Thursday, December 30, 2010
Radford FC 0 Gedling Miners' Welfare 3
It’s Tuesday evening, December 28th. I’m sat in the Snug of the Lord Collingwood public house in the picture postcard North Yorkshire village of Upper Poppleton, close to the city of York. I’m enjoying a pint of Christmas Cracker real ale. Mrs P, ‘Our Mark’ and his wife are sat with me.
I delve into my pocket for my phone. I’ve two missed calls from my sister in-law and brother in-law (Plod). No disrespect, but they wouldn’t both be trying to contact me, unless it was absolutely necessary. My heart sinks and my hand begins to tremble. I know the news isn’t good.
My mind goes back to when I received bad news about my father over ten years ago, as I begin to punch out the numbers on my mobile. I can’t look Mrs P in the eye. It turns out my mother in-law has took a nasty tumble at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. She has been rushed into the Queen’s Medical Centre University Hospital, in Nottingham, with a suspected broken hip. She will be having corrective surgery tomorrow.
Poor old Mrs P is unable to enjoy the rest of the evening, as she is sick with worry. We decide not to tell the kids until the morning, as they both worship the ground that Nana walks on. The operation is a success. We can look forward to our get together on New Year’s Eve.
The following night (Wed) is a momentous occasion for Sticky junior. He’s gutted to be missing the Forest v Sheep game but is delighted with the Blackberry updates he’s receiving from The City Ground. Predictably he hammers his Uncle Craig (Plod & Ram) with a few teasing texts).
I later notice on the highlights that Nottingham born Kris Commons is kissing the Rams badge and pointing out his name on the back of his shirt to the Forest fans. This tosser is out of contract in June and will be heading to pastures new. There should be a banning order preventing this fool from entering our city.
It’s Thursday evening. The Radford v Gedling MW game has passed a 4pm pitch inspection. Reports suggest that the frost has thawed but water levels have risen, the surface will be heavy. Some of the players haven’t kicked a ball for nearly six weeks.
Mrs P and Sticky jnr have nipped off to the QMC for the visiting hours graveyard shift. ‘The Skipper’ and I are in ‘Sally Gunnell’ heading down to the ten pin bowling centre on Lenton Lane industrial estate. He’s having a night out with his pals from Clifton All Whites Football Club.
I’m hopeless around the inner city, so have brought my Tom Tom sat nav. The fuse in my lighter connection has blown up and the sat nav is dead. I’ll have to bluff my way to the ground.
I drive down Derby Road and turn left opposite the Savoy Cinema. I turn Radio Nottingham on, it’s a bad start to the evening, they are playing George Benson’s 1983 hit ‘In Your Eyes.’ I’m smack in the middle of Radford. The night is still and the place feels eyrie. I pass a few ‘Rat on a Rat’ signs. One or two pubs are boarded up.
I had planned on visiting a hostelry that was in the Good Pub Guide 2011, but time isn’t on my side. I’ve also got with me my new Panasonic camera which Mrs P has persistently pointed out has cost an arm and a leg (no new budgie to report on folks, we cling onto the hope that he will arrive on my birthday).
I turn left off a vibrant Radford Road, opposite the Asda superstore, into Randall Street. You would never guess you were at a football ground as the Selhurst Street arena is concealed with huge mauve coloured gates.
I park up at the back of some dimly lit terraced housing. I squeeze Sally Gunnell in between a white van and a Bentley.
Radford is one of the most multi-cultural areas in our city. It has a large ethnic minority which includes: West Indian, African, Asian and Eastern Europeans. It is a place not without social issues. Two days after this game the junction of Hartley Road and Alfreton Road was sealed off by police following reports of shots being fired at 6am on New Year’s Day.
Radford was once the home to Raleigh bicycles, Player’s cigarettes and Manlove, Alliott & Co Ltd – inventors of incinerators for waste disposal.
Famous custodians from the area include the writer of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Alan Sillitoe and Hi-de- Hi actress, Sue Pollard.
