Saturday, October 29, 2011
It’s Wednesday 26th October. I’m driving across the North Yorkshire Moors towards Whitby. It’s my third visit in 12 months. We park on the West Cliff and take a leisurely stroll towards the Quayside. We pass the Arnold Palmer Crazy Golf Course. Regular readers will know I was cheated out of the Whitby 2010 Open Championship after a virtuoso display of putting.
We queue outside the Magpie Cafe for take-away fish n chips. I notice they are selling bags of broken rock off at 70p a go. What a bargain. I’m sucking and chomping on some mint-flavoured rock. Blimey that seems a hard bit. Bloody hell, I’ve only gone and pulled out a filling.
I’m driving back to my brother’s in York. I’m still sulking about the filling. Mrs P offers me a Cadbury’s chocolate éclair. I don’t bloody believe it; another bloomin filling has dropped out on the opposite side of my mouth. It’s an expensive day out.
It’s Friday lunchtime. Mrs P has asked if I fancy a trip down to the soulless Riverside Retail Park in Nottingham. “Yeah, I’ll just get Finley back in his cage.” I can’t find him for love or money. Mrs P goes off in a huff, on a solo shopping spree.
I can see a pair of eyes and his buck teeth. He’s found a small gap under the shed and is refusing to budge. There’s been a two hour stand-off. Finley really is as thick as a brick. He falls for the oldest trick in the book. I dangle a carrot a few inches from the gap. He pokes his head out. I grab him and place the wee man back in his run.
It’s a lifetime garden-hopping ban, plus a three match crap score prediction suspension for old floppy ears. When will he ever learn?
It’s Saturday 7.20am. I’m heading up to Martins newsagents in the centre of our village. I’m wetting myself with excitement at what crap headline the Daily Mail has gone for. Disappointingly it runs a story on the European Union Referendum in Brussels.
I’m sitting down at the breakfast table, ploughing my way through two poached eggs on toast. Arcade Fire are blaring out on 6 Music. Mrs P’s mobile goes off. Some geezer in town is coming round to view ‘Sally Gunnell’ (not much to look at but a bloody good runner). I feel a lump in my throat. It’s the end of era. We agree a price and I wave her off. What a loyal servant she has been.
It’s a day off from coaching and scouting – there’s very little on because of the half-term holidays. I wish Sticky jnr good luck in his 12.30pm kick-off and head off towards Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station on the A453.
Alan Green and Pat Nevin are covering Everton v Manchester United at Goodison Park for 5 Live. The Mexican, Hernandez has just notched another goal. The game sounds dull and uninspiring. I flick on the Graham Norton Show on Radio 2. He’s playing the new single by boy band The Wanted. It’s called ‘Lightening’ and contains lyrics that I could have written in my tea-break. Sticky jnr saw them loitering in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Nottingham recently.
I’m cruising down the A50, past the JCB World Parts Centre at Rocester. I hit Stoke in less than an hour. Sat Nav takes me up the A500. I pilot the ‘Rolls Royce’ through the historic mining village of Golden Hill, which stands 700 feet above sea level, and is the highest point in Stoke-on-Trent.
I clocked a pub in the main section of the 2009 Good Pub Guide that sits on the edge of the Mersey Canal in Kidsgrove. I pull into the car park of the Blue Bell at 1.15pm.
The place is bustling. There are about eight real ales on. I settle for a pint of Regal Blonde from the Oldershaw Brewery in Grantham, Lincolnshire. I take a seat in a quiet corner. Three elderly guys sit close by, excitingly chattering about the game.
They advise me to leave my vehicle in the pub car park, as they are expecting a big crowd, and parking may be a problem. I down my pint, exit out of the pub and walk up the main drag towards the Seddon Stadium.
One or two residents are tinkering with their cars or mending bicycles. I walk past Bargain Booze, Sharon’s Store and a boarded up pub called the Woodshuts. The area becomes more unpleasant and depressing. I notice shards of glass scattered all over the pavement.
I take a left turn into another residential area. I donate some money to an old boy for the Poppy Appeal and proudly pin it to my hoodie. It’s £7 entry and £2 for a programme that turns out to be a good read.
Kidsgrove is a town in the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire. It has a population of 25,000. Famous people from the town include: Reginald Mitchell, who was the designer of the Battle Britain fighter plane the Spitfire and former Crystal Palace and Leicester City striker Mark Bright.
