Friday, April 22, 2011

Bury 1 Lincoln City 0

It’s a Bank Holiday Monday in May 1988. The team I have followed all over the country since the age of six are on the verge of the greatest comeback since Lazarus.

Twelve months ago, whilst fielding at the long on boundary at Bottesford Cricket Club, I heard the crushing and devastating news that Lincoln City had been relegated to the GMVC (the Conference). Torquay United had scored in added time, caused by a police dog biting a player.

Colin Murphy has been reappointed as manager. He’s assembled a team of street fighters. Three points today against Wycombe Wanderers mean that the Imps will be crowned as champions, and will return to the Football League.

I don’t sleep. I can’t sleep. There’s no pot of tea or hearty breakfast. My stomach’s churning, and I’m deathly pale.

‘Keebo’ picks me up at 1pm. We head down the Fosse Way in his white 1100cc Mini Metro. His girlfriend is with us, and so is mine.

There’s no time for a visit to the grandparents or a saunter around the city centre. It seems awfully quiet outside Sincil Bank, there’s still half an hour to go before kick off. I can hear ‘Perfect’ by Fairground Attraction on the crackly PA system.

The home turnstiles are shut – it’s a sell out. Nearly 10,000 people have rolled up. We have to stand with ‘The Choirboys’ in the ‘Away End.’

My guts are aching and my sugar levels are low. Barry Fry’s Barnet have led the table all season, but are being pegged back in the final furlong. Fry says to “stick your mortgage on the Bees.”

Mark Sertori settles my nerves with a first half goal. The tigerish Phil Brown blasts home the winner, with minutes remaining. I weep tears of joy. We celebrate at Reno’s on Alfreton Road, in Nottingham. It’s the greatest day of my football-watching career.

It’s Tuesday evening. I’ve just arrived home after watching ‘The Skipper’s’ side take a second half mauling. We’re short of personnel. It’s round pegs in square holes. The victorious team are criticised and vilified by their coaching staff. His half-time team talk (they were only 2-1 up) beggars belief. They play with fear and without enjoyment.

Despite an 8-1 victory their parents on the sideline bitch and moan about their sons’ playing time. I know who I would rather play for.

I switch the radio on and try and erase that image out of my mind. The greatest radio commentator in living memory, Colin Slater, is live and exclusive at a packed Prenton Park for the Tranmere v Notts County six pointer relegation showdown.

Martin ’Mad Dog’ Allen is the latest manager to be appointed ‘down the lane.’ He is like a breath of fresh air and an interviewers’ dream. He gives Slater 10 minutes of his time at the end of the game. It is pure radio gold.

I break up on Wednesday for nearly a fortnight. It’s a gorgeous sun-drenched morning on Thursday. Mrs P and I head out to the picturesque setting of Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. The place is mobbed.

We have an ice cream and watch the world go by. A grass snake slithers out the undergrowth and wriggles its way towards the Deer Park.

We wine and dine at the Badgers Sett in Cropston. It’s only a few miles away from the village of Rothley, where missing child Madeleine McCann is from. Former England cricket captain Mike Gatting once got himself in a spot of bother with a chambermaid at the Rothley Court Hotel, many moons ago.

It’s Friday morning and Sooty has just made a pot of tea. I’m listening to Radio Nottingham. Former Notts County Executive Chairman Peter ‘Teflon’ Trembling is being interviewed about the fallout from the Panorama documentary on Munto Finance. The DJ cheekily plays ‘Fantasy’ by Earth Wind and Fire.

Finley’s cage is bedecked in Nottingham Forest regalia. Finley is a Red and tonight his team are playing his biggest nemesis – the Foxes of Leicester. He’s a stubborn little bugger; he turns down a Foxes glacier mint and a Foxes custard cream.

I’m in debt to Mrs P for the pass out; after all it is Good Friday. Trumpy Bolton waltzes round the corner with his St Georges t-shirt on. He’s tooled up with his litre of cider. He’s already had a tin of McEwans and blue WKD vodka.

We’ve got Pop Master on Radio 2 as we sail up an empty M1. Trumpy claims to have bagged 39 points on one occasion. He racks up 30 points today, and is way too sharp for Sticky Palms.

It’s the normal route, off at Junction 29, through Chesterfield and up into the Peak District. The roads are as dead as a door nail.

First port of call is a relatively new Marston’s establishment called the Fallow Deer, which is situated on the edge of Chapel en-le-Frith.

As we drive into Cheshire, Trumpy becomes frustrated, as a lot of hostelries aren’t open until midday.

Trumpy has a big bash on in Blaby, in Leicestershire tomorrow evening. Two members of Leicester indie band Kasabian are expected to attend. I’m sure the Legend will introduce himself.

