Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Bedworth United A Woodford United A
I’m sat at a sun-soaked Plumtree Cricket Ground on a balmy Sunday afternoon. Sticky Junior and ‘The Skipper’ are pitting their wits against a bunch of oiks from out Newark way.
Their behaviour in the field is sub-standard. They set no example to our junior section. They swear, belch and disrespect our young guns. It’s Division 4 of the Newark League. Plumtree CC choose to blood their youngsters. Winning is not the be-all and end-all.
They’ve rocked-up at Bradmore Lane with their overseas professional. He is their safety valve. He bowls a hostile opening spell. His run-up is longer than Darren Pattinson’s. Thankfully his services are no longer required.
Sticky Jnr and ‘The Skipper’ bat at 10 and 11. Our middle to lower order capitulate, there’s a flurry of wickets. My boys are now at the batting crease. The South African peels off his sweater to bowl at the death. Is it really necessary? He begins to mark out his run-up. Thankfully it’s only three paces. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Let’s face it ‘The Skipper’ is only 13.
The Redneck Newark captain orders the Pro to bowl off a full run-up. Makhaia Ntini steams in to bowl at my youngest lad. Butterflies float around the pit of my stomach. ‘The Skipper’ gets in line and strokes it to cover. No run. Next thing, the Pro follows through his run-up, and eyeballs ‘The Skipper.’
Two deliveries later he sends Sticky Junior’s off stump cart-wheeling to slip. I’m stood on the pavilion steps ready to have a word. I’m not clapping in these morons. One of our lads beats me to it. He lets fly at the Pro with a verbal volley. Their Captain offers him outside. I step in with a few well chosen words. The captain disappears into the changing room.
The South African boy re-emerges and hunts me down to apologise for his behaviour. Village cricket, it’s not how I remember it when I played regularly 15 years ago.
I’ve kept my head down for most of the week, after our four day soiree in Abersoch. Everyone is bored now with my Michael Owen anecdote (I bumped into him last Sunday in the High Street).
My under fourteen team have played a couple of friendly games during the week. We’re spot on for our first League game on Saturday. I receive the bad news by text that two of my stronger squad members are unavailable to play. It’s going to be a long and gruelling season.
Saturday is a mad-cap day. I spend the morning with Notts County Head of Youth, Mick Leonard, down at the University Playing Fields in Nottingham. We view some trial games and jot a few names down in the notebook to follow up.
I make my coaching debut for the season down at Keyworth United’s Platt Lane HQ at 1pm. The boys put in a spirited performance against a team that banged six goals past us twice last season. A 20mph wind doesn’t help matters, as we always like to try and play it out from the back. We suffer a two nil reverse.
Sticky jnr is warming up for his 3pm kick-off. We exchange some banter. I advise him to keep his cool. They’re playing Hyson Green under 18s. Junior’s team are under 16s. They play two years up.
The game is open and enthralling. Junior has a couple of great efforts on target. They go two down against of run of play but pull it back to two a piece. I shoot off down Meadow Lane at 5pm to pick up a trialist I’m looking after.
Saturday night is a TV disaster. ‘Strictly’, X-Factor and Red or Black put me in a dark place. I announce on Twitter that I may have to turn to God.
I watch an under 16 player in Nottingham on Sunday morning. He’s a left-footed defender, who scores a 25 yard rasping drive with his right peg. I’ll keep an eye on him, but it just might be a little bit late in the day to bring him in now. Scholarships are awarded in six months time.
Mrs P and Groundhopper spend their wedding anniversary in the afternoon watching our lads play their final cricket game of the season. I had been selected, but managed to wheedle my way out of it.
It’s Tuesday evening, 5pm. I am lying on the dentist’s chair. He’s prodding around my mouth with a scalpel. I get a clean bill of health and dash home. I bolt some tea down, very kindly prepared by Mrs P. I gather my belongings and head towards The Taxman’s crib.
He flies out the gate quicker than Irish legendary greyhound Ballyregan Bob. As per usual he has brought about four coats. I ask him if he is auditioning for the crap ITV programme 71 Degrees North.
The next half an hour is spent talking about his kitchen refurbishment. He mentions screening, painting, tiling, plastering and touching-up. I might as well have stopped at home with Mrs P and watched Nick Knowles on DIY SOS.
Lee Dixon is on Five Live at the Borussia Dortmund versus ‘The Arsenal’ game. I once bumped into him in a Hertfordshire beer garden with a sozzled Trumpy Bolton in toe. The guy was first-class (Dixon, not Bolton).
We hit the A46, M1, M69 & M6. We’re on the Coventry Road in Bedworth town centre within 45 minutes. The Taxman is driving shotgun and has been told to keep an eye out for the ground. He’s that busy looking out for B&Q’s and Do It All’s that he’s missed the turning for The Oval.
Bedworth is a market town in Warwickshire, close to Coventry and Nuneaton. It has a population of over 30,000. Primarily it was well known for its coal-mining. The last pit closed in 1994. The Bedworth water Tower is the most notable feature in the town centre.
The show-jumper Nick Skelton was born in the town, as was Hinckley United manager Dean Thomas, who once plied his trade on the left hand side of midfield for Notts County.
It’s £7 each on the gate. The programme is £1.50 and an excellent read. The ground is a gem. On the far side is a large, steep green-painted brick stand. As you turn left and walk in a clock-wise direction there’s covered standing and a two-tiered Social Club, where you can view the game from the second floor.
The Oval is tree-lined, surrounded with housing and has open ends behind both goals. I remark to a bald-headed chap, as we saunter around to the main stand, what a fantastic place The Oval is. He turns out to be a groundhopper from Milton Keynes, by the name of ‘Jimmy Jazz.’
We take a pew on the very back row, to hide from the gusty conditions. The DJ plays The Damned and Big Country. The players are greeted onto the field of play by schoolgirl cheerleaders.
The pitch looks immaculate. You could play crown green bowling on it. It’s right up there with the New Manor Ground and the Pirelli Stadium.
I saw Bedworth last season, they were bloody awful. A new manager (Steve Farmer) has been drafted in from nearby Nuneaton Griff. He has brought some talented players with him.
The game is open. Bedworth look dangerous on either flank. There’s a black guy on the right wing with pace to burn.
The Greenbacks captain is Ian Roper, who made over 300 appearances for Walsall. He just manages to fit into his shirt. The infamous faggot and peas on offer at the Tea Bar look to be a favourite delicacy of the defender.
He balloons a pass into touch when a team-mate has requested a ball to feet and is often beaten in the air by the Woodford centre forward.
The game has a flow to it and the visitors belie their lowly league position. Their Number 11 stings the hands of the home ‘keeper with a blistering shot from the edge of the area.
Bedworth have a goal ruled out for offside and go close with two further efforts. All the game needs is a goal.
It’s five minutes to half-time. The Taxman and I trudge down the stairs to discover the ‘Under the Stand Tea Bar.’ A little old lady is pottering around tidying up. I immediately notice her filling up a teapot with a woollen tea cosy covering it. She tells me a 90 year old lady knitted it.
The brew is tremendous and is marked by the judges with a 9.6. Only Clipstone Welfare can better it this season. It’s the highlight of the evening.
Talking of lights, and with two minutes to go before half-time, the far corner of the ground is plunged into darkness. Two floodlight pylons have decided to have an early night.
They manage to get one to boot up, but the other is having none of it. I’ve having a scroll through my Tweets when my night suddenly brightens up (unlike The Oval). Sheffield Wednesday are losing 4-0 at Stevenage. International Chewing Gum Champion of the Year, Gary Megson, will be kicking-off big style.