Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Keyworth United 2 Linby Colliery Welfare 2

We spend a couple of days in York over Easter at my brother’s house. We pound the pavements of the enchanting city centre during a miserable, rainy Bank Holiday Monday. I miss out on my usual pint at the delightful Maltings pub, situated across the road from the railway station.

Despite a Twitter appeal and a plea for a budgie-sitter to family and friends, poor old Murphy Palmer spends two nights home alone. I pine for the little fellow. He’s bouncing around his cage when we arrive back on Tuesday lunchtime.

Nothing catches my eye on the midweek non-league schedule. I opt to scout a few rearranged Young Elizabethan League games.

It’s Thursday evening. ‘The Skipper’s’ team, Clifton All-Whites are playing in town. The game is being played at a comprehensive school at the back of an old pit estate. I stand with a mate at the top of a grass bank.

‘The Skipper’ fires a shot into the roof of the net from 35 yards out. Suddenly a stray boot thuds into the ground from behind me. I glance around to see a group of youths loitering on a balcony of a first floor flat, laughing and gesticulating. Suddenly we are showered with cans, and bottles full of water.

There’s a scream from some parents from the other side of the pitch, as a four foot piece of timber whistles over my head landing at the foot of the bank. I race round to the front of the shops but the cheeky scampsters have scarpered up the hill. It’s a good old half an hour before Plod roll up.

The weekend is a football bonanza. ‘The Skipper’s’ team grab a vital point against Dunkirk. I drive over to St Anns immediately after the game to catch the silky skills and quick feet of Sticky Jnr. They run out 4-2 winners. I’m disappointed in the lack of discipline on both sides.

It’s déjà vu on Sunday with ‘The Skipper’s’ team getting well beaten in the Nottinghamshire County Shield final. The winning side play a beautiful game but they lack class and etiquette in other areas. They are disrespectful and bad-mouth the man in black. One calls the ref a “cheat.” They have three lads booked; Lord only knows how they would behave if they were to lose.

I slump in the bath on Monday evening, and tune into Five Live’s analytical Monday Night Club. Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic weave their magic at the Emirates Stadium, as they inch their way to Premiership safety.

I ring legendary KUCFC reserve team manager Alan ‘Jacko’ Jackson first thing on Tuesday morning to check on pitch conditions at the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’ It appears that he is to be elevated to 1st team assistant manager this evening as ‘Webbie’ is working away.

I wile away the afternoon in the Warehouse, estranged from work buddy Shifty Edwards. I listen to Ratcliffe and Maconie on 6 Music. They play ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ by Scottish post-punk band Altered Images. I used to have a huge crush on their lead singer Clare Grogan when I was a kid.

Sticky jnr wanders into the kitchen at tea-time waving a match ticket at me for the Hull City v NFFC clash at the KC Stadium on Saturday. Schoolboy pranks, latest girlfriends and football business are discussed during chicken and mushroom pie with mash and veg.

Mrs P slopes off to the gym. Murphy asks if he can give a score prediction for tonight’s game. “Not on your Nelly son, you’re not muscling in on Finley Palmer’s (rabbit) territory.” Old ‘Finners’ goes for an upset: “2-1 to Keyworth.” Don’t worry Linby fans, his forecasts are crap.

Platt Lane can be a cold, desolate, bleak place to watch football. I dress for the occasion, slipping on some thermals. I sling my camera bag over my shoulder and head off towards the ground. Mrs P drives by shaking her head in disbelief at sad old Groundhopper.

I stroll onto Normanton Lane and pick up the pace. I take a right hand turn onto Nicker Hill. Back in October 1983, 16 year old trainee hairdresser Colette Aram was abducted from this road and later raped and strangled. It was the first case to appear on BBC1’s Crimewatch programme. On 25th January Paul Hutchinson was sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder.

I turn left down Platt Lane. The sky for the first time today is sea blue. I’m sweating up like Grand National winner Neptune’s Collonges by the time I walk through the main entrance to the ground.

