Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Barrow Town 3 Thurnby Nirvana 1
It’s August 1990. Sticky Palms is in northern Spain, exact location, San Sebastian, in the Bay of Biscay. I’m with ‘Ackers’, ‘Oggy’, ‘Gambers’ & ‘Neavie.’ The latter is marrying a local Basque girl tomorrow.
It’s the mother of all stag weeks. I’ve drank heavily for four days. I’ve been to three firework Fiestas in a row. My liver and kidneys are on the verge of malfunctioning. We’re already on the sauce as the church bells chime 12 o’clock (midday)
‘Ackers’ is missing in action. He was last seen wandering into a fruit shop to buy a lemon to suck on. We’ve sent out the search party. Black clouds surround the bay. The wind whips up, as the storm clouds begin to gather.
There’s the sound of smashing glass as outside bar tables blow onto the cobbled streets. The heavens open as we sprint across a bridge to seek refuge. San Sebastian is not on the English tourist radar. There are no tacky bars or bare-chested youths wearing Union Jack shorts on the prowl. Nobody speaks English in these parts.
I clock a bloke on the bridge scurrying in the opposite direction. I recognise him instantly. He plays football for the local team, Real Sociedad, who he joined in a £1 million deal from Liverpool last summer. He’s just returned from a successful World Cup campaign in Italy with the Republic of Ireland. His name is John Aldridge and Sticky doesn’t like him.
The boys are sucking up to him “Eh up John.” “Great World Cup, John.” I only have one question for the smug Scouser: “Why did you ruffle the hair of Brian Laws and laugh in his face?” (after he scored that own goal at Old Trafford in the replayed FA Cup semi-final following the Hillsborough Disaster).
‘Aldo’ just smirks and runs off into the distance. It’s another disappointing encounter with a professional footballer.
We’re on our way back from Bedworth. Two floodlight pylons blew up on 43 minutes. A groundhopper I was stood with from Milton Keynes said that this does not constitute a tick-off. Had it got to half-time he’d have counted it as a ground completed. Sod that for a game of soldiers. I’ve seen a match played and won’t be coming back – well not for a night game at least.
We snuck into the Plough at Normanton-on-the-Wolds. Bass is the guest ale. The Taxman admires the décor and architecture. He is the Michelangelo of Nottinghamshire.
It’s Friday evening and I’m hot-footing it around West Bridgford. I need my barnet shearing, but more importantly have some flowers to collect from Slades on Melton Road. I dash into Boots to buy some perfume. You’ve guessed it – Mrs P is forty something tomorrow.
I race across to Clifton to collect some ID cards for my football team. I’m in and out the house and driving down to Plumtree Cricket Club for the Junior Presentation Night. I relax with a couple of pints of Black Sheep as Gangsta and my Godson, Will, mop up the awards.
Saturday is a crazy day. I’m out scouting for most of the morning, covering three games in a two mile radius. The afternoon is spent in my favourite part of Nottingham. ‘The Skipper’s’ team are playing Hyson Green Cavaliers, at the Forest Recreation Ground, in Carrington (Goose Fair site). It’s an interesting, multi-cultural epicentre of our city.
I fear the worst when I spot four lads playing for them who have recently been released by Notts County’s Centre of Excellence. Their pace and power prove too much for the farmer’s boys. We are walloped 7-2. Two games, two losses. I don’t know who will get sacked first: Steve McClaren, who has just lost a lunchtime kick-off against bitter local rivals D***y County or Sticky Palms.
Gangsta and the gang are around ours at night to celebrate Mrs P’s birthday. Fifteen of us play bingo, with yours truly shouting out the numbers. I ask if Finley can join in the celebrations. I receive the same icy glare that I’ve come to recognise over the last 23 years. That’ll be a NO then.
‘Will’ gets two consecutive full houses. Gangsta jumps into his arms to celebrate the £4 win, only because he wants half the winnings.
