Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shepshed Dynamo 0 Carlton Town 6

It’s been an unproductive Sunday morning, talent-spotting in Arnold. I’ve covered three games and drawn a blank. I’ve driving through Daybrook on my way home for Sunday lunch. Five Live presenter, the smooth-talking Ian Payne, is chatting to Andy Dunn, Ian Dowie & Michael Gray about the previous day’s events in the Premiership.

Ian Payne suddenly interrupts one of them “Oh my goodness, we have some very sad news. I hardly know what to say.” He hands over to Nigel Adderley who is about to commentate at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium. Adderley announces, through an FA of Wales press statement, the untimely passing of Welsh manager Gary Speed.

I’m totally in shock. He’s a player that has been admired at every club he’s represented and has made 85 appearances for his country. It’s live radio at his best as they round up his former colleagues and friends to pay tribute to Speed. It puts a dampener on the rest of the day. All I can think about are his two sons that he has left behind, who are the same age as my boys.

Yesterday (Saturday) was a more positive day. ‘The Skipper’s’ team made it one defeat in six games with a convincing win on the Notts/Derbyshire border. We then headed into town to watch the fast feet and close ball control of Sticky junior.

He played in one of my favourite spots in town. It’s against a club who I have had a tug-of-war with about junior players in the past. They choose now to send their conveyor belt of talent down the A52 to D***y County. It breaks my heart that boys from inner city Nottingham will learn the ropes and develop their skills at the Sheep Dip, and not at a breeding ground like Notts County who have a history of discovering talents from these parts.

Sticky jnr's team have the last laugh, with an injury-time equalizer. Both teams behaviour is exemplary. The same cannot be said of some of the adults. The game ends in chaos with a confrontation with one of their coaching ‘staff.’

Mrs P is down the ‘Smoke’ on a girlie weekend. I take full advantage. Last night we visited a KFC establishment close to Meadow Lane; tonight we have a take-away pizza from the village.

I give the ‘Nuclear Scientist’ a tinkle. He ventures round for the Spanish Football. Real Madrid dish out a drubbing in the local derby, whilst Barca suffer a rare defeat. We complete a hat-trick with Match of the Day. Three bottles of Rioja are polished off. Oops!

Monday morning has a miserable, solemn feeling about it. I’m starting an eleven day detox to shift some weight. Out the window go carbs, alcohol, fatty foods and red meat. Into play comes fish, water and lemon, salad and cranberry juice.

Anxiety has reared its ugly head too. On Thursday I have a visit to the dentist at 3.30pm (not tooth hurty) for the removal of a tooth. I’m petrified.

I’ve buried my head into a great cricket groundhopping book for the last few evenings. It’s about a guy who trawls the Northern leagues in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland. It’s titled ‘Slipless in Settle’ by Harry Pearson. His endless anecdotes have cheered me up no end.

White Van Man is back from the wilderness. We travel to the Dovecote executive style. I glance at the panel on the radio. It’s lit up in neon lights with words GEM 106. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police is talked over by an annoying DJ.

It’s a filthy, cold, wet and windy evening. The Market Place in Shepshed is lit up with Christmas decorations. As we turn left up Loughborough Road and approach Butthole Lane, the woeful Robbie Williams ‘Rock DJ’ is played on 106.

White Van Man is sporting his £140 navy blue Barbour jacket from John Lewis. It overshadows my little nifty number from Next. It’s £7 on the gate. I have a little natter with Dave the programme seller. He asks me how Finley is. It’s good of him to enquire of the well-being of my rabbit. I daren’t tell him that ‘Fin’ doesn’t like teams from Leicestershire because of their association with foxes.

We poke our head into the bar. It’s a cosy little joint that’s carpeted. It has chairs and sofas. Braga are playing Birmingham City in the Europa League – boring hell.

Shepshed Dynamo have had an interesting start to the season. John Ramshaw resigned as manager to take up the gaffer’s role at struggling Conference North side Eastwood Town. Rammers has unfinished business to attend to at Coronation Park.

The board of directors at The Dovecote have appointed Chris ‘Chalky’ White as his replacement following a string of successful results during his caretaker role.

I once saw Lincoln United when ‘Chalky’ was in charge –Rammers had gone walkabout again – it was below an old colliery spoil heap at Frickley. The Whites lost 4-1. ‘Screats’ was sent off for an x-rated tackle. Justin Jenkins didn’t break sweat that day – his brother Zeke is playing left back tonight for Dynamo.

