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


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