There is a belief in hope not hate. Groups such as UNITY, headed up by former Ilkeston Town midfielder Morris Samuels, endeavour to unite the troubled areas of the Meadows, St Anns and Radford. It’s a project that I’m keen to get involved with.
A friendly official from the Pheasants lets me in through the gate. It’s £4 admission and £1.20 for one of the best programmes I’ve read this season: a huge pat on the back to its editor, Howard Bacon, for this labour of love.
I’ve already noticed one or two of Nottingham’s larger characters amongst the crowd. Big Glenn Russell, the Pelican manager is in attendance. He’s seems rather subdued, just lately, on the world’s greatest football message board (NSL).
Radford Football Club were established in 1964. In 1977 they became the first amateur club in Britain to be allowed to wear advertising on the front of their shirts. Former Notts County, Lincoln City and Bristol Rovers striker Devon White once played for the club.
I take a few snaps with my new camera. The on-board memory only stores six photos, so I’m well miffed when I’ve run out of photos before the game starts. I’ll get a memory card tomorrow.
I take a leisurely stroll around the ground. Behind the far goal is wasteland that backs onto some three storey flats. Sirens blare out from nearby Radford Road.
I stand to the right of the Gedling MW dugout, I like their manager Graham Walker, he certainly appears to know his onions.
The game is delayed by five minutes when an alert linesman spots a hole in the top right hand corner of the far goal. Nobody seems in a particular hurry to remedy it.
My phone vibrates in my pocket, the bald eagle has landed, Big D is in the building. He collects a cup of tea from the snack bar and hooks up with Sticky. He’s not on great form as he’s suffering from an ear infection. He prefers the less traditional methods of treatment like fiddling with a cotton bud or pouring TCP down his tab hole.
There’s an early scare for Welfare in the first minute, with their ‘keeper Ross Cherry having to be alert to prevent Radford’s Luke Attenborough from scoring.
Big D doesn’t appear to be that interested. He tells me he’s booked in for a four day wedding celebration at Sorrento, in Italy, in late summer. Talk then turns to the latest happenings on the cobbled streets of Weatherfield, in Manchester. Big D is worried and concerned for that bungling, murdering idiot, John Stape. I remark that he reminds me of Stan Laurel with his blank expression and continual head scratching.
We take a break from ‘The Street’ when Gedling’s Luke Smith, on 17 minutes, curls a cross in from the left; it’s met with a Bryan Robson type run from the excellent Danny Roberts, who heads the ball into the roof of the net.
Radford look to be blowing a bit already. The effort levels are there, but they are poor in the final third and appear to have little or no game plan.
The first 45 minutes has served up poor fare. Big D has seen enough, he slips away to catch up on John Stape’s latest mishap.
I bump into Nottingham’s most famous groundhoppers, Malcolm Storer and Daft Lad Kev, from next door. They’ve both been desperate for a game. It’s their first ever visit to Selhurst Street. Radford FC very kindly reserved them a car parking space on the front grid.
Malc is trying to raise some cash for the APTCOO charity (children’s special needs). I hand him over a small donation.
Welfare double their lead early in the second half. An excellent corner from Luke Smith evades all in the box, an alert Ben Greenhalgh, a first half substitute for Stephen Cox, is lurking at the back post, he stabs the ball into the back of the net.
The £4 entrance fee is fully justified moments later. A mazy run by full back Liam Corrigan puts him deep into the Pheasants half, he releases the ball to Greenhalgh on his right, who skips inside and curls the ball into the far corner of the net. It’s the game’s ‘Champagne Moment.’
I’m next to the Radford dugout. Their management are normally game for a laugh, but tonight they are less animated, without passion and almost resigned to defeat. It’s a shame as Radford is a fantastic club, with a vibrant social scene and an important place in the community.
The game ends on a sour note with an awful tackle on two goal hero Greenhalgh. The offender escapes unpunished.
There’s just time for a quick chat with the charming Gedling MW official, Tony Hay, before heading home to watch John Stape’s latest calamity at the doctor’s surgery.
Man of the Match: Danny Roberts (no relation of Alf)