We hook up with Big Sean (for some reason I always call him Darrell) and Mick Sloan. Both are die-hard Dynamo. We observe a minute’s silence for Gary Speed.

Shepshed make a bright start. Former Millers’ striker Steve Chaplin sees a shot beaten away by Danny Marshall and another effort hit the side-netting. Carlton begin to get into their groove. They are lightning on the break, as they were last week versus Ilkeston. Ian Brown gives them the lead with a speculative shot; Ashley Grayson slams in second, minutes later.

Chalky becomes animated and frustrated with his team. I daren’t even look at Big Sean and Mick because they’ll be hurting. Dynamo go close twice before their ‘keeper Sam Andrew punches a corner into his own net, when under no pressure.

I’ve lost my car keys and so trudge back to WVM’s car for a butcher’s hook on the floor. There’s no sign of them. I phone home, apparently I forgot to take them. You can hear a pin drop in the clubhouse. Modric claws a goal back for money-bags Tottenham as they trail PAOK 2-1.

I’m dreading the second half as this could turn into an embarrassment. 3-0 flatters Carlton Town somewhat. Shepshed fluff a couple of early chances. I decide to have a wander around this lovely old ground. I take a gleg at the groundsman’s den. It’s cluttered up with skips full of discarded England flags. There are three old turnstiles tucked away in the corner, along with some traffic cones, an incinerator, an old wheelbarrow and a flat-bed trolley.

I wander past the far goal, kicking pieces of gravel off the cinder path. Behind the concrete fence are huge leylandii, which sway in the swirling wind. I walk past a fluttering corner flag towards the ‘Shepshed Ultras’, whose numbers are dwindling. One of them amuses me, though. He sings at the top of his voice ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet. It’s followed up with “We’re going to win 5-4.”

Ashley Grayson has bagged a further two goals whilst I’ve ambled around the ground. By the time I return to base a negative steward is winding up the crowd. He has moaned at, and verbally abused most of the players this evening. He shouts out loudly that people are leaving the ground early. Of course they are you fool, can’t you see that they are all hurting, or perhaps just want to catch the fag end of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’ “Come on WVM, we’re off home, son.”

Man of the Match: Ashley Grayson

Attendance: 129

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carlton Town 2 Ilkeston FC 0

Mrs P and I spend a relaxing Friday evening on the sofa watching the ever-popular Children in Need on BBC 1. Mad Dog, a mate of mine, has walked from our village primary school to Chatsworth House to raise monies. It’s a 100 mile round trip that he completes in 24 hours. He really is as mad as a March hare.

I wake up to the desperately sad news of the death of the South African-born England Test cricketer Basil D’Oliveira. Sticky’s favourite reporter, Pat Murphy, reads out an obituary on the radio.

For those too young to remember, Cape-coloured ‘Dolly’ was unable to play first-class cricket in his homeland under the apartheid regime in the 1960s. He fled to England and forced his way into our Test team. In 1969, his inclusion in the England touring party to South Africa caused a huge rumpus, with the series eventually being cancelled and South Africa being exiled from international cricket.

His final few years were spent in a nursing home, where his death was announced earlier this morning at the age of 80. Although it is led to believe he was much older than this, but he never wanted the cricketing authorities to know his true age, as they wouldn’t have selected him, as his was 38 when he made his Test debut.

I feel quite sombre on the paper-round this morning. It’s bitterly cold and still dark. I have a snigger when I pop the Daily Mail through legendary Keyworth United Reserves team manager, Jacko’s letterbox. On the front page is the headline ‘Surge In Divorce For The Over 60s.’ Jacko turns 60 years old this week. I rib him later in the morning.

I’m down my local club just before lunchtime. I’ve arranged a friendly for Sticky Junior’s team against some lads from Notts County. Junior has a smile as long as the railway track that runs along the back of the goal when he pokes home Keyworth’s third goal of the game, shortly before half-time.

I change into my KUCFC rain coat after the match as I prepare my boys to do battle with Carlton Town. We play some champagne football during our 5-0 victory. One defeat in six games should clinch me the Bells Whisky Manager of the Month award. The perfect day is complete with a three course dinner prepared by The Taxman. I didn’t know they did puddings at the Indian take-away. You learn something every day, readers.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I‘ve just finished washing ‘The Beast’ and the ‘Rolls Royce.’ I pour a can of Stella into a pint glass and wander into the lounge. ‘Gangsta’ is sprawled out on the sofa. His brother has just rocked up from winter nets at Trent Bridge.