Bathpool Park, in the south of the town, is where serial killer Donald Nielsen (The Black Panther) took local heiress Lesley Whittle after kidnapping her in 1975, prior to murdering her. Kidsgrove Athletic were formed in 1952 and reached the FA Vase semi-finals in 1998.
I wander across to the far side of the ground and position myself to the right of the Grove dugout. I purchase a hot dog and can of coke from the ironically named ‘1st Class Food’ outlet.
There’s a balcony on the far side of the stadium, where all the corporate sponsors and local dignitaries are quaffing sandwiches and drinking wine.
I notice a Yorkshire terrier dressed in a Park Avenue green and white coat. Its lady owner, with an Eastern European accent, is tall with curly, long blonde hair. She’s wearing leggings and cream leather boots.
I have a scroll through my Twitter timeline shortly before kick-off. Wes Morgan has been made captain for Nottingham Forest on his 400th appearance, whilst new Lincoln City manager David Holdsworth has recruited Curtis Woodhouse and Gary Charles to help out with coaching at Alfreton Town today. Sad news emerges of the death of Sir Jimmy Saville.
The DJ is playing the most random tunes. Sir Jimmy might have enjoyed The Dave Clark Five, Billy Ocean and Bryan Adams. He salvages the situation with ‘Needin U’ from Brooklyn House DJ David Morales.
The crowd begins to swell. It rises to over 1100 by kick-off time. One or two Stokies have rocked up as they have no game until Monday evening. The atmosphere is a tad disappointing. Maybe it’s nerves or apprehension. The players enter the field of play to a woeful Eminen track.
BPA kick down the hill in the first half. They look a cut above, but overdo it in the final third. They have four corners in quick succession without ever really threatening goal. Kidsgrove rely on breakaway attacks. Their forward Dave Walker looks on his toes.
BPA hit the bar as the two Grove full backs collide with one another. Duckworth flashes a shot the wrong side of the post, as Kidsgrove seem content with hanging on until half-time. A few black clouds have blown in. It begins to rain.
The DJ slips on his ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 79’ CD on at the break. I saunter up the hill towards the end BPA will attack as I expect them to push on. Both sets of fans swap ends. There’s no animosity or insults – it’s the beauty of the Non League.
Kidsgrove take a liking to the slope in the early stages of the second half. Substitute Karl Charlton sees a header cleared off the line by BPA skipper Rob O’Brien.
BPA have flung on substitute Jimmy Beadle who has just come back from a spell in Scandinavian football. He heads home a Duckworth corner with half an hour remaining, to send the large away following into raptures. He puts the tie beyond doubt five minutes from time flicking a ball up before cleverly lobbing Kidsgrove ‘keeper Hodgson.
Earlier Andy Kinsey had somehow hit the base of the post with the goal at his mercy following excellent work by the industrious Walker.
I’m stood next to an 80 year old BPA supporter. He’s travelled on the train from Huddersfield to Manchester and then onto Kidsgrove. He says he won’t be home until 7pm. He warms my heart with his next statement: “I never eat my tea and sleep fitfully when ‘The Avenue’ gets beat.”
It’s the West Yorkshire side that will go into the 1st round draw. They have the best two players on view today in centre back Amjad Iqbal and left back Martin Drury.
Man of the Match: Martin Drury
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Mrs P’s name is flashing up on my mobile phone. It’s unusual for her to ring me at work. “A bit of good news”, she chuckles down the phone, “I’ve got promotion at work and the boss has thrown in a company car, you can get rid of that scrap heap of a vehicle of yours.”
I hit the red button. I stare into space, dazed, totally dazed. How dare she talk about ‘Sally Gunnell’ like that. A tear rolls down my cheek. I know it’s the end of the road of our beautiful relationship. She scraped through the MOT by the skin of her teeth in August – the car not Mrs P.
I think about our groundhopping trips together. Not once has she let me down on my six year pursuit of non-league football. ‘For Sale, white Citroen Saxo, 1100cc, 66k on the clock, 10 months MOT and three months road tax. £300 ONO.’
It’s another miserable Friday evening as a beleaguered Lincoln City lose at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium 2-0. I’m cheered by the news that my boy Curtis Thompson has been loaned to the Imps by the Pies. He makes his debut on 88 minutes.
