follow a familiar pattern. Congolese striker Bakone hold the ball up well and hits a raking ball out to wide man Marley, who delivers the ball quickly into the box for ‘Sniffer Smithy’ to bury both attempts.
Moments later Attenborough are denied a cast iron penalty. From the resulting corner Scott Thompson – nicknamed ‘Space hopper’ by the away support, heads home to reduce the arrears. Fair play to Thompson, who has travelled back from Scotland to make up the numbers.
Dick shouts out instructions to African striker Bakone. The boy shrugs his shoulders and looks gone out at Dick, like Manuel used to with Basil Fawlty.Bakone’s legs are taken from under him. ‘Sniffer’ makes no mistake from the spot and completes his hat-trick.
I stretch my legs around this gorgeous venue at the break. I could quite happily die at this ground. I’ve played cricket here a few times but never witnessed a football match on the Village Green.
Boots are wasteful in front of goal. It frustrates their crafty Cockney vice chairman, Dick Tunney, who is getting more excitable by the minute.
There’s a serious head injury on 65 minutes. Dick has scratched a scab off the top of his bonce. He flatly refuses first aid from Roscoe.
Reports are filtering in from the nature reserve that there’s a flasher on the loose. It’s hardly worth bothering plod, as they’re probably all parked up in a lay-by listening to the big race from Aintree.
Steve Oldham is Sticky’s all-time favourite NSL player. He always turns it on for The Groundhopper. His touch is sublime. He covers the ground gracefully. His strength and determination pose problems for ‘The Chief’ at the heart of the Chemists’ defence. Oldham produces a fine save from Grayling with a far post header.
Former ‘Pie’ youngster Sam Mannion hits a 30 yard fizzer to put ‘Boro’ back in the game. Are Boots going to regret all those missed chances?
‘Sniffer’ and Bakone are withdrawn. The fresh legs of youngsters Peach and Whatnall are thrown on. Peach spurns two golden chances as the Attenborough paperboy ‘keeper is called into action time and time again.
The clock is ticking away when Boots finally put the game to bed with the excellent Paul Markowski pouncing onto a loose ball to end the game as a contest.
Man of the Match: Attenborough ‘keeper.