I witness Charlie Adam play a raking cross-field ball to the 27 year old serial under-achiever Glenn Johnson. He cuts inside leaving Ashley Cole on his backside and rifle homes the winner for Liverpool. It gets Groundhopper out of his seat.

The highlight on Monday occurs in the Warehouse at work. Shifty has got BBC 6 Music on. Huey Morgan from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals is hosting a film soundtrack show. He plays the Pink Panther theme tune by Henry Mancini. Sticky and Shifty practise their Inspector Clouseau impersonations for the rest of the day.

I hear the loud sound of a klaxon going off outside. I thought the QE2 had come into dock. It must be ‘The Taxman’ in his London cab. Finley looks proper miserable. I enter his crib to put my cuddly friend to bed. I ask him for a famous crap score prediction. His voice is croaky and hoarse. I barely catch his whisper in my ear “2-2”. No wonder he sounds like Bonnie Tyler, the poor little sod hasn’t any water in his bottle.

I’m in a bit of a flap by the time I reach the car. ‘The Taxman’ asks me what I’ve been faffing about at, and whether I’ve been watching Holby City on catch-up. “No I haven’t you cheeky sod.” I’m out of breath. I’ve literally been home for a few minutes, as it’s training night for ‘The Skipper’s’ team, and I’ve taken the session.

We drive down Gamston Lings Bar, over Lady Bay Bridge, onto the Colwick Loop Road, passing Nottingham Racecourse to our right. I’ve already clocked the Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment at the top of Meadow Lane. Me and the boys will be dining there on Friday evening, while Mrs P enjoys her soiree in London.

A fluorescent-jacketed steward waves us towards an overflow car park at Carlton’s Stoke Lane ground. We park next to an Astroturf football pitch. Ironically, the team we beat so convincingly last Saturday, are having a training session.

It’s £7 on the gate. Programmes are £1.50 each but ‘The Taxman’ has kindly sourced a team-sheet. I’m sporting a new olive trendy green coat, a fetching little number, that I bagged at Next last Sunday. I’ve kicked H&M firmly into touch.

There’s a vibrant feel to the place tonight. There’s a cracking away following from Ilkeston. The attendance looks set to break the 300 barrier. The visiting support at times can be raucous, challenging and daunting. We approach the far side of the ground where surroundings are more genteel and placid.

Ilkeston have risen from the ashes. They were wound-up over an outstanding tax bill in 2010. It’s their first season back. They are mainly a team full of lads let go by pro clubs. I saw Ilson get trounced by Lincoln City earlier in the season. They made the Imps look like European champions. A glance at the league table begs to differ. Ilson are top.

The Millers are up and at em from the start. Ilson struggle to cope with the pace and movement of Ian Brown, formerly of the Stone Roses, and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas.

The Robins have big Gary Ricketts up top for them this evening. A friendly game against Mansfield Town was abandoned earlier in the season when it was alleged that Ricketts hospitalised three Stags players in separate incidents. He has received a final written warning from the club.

The tempo and pace of the game is terrific. Carlton take the lead on 20 minutes. Wiggins-Thomas, a threat all night, wriggles away from his marker and blasts a shot at Alex Archer which is beaten away. Brown coolly slots home the rebound.

Carlton are frightening on the break. Adam Kimberley hits the bar and Wiggins-Thomas fluffs another chance when through on goal.

It’s The Taxman’s turn at the Tea Bar. Unfortunately the Millers have under-estimated a record league attendance. Despite cries for help and volunteers the queues just get longer. I feel like offering my services, but there’s little evidence of a teapot to brew in.

I studied Ilkeston Town manager Kevin Wilson (ex Chelsea) whilst The Taxman queued for tea. He seemed more interested in talking to the crowd than watching the game. His broad Oxfordshire accent reminds me of a character from Inspector Morse. One thing we both agree on is that his young charges are way off the pace in the first period.

We stand alone near the end the Millers will attack. I expect them to push on and win the game comfortably. The Ilson fans congregate at the far end. Their biggest contribution to the game thus far is the amusing ditty “My garden shed is bigger than this.”

Ilson continue their aerial bombardment with Ricketts the obvious target. The impressive Waite blazes over and Big Gary heads wide. Brown is slipped through again, the finish is calm and collective.

I notice a member of management from a rival Evostik team close by. I remember him being sent off in a game a couple of years ago, at this very ground, for some appalling behaviour. My abiding memory of him was watching him stood on a picnic table barking out instructions.

The final whistle goes; a Carlton fan begins to play a trumpet. Ilson have been desperately disappointing. The 2-0 scoreline flatters them.

