Thursday, February 23, 2012
Greenwood Meadows 3 Dunkirk 2
It’s Saturday tea-time, I’m swanning about in the kitchen rustling up a chilli con carne, to make up for being AWOL on Valentine’s Day. I’m on a massive high. ‘The Skipper’s’ team put in a great shift earlier today at the League leaders. We were winning 2-1 and had them at 3-3, before finally running out of steam.
Murphy Palmer (baby budgie) is whistling Five Live’s Sports Report theme tune, as he perches on the clothes horse in the dining room. In a matter of minutes the 10 week old youngster is spitting his feathers out and squawking like a good un, when he hears James Alexander Gordon say: “Norwich City 1 Leicester City 2.” His favourite team, The Canaries, have been dumped out the FA Cup by Finley’s foe, The Foxes.
I try to explain to Murphy that I’ve never seen Lincoln City play at the Twin Towers in 48 years of following the Imps, and that he can’t just expect a trip to Wembley in his first season of supporting a club. Murphy turns his back on me, jumps on his swing and gets the hump for the rest of the evening.
I check-in with my boss at Notts County to report on a successful morning of scouting for youth. The Pies have been thumped 3-0 by the Monkey Hangers of Hartlepool and the youth team have bowed out of the cup, suffering a 4-2 reverse against Hull City at Highfields.
The chilli is simmering on the stove and the rice is bubbling away in the pan, as I scroll through my Twitter timeline. I splutter on my Stella when I see a tweet from Radio Nottingham – “Notts County have parted company with Martin Allen.” What in the Dickens has gone off?
I only met Martin Allen once. He was charming, inquisitive and thoughtful. People were made to feel welcome. His radio interviews with legendary Radio Nottingham commentator Colin Slater were like gold dust. ‘Mad Dog’ will be sorely missed but I’m sure he’ll wash up at another club in crisis, before steadying the ship and moving on to pastures new.
Sunday is spent tearing around Nottinghamshire. I drop ‘The Skipper’ off in Arnold for a football match and head across the other side of town to view a game. The opposition fail to show. I catch the fag end of my boy’s game. They scrape a scoring draw.
Notts County Centre of Excellence are playing teams from Stoke City down at the University Playing Fields. I bump into ‘Uppo’ the joint manager of Dunkirk. He confirms kick off is 7.45pm on Tuesday.
It’s the day of the game. I’m holed up in the Warehouse with Funk and Soul guru ‘Shifty Edwards.’ He’s got some god damn awful radio station on from Melbourne in Australia. I gently persuade him to ‘listen again’ to Huey Morgan’s late night show on Radio 2. A couple of Mrs P’s jam tarts and a pot of tea for two go down well.
I’m already eagerly awaiting tonight’s crunch match. Greenwood’s and Dunkirk’s HQ are on the same dimly lit lane, under Clifton Bridge, just outside Nottingham city centre. Bilborough Pelican’s Brian Wakefield Memorial Ground is at the top end of Lenton Lane.
Sticky junior and ‘The Skipper’ mop up all the pancakes Mrs P can throw at them. I share some millet seed with Murphy. I pick up legendary Keyworth United Ressies manager Alan Jackson at 7.15pm on the dot. Radio Nottingham are playing ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ by Belgian musician Gotye.
‘Jacko’ swings his left leg up onto his neighbour’s wall to tie up his shoelaces. He’s wearing his Great Britain manager’s coat that he’s had since the 1948 London Olympics. Any talk of cigars is taboo this evening.
His team took a pounding on Saturday; bless em, they only had nine ‘fit’ men. The list of excuses, for not turning up, is astounding. Two of his players overlaid for a 2pm kick off.
The journey is short and sweet, as we roll into Greenwood Meadows Lenton Lane car park before 7.30pm. ‘Jacko’ spots immediately that only two floodlight pylons are working.
I’m quite shocked to pay £5 on the gate. I thought with it being a Notts Senior Cup game that it would be only two or three quid. There’s no sign of any programmes. Already a host of characters from the local scene are rocking up. Amongst them are: Roberto, ‘Yogi’, Big Glenn (a personal favourite), ‘Lowey’, ‘Tosh’, ‘Nidge’ and Big D.
I suddenly notice former Greenwood manager and Alan Biley lookalike Neville Silcock parading around in his tracksuit. He retired last season but has been tempted out of retirement following concerns about the recent demise of the club.
I have a quick chat with Nev. Uppo is on ball-boy duty. I get a quick grunt from him as he crouches down to collect another ball. He’s got his rugged dishevelled look. Benny Hawkins from Crossroads springs to my mind.
Shaggy-haired sidekick ‘Sideshow Bob’ (Dave Harbottle), strides towards the bench. A black-rimmed spectacled ‘Robbo’, their coach, looks like he’s just arrived back from a Point to Point meeting in neighbouring Leicestershire, with his navy blue Barbour jacket and his shiny black shoes. The Dunkirk bench is like a scene from the popular BBC One series Hustle.
Big D is on good form, as we hook up with him and Roberto. We reminisce about a severe ear infection he had at Radford a few years ago, which he treated somewhat bizarrely with Listerine. It didn’t cure his earache but his ear smelt like a eucalyptus plant.
Bloody hell, there’s been a goal. Jaylee Hodgson, who has had more clubs than Robbie Keane, seizes on confusion and uncertainty in the visitors’ defence to put Greenwood one up.
Jacko’s phone is constantly going off with a stream of excuses for absenteeism this coming Saturday. He’s already down to 7 players. At this rate he’ll be staging his NSL Div One game at the Powerleague, just down the road from here.
Dunkirk are soon back on level terms, after a catalogue of errors in the Greenwood defence results in Lavelle White steering the ball into an empty net. There’s little of note to report. The game is hurried, without width and lacking any real quality. “You’ll have f**k all to write about”, chunters Uppo with his head bowed, en-route to the dressing room.
We have an amble around the ground. Jacko doesn’t seem to be moving too freely. In the distance is the Imperial Tobacco factory. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since the day I lost my mother over 16 years ago, but I could quite easily spark up a John Player Blue right now.
We stand in between the two benches to capture any banter. Neither camp seems in the mood for it. Uppo’s moaning, Nev’s moaning and I’m moaning about Uppo and Nev moaning. Perhaps we could have a ‘Moan-Off’ instead of extra-time and penalties.
Uppo is making me chuckle. Greenwood have a coach called Kuki. He’s had more clubs than Jaylee Hodgson. Uppo addresses him as ‘Cookie’
There’s the sound of a gunshot going off. It’s probably folk killing vermin at one of the nearby factories. “Nothing changes round here” remarks one of the Dunkirk coaching team. “Meadows innit” a wag from the crowd pipes up.
Goal! Jaylee Hodgson has sprung the offside trap to put Greenwood 2-1 up. Back come Dunkirk with Ricky Law restoring parity, hitting the golfing equivalent of a wedge from 30 yards out.
Nobody fancies extra-time, Jacko is gagging for a pint – he hasn’t had one for over two hours. The referee is checking his watch when Mario Lopez races down the right wing and puts in a worldie of a cross, Jack Hopper leaps at the back post to head Greenwood into the Notts Senior Cup quarter finals. I can’t half pick em.
Man of the Match: Jacko