‘Don’t Drink On Three Days A Week To Avoid Liver Disease’ is splashed all over the Daily Mail on Saturday morning. I really must apply for a job as a sub editor at this ridiculous newspaper. It would be money for old rope.
Sticky jnr went to a team-bonding carvery at Shepherds in Stragglethorpe last night. Then it was straight up Buzz Fitness for Sizzers 16th birthday party. He’s fagged out and having a lie-in. I’ve done his round again.
I arrive back home and switch on Five Live’s breakfast news. A reporter from the World Service is peering down at the body of Colonel Gaddafi in a refrigerated storeroom. He describes bullet wounds to the head and chest. “Apart from that he looks fairly healthy”, claims the journalist. “But the bloke is dead, you fool”, shouts out Sticky Palms.
I do some research on the local youth leagues. There’s some clattering and banging about in the garage. A plumber is installing a new boiler. Finley is complaining about the din. How can he concentrate on his crap score predictions? Dunkirk are amongst his favourite teams. He tips the Boatmen for a 3-0 away win.
I nip down the tip in West Bridgford to dispose of an old dishwasher. I view a game of football at the Becket School on Wilford Lane. Mrs P’s Godson is playing.
It’s then straight down to Keyworth United’s Platt Lane HQ for a 12.30pm kick-off. It’s déjà vu as Arnold Town are once again the visitors. Last week they knocked us out of the cup on sudden death penalties.
We’re 1-0 down at half-time, unluckily in my opinion. I notice a tall guy out of the corner of my eye mingling with the home supporters. I don’t recognise him. He’s carrying a folder. I won’t be too chuffed if he turns out to be a scout, as he hasn’t had the courtesy to call me or introduce himself to me.
I challenge him. “Are you a scout mate?” “No” comes the reply. “Are you with Arnold then?” “No. I’ll tell you after the match who I am.” Oh bloody hell; it’s only another inspection by the Nottinghamshire FA. I complain after our draw that I was assessed two weeks ago at Hyson Green. He turns out to be a rather nice fella after all.
I throw all the bibs, cones and balls into the back of the ‘Rolls Royce’ and shoot off up the A606 and down the A46. ‘Gangsta’s’ team, Wolverhampton Wanderers have clawed back two goals in an exciting lunchtime kick-off at Molineux versus Swansea City on Five Live.
I head towards Coalville on the A50 and drive through the old north-west Leicestershire coalfields. After cruising through Ellistown and Ibstock I sweep down a steep hill and finally stumble upon the village of Heather. I love my village signposts and just can’t resist taking a quick snap of one.
I drive into a busy car park and position the Rolls Royce in an overflow area. A stray football comes flying over the hedge and lands in a nearby field. I squeeze through a gap and retrieve the ball. I hurl it back to one of the Heather players and cheekily enquire if it was one of their strikers who booted the ball.
The excellent PA announcer is reading out the teams as I pay my £5 and grab a cracking programme for a further £1. An elderly gentleman pounces on me as I queue for a cup of tea and tray of chips (no it’s not ‘Uppo’). He asks if I would like a go on the football scratchcard. I tempt fate and pick Wolves, even though I’ve never won a raffle or golden goal ticket in six years of groundhopping.
St John’s Park is a snorter of a ground. It has neatly trimmed conifers around the perimeter of the stadium. The playing surface is lush and even. It’s another beautiful late autumn afternoon.
I feel a dig in the ribs. It’s none another than blog legend Ian Upton, the joint manager of Dunkirk. Due to a misdemeanour on the banks of the River Trent, at the back end of last season, the wee man is serving a 10 match touchline ban.
He’s dressed in a grey sweater, striped Polo shirt, blue denim jeans and a pair of brown loafers. His sideburns are distinctive, like Amos Brearley’s on Emmerdale Farm.
I’m excited when I see former Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest striker David Johnson trotting out for The Boatmen. He’s a pale shadow of his former self. Ravaged by injuries to his back and knee, these days he can barely run. His brain is fully engaged though.
Uppo says a lot of the old crazy gang have returned to the fold. I think he fancies their chances of some silverware this season, if they can keep their cool.
Craig Meakin fires them into an early lead, racing onto through-ball and finishing clinically. Dunkirk are on fire. Anthony ‘Chink’ Gregory is immense on his return from Eastwood Town. He clips a ball over the top of the defence, Lee Day steadies himself and puts Dunkirk two to the good.