Attendance: 280

Man of the Match: Matt Millns.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Birstall United 2 FC Dynamo 0

We’re on the A5, driving on the way back from Heath Hayes. You couldn’t take your eye off the game, unless your name is Mr T Bolton. Hayes can feel hard done by. The 4-1 reverse is a harsh score-line.

Trumpy Bolton guzzles the final dregs of his litre bottle of cider. He has two emergency rations in the boot. Suddenly he tries to stand up and bangs his head on the roof of the car. The National Anthem is being played at Wembley Stadium, prior to the England v Spain friendly international. Trumpy belts out ‘God Save the Queen.’ He dusts himself down and takes a pew. There’s an outside chance that we may have another outing on Saturday December 17th. Histon v Gainsborough Trinity is on the agenda.

Mrs P has snapped up a Chinese banquet from the West Bridgford M&S Food Hall. It’s accompanied by a bottle of Red and the ghastly X-Factor. I peruse the non-league results on the Web, occasionally glancing at the TV set when I hear a catchy toon. I ask Mrs P what price London all-girl band Little Mix are at the bookies, to the bag first prize. The good lady totally blanks me.

I sleep like a log and don’t rise until 9am. ‘The Skipper’, ‘Cairnsy’ and Groundhopper wolf down a bacon cob, before shooting off to Clifton where young un has a game. I exit the Clifton FC car park and head off to Gedling to view an under 16 game. I watch my targets for 45 minutes, make an assessment and return to Clifton to watch my boy in action.

Mrs P has gone Christmas shopping in Nottingham with the Mother-in-law. It could be a good opportunity to have a little skive, but there’s work to do in the garden. Finley Palmer is on all-fours. He’s desperate for a run-out in the shrubbery. “Not on your Nellie, son” says Sticky Palms.

I spend Monday evening down the Notts County FC Centre of Excellence training ground at Dayncourt School, in Radcliffe-on-Trent. I meet and greet a trialist and his parents. I show them around the facility, make them feel welcome and ease the boy’s fears. The rest of the night is spent writing up the Heath Hayes blog to the sounds of the corny Ant & Dec on the new series of I’m a Celebrity.

It’s Tuesday evening, the night of the game. The Taxman gives me the thumbs up. I’ve just had a succulent meat casserole, which has been bubbling away all day in the slow cooker. I’m flopped out on the sofa watching Alexander Armstrong present the BBC1 tea-time TV show ‘Pointless.’

There is one helluva commotion going on upstairs. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 has found its way into our crib. Sticky jnr is ranting and raving at some Yank down his headset. Oh my good days, he’s started cursing the bloke. Suddenly I hear this gem: “No wonder we battered you in the War.”

I pick up my mobile and dial him up. I can’t be bothered to shift off the sofa. “Son, just thought I’d point out that USA and Great Britain fought on the same side in both World Wars.” “Ah, sorry, didn’t realise” replies an embarrassed jnr.

I phone up my boss at Notts County to get some feedback from the Monday evening friendly game for the Youth Team at Ilkeston Town. We lost narrowly 2-1.

I get wrapped up. According to the East Midlands Today weather girl it’s going to be a fresh one this evening. The Taxman is out of his front door like a shot. It’s been over a month since we last went to a game together. He looks as snug as a bug in his new Parka jacket. There’s probably a Lambretta scooter parked up in his garage.

The Taxman says he could of quite easily cranked up the heating, put on his Wallace and Grommit slippers and stayed in and watched England v Sweden on ITV. He later confesses that The Taxlady is catching up with a week’s worth of Coronation Street.

There’s an absolutely dreadful moment to begin the evening, which almost causes a road-rage incident. Radio Nottingham presenter Alan Clifford has just played a Robbie Williams track. I’m that keen to change station that I take my eye off the road and almost end up in a ditch.

The Taxman has just come back from his art class in Bottesford. He’s moved on from painting L. S. Lowry matchstick men. It’s week 3 on his latest effort by Monet. He tells an amusing story on how he was made to strip to his white y-fronts at the City Hospital in Nottingham last week in front of three student (lady) doctors. Can’t have been as thrilling as Aylestone 4 Rothley 2, surely?

We reach Birstall in 25 minutes as we breeze up the A46. Sat Nav takes us through a few rat-runs. We appear to be heading down a dead end, when we notice an opening to our right, and some players warming-up.

Birstall is the largest village in the Charnwood Borough of Leicestershire. It has a population of 12,000. Famous footballers to have first cut their teeth at Birstall United include: Stefan Oakes, Scott Oakes and Luke Varney.