Keyworth lies 6 miles south east of Nottingham. It has a population just shy of 7000. Keyworth United Football Club is adjacent to the British Geological Survey, which is the village’s major employer. Notable current and former residents of Keyworth include: Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, cricketers Franklin Stephenson and Sir Richard Hadlee, Nottingham Forest Chairman Frank Clark, postman Neil Webb, and former Pies’ defender Brian Stubbs.

A local historian and good friend of mine, Barry Baker is currently compiling a history of KUCFC. It is suggested that a club may have been in the village as far back as 1876. The first League goal ever scored at Everton’s Goodison Park was by Nottingham Forest’s Horace Pike, who was born in Keyworth.

Players to have played for Keyworth United and then moved on to professional clubs include: Brian Stubbs, David Riley, Chris Freestone and Mick Waite. Former Aston Villa, Notts County and Hull City defender Dave Norton is on the bench this evening.

Linby is a village next to the town of Hucknall. It has one of the most picturesque grounds in the county, with St Michael’s Church forming a backdrop. I ‘worked’ at Linby Colliery from 1982 to 1985. It was one of the happiest times of my life.

I’m led to believe that Linby have been accepted into the Central Midlands League for the 2012-13. Keyworth continue with the club ethos of playing boys who have risen from the youth ranks. Their oldest two players in the starting line-up this evening are just 24 years of age. I applaud this policy. Right midfielder Sam Wood is just 16 years old; he’s a big pal of Sticky junior’s.

Behind the far goal is a disused railway line. To the left are three 11 a-side pitches and small sided areas. On the opposite side are two brick dugouts, with the modern clubhouse situated behind the nearest goal.

Jacko is busy handing in team sheets as I take my spot to the left of the Keyworth dugout towards the top of the slope. I’ve been joined by The Taxman, ‘Snatch Randall’ and ‘Woody.’ One job Jacko has forgot to do is pump up the match ball, the ref insists on a swap.

Linby look a slick outfit. I notice the familiar figure of former Dunkirk and Gedling MW attacker Barry Payne. He’s partnering the stylish Matt Murphy up top.

Twenty one year old Damian Mann looks a slip of a lad down the Linby left wing. He dances, jigs and shuffles his frail body along the touchline. His movement is light and his feet are electric. Linby take the lead from a Barry Payne shot on 20 minutes after Keyworth fail to clear a cross. A lady Linby supporter close by produces a rattle to celebrate the goal.

Keyworth restore parity immediately, a ball played down the left is pounced upon by Ben Hanrahan who smashes a shot past the keeper’s inside post.

I have a quick chat with Linby secretary Ade Ward. He is accompanied by his wife who is overwhelmed to meet me having been awarded 2009/2010 Brew of the Season. I’m keen for info on Mann, who has been pleasing on the eye.

On 35 minutes the Greens take the lead against the run of play, with a cracking header from Ian Marley following good work by Elliott Roulestone down the left.

A speculative shot from Marley from miles out is waved onto the bar by the Linby ‘keeper. ‘The Taxman’ and 'Woody' are bleating about the biting wind and showery conditions, so we head to the best clubhouse on the circuit for a hot drink.

Damian Mann, who has ran Keyworth ragged on the left, is mysteriously shunted out on the right wing. Linby begin to look disjointed. They look to blame others. The referee and linesman are called an “embarrassment”

Mann is withdrawn on 70 minutes. He peels off his shirt and heads off back to the changing room. His replacement earns the visitors a deserved draw in the closing moments, striking a shot from the edge of the area which creeps into the left hand corner of the net.

Brain against brawn has resulted in a very entertaining draw. Keyworth’s young guns have battled from start to finish. The craft and guile of Linby can only be rewarded with a point.

Attendance: 37 (head count)

Man of the Match: Damian Mann

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cheltenham Town 2 Barnet 0

It’s Thursday evening, I’ve broken up from work for five days. I unlock the back door and race into the lounge to see if Murphy Palmer (baby budgie) is okay. He is having a dicky fit, readers. He’s fluttering and flapping around his crib. He’s squealing and crying. “Calm down son, what’s the matter?” He’s staring at the DAB radio that I leave on for him each day. He loves a bit of Ken Bruce and Jeremy Vine.