It’s Monday evening and I’m down the Notts County Centre of Excellence at Dayncourt School in Radcliffe-on-Trent. Pies manager Martin Allen has dropped in to watch the boys training. He organises a photo-shoot with all the kids. It’s a magic moment, and a true measure of the man.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I’m all excited about tonight’s game. I’ve hooked up for half a shift with warehousing legend ‘Shifty Edwards.’ He casually remarks that he’s watching the new series of ‘Made in Chelsea’ on ITV. I’m shocked and repulsed. Not a word passes our lips for the remainder of the working day.
I arrive home and tend to the two biggest loves of my life: Sally Gunnell is treated to a litre of engine oil, whilst Finley gets a stroke on his forehead. I ask him for one of his infamous crap score predictions. He shakes his head firmly. He explains that he doesn’t like teams from Leicestershire as that’s where his arch enemy the fox is from.
I have a scroll through Twitter. BBC football correspondent Nigel Adderley has tweeted that Shrewsbury Town skipper Ruben Hazell, and his two boys, are on the Emirates Stadium season ticket waiting list. Shrewsbury take on ‘The Arsenal’ tonight.
Mrs P is doing her fortnightly online shop at Tesco’s. “Can you believe that people eat lemon and coriander cashew nuts”, the good lady pipes up. After that stunning piece of trivia, it’s time to depart, readers.
The Taxman rolls up at 7.10pm. He’s had a change of heart and ditched the Forest v Newcastle League Cup tie.
We’re driving through Bunny when a Rozzer accelerates past us and blocks off the A60 at the East Leake turning. Another Plod comes flying around the corner and heads off towards British Gypsum. There’s no explanation from ‘Harry Hopper’, let’s face it they’re whack at PR.
We take a detour through Wysall, Thorpe-in-the-Glebe and Wymeswold and re-join the A60 in Rempstone. The teams are tossing up as The Taxman negotiates the tight left hand turn into Riverside Park.
It’s my third blog at this ground. After last week’s debacle in Bedworth, neither of us fancied travelling far tonight. A juicy FA Cup replay was always high on the agenda.
The coldest I have ever felt at a football game was at Barrow Town in January 2009 when Heanor Town were the visitors.
It’s £4 each on the gate. The programmes have sold out due to a small print run. Over 100 have squeezed through the turnstile. The pitch looks greasy but immaculate.
A last gasp long range shot from Thurnby Nirvana on Saturday has forced a replay. I make no secret that Nirvana are amongst my favourite teams. Their Grand Fromage, Jordan Smith has moved onto the Steelmen of Corby. There’s also no sign of crowd favourite Nijah Frank.
Both teams lie in mid-table in the East Midlands Counties League, with plenty of games in hand. The weather is fairly unpleasant. We’re stood in the ‘away end’ with about 15 Nirvana fans.
Nirvana keep the ball and play some nice football in the early stages without really threatening goal.
Barrow open the scoring on fifteen minutes, with former Loughborough Dynamo midfielder Karl Noble forcing the ball home after a couple of earlier attempts were blocked.
Against the run of play, following a Nirvana corner, Barrow further increase their lead. Nirvana are caught short at the back in a two on two situation. Carl Adams rolls a ball into the path of Phil Miller who converts from close range.
The referee has received three minutes treatment for an unspecified injury. I was hoping for a change as all he has done is blow his bloody whistle all night. The game re-starts. I shout out to the ref that he has to leave the field of play and we’ll all wave him back on. After another petty decision a Nirvana fan cruelly asks whether the physio applied some Deep Heat to the ref’s eyes.
The second half is pretty dire. Nirvana will never score in a month of Sunday’s. Barrow play with heart, drive and purpose. They want the game more; it’s as simple as that. Substitute Connor Hardy puts the game to bed with the ball ricocheting off him from the ‘keeper’s clearance. Barrow even manage to strike the woodwork twice.
We’ve hooked up with a Leicestershire groundhopper that I bump into now and again. He’s a closet Red Dog. The Taxman and ‘Red Dog’ moan and groan about NFFC’s current plight for the entire second half. It’s worse than anything you’ll hear on ‘Matchtalk’ on Monday night on ‘Radio Red.’
The highlight of the second half is a sublime first touch and pass from The Taxman following an ale house clearance from the Thurnby centre half.
Man of the Match: Phil Miller