We avoid another ditch to our right and park in an unlit and untidy area. It’s is down a dark lane that backs onto the Watermead Country Park, which stretches two miles to the north of Leicester, along the River Soar valley. Two brothers died at the park in January 2010 after falling through broken ice at a place known locally as ‘Mammoth Hill.’

Four youths are lurking about the car. If I’d been in Sally Gunnell I wouldn’t have been concerned. She’s but just a distant memory. The ‘Rolls Royce’ is a different kettle of fish.

We are greeted at the gate by ‘Trev’ who is a founder member of Birstall from back in 1961. He gives us a little insight into the history and running of the club. It’s £3 admission. There’s no programme issued this evening but Trev very kindly gets someone to fetch an old one from out of the Clubhouse.

Turns out it is from an FA Vase game against Yaxley from Peterborough. I mention to The Taxman that the Star Wars and Life’s Too Short actor Warwick Davis lives in Yaxley. “How the hell did you know that?” enquires The Taxman.

We walk past the plush clubhouse, with its flat screen TVs and real ales. There’s a brick-walled changing room facility and a covered area for standing. The rest of the ground is open. We make our way across to the far side of the ground. I’m hoping for a few lyrics from the Birstall United bench.

Each member of the Birstall backroom staff (they have more than Leicester City and Dunkirk) are carrying a cup of tea. Leicester has one of the most multi-cultural areas in the country. Birstall have no ethnic minorities in their starting line-up, whilst the visitors, FC Dynamo have a mixture of Asian and African lads, although their ‘keeper is white.

It’s the Dynamo ‘keeper who gifts the home side a goal following a poor goal kick. Captain Ryan Seals is the chief beneficiary, converting a chance from close range. The home bench celebrate with another round of teas.

I’m just informing Twitter of the opening goal when a stray clearance heads our way. The Taxman does a runner, whilst Sticky Palms pulls off a Gordon Banks type save. The chances stack up for United, but it’s like watching The Arsenal as they try to walk the ball in. Dynamo spurn two golden opportunities to restore parity. The referee blows early as the entire Birstall bench are dying for a pee.

I chat to a big guy at the break who is an authority on the local scene and also hook up with an old boy, originally from Basford in Nottingham, who now runs Kirby Muxloe Reserves. Their passion and love of the game is jaw-dropping.

More teas are brought to the dugout for the second period. At this rate the Ref will need to halt play so that someone can nip out to Happy Shopper to stock up on teabags. After missing a hatful of chances ‘Chalky’ White taps in at the far post to put the game beyond doubt.

Special mention to both linesman, who were spot on all evening. One had hair like Sideshow Bob off The Simpsons, whilst the other will surely bring home Gold for GB in the London Olympics next year in the ‘Spitting the most in a minute event.’

Man of the Match: The Taxman.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Heath Hayes 1 Gresley 4

I’m sitting in the kitchen drinking a cool pint of Stella, waiting for my laptop computer to boot up. A familiar character appears as wallpaper on the desktop. He’s wearing his trademark green sweatshirt. He is the greatest manager that ever lived.

It gets me thinking of the best Cloughie anecdote I’ve ever heard. He often came over as rude and arrogant. But there was a compassionate side to the man that was not often heard of.

Shortly after he died, I was perusing the letters page in the Daily Telegraph. A pastor from a small local church in Leicestershire had written in. Back in the 1970s his Church under 12s football team had unexpectedly reached a five-a-side final that was to be held at Wembley Stadium on a Sunday before the League Cup final.

The Church would not allow the boys to play on a Sunday; naturally they were devastated. The vicar wrote to three local teams: D***y County, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest to see if the boys could have a tour of the ground.

The Sheep said their Secretary was away in Europe and that they couldn’t oblige, Leicester City said they didn’t do that sort of thing. Brian Clough personally wrote to the Pastor and instructed him to phone him personally to arrange a day out for the kids. The boys watched the first team train and had lunch with Clough and the players. It’s a true measure of the man.

Thursday evening is the highlight of the week. Mrs P slopes off to bed after her soap TV infusion. I watch a hilarious scene involving Liam Neeson and Ricky Gervais in Life’s Too Short on BBC2. I follow this up with the gruesome documentary about the UVF group the ‘Shankill Butchers’ who terrorised the streets of Belfast in the early 1970s.

It’s Friday tea-time. ‘The Skipper’ has managed to blag a ticket to watch Tinie Tempah at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. ‘Sticky Jnr’ is also at the gig. Mrs P doesn’t want the pair of clowns wandering around town at 11pm. She has booked a table for two at Bella Italia at the Cornerhouse.