Uppo can’t stop chuckling. The linesman on our side is struggling to see because of the sun. Uppo offers him a pair of Foster Grant sunglasses from out of his glove compartment in his car.
‘Jonno’ holds a ball up in the right hand corner and waits for support. Darren Garmston waltzes his way through the defence and smashes a shot in off the post. “Gammo” shouts Uppo, “you should be on Strictly Come Dancing with them quick feet.”
Credit to the Heather St John’s young guns they stick to their task. Twice efforts are cleared off the line, as alarm bells begin to ring in the Dunkirk defence. “We’re papering over the cracks” roars Uppo as the referee blows for half-time.
I take a wander around this beautiful ground, walking past the Main Stand on the far touchline. The PA guy is the best ever, despite playing Queen’s greatest hits. He shouts out the Premier League scores, even broadcasting the goal-scorers. He even dips his toe into the Conference.
Suddenly my ears prick up: “the winning team of the scratchcard is Wolves. Can a Nick Palmer please report to the bar to collect his £10 winnings.” After 6 years I’ve finally done it. I clench my fist and do a little celebratory jig. “You beauty Sticky.”
‘Jonno’ has come off at the break and has joined ‘Uppo’ on the sidelines. I’m impressed that he still has an enthusiasm and passion for the game. I’m amused that Uppo has coached the former £3 million striker in the first 45 minutes.
‘Chink’ puts the result beyond doubt with a far post finish. He looks like Roland Gift, the lead singer of 80s band Fine Young Cannibals. I ask Uppo for a victory salute photo. He wisely declines.
The Saints score what appears to be a scant consolation goal. A mix up in the Boatmen defence gifts them another. Troy Wallen bags his second of the day right on the stroke of full-time. The PA guy plays ‘Tom Hark’ and a James Brown song after each Heather goal. What a class act.
Uppo shoots off. “Need to have a word with someone” he mumbles as I bid him farewell.
Man of the Match: PA Announcer (Sorry Chink)
Saturday, October 15, 2011
It’s October 2002. Sunderland have just sacked their manager Peter Reid. 75 miles away a school teacher, at the exclusive £14,500 per year Bootham School, in York, is about to take an A-Level history lesson. One of his pupils is the daughter of Sunderland Chairman Bob Murray.
The teacher is a huge football fan. He cheekily enquires with Murray’s daughter on who the next manager of the Black Cats is going to be. “It will be Howard Wilkinson, Sir”, replies Murray’s daughter. The teacher checks the odds with a local bookie; Wilkinson is an astonishing 66/1.
He tips a colleague off. They both place a £100 in a flurry of 100 small bets on ‘Wilko’being the next Gaffer. It’s money for old rope. They scoop £13,200 between them. Poor old Bob Murray is left to explain the ‘inside information’ to the Press.
It’s a quiet week on the groundhopping front. No game has caught my eye or tickled my fancy. The biggest of big girls blouses - John Barnes - is evicted for the second time on the worst programme ever to be broadcast on ITV (and that takes some doing) 71 Degrees North. Barnes was the first professional footballer I remember wearing gloves. So why on earth he volunteered to go to Norway and appear on this crock of shit, God only knows.
It’s Friday evening and I’m frantically tidying up. The Skipper’s German exchange student is due in at 7.30pm. I hide my 1966 World Cup final DVD, my Vera Lynn Greatest Hits album and the Dads Army box set. The boy is here for 10 days. He arrives bang on time; well after all he is German. We make him feel very welcome, he looks terrified.
Friday night finishes on a sour note with a 3-1 thumping for managerless Lincoln City, dished out by Fleetwood Town, the home of the Fisherman’s Friend. Shortly before retiring to bed Barthez and Sticky Palms have some banter with Grimsby Town goal-scoring sensation Liam Hearn on Twitter. Hearn is destined for a bigger and brighter stage than Blundell Park.
‘Fox Has No Friends’ shout out the Saturday morning papers. Finley, our rabbit, will agree with that statement. I try to explain to my furry friend that they are talking about former Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox and not the bushy-tailed omnivorous mammal that circles his cage on occasions.
Finley predicts a 4-0 thumping for FC Khalsa at Hathern. His score predictions in Leicestershire are notoriously wide of the mark (crap). I stroke him on top of his head and humour him for five minutes, before heading off to the land of fur coats and no knickers (West Bridgford).