This doesn’t sound like Simon Mayo; the DJ is saying ‘safe’ ‘sound’ ‘reem’ and ‘innit.’ What’s going off? I get on all-fours and rummage around in my pocket for my glasses. I stare at display unit on the radio in disbelief. Sticky jnr is summoned downstairs. I tell him that if I find out that he ever upsets Murphy again by switching channels to BBC 1Xtra I’ll stop his pocket money for a week.

I spend the late evening downing a bottle of ‘on offer’ Rioja whilst watching the US Masters on Sky. Local lad, Lee Westwood leads the field.

I’m wide awake by dawn. I make an award-winning brew and treat myself to some fresh pineapple for breakfast. Murphy is whistling and chirping to Donna Summer’s ‘Loves Unkind’ as I waltz out the door.

There’s an appalling start to the day. I switch on the radio to hear Phil Collins and Philip Bailey singing ‘Easy Lover.’ I drive up through ‘the Bronx’ to pick up blog legend Trumpy Bolton. He’s switched carrier bags to an upmarket little orange number from Sainsbury’s. He unearths a litre bottle full of Stella Artois Cidre. Trumpy is sporting a Dunlop t-shirt as a tribute to Lee Westwood.

He’s quickly into his stride with anecdotes and tales from recent trips (weekend benders) to Thame, Lincoln and Leeds. We avoid the motorway and stick to the A46. We’re soon driving through the beautiful scenery and picture postcard villages of the Cotswolds. I spot a sign for Bourton on-the-Water. It’s where Mrs P and I spent our first wedding anniversary.

We start reminiscing about a stag weekend in Amsterdam back in 1990. Trumpy says he has a photo of me in a New Order ‘World in Motion’ t-shirt posing outside a brothel. I must have mistaken it for an art gallery.

Ooh, I recognise that theme tune. It must be time for Trumpy and Sticky to fight it out on Radio 2’s Pop Master. We rack up an easy 28 points. We can’t arf pick em. The winner has ten seconds to name three Bay City Rollers hits. Trumpy and Sticky do it in five seconds: Sad, but true.

It’s just gone 11am as we pull up outside The Hollow Bottom country pub in Guiting Power. It’s the Gloucestershire Dining Pub of the Year. Horse racing from yesterday’s meeting at Ludlow is on TV. We have two pints of a local brew. I tell a lie, Trumpy has two; I didn’t see the first one touch the sides.

The pub was once owned by Peter Scudamore and Nigel Twiston-Davies. It’s like visiting a steeple-chasing museum. The pub is decorated with photos, memorabilia, newspaper clippings, horseshoes and racing silks. Smoke smoulders from some logs on an open fire.

The beer is good and the vibe is fantastic. But the landlord really is a miserable sod. Trumpy tries to strike up a conversation with the guy. He’s more interested in repairing a broken high chair than socialising with a customer.

Next stop is the less impressive, but more customer friendly Half Way House in Kineton. It like God’s waiting room as a group of pensioners huddle around the bar. They are advertising a Disco tonight from 9pm. Looking at the average age I suspect Frank Sinatra may feature quite heavily.

Dinner is good though and the service is brisk. I have a bacon and Stilton baguette with home-cooked chips. Trumpy has another couple of pints. We’re parked up a five minute walk away from Cheltenham’s Whaddon Road ground half an hour later. The legend has sniffed out another pub up the road called the Fox and Hounds. Four Barnet fans are in the back room playing a game of pool.

They have resigned themselves to defeat and relegation. They are unimpressed with former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and would have Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen back at the drop of a hat. Allen was also manager at Cheltenham for a short spell.

We weave our way through a residential area. Trumpy has one of his legendary sneezing fits, caused by gating his final pint. We’re soon outside the Abbey Business Stadium. Cheltenham, also known as Cheltenham Spa, is on the edge of the Cotswolds. The borough has a population of over 115,000 people.