There’s one slight problem; I’ve arrived home from work with an upset stomach. I’ve had a dodgy beverage in the Apple Tree on Compton Acres. Bang goes my trip to the Gladstone in Sherwood after the meal.

I struggle through my pasta and sulk with a diet Pepsi. Mrs P is in sparkling form. She enjoys a couple of glasses of wine. We end up in the old Royal Hotel (Crowne Plaza). I order another Coke. The West Indian barman keeps saying “yeah man” to me. My mood is lightened when ‘Hit the Road Jack’ by Ray Charles is played on the hotel sound system. The kids are buzzing after their first Rap concert. All I want to do is curl up and die.

Predictably, I rise early and carry out junior’s paper-round duties. I rustle up a couple of poached eggs, hoping that they will settle my stomach down. Radio Nottingham are running a story about how Derbyshire Police wrote to a number of criminals who had evaded arrest for a number of months, offering them complimentary crates of ale, by pretending to be a marketing company. Nineteen of the silly Sheep got caught in the sting.

I take a quick glance at Facebook. White Van Man and his pals appear to have mopped-up at the Brazilian restaurant Tropeiro. Apparently WVM lost to ‘Big Ollie’ in an eat-off.

To keep on the right side of Mrs P I clean all the inside windows upstairs and downstairs. Just call me Sinbad, folks.

Trumpy is waiting impatiently at the end of his drive. He’s wearing a Dunlop blue and white chequered polo shirt. He claims it’s an anti Nottingham Forest shirt, as Tricky Tree fan Lee Westwood often sports one of these on the world’s golfing fairways.

The litre bottle of cider is clutched tightly in his vice. There’s no need for the radio to be switched on. The great man has more stories than Jackanory. He’s left Mrs Trumpy painting and decorating. There’s not a pang of guilt. Trumpy claims that he has to ask for a glass of water and a sit down, if he ever goes into a DIY store. I decide the A453 will be trouble-free of heavy traffic, totally unaware that there’s been an accident at the roundabout.

Trumpy navigates me through the streets of Kegworth and onto the M42. A Torquay United supporters coach is on the opposite side of the carriageway. They are due to play Chesterfield in the first round of the FA Cup today.

Trumpy is waxing lyrical about recent trips to Leominster, Birmingham and Durham. He actually phoned me twice whilst in Durham. The second call was because he was so pissed he forgot that he’d made the first call to me the previous evening.

We have a spot of lunch at the delightful Redmore Arms at Cannock Wood. Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ is on the jukebox. We both have a pint of Timothy Taylors. Trumpy also orders an additional cider. I plump for the relatively safe chicken and bacon sandwich. The legend splashes out on a homemade fish fingers.

Not content with the one pub, I chauffeur Bolton a mile or so up the road to the Park Gate Inn. The setting is spot on. There’s a Staffordshire bull terrier patrolling the bar area. Trumpy is petrified of the canine creature. The dog keeps popping across to say hello to Groundhopper. We play a bit of tug of war with his lead.

We finally pull into mud-ridden car park at Heath Hayes’ Coppice Colliery Ground. Trumpy immediately befriends a bloke from the local nuthouse.

Heath Hayes is in the Cannock Chase area of Staffordshire. It has a population of over 10,000. Well known footballers born in the area include: former Nottingham Forest striker Stanley Victor Collymore and Bury forward Andy Bishop. England Test cricketer Kevin Pietersen once played for Cannock Cricket Club. We spot the No.7 nightclub on the high street: “I bet Stan has pulled in few in there” remarks the legend.

It’s £5 on the gate and a further £1 for a programme which is a cracking effort for this level. Trumpy starts to make a few enquiries on the whereabouts of the bar. He’s stunned to hear there isn’t one and that he’ll have to get a pass-out and have a trudge up the road.

We walk past the Main Stand and Tuck Shop, towards the far goal. Gresley captain Gary Hateley runs towards us, having spun up. We have exchanged a few Tweets over the last few days. He’s always up for banter. Gaz looks like he’s just arrived from a male modelling agency. As ‘The Skipper’ would say – “he’s hench.” His short-sleeved grey top is skin tight. He’s sporting a bronze tan. He must have raced here straight from his 1pm appointment at the Tanning Salon on Hednesford Road. Not a hair is out of place.

