Saturday, October 29, 2011
Kidsgrove Athletic 0 Bradford Park Avenue 2
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