Saturday, December 17, 2011
Histon 1 Gainsborough Trinity 1
It’s 8.30am on Saturday. I’m driving the ‘Rolls Royce’ through the black wrought iron gates of the oldest Football League club in the world. I head towards ‘Lawton’s Bar’ – named after legendary Lancastrian striker Tommy Lawton, who notched 90 goals in 150 appearances for the Magpies.
I’m here for a FA Module One course. The tutor is former Mansfield Town and Chesterfield midfielder Mark Kearney. He asks us to mingle with the other students and to introduce ourselves. I get chatting to a tall, thick-set chap, with a receding hairline. He’s sporting a D***y County football shirt.
I don’t quite catch his name. We’re chatting about our respective roles in football. He says he is a youth team coach at D***y County. I ask him his name again. “Noel” he replies. He says he used to play for Dirty Leeds, Coventry City and Middlesbrough. I feel such a fool for not recognising him. I apologise. It’s none other than the striker Noel Whelan.
Four hours later Mark Kearney announces we’re having a lunch break. He comically asks Noel, in his thick Scouse accent, what food he’s rustling up. It totally slipped my mind that Whelan was a contestant in Celebrity MasterChef 2006. The course blows my mind away. Topics include: a child’s self-esteem, how to manage mistakes and motivate a child. It puts me in a positive mood for the rest of the day.
I spend Sunday morning watching a top two clash at Under 16 level in Nottingham. I catch the second half of ‘The Skipper’s’ game at Clifton FC. I note another manager behaving appallingly towards a referee. The FA inspectors, who have assessed my team on two occasions this season, in the space of a month, would have been an interested observer today.
I’m dragged around Sainsbury’s at Castle Marina in the afternoon. It’s the Christmas nibbles and Red wine shop. I manage to sneak a few extra items into the trolley, but I’m well and truly rumbled at the check-out by a grumpy Mrs P. Grapefruit segments, a tin of pineapples and lime and mango poppadoms were apparently not on the shopping list.
TV viewing on Sunday evening sees Little Mix breeze their way onto the winner’s podium on X-Factor. Lennon and McCartney, Sonia, Jim Royle and Julian Cope will see little threat to their record sales from Scouse one-trick pony, Marcus Collins.
I visit Boston United’s York Street on Tuesday for their Conference North clash with the Steelmen of Corby. The biting wind and slippery conditions make for entertaining fare. Old ‘Pineapple Head’ (Jason Lee) ploughs a lone furrow up top for the Pilgrims. He wears a short-sleeved shirt in arctic conditions. I wouldn’t put him down as a man to wear black woollen mittens – sadly I’m mistaken.
The highlight of the evening is the pea and ham soup in the ‘Executive Lounge’ at half-time. We even grab a cup of tea and some ‘Nice’ sugar-coated biscuits. 1-1 is a fair result. Ten men Corby see Matt Rhead fluff a penalty. A controversial goal, three minutes from time, by Tyrone Kirk hardly improves morale.
A quick dash around Nottingham on Wednesday lunchtime (Christmas shopping) should keep me in good books for another year. The lady behind the counter in the Pandora shop certainly earned her corn.
Friday night is spent in silence. I’m proper seething about summat. Never mind, I’m hoping the trip to Histon will blow the cobwebs away. I read an article in The Times about how Demba Ba was not offered terms by Barnsley, Watford and Swansea when he was a youngster.
It’s Saturday morning and I’m back from the paper round. Sticky junior has picked up £20 in tips. A hat tip to number 137, who despite the occasional sarcastic remark (“better late than never”) managed to leave £5 in a Christmas card.
I make a brew, whilst Mrs P kindly knocks me up a sausage sandwich. Danny Baker is asking folk to ring in his Radio 5 show to tell him what they eat and drink while in the shower. He has that buffoon Barry Fry on the ‘Sausage Sandwich Game.’ White Van Man has noticed on my Facebook and Twitter accounts that I’m Histon bound. He books a place in the ‘Rolls Royce.’
Trumpy trudges out the front door, with his plastic bottle of cider caressed like he’s holding a baby. He’s chatting away almost immediately. He went to hospital yesterday for a scan on his groin. He took the opportunity to have a couple of jars in The Dragon on Long Row in Nottingham, before catching the bus to the Queens Medical Centre.