I’ve been tipped a lad to watch today. Sadly it’s not to be for the youngster, but a boy on the opposing team looks the business. I’ll take another view in a few weeks time.
I dash back to Keyworth. It’s over a year since new Nottingham Forest Chairman Frank Clark opened the plush Clubhouse. The Skipper’s team have a lunchtime kick-off against Arnold Town in the YEL Cup. It’s a pulsating game of football. We absolute batter the opposition in the first half. If we’d been 5-0 up at the break it wouldn’t have been an injustice.
Inevitably the visitors take the lead in the second half. We equalise with thirty seconds remaining. We score in the early stages of extra-time. ‘The Skipper’ tragically turns a cross into his own net with five minutes remaining. The whistle goes for full time. It’s penalties.
I ask for volunteers. Only five raise their hands. Maybe I can smuggle the German kid on; they’re normally good at spot kicks. It’s 3-3 after five penalties each. We lose on sudden death penalties 6-5. The boys are distraught.
I debrief the boys and try and raise their spirits. I leave them in the Clubhouse tucking into chips. I drive down the A60, turn right at Rempstone and head down the old Ashby Road. I switch the radio on. Liverpool are pummelling Manchester Utd at Anfield. £20 million pound signing Jordan Henderson spurns a chance late on in the game.
I’m crawling down the Main Street in Hathern. I wind the window down and ask a guy on an afternoon stroll where the ground is. He kindly points me in the right direction I quickly see a sign for Pastures Lane.
Hathern is a village in the Charnwood area of Leicestershire. It has a population just shy of 2000. It has a sock factory and the Wicked Hathern Brewery. There’s no time for a real ale today. It’s two minutes before kick-off; I’ve a Leicestershire Senior Division One game to watch, and more importantly a new ground to chalk off.
This is the lowest level of football I’ve watched this season. As I saunter towards the ground I notice the cricket ground to my right and some more football pitches. There’s no admission and sadly no programme. Twenty two people (head count) bask in the late autumnal sunshine. The players exit a building that resembles a Swedish sauna room.
I lean on the rail as the teams toss up. I’m joined by the father of the FC Khalsa centre half. A spectator asks the full back where ‘Grifter’ is. “He’s gone to Oman for three weeks”, replies the 2 jacket.
Both teams lie in mid-table. Hathern have only lost once, the visitors have played five more games. Within three minutes the visitors take the lead. A ball is swung in from the right and is headed home at the far post by the centre forward.
The Hathern goalkeeper chirps away at his defence.. Remarkably FC Khalsa fall out with one another. They squabble, bicker and bitch. Never in eight years of groundhopping have I seen such disharmony and anger amongst team-mates.
Also I have never seen a goal like Khalsa’s second of the afternoon. McCabe, the chief protagonist in the finger-wagging and teeth-sucking, picks the ball up in his own half, about 60 yards from goal. The centre forward makes a run, but is in an offside position. McCabe draws back his left foot and clips the ball goal wards. It sails up into the sea blue sky and over the head of a gobsmacked ‘keeper.
Khalsa turn on the style. 'Zico' is running the show with his quick feet and electric pace.
Hathern are absolutely awful. They pass it around in their own half but are clueless in the final third. Khalsa are comfortable with their two goal half-time lead.
I nip up to the Village Store during the break, having realised that I’ve not eaten since my two slices of toast earlier in the day. One or two of the 22 strong crowd are in the shop. I snaffle up a scotch egg from behind the counter.
I sit in the car scoffing my snack listening to the radio. The reporter on Five Live at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium comes up with an amazing stat. The goalkeeper and four defenders starting today’s game against Millwall have all come through their Academy.
I catch the news before returning to the game. Leicester-born actress Betty Driver, famous for playing Rovers Return barmaid ‘Betty Turpin’ has passed away at the age of 91.
Hathern rediscover their zest for the game as Khalsa commit hari-kari in the second period. Khalsa have lived a charmed life well before the son of the bloke next to me gives away a needless penalty, which is easily converted.
The home team pour forward and lay siege to the Khalsa goal. They fail to clear a corner, the ball falls to Hathern’s number four who fires a shot into the back of the net. Khalsa are proper flapping now and haven’t got time to fall out.