Former Redditch defender Michael Nottingham scores twice in the opening 12 minutes (one an assist by Gaz), as Gresley begin where they left off at Coventry Sphinx last Monday. Everything looks hunky-dory on 22 minutes, when Dean Oliver delightfully brings down a long ball and beats the Hayes ‘keeper on his near post to surely put the match beyond doubt.

Gaz is in big trouble. His BMW has blocked in a dog walker, who is spitting feathers. “You’ll have to wait until the break” remarks a wag.

Heath Hayes are a plucky lot and never give up the battle. David Waple wallops a loose ball home from close range following a game of pinball. Former Bristol City and Swansea winger Marc Goodfellow scoops a golden chance for Gresley over the bar, with his weaker right foot on the stroke of half-time.

Trumpy has done a runner. He’s dug in at a boozer around the corner. We’ll not be seeing him until dusk. I’ve been stood chatting to a couple of supporters from Gresley. They tell me some incredible, heart-warming stories about their manager Gary Norton. It is said that he pledged a large amount of his own money to save the Club from liquidation.

Hayes are terrific in the second period. Gresley are pinned back in their own half. Nottingham clears off the line and Ben Haseley sees a shot come back off the woodwork.

Mr T Bolton has returned. He notices that both teams have a woman physio. He starts to mention a long-term groin injury that might need a diagnosis. There’s a moment of controversy on 78 minutes. A Gresley player has kicked a ball out for a throw-in. The ball trickles over Trumpy’s brand new Fila trainers, leaving a large splat of mud on them. The legend complains to the player.

Busy winger Rob Spencer wraps up proceedings for Gresley firing a cross shot into the corner of the net. As we head towards the car, with minutes remaining, Gaz Hateley goes walkabouts, but is saved by yet another goal-line clearance, by one of his defenders.

Attendance: 156

Man of the Match: Jamie Barratt

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Aylestone Park 4 Rothley Imperial 2

It’s February 5th 2011. 1966 World Cup final hat-trick hero, Sir Geoff Hurst, is visiting the Carrington Sports Ground in inner city Nottingham. He is there to present an award to Sherwood FC, who have been named Grassroots Community Football Club of Year.

Sir Geoff lays on a coaching session for the kids. He has sound advice and kind words to say to the adults, boys and girls. A mate of mine is a coach at Sherwood. It’s a cold, bracing wintry morning. He asks Sir Geoff if he would like a hot drink. They stride towards the pavilion to find some warmth on this bitterly cold day.

My friend crouches down, puts his hand into a cupboard and pulls out a couple of random mugs. The pair stand chatting in the kitchen. Sir Geoff is charming and engaging. They share a brew. Sir Geoff tells a few anecdotes from his playing days.

Sir Geoff takes a final few slurps of his tea and gazes at his mug. “Do you mind if I take this mug home with me? says Sir Geoff, with a smile on his face, as long as Wembley Way. “Well of course you can”, says my friend with a look of bewilderment.

Written on the red mug in white lettering is: ‘They Think It’s All Over …. Well It Is Now.’

It’s Friday 4th November. Sixteen years ago today a bundle of joy entered our lives. Three weeks earlier my mother had collapsed and died outside a shop in our village at the age of 55. She never held Sticky jnr in her arms. It haunts me to this day.

Junior holds his birthday bash at the Key IV Fitness. I sink a few Peroni’s and enjoy the modern sounds of Josh’s Disco. He clears the entire dance floor with Ollie Murs new single – ‘Heart Skips a Beat.’ An eye is kept open for any contraband items that might be smuggled into the venue.

It’s Monday evening and I’m soaking-up in a piping hot bath, listening to Mark Chapman and John Motson on the ‘Monday Night Club’ on Radio 5 Live. Motty’s challenge this week is a corker of a question: Who was the first Dutchman to score an own goal in the Premiership?
I grab my phone and fire off a text with the first answer that enters my head. Arjan De-Zeew is the incorrect answer.

It’s Mrs P’s tic-tac-toe night - a double helping of Coronation Street and a single episode of EastEnders. The Reaper texts me to tip me the wink that there’s a documentary on BBC Four about Ulster loyalist gang the Shankhill Butchers. I daren’t ask Mrs P if she fancies missing out on the Junior Apprentice. I immerse myself into the latest edition of cult football magazine When Saturday Comes.

It’s Tuesday and I’m in the Warehouse with Ergo Computing legend ‘Shifty Edwards.’ It’s doom and gloom down here. ‘Shifty’ is an authority on the world of boxing. Today he is in mourning following the sad passing of South Carolinian boxer “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier, who died earlier this morning at the age of 67. We’re listening to the ‘Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show’ on 6 Music. There’s no toe-tapping or larking about; we’re both busy and in the zone.