We’re now in Denton and sat in the Lowes Arms on the main drag. I’m enjoying a pint of Captain Reckless from the Hornbeam Brewery, in Denton. I order a steak baguette covered in Stilton cheese and onions. The dreadful Michael Buble is on the pub sound system.

We finally rock up at Gigg Lane a full one hour before kick off. I collect some tickets and snap up, for £3, what must be one of the best programmes I’ve ever read. It has 80 pages packed with information.

Bury is a town in Greater Manchester with a population of 60,000. It lies on the River Irwell. Bury emerged during the Industrial Revolution as a mill town centred on manufacturing textiles.

Famous folk born or raised in Bury include: former Prime Minister and founder of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Peel, comedian Victoria Wood, singer and Emmerdale actress Suzanne Shaw, Manchester United Sky TV pundit, Gary Neville, his brother Philip Neville, (think mum Jill is Shakers General Manager), goalkeeper Andy Goram, actress and serial pie-eater Lisa Riley, Cherie Blair and Vicky Binns (Molly Dobbs off ‘Coro’ – the one Kevin Webster has been servicing).

Bury are nicknamed the Shakers, a name which was bestowed up on them by a former chairman, who was an industrialist and ironmonger.

In May 2005 Bury became the first club to score 1000 goals in each of the top four tiers in the Football League.

In November 2005 they became the first club ever to be thrown out of the FA Cup for fielding an illegible player.

Well known former managers include: Bob Stokoe, Stan Ternent and Neil Warnock. Record transfer fee received was £1.1 million from Ipswich Town for striker David Johnson. Highest transfer fee paid was £200,000 for Chris Swailes from Ipswich Town in 1997.

We dive into the Social Club. It’s a Thwaites for Trumpy and a Guinness for Sticky. A friendly Leeds-based Shakers’ fan strikes up a conversation. He’s a mine of information. His mate has flown in from Norway for today’s game. He and Trumpy have a conversation in Norwegian. The guy is going to Hull v Middlesboro tomorrow and Chesterfield v Bury on Monday.

We’re sat among the press pack. There are a few old boy scouts scattered about. Surely they haven’t come to watch ‘The Lincoln?’ The ground is pretty much bog standard post Taylor Report.

Trumpy has clocked former Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. He’s suited and booted and here to watch his son Cian, who plays right full back for the Imps. Three seats to our right is Five Live North West correspondent Peter Slater. I just know that Trumpy will want to introduce himself.

Bury start like Brazil. Kyle Bennett wriggles his way through a flat-footed Lincoln defence, he plays in Manchester United loanee Nicky Ajose, who screws his shot horribly wide.

The first half is woefully short on creativity or ideas. Maybe it’s the heat or maybe it’s the pressure. Lincoln play two banks of four, with their best player, the Ghanaian Ali Fuseini squeezed inbetween the defence and midfield. He breaks up the play and keeps possession. He’s way too good for us.

Peter Slater has yawned his way through the first half. He’s scribbled down a few notes, god knows what about. Trumpy claims he is playing a game of Sudoku.

Trumpy makes his way down the aisle and has a ten minute chat with Slater. They share a passion for motorsport. But Trumpy has one probing question for him: “Why is Sheila Fogarty leaving the Breakfast Show?”

Peter puts Trumpy’s fears to rest and explains that Sheila will be doing the phone-in at lunchtime. The Legend disappears downstairs for another cold beverage. He reappears, pogoing up the stairs to The Cult’s ‘She Sells Sanctuary.’

“Pleased to meet you Chris” he says to Hughton, as the two shake hands, “and you” says the charming Chris Hughton. What a day Trumpy is having.

There’s a slight improvement in the second period as the Shakers up the tempo. The Lincoln defence switch off from a corner, 20 year old on loan Leeds defender, Tom Lees sends a header crashing into the roof of the net.

Tilson refuses to change a tired-looking formation. Former Arnold Town striker Ben Hutchinson ploughs a lone furrow, with little support. In a rare attack ‘we’ hit the post but it’s flagged offside.

Bury try to put the game to bed but their sharp-shooters are off radar today. They certainly look better value than a negative Lincoln, who are clearly set up for a point, but have no Plan B.

Tilson throws on Drewe Broughton and Scott Spencer in a desperate attempt to snatch an undeserved point. If I’m honest, Trumpy looks more match-fit than these pair.

Chris Hughton departs without saying goodbye, Trumpy is deeply offended. Hughton’s lad looks a cracking prospect, and will no doubt leave for pastures new.

Bury run the clock down as we head down the gangway. Trumpy and Peter Slater say a tearful goodbye. On this evidence, it could be a while before I see Lincoln play in the Football League again.

Attendance: 4248

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton

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