With minutes remaining, McCabe pounces onto an under-cooked header. He’s the only player on the pitch you would put your house on scoring a goal in a one-on-one situation. He duly obliges, giving the away team a deserved three points.
Man of the Match: McCabe
Saturday, October 8, 2011
It’s Thursday evening. I’m sat behind the goal at Loughborough Dynamo’s Nanpantan Sports Ground. I’m watching Gormhead’s lad playing in the FA Youth Cup 2nd qualifying round. It’s bucketing it down with rain.
Arnold are coasting, totally bossing the game. They are 3-1 up with 7 minutes to go. They can afford the luxury of a few substitutions. The final few minutes is the craziest I’ve seen in 40 years of football. Proper Keystone Cops defending. The Dynamo substitute rips the Eagles to shreds. He bags two and creates another. Arnold go down 4-3.
I’m gutted for Gormhead and his 17 year old son. No words can console him in the clubhouse after. I’m cheesed-off too. Arnold had drawn Brighouse Town up in West Yorkshire in the next round. It would have been an unexpected midweek chalk-off for Sticky Palms. Never mind, looks like I’ll opt for a night in with Mrs P and her hectic TV schedule.
Gormhead isn’t at work on Friday. Good job really as I’d have avoided him like the plague. It’ll take some getting over, conceding three goals in the final few minutes.
I’m scouring the Interweb for a few interesting news stories. Apparently Kieron Dyer has slipped on some bear shit in the woods and will be out until Christmas. Rochdale Council has proposed that they will name their new Sports Centre after former Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who weighed in at 29 stone. Apparently Smith still holds the record for the number of excuse notes written by a parent for ducking out of PE.
It’s Saturday morning. Yeah, you’ve guessed it, I’m sharing paper round duties with Sticky junior. The Daily Express, played out with Princess Diana conspiracy theories, lead instead with warnings of arctic conditions to sweep into Britain in the next few weeks. Bore off.
I valet the car before heading up to ‘Trumpy Towers’ on the Bronx. Rolf Harris is special guest on the Danny Baker Show. He tells an amusing anecdote involving former Beatle John Lennon. I pass White Van Man’s house. The curtains are shut; there’s no sign of life.
Trumpy’s not in the best of moods after England’s dismal showing in the Rugby World Cup quarter final. It’s no good moaning to me about it, as I don’t do ‘funny ball.’
We pick Dringy up in Compton Acres. It’s his first time out at groundhopping. Trumpy hasn’t seen him in 15 years. Dringy breaks the ice, and some packaging, by offering us all a chocolate brownie. We’re soon all chattering away.
Trumpy has already had two cans of McEwans and a bottle of Magners cider. He’s lined-up a pub in Cutthorpe near Chesterfield. For any new readers his sole mission in life is to make a financial transaction in every city, town and village in England, Scotland and Wales (shakes head in disbelief). It’s a hobby he has pursued for the last 25 years.
The pub in Cutthorpe isn’t open yet. We drop in at the four star Cavendish Hotel in Baslow. I make a few calls whilst Trumpy shouts them up. The hotel is located on the Chatsworth Estate. It’s like something out of the cult ITV period drama Downton Abbey.
Trumpy is lording it in a high-backed chair as a wedding party arrive in their Armani suits and Karen Millen dresses. We blend in well with our Topman jeans and JD Sports trackie bottoms. A waiter offers us champagne. We politely decline.
Trumpy nearly chokes on his bottled beer when he is charged £13 for three drinks by a smirking Notts County supporting barman. “Good health Trumpy.”
We drop into The George in Tideswell for a swift one. Well, it would have been a swift one, but Dringy and Sticky re-enact a Crucible quarter final frame between Terry Griffiths and Cliff Thornburn on the pool table. Trumpy is disgusted and orders another cider.
Lunch is instantly forgettable. We’re holed up in a Brewers Fayre about a mile from the ground. I have a chewy steak baguette; the boys prefer a more stable sausage and mash.
We park up on street just yards from the ground. A guy comes out of his house and warns us its residents parking only. He kindly lets us park up outside his drive. He’s a former groundsman at Ewen Fields.
Hyde is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside. It has a population of over 30,000 people. Famous folk from these parts include: the boxer Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton, ex Man Utd winger Lee Martin and BAFTA winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst, whose dramas include: Clocking Off, Shameless and The Street.