I drive the ‘Rolls Royce’ home from work, tonight’s game is firmly on my mind. I devour a meat and potato pie with the full trimmings, before Mrs P dashes up to the gym. I have a scroll through Twitter while my dinner digests. Troubled footballer Joey Barton is having a fall-out with TOWIE – which apparently stands for The Only Way is Essex.

How a guy who has stubbed out a cigar in the face of a colleague, beat another team-mate to a pulp and been imprisoned for six months for common assault and affray, has the brass neck to criticise anyone, is beyond me.

I leave ‘The Skipper’ sprawled out on the sofa watching the toe-curling Big Brother on Channel 5. Finley is put to bed. Not a word has passed our lips since ‘the shed incident’ a few weeks back.

The Taxman has failed a late fitness test. I drive through Stanton-on-the-Wolds towards the A606. It’s a miserable, damp evening. Light drizzle falls onto the windscreen. I set my wipers to intermittent. Radio Nottingham presenter Alan Clifford is playing ‘Torn’ by the Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia. He fades the music out and announces that Leicester has been declared the second greenest city in England.

I sent the Rothley Imperial manager ‘John’ a random text yesterday, having discovered his mobile number on the Web. I left my signature as ‘Groundhopper.’ He kindly confirmed that the game is to be played at the Mary Linwood Ground, with a 7.30pm kick off.

The A46 to Leicester is deadly boring. I shoot up the M1 and exit at Junction 21 (Mrs P’s favourite – Fosse Park). I then take the A563 Outer Ring Road. I get snagged up in traffic just two miles from the ground.

Aylestone Park FC is in a suburb of Leicester close to South Wigston. Leicester City legend and former England international Gary Lineker began his career at the club. They named the clubhouse at the old ground the ‘Lineker Lounge.’

Aylestone Park Youth Football Club was founded in 1968 by a group of boys from a local church. Over £1.3 million pounds has been ploughed into creating new facilities. Both teams playing tonight sit in the top three of the Everards Brewery Leicestershire Senior League.

I park at the back of the Clubhouse in a spacious car park. I notice an already healthy gathering of supporters in a covered terrace to the left of the new facilities. There’s only been a small print-run of programmes. A club official informs me they’ve sold out.

I take a peek at the bar area. It has a bit of a works canteen feel to it. Tables and chairs are in-line. There’s a food and drink hatch, but it’s the vast trophy cabinet fitted high up on the wall that catches the eye.

I take my position to the right of the nearest goal that the tangerine-shirted Rothley will attack. I strike up a conversation with two gentlemen. One is called Alan; the other is named ‘Cat.’ They’ve been following Aylestone home and away for 26years.

The ground only has three railed-off sides accessible to the supporter. Behind the solitary stand are poplar trees, which hide the neighbouring Samworth Enterprise Academy. The side where the dugouts are situated are out-of-bounds. A Respect sign is firmly planted in the ground denying access.

The game is rushed and hurried in the opening 20 minutes. The ball, as ‘Cat’ quite rightly puts it, is a ‘hot potato.’ Aylestone open the scoring after a Rothley defender over-hits a back pass past a stranded ‘keeper, who resembles QPR stopper Paddy Kenny.

Rothley are soon on level terms from the penalty spot, following a blatant push from a corner. On the stroke on half-time Aylestone regain the lead with ‘Gilly’ stabbing home a rebound after ‘Paddy’ could only parry a cross-shot.

I give the Clubhouse the swerve at the break and carry on chatting to Alan, ‘Cat’ and ‘Dog’ who is the Club Chairman. Alan enquires whether I’m retired. “Bloody hell pal, I’m only 47”, I reply.

There’s a game-changing moment early in the second period when ‘Oggy’ the Rothley Number 6 is red-carded in mysterious circumstances. He doesn’t take kindly to his dismissal, calling the official a ‘knob’ and a ‘twat’ en-route to the changing room.

Aylestone make it 3-1 from the penalty spot following a swallow dive by their forward. Ten men Rothley find some energy from within. They see an effort crash off the bar and are awarded a penalty themselves following a shove in the box. The penalty is saved but the rebound is smashed into the roof of the net by the Rothley 10 jacket.

The fourth penalty of the night is awarded during the dying embers of the game. Gary Seal, who is due to be married on Saturday scores his second goal of the evening.

Man of the Match: ‘Neaty’ Aylestone No.5

Attendance: 50 odd.

Quiz Answer: Ken Monkou (Southampton).