Saturday, November 24, 2012

Congleton Town 2 Barnoldswick Town 1

Former Nottingham Forest Youth Team Manager, John Perkins, tells a wonderful anecdote about Brian Clough. The young lads were drawn away to Peterborough in the Midland Youth Cup. Cloughie announced on the day of the game for a seat to be saved for him on the coach.

The game was played and Forest were well beaten, but ‘Old Big Ead’ was supportive to the players throughout. On the bus journey home he ordered Albert, the coach driver, to stop off at the nearest chip shop. Nobody had got a brass farthing on them.

The old gal behind the counter was built like a brick outhouse and wore glasses as thick as the bottom of a milk bottle. She was not one to mess with. Clough had to use all the charm and charisma he could muster: ‘Hello Darling, my name is Brian Clough and we would like twenty portions of your finest fish and chips, but there’s a slight problem, I haven’t any money on my person. I’ll send you a cheque in the morning.”

“I’ll trust you, Mr Clough”, replied the lady. The following morning Perkins knocked on Clough’s door: “Gaffer, don’t forget to pay the lady for the fish n chips.” “Oh yes, how much was it pal?" Sixty two pounds” replied Perkins. Clough wrote a cheque out for £90 and accompanied it with a note: “Thank you Darling, treat yourself and be good. Brian Clough” As Perkins walked out the door Clough shouted out: “Hey, next time your team play like that, you can buy your own fish n chips!”

There’s a third off the price on Sticky’s favourite Rioja at Sainsbury’s on Friday evening. It’s a good start to weekend. The same cannot be said for ‘Fizz’ following a breach of health and safety at ‘Underworld’ in Weatherfield. It hardly fills you with confidence that Greater Manchester Police are investigating the incident.

Any plans of a scouting trip to Mansfield in the morning are scuppered by a night of torrential rain. Mrs P deploys me to labouring duties in assembling ‘The Skipper’s’ new bed with ‘The Angler.’ I make an award-winning cup of tea for the two of us. There won’t be a better brew made than that in England today.

Mrs P has an open day up at Sutton-in-Ashfield; it means I can slope off early today. After last week’s near miss, a confident Finley Palmer predicts another goal bonanza, 5-3 to Congleton, he predicts with his paws.

The laugh-out-loud ‘Fighting Talk’ is on Five Live. They’re talking about the time Trevor Chappell, under orders from his brother Greg, bowled an under arm delivery on the final ball in a One Day International versus New Zealand. A year later the Aussies were on tour in Auckland. A partisan crowd of 43,000 heckled skipper Greg Chappell to the wicket as he came out to bat. A wag in the crowd leapt the fence and bowled a Crown Green wood in Chappell’s direction.

I pull in at the Egerton Arms in Astbury, just a few miles south of Congleton. I’m greeted by a cheerful landlord and The Jacksons singing ‘Show You the Way to Go.’ A pub bore announces to all and sundry that West Brom have taken the lead at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.

I select a pint of Robinson’s ‘Dizzy Blonde.’ I’ve not quaffed one of these since a weekend away in Abersoch last September. Plentiful amounts of food are on offer on the menu. Sticky loves his Somerset brie and pickle baguettes though.

The pub looks out onto the pleasant views of the village church. A Roman numerical clock is projected onto the wall. I glance at a free issue of the Cheshire Independent. Green-fingered youngsters are planting flower tubs to give the town a splash of colour over the winter months. It’s headline news in this sleepy town.

I’m anxious to get to the ground though. According to my Twitter timeline, fixtures are falling by the wayside. As I head into Congleton the skies begin to darken; bloody hell it’s starting to rain.

I park the car on a side street, opposite the cricket ground and take a peek around the place. Congleton is a town in Cheshire that lies on the banks of the River Dane, with a population of 25,000. Popular sports in the 17th Century included bear-baiting and cockfighting. Congleton is well-known for its manufacturing of airbags and golf balls. Former Manchester City defender, Ian Brightwell, grew up in the town.

Barnoldswick is a town in the Borough of Pendle in Lancashire, just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is the highest town on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. It is home to Silentnight Beds, the UK’s largest manufacturer of beds and mattresses.

