Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gornal Athletic 6 Coventry Sphinx 0

If you walk out our back door, down some steps into the garden, past Finley’s cage, there is a house and bungalow nestled into the corner of a cul-de-sac, adjacent to ‘Sticky Towers.’ They were built by a guy who my Dad described as his ‘only friend outside of journalism.’ In the house lives a lad called Sam, his father, Bobby, coached my son at football. His Dad, Arthur Oldham, is a well-known local figure.

Sam’s life has been on hold for over a decade now. He has chased the sporting dream. He moved away from home, when he was younger, to Huntingdon, to train as a gymnast. There was no Playstation, Youth Club or cinema. Early mornings and late nights were, and still are, spent in the gymnasium. His goal was the London 2012 Olympics.

A few weeks ago that dream came true. The hard graft and dedication paid off; he won a Bronze Medal. A relative of Sam’s placed a bet of £5 at 200/1 that he would win a medal at the Games. Bet Fred has refused to pay out £1000, as it was a team event, and not an individual medal. A complaint has been registered with The Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) and it is hopeful that the bet will be honoured.

Friday night is spent slurping Stella and watching a rejuvenated Nottingham Forest grab a deserved point at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton. Sean O’Driscoll appears to be a humble and gracious man, unlike the Trotters’ Owen Coyle, who comes across as a bitter and sarcastic individual. He’s not enjoying wearing dead man’s shoes.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m on my way into ‘Bread and Lard Island’ (West Bridgford). I swing the ‘Rolls Royce’ into the library car park. Mrs P asks if I’ve money for the parking fee: “no I haven’t.” Neither has the good lady.

A traffic warden is on the prowl, licking his fingers in anticipation of dishing out his next parking ticket. He looks like Inspector Blakey from ‘On the Buses.’ Mrs P has to go and buy a six pack of Tuna chunks, for the record in brine, from the nearby Co-op, so we can pay the parking charge.

We stroll around the Farmers’ Market. Sticky samples some cheddar and ginger and piri piri Scotch eggs. The cafe culture is in full swing on ‘The Avenue.’ All seats are taken outside ‘Copper.’ I plonk myself on a chair in the cafe. The place is full of folk tapping away on iPads and netbooks.

I check-in on Twitter. Sticky junior’s best mate, ‘Sizzers’, has successfully begged a retweet off Olympic medallist Sam Oldham. That rat, ‘Sizzers’, has more followers than me now. Game on son. We sit chewing the crud whilst sipping latte and watching the world go by.

I pass a guy on the street who is wearing a retro claret and blue Tranmere Rovers shirt, with the name ‘Muir’ printed on the back. This of course is Ian Muir, who scored 142 goals in 314 appearances for the Birkenhead club.

We arrive home to be met by the sulkiest budgie in Keyworth. I forgot to leave the radio on for Murphy and he’s proper got the face on. He’s been in big trouble this week as he has pecked off the ‘full stop’ on my keyboard. Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’ gets him fluttering about the cage.

Black clouds begin to roll in and there’s a rumble of thunder as I begin my journey to the West Midlands. I hate driving to Birmingham, and today is no exception. The M6 & M5 are clogged up with Bank Holiday traffic. There are three entries in the ‘lucky dip’ section of the Good Pub Guide in Lower Gornal, but a late arrival scuppers any best laid plans.

I presume I’ve driven through Dudley, as I’ve seen the remains of a castle and cable cars near Dudley Zoo. Well known characters from these neck of the woods include: Sue Lawley, Duncan Edwards, Lenny Henry and Billy Dainty. The town is twinned with Fort William in Scotland and Bremen in Germany.

I park up in a residential area close to the ground. I’m bloody parched after that piri piri Scotch egg, so I dive into the Peacocks Sports Bar for some light refreshment. I tell you what readers; they’re hardly a barrel of laughs in this bar. I thought I’d walked into Royston Vasey or the Crossroads Motel. I try to exchange in some small talk with a guy who has just seen Dudley-born Sam Allardyce’s West Ham Utd get tonked by Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. Perhaps he misunderstood my East Midlands accent.

The ‘Mini Sizzler’ is lighting up the fires in anticipation of some brisk business, as punters roll out of the bar and head towards the turnstile. I’ve read about the Garden Walk Stadium on various groundhopping forums. It doesn’t fail to disappoint as I hand over £5 to a young guy at the entrance. I’m told that the printers are on holiday, and so no programmes have been issued; that old chestnut, eh?

The clubhouse is positioned at the top of 20 concrete steps which provides an outstanding view of the area. It’s like a mini Spion Kop, which is very unusual for this level. There are four navy blue-painted crash barriers.

I stroll behind the goal and position myself on the far side of the ground. The sun peeps out from behind the clouds as the two teams enter the field of play. I noted on the Coventry Sphinx website that their season ended in turmoil with the resignation of the Chairman and Management Team, following the decision not to apply for Level 4 status which would have set the Club back £100,000.

Kick-off is delayed for the removal of dog pooh, a common occurrence in Non-League football. A guy shuffles past me carrying a clipboard. He’s suited, booted and means business: he’s the referee’s assessor. Great!

The visitors are bloomin awful. They have clearly lost a lot of players that brought them success on the field last season. The game is over as a contest after half an hour as the Peacocks blow the Sphinx away. I catch the match ball from a Sphinx ale house clearance, Geoff Boycott would be proud.

My phone goes off; it’s the greatest ever youth scout in the East Midlands. ‘Gouldy’ has unearthed another gem. We have a little natter for five minutes while Gornal play keep ball.

I spend the final ten minutes of the first half viewing the game from the ‘Spion Kop.’ Folk are moaning about how bad the ‘Mini Sizzler’ burgers are. In fact they are moaning and groaning about everything. Bloody hell, they can’t half moan round here.

One team that has got the right to have a good old moan and groan today are Exeter City who have had to make a 550 mile round trip to Accrington. Even worse than this is the late postponement of Reading’s game at the Stadium of Light (600 miles). Sphinx deteriorate in the second period.

There centre back is treading water and gasping for air. The excellent Ravi Sangha completes a hat-trick. A free kick from Gater thuds off the crossbar.

I take one final, admiring glance at the ‘Spion Kop’ before departing the ground. I trudge past the Referee’s Assessor who is meticulously jotting down notes. “10 out of 10 for the Ref mate” I smirk. “Thanks”,he replies.

Attendance: 60

Man of the Match: Ravi Sangha

3 comments: said...

I really like that kind of food that you can get from those moving trucks. I have to admit that they have their secrets.

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