Notable folk born in Cheltenham include: the golfer Paul Casey, Killing Joke lead singer Jaz Coleman, Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cotterill, ‘ski jumper’ Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, actors Robert Hardy and Sir Ralph Richardson, composer Gustav Holst, presenter and writer Richard O’Brien and former X-Factor host Kate Thornton.

I must have been to the Gold Cup at Cheltenham Racecourse six or seven times. I’ve some happy memories and bulging pockets. Trumpy has been with me a few times too, but he remembers very little of the day (cider binge drinking).

Cheltenham Town were founded in 1887. They are managed by the highly-rated Mark Yates. Former managers of note include: Steve Cotterill, Bobby Gould, John Ward and Martin Allen. Record transfer received is £400,000 from Colchester United for Steven Gillespie. Record transfer laid out is £60,000 for Aldershot’s Jermaine McGlashan.I grab an excellent programme for £3. It’s £20 to sit in the Main Stand. Trumpy remarks he pays that to watch Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

The legend sinks a few more in the Club bar as we watch Reading and Leeds players rolling around on the floor faking injury. We take our seats to the rear of the stand. I’ve had more leg room on a Ryanair flight. I sit at 90 degrees.

The views are breathtaking. In the distance is Cleeve Hill and Cheltenham Racecourse. The Club DJ plays a Ska track that gets Trumpy tapping his feet. The players emerge from the tunnel to ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless.

The Robins haven’t scored for nearly 10 hours and Barnet only have one win in fourteen games. But remember folks, Trumpy and Sticky don’t do 0-0’s. (very often).

I’m impressed with the touch and movement of both teams. Having watched so much non league football, it’s almost become alien to me. Trumpy has befriended a scout from Colchester, who lives in Stamford. He’s a lovely chap but he probably hadn’t planned on Trumpy chewing on his ear for 45 minutes.

19 year old Jack Butland is in the nets for Cheltenham. The England under 21 international is on loan from Birmingham City. He’s kept busy in the first period, producing fine saves from the former Nottingham Forest Dublin-born midfielder Mark Byrne and the impressive, impish left winger Ricky Holmes.

‘Big Ben Burgees’, on loan from Notts County, is toiling away up top for Cheltenham. He has aerial supremacy and a terrific first touch. He is no danger to the goal though. His strike partner Darryl Duffy is short on confidence. He dithers and dilly-dallies on the ball. Duffy couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel.

Barnet play some beautiful passing football. It mocks their lowly position. Holmes hugs the touchline and 22 goal leading scorer Izale McLeod is a handful. They hit the post on half time from a header by Kamdjo.

T Bolton scurries off back down to the bar, a relieved ‘Colchester scout’ retreats to the back row for more ‘leg room’ Bolton has bored the poor bloke to death. A freestyler does football skills in the centre circle. Eric Prydz ‘Call on Me’ booms out of the PA system.

Barnet can’t get going in the second half. Cheltenham play at a higher tempo. A dreadlocked-haired Jermaine McGlashan is introduced on the hour. Trumpy is back from the bar. “Is this Terence Trent D’Arby coming on?” quips the legend.

Sanchez looks disinterested and disheartened. There’s no encouragement, pats on the back or camaraderie with his staff. The Barnet fans salute his assistant ‘Grazioli’ throughout the game.

Butland makes an instinctive, brilliant one-handed save from McLeod. Yates’ final throw of the dice is a double substitution with 15 minutes to go. Mohamed and Spencer form a three man attack. It pays dividends immediately.

McGlashan plays a give and go with Mohamed, he leaves the full back for dead, the cross is inch perfect, Mohamed buries his shot into the roof of the net. It’s a moment of brilliance. Trumpy and I stand to applaud. Bolton disappears to the bar for a final pint.

Moments later its game set and match to Cheltenham with substitute Spencer seizing upon a Burgess flick-on to finish emphatically.

Barnet have played some neat and tidy football, with little reward. They are dropping like a stone, just like Lincoln City were last season.

Attendance: 3319 (173 from Barnet)

Man of the Match: Sam Deering (Barnet)