A guy on the gate gives me the thumbs up; the game is on. I pay £6 on the turnstile. The programme is good value and an interesting read. Two pieces of trivia catch my eye. There’s a report from a Bedlington Terriers FA Vase game. Former Newcastle United striker Paul Brayson is mentioned. He is the shortest footballer to have ever played in the Premiership.

The programme also reports on the resignation of former Nottingham Forest forward Peter Withe, who was until recently manager of Stockport Sports. Withe scored the winning goal for Aston Villa in the 1982 European Cup Final.

I’ve been tipped off by north-west blog supremo, Uwdi Krugg, to watch out for the Barnoldswick ‘One Man and His Dog’ away day Ultra’s –they target anyone who is not a farmer.

The DJ, who I’d put as late fifties, has already inflicted Queen and Status Quo on the perishing crowd, as I position myself on the far side of the ground, behind the away dugout, sheltering from the rain. I’m taken back at the quality of passing from both teams, particularly the Bears of Congleton.

Sticky Palms is elated on three minutes to get his hands on the match ball. I throw it powerfully into the midriff of a less than impressed visiting defender. On six minutes Congleton take lead with a net buster from the edge of the area by Matthew Worrall. Ten minutes later left back Louis James starts and finishes a fine move.

A game-changing incident takes places just yards from where I’m stood The Congleton 8 jacket goes in two-footed. It’s ankle-high and fortunately takes the ball. It is, in my opinion without malice. A pie-eating Barnoldswick supporter, next to me, begs to differ. He showers me in flaky pastry in a fit of pique. He has the diplomatic skills of I’m a Celebrity star Eric Bristow and is without compromise The visiting manager and the majority of his players try to get the boy sent off. The referee sensibly waves a yellow card at the lad.

The Bears, may regret that their dominance has only left them two to the good. News is filtering through from Guiseley’s Nethermoor Road ground that Sooty is making his debut as the supporters’ mascot.

I stand in the Club Function Room for a wee warm. I grab a cup of piping hot coffee. The lady behind the tea bar is promoting home-made vegetable soup at a bargain £1.30 per cup.

I can’t be bothered to drag my weary body over to the other side of the ground. That pie-eater from Barnoldswick looks in the mood to knock my block off. I think I’ll give him a wide berth. I stand behind the goal at the bottom of the slope, expecting an avalanche of goals from the Bears. How wrong can one be?

Barnoldswick play as if someone has put a firework up their backsides. Chance after chance is spurned, until on 63 minutes Billy Priestley nods in a header at the back stick, following a corner. They can’t turn their second half superiority into goals though. The driving, incessant rain has turned the pitch into a quagmire. The two teams put on a show though. I’ll catch up with both later in the season.

Attendance: 116

Man of the Match: Vegetable Soup

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Real United 4 Holbrook St Michaels 5

I take a final glance at Nethermoor Road as I head out the exit and saunter up towards the High Street. Rammers was bang on the money when he said that Guiseley, on their day, really are the Arsenal of the Conference North. Whitby and their famous Cod have been well and truly battered.

Trumpy is holed up at the White Cross pub, opposite Costcutters. He’s chuffed to bits to have seen 3 out of the 7 goals. I spot the legend stumbling out of the pub front door and staggering towards the ‘Rolls Royce.’

I take my coat off and reach into the pocket to check if Sooty is alright. What a smashing day out the puppet has had. His hometown club have found the back of the net on seven occasions. He’ll be whispering in Sweep’s ear all night about that 30 yard swerver Josh Wilson thumped in.

Hang on a minute, he’s gone. My heart thumps ten to the dozen. Sooty is missing. It’s a long miserable drive home. I don’t care about Sports Report and James Alexander Gordon. Tears stream down my face: Sooty is missing, last seen in the urinals at Guiseley AFC.

I could perhaps phone Guiseley Police Station, but they’ll be too busy dunking their digestive biscuits into their Yorkshire Tea to bother investigating a missing puppet. I break down in a flood of tears when I get home. “How could you lose Sooty; shame on you” says a bitter Sticky Jnr. Murphy’s chirping away; he was never fond of Sooty.

I take one final throw of the dice. I boot up the laptop and register to the Guiseley Fans’ Forum. I begin a thread with a missing puppet plea. By Monday morning it has become a source of interest in the West Yorkshire town. Good news finally arrives. A dressing room attendant has found Sooty in the changing room. They’re going to keep him as a lucky mascot.

I really mