Monday, November 22, 2010
Radcliffe Olympic 2 Thurnby Nirvana 1
It’s Monday November 15th 2010. I’m sat at the back of the Derek Pavis Stand, at Notts County’s Meadow Lane. I’ve wearing five layers of clothing, a pair of gloves and a beanie hat – it’s absolutely freezing.
The pitch is frost-covered. The players that have chosen the incorrect footwear are slipping and sliding about on the crunchy surface.
It’s an FA Youth Cup 2nd round match against Shrewsbury Town. A carrot has been dangled – the winners will meet Liverpool at home in the next round.
‘The Guvnor’ (Paul Ince) is in the building. Shrewsbury Town’s manager, Graham Turner is seated behind the ‘Directors’ Box.’ Just over 300 people have made the effort on a wintry Monday evening.
‘We’ have cobbled this side together in a very short space of time. We currently top the Under 18 League. The Pies coast to a 2-0 victory. The margin should have been much wider.
The boy I brought in from inner city St Anns five years ago is different gravy. His hair is braided. He has a stature and presence on the pitch. The boy snaps in the tackle, closes down space and hounds his opponent.
I wake up the following the morning in agony. A huge lump has appeared on my elbow. The doctor diagnoses it as bursitis (fluid on the joint). Colleagues and so-called friends call me Quasimodo for the rest of the day.
I’m in the Jag with the Nuclear Scientist and The Taxman; we’re on our way to Stone Dominoes v Congleton Town. We pull into the car park which is plunged into darkness.
A little old lady walks past our car: “Game off” she cackles, “floodlight failure.” NS is none too chuffed. We stop at the Wysall Plough on the way back for a couple of Timothy Taylor’s.
It’s Friday evening. Mrs P packed her bags eight hours ago – she’s on a girlie weekend up in Manchester.
I crack open a bottle of Jacobs Creek. Sticky junior bursts through the door with a takeaway pizza – it’s a lad’s night in.
The boys slip upstairs and let a bit of steam off on ‘Call of Duty.’ I finish the evening listening to a set by the awe-inspiring Robert Smith of The Cure. It’s from the cult TV show The Tube from 1984. Smith is at his mean and moody best.
Mrs P texts in from the San Carlos restaurant in Manchester city centre – she’s sitting on the next table to Manchester City forward, Mario Balotelli.
Sticky jnr has a lie-in. Poor old Dad is doing the paper round again. The Daily Mail headline is ‘Queen Camilla.’ I’m more interested in the potential Bank Holiday the press are speculating we might be having because of the Royal Wedding.
I rustle up a full English breakfast for the boys and their mates. ‘The Skipper’ jumps in the car with me as we have a scouting mission down at the Highfields University Playing Fields.
Nottingham City Schools are playing South Notts Schools at all age groups. I notice all the Forest scouts in a huddle gassing again. It’s like a sewing circle at the Women’s Institute.
I bump into Big D. His lad, Roscoe, is an accident waiting to happen. He’s the Under 15 goalkeeper across the ‘dark side.’ He’s managed to break not one finger but two, on different hands. Apparently all’s good for texting and the Xbox.
We’re back home for a light bite. ‘The Skipper’ flicks on Sky Sports. ‘The Arsenal’ are pulverising Tottenham Hotspur 2-0. Stoke on-Trent referee, Phil Dowd is having an excellent game.
I pack ‘The Skipper off to his mate’s house – he’s on a sleepover there tonight.
I take a steady drive through the old coal mining village of Cotgrave, where former badminton world champion Nathan Robertson grew up.
I pass the real ale house the Rose and Crown and the Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club. I have a mosy around the village of Radcliffe on-Trent. By the time I’m back in the car Spurs have clawed back Arsenal’s two goal lead.
I rock up at the highly recommended Black Lion pub, in the centre of the village and enter the public bar. The place is crowded, with a sprinkling of Spurs’ fans.
It takes an age to get served. It’s worth the wait as both the beer and barmaid are delightful. The Adnams Broadside is tip top. The pretty, blonde barmaid makes small talk with me about the football on the TV. Her voice is drowned out by the cheers for Younes Kaboul’s late headed winner.
Arsene Wenger hurls a water bottle to the ground and bounces a bottle top off the turf, like a basketball player.
I pull into Wharf Lane at 2.45pm and park adjacent to the skate park and recreation area.
Radcliffe on-Trent is in the borough of Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire. It has a population of 8000 and a cracking Co-op Shop.
Former Nottinghamshire and England cricketer, George Parr, was born and died in the village. The wonderful old stand at Trent Bridge (the Parr Stand) has recently been replaced by an uglier version to accommodate Test status.
You may have also heard of the ‘Radcliffe Road End’ at Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club – this stand backs onto the A52 which leads to the village.
Radcliffe Olympic were founded in 1876. The Club President is former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke.
The Club enjoyed a successful FA Cup run this season. They finally fell victim to West Midlands club Tipton Town in a replay, following a six goal thriller at Wharf Lane, watched by over 500 supporters.
Watford and England goalkeeper, Scott Loach, played two games for Radcliffe Olympic back in 2004.
I’m met at the gate by Radcliffe secretary Michael Bradley. He’s worried about the playing surface – in racing terms it’s heavy going. It’s £5 admission, including a quality programme.
It’s a dark, dank, misty day. The setting is delightful. Trains from Nottingham to Bingham, Grantham and Lincoln run at regular intervals at the far end of the ground.
It’s the third time I’ve seen Nirvana play this season; I love their energy and youth. Their Management are easily distracted and frustrated by officialdom, though.
I stand close to the end Nirvana attack. Olympic are a bloody good side but I expect the visitors to dictate the play.
I only have eyes for Nirvana forward, Jordan ‘Bully’ Smith. His touch, pace, power and movement are ridiculous. He pounces on a through ball minutes into the game and is about to pull the trigger when he is upended by the last defender.
A more cast-iron penalty award I’ve yet to see. Referee Chris Stevens and his bungling assistant referee bottle it big time. The visitors’ bench are in uproar.
Smith and Melbourne waste further chances as Nirvana up the tempo. Olympic’s ‘Ginger Makelele’, skipper Craig Anderson, is unhappy with the performance of his highly-rated front trio – Massingham, Epps and Westcarr. He gets stuck into the three of them.
Radcliffe begin to respond. Grant Walton fizzes a shot just wide of the post and a deflected Epps’ effort grazes the crossbar.
The half ends with a Melbourne shot producing a fine block from Radcliffe ‘keeper Jamie Mountain, after being put through on goal.
A die-hard Radcliffe supporter dismisses the penalty claim in the ‘Tuck Shop’ at the break. I ignore his comments and enjoy instead a cracking brew poured from the pot – it’s nearly on par with the Keyworth United Clubhouse. Sticky Palms marks it with an 8.5.
Sticky jnr is on the blower. His team have beaten Southwell 2-1. He’s squealing down the phone that Lewis McGugan has thumped home another long-ranger for the ‘Tricky Trees.’
‘Young Will’, for Thurnby, is playing on the left wing. He’s a dead ringer for Nathan Tyson. The 18 year old leaves the full back for dead and curls in a pinpoint cross that ‘Bully’ somehow heads wide of the target, from point-blank range. ‘Bully’ then flashes a free-kick the wrong side of the post.
Radcliffe up it a gear. Epps smacks a shot from 25 yards out that the keeper tips onto the underside of the woodwork. Olympic take the lead on the hour. A ball is threaded through to Epps who finishes with aplomb.
What a match this is turning out to be. The two sides play a wonderful game in the second half. Even the referee begins to put a shift in.
Epps hits another rip snorting effort from distance. It’s déjà vu as Carter incredibly turns it onto the post. An alert Westcarr steers the rebound into an empty net. It’s harsh on the visitors who have given their all.
Seventeen year old Serbian sub, Samzo Alihodzic, hits a 25 yard pile driver three minutes from time. But Radcliffe manage to hang on for what some would say is a fortunate three points.
Man of the Match: Thurnby Nirvana captain ‘Wes.’