Thursday, September 30, 2010
Nottingham Forest 1 Sheffield United 1
I’m slouched in my swivel chair, in the office at work. The phones are ringing off their hooks. People are babbling on about servers, ISPs and installations.
A lady walks through the door, towards my desk. I recognise her. I’ve known her for over 30 years. She hands me over a sealed envelope. It has my name scrawled on it. I don’t recognise the writing. Maybe the person who penned it wishes to remain anonymous.
I open the letter. I’m careful not to smother it with my mucky paws; police forensics may want to examine it. Inside is one piece of paper 8” x 5” – shorthand notebook size. The letter is creased in half. I unfold it.
Written in pencil, to disguise their handwriting, are the words ‘Wolverhampton Wanderers 4 Notts County 2 … Eat One.’ (Which according to the Urban Dictionary means up yours).
Who could this be? Whoever it is, they must be a fool. They didn’t even have the courtesy to write ‘4-2 after extra time.’ And it was against ten men.
Anyway why should I care? Yeah, I work part-time at Notts County, but I don’t support them. I used to follow Lincoln City, but I refuse to go until Chris Su**on is removed from his post. Until then, I support Bridlington Town and Cammell Laird.
But I’m curious. Who do I know who supports Wolves? And then it dawns on me. The crafty little monkey. It’s got to be him. I’ll bide my time. ‘Gangsta’ might only be six years old, but Groundhopper will teach him a lesson.
Four days later I’m driving down the A610 Eastwood by-pass. I’m returning home from a scouting mission. I’ve bagged a good player. My mood is good. I turn on the radio. Five Live are commentating on the closing stages from Molyneux. It’s one a piece.
Stephen Warnock whips a ball into the box, the much maligned Emile Heskey heads home the winner. I arrive back at base. I reach for the telephone book. I flick to the letter ‘G’ (for Gangsta).
I grab the landline and punch in the digits. I ask to speak to ‘Gangsta’. He begrudgingly tares himself away from his PSP. I’ve caught the young man on the hop. I sing a few well known Aston Villa ditties down the phone. I just manage to blurt out ‘eat one’ before the line goes dead. You’re only as good as your last game ‘Gangsta’.
It’s Tuesday morning. I’ve arranged to hook up with Rammers for the Unibond Division One South game between Quorn and Newcastle Town. He texts me to say he’s got a runny nose and is 50/50.
Ten minutes later I take a call from JK. He’s about to board a flight to Germany and has three spares for the Forest game tonight.
Sticky jnr and Sizzers have decided to join me. They’re in the bedroom watching the inbetweeners. If Mrs P catches them we’ll be all for the high jump. ‘The Skipper’ prefers to snuggle up to Mum and watch Holby City.
Mrs P is at the gym. Sticky junior is on the blower to Sony, trying to set up a PS3 fake account. You have to be eighteen years old. The fool tries to hoodwink the customer services bloke. He’s talking like the deep-voiced USA soul singer Barry White. The guy’s having none of it. ‘Angry Kid’ boots the settee in frustration.
We jump in Sally Gunnell (not much to look at but a bloody good runner) at 6.45pm. It’s a bad start to the evening when junior turns on Radio Trent. The new single by Ollie Murs is on. Yuk!
We park in Marks and Spencer’s car park in leafy West Bridgford. It’s £1 for the night. It’s a pleasant stroll down Bridgford Road. We turn right into Hound Road. A couple of chavs are parked up on plastic chairs, in their front garden, swilling cans of Carling Black Label.
I snaffle up a programme on the corner of the Colwick Road. It costs £3 and is a fine publication, as you would expect with seasoned journalist John Lawson as its programme editor.
We finally find our seat on the front row of the Brian Clough Stand, level with the penalty box, close to the Trent End.
I look out towards the away end. The turnout is pitiful, (1178) even for a school night. Is it because of extortionate pricing? Or just plain old apathy?
They must have changed the DJ/PA announcer; he’s not a patch on the old one. I used to love it when he knocked out an old Charlatans, Stone Roses or Happy Monday’s track at half-time.
I can see my mate from work – ‘Shifty’ - sitting in the ‘Lower Exec.’ He’s a wannabe DJ and will be despairing at the music on offer from the HMV Superstore. Girls Aloud, ‘The Promise’ is about as modern as it gets.
Sheffield is in South Yorkshire and has a population of over half a million people. The River Sheaf runs through the city. It was once well known for iron, steel-making and coal mining.
Celebrities from Sheffield include: the politicians Roy Hattersley and David Blunkett, Sean Bean, Michael Palin, newsreader Sir Alastair Burnett, World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, Bolton defender Gary Cahill, athlete Jessica Ennis, the boxer Naseem Hamed, referee Uriah Rennie and QPR manager Neil Warnock.
Forest, fresh from a 3-1 victory over Swansea, attack with real purpose. Local lad, Lewis McGugan, has rediscovered his swagger. Body fat has been reduced, as has his fighting weight. He fires in a cross from the left, which Stephen Jordan hurriedly clears away.
Against the run of play the Blades take the lead with their first meaningful attack. Jordan swings in a free-kick from the right; journeyman striker Richard Cresswell rises to bury his header.
Forest hit the panic button. Luke Chambers, not a man to trust in possession, plays a suicidal ball to Moussi, who’s easily dispossessed. Former Barnsley forward, the Maltese international, Daniel Bogdanovic, bears down on goal; Lee Camp makes a brave save.
Camp keeps his side in the game, saving a Stephen Jordan volley and a ‘Worldy’ tip around the post from Mark Yeates, following a sloppy pass from McGugan. Forest’s only answer is a left footed daisy-cutter from McGugan, which is unfortunate to go wide.
London born midfielder Leon Britton is bossing the game. His passing is sublime; his first touch exquisite. New boss Gary Speed has his team playing with style and purpose.
‘King Billy’ will be relieved to get his troops back in the changing room so he can regroup and change tactics. The Blades didn’t want half-time to come, and neither do I when the DJ continues his miserable run of form with The Jackson’s 1981 hit ‘Can You Feel It.’
Sticky jnr and Sizzers have ploughed their way through two Powerades, a couple of chocolate bars and a packet of Midget Gems. Junior enquires if he can buy some food. He’s told to ‘eat one.’
The DJ scores a late consolation goal with Dizzee and Calvin’s ‘Dance Wiv Me’
Sheff Utd are happy to let Forest play it out from the back, up to the half way line. But United stand firm. Their Number 23, Kyle Bartley, has headed, kicked and cleared the ball all evening. He hasn’t given Dexter Blackstock a sniff.
Davies tosses Dele Adebola into the fray. The Groundhopper admires him. He has a good touch for a big man and knocks folk about. He clatters (accidentally) into the unfortunate Bartley, whose night is ended on a stretcher, with a suspected fractured cheekbone.
Big Dele has previous (accidents). I saw him mash up Boro hardman Emanuel Pogatetz at the Riverside Stadium last season. As Elvis Costello says ‘Accidents Will Happen.’
The Reds equalize on 67 minutes. Former £3 million rated ‘keeper, Steve Simonsen, has looked uncomfortable with his kicking and positioning. Forest captain Paul McKenna tests his handling ability from 25 yards out, Simonsen can only help the swerving shot into the net.
Nathan Tyson is thrown on in a last ditch attempt to inject some much-needed pace. He’s taking the rip down the left hand flank. The right back surrenders with cramp.
Despite the efforts of their two best players – McKenna and Gunter – Forest fail to test the Blades stopper further.
On the balance of play, a draw is a fair result.
Man of the Match: Leon Britton