During the 1960s Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were arrested in their home in Hyde, following the discovery of the body of 17 year old Edward Evans. Serial killer Dr Harold Shipman had a surgery in the town. He murdered several hundred of his patients.
Hyde FC play at Ewen Fields. It is also the home of Manchester City Reserves. The Glenn Hoddle Academy provides a pipeline of talent to the Club. The Tigers hold the record for the heaviest defeat in English professional football history. In 1887 Preston North End beat Hyde 26 (twenty six) 0 in an FA Cup match. The Club President is Sir Geoff Hurst.
One of Hyde’s managing directors is East Midlands record dealer John Manship, who is based in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. ‘Shifty Edwards’ has taken a particular interest in this, as John wheels and deals in rare soul vinyl.
In 2009 the Club was wound up in the High Court. The decision was reversed following frantic fundraising, including a bucket collection at Manchester City FC.
It’s £10 on the gate or £5 if you are a season ticket holder at a Premiership or Championship club. The programme is £2 and is just about one of the best programmes I’ve ever read. It’s up there with Rushall Olympic. The best quiz question in it is: Out of the 92 clubs which are the only two Wigan Athletic have never beaten?
The ground is everything I expected. A true classic. Trumpy and Dringy dive into the Tigers Social Club. I take a shufty at Ewen Fields. Manchester City’s major sponsors have advertising boards splattered all around the perimeter of the ground. Abu Dhabi and Etihad feature heavily. The Tigers shirt sponsor is City in the Community.
There is cover on all four sides of the ground. The pitch is immaculate. It’s rained all morning. It will be great to see the ball zip all over the park. The DJ bizarrely plays ‘United’ by Judas Priest, followed by ‘Tiger Feet’ by 70s glam rock band Mud.
Hyde are in red, whilst Nuneaton play in blue and white stripes. I’m stood in the ‘Boro.’ end. They have brought near on 200 fans with them, and are making one hell of a racket. I immediately spot Nuneaton’s Number 7. His left foot sticks out like a sore thumb. It turns out to be former Coventry City and Northampton Town midfielder Kevin Thornton.
He’s tidy in possession and decisive with his passing. I enquire with a few fans about his history. They say he got dismissed at Coventry for non-related football matters. He looks a tad heavy, but boy can he play.
Those pair of clowns (Trumpy and Dringy) come waltzing out the Social Club. It takes them five minutes to work out that Hyde are playing in red.
The game is high on quality. Both teams like to get the ball down, particularly Nuneaton. Thornton opens proceedings on 25 minutes. He pounces onto a threaded pass, rounds the ‘keeper and rolls the ball into an empty net. They’ve deserved it.Trumpy is jumping up and down with the Boro fans. He’s chanting, clapping and singing. “Well they are from the Midlands” he remarks.
Hyde restore parity against the run of play. Collett blocks bravely from the initial shot, but Ryan Crowther smartly tucks away the rebound. Game on.
We’re back in the bar at the break. Dringy buys a double round, just a 4% Stella for Sticky. I scan the half-times. Lincoln are already loosing at Tamworth. It’s last orders for Steve Tilson.
We stand with the Tigers’ fans for the second half as they roar their team on. They all seem to be necking cans of Red Stripe lager.
Gary Lowe must have given his team a right royal bollocking because they have come out all guns blazing. They pepper the Boro goal with some long-range shooting.
One of the Tigers fans clearly worse for wear from his Red Stripe bonanza has stripped bollock naked. He fails to negotiate the advertising hoarding and collapses on the floor. He finally gets his leg over and runs onto the pitch with the crowd in hysterics.
There’s not a Plod or steward in sight. He has his Andy Warhol moment and returns to his mates to a round of applause. He looks like Bez from the Happy Mondays.
Five minutes later a little boy is red carded by an overzealous steward for riding his bike up and down the concourse. The boy stares at the steward in disbelief. Honestly, local lad Danny Brocklehurst couldn’t write this script. I love the North.
Hyde have a late rally as Nuneaton shut up shop, content with a point. Spencer, Berkeley and Crowther all go close.
The final whistle goes. Hyde’s unbeaten run continues. It’s the best game I’ve seen in ages. We’ve one more trip up here this season. Hopefully it will be to Altrincham’s Moss Lane.
Man of the Match: Kevin Thornton
Quiz answer: Man Utd and Nottm Forest.