White Van Man says he won’t be drinking for the first three months of the New Year. I reply that I will be having three weeks off it too. Trumpy pipes up that he’ll go for a personal best of three hours without an alcoholic beverage in January.
He recently spent the night in Boston, Lincs, holed up in the Coach and Horses. If you drink eight pints of Harvest Pale Ale you get the ninth one for free. Trumpy cake-walked the task.
We sail down an empty A1 and onto the A14. The drive, once we hit Cambridgeshire, becomes as dull as dishwater. New readers will be interested and amazed to know that Trumpy Bolton’s sole aim in life is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Scotland and Wales.
The first pub he’s earmarked has turned into an old people’s complex. Another hostelry says ‘open 12-3pm’, but there’s no sign of life. In the village of Impington disaster strikes again, the legend mistakenly enters a Chinese restaurant believing it to be a pub. We finally settle for a spot of lunch in a gastro bar called the Rose & Crown. Motown is on the jukebox. Trumpy moans about the ‘anti-social networks’ as I type out a few Tweets.
We stroll up past the village green, where an elderly couple with their grandchild are feeding bread to a flock of waddling ducks. The Red Lion, opposite the Green, is a treat. The ceiling is festooned in hundreds of beer mats. A pint of Yorkshire terrier from the York Brewery puts me in the mood for football.
We leave the ‘Rolls’ in the pub car park and take a wander up to Bridge Road. The walk is longer than anticipated. Trumpy is struggling with his possible hernia injury. A very kind steward offers to drive us back into the village after the game.
Histon is a village to the north of Cambridge with a population of 4500. Chivers jelly and marmalade was made in the village for over 60 years. Up to 3000 people were employed at the factory. It was sold to Schweppes in 1959.
The Stutes were founded in 1904. In November 2008 they became the first non league team to knock Leeds United out of the FA Cup. Managerial dream team Steve Fallon and John Beck are long gone. The money has also dried up.
Former Arsenal and Millwall midfielder David Livermore, at the age of 31, is the current manager. His remit is to blood youth.
It’s £10 on the turnstile and £2.50 for a decent programme. Trumpy limps his way up to the Glassworld Bar. He finds a seat next to a window and radiator. It gives him a panoramic view of the ground. White Van Man takes a particular interest in a tray of crusty meat pies that have recently arrived from the kitchen. There are pendants on the wall from Ipswich Town, Liechtenstein and Notts County.
I leave the pair of big girls’ blouses snuggling up together in the bar and take a stroll around the Glassworld. There are open terraces at both ends. On the far side a stand runs along the whole length of the ground. Towering above them are leylandii. On the opposite side the stand is split into two. Tucked away in the corner is the ‘Club Shop.’ It’s a flat surface, perfect for passing football.
The standard of football, as it was at Boston on Tuesday evening is above average, although Trinity are poor in the final third. Dan Holman is lively going forward for the Stutes. He scored 60 goals in 78 appearances for UCL team Long Buckby. He forces a save from Gainsborough ‘keeper Kenny Arthur.
I’m back in the bar having just chatted to a lad who has signed for Corby Town from Kings Lynn. Trumpy has already become the barman’s best friend. Group 4 will have to employ an extra man to carry out the takings as the legend ups his game in the drinking stakes – they’ve already run out of cider.
Trumpy’s day gets better with news that David Nugent has nudged Leicester ahead at Doncaster. I also notice that the ‘Red Imps’ have taken the lead at Forest Green. Suddenly our eyes are on the game, a poor punch by Arthur falls at the feet of Daniel Sparkes who smacks the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the area.
I stand in the away end in the second half and strike up a conversation with a Trinity guru. He explains that they are without their talisman Ryan Kendall who is injured. He admits that they are well below par today.
A double substitution changes the game. Darren Stamp has already missed two gilt-edged chances when Gainsborough take a quick free kick. Jamie Yates ghosts past the Histon full back, before planting the ball onto the head of Stamp, who makes no mistake at the third time of asking.
There are chances at both ends as defences wobble like the Chivers jelly with either team searching for a winner. It’s a fair result, with the game played in an excellent spirit. I like Histon FC a lot. I admire the club ethos and wish them well for the rest of the season.
Man of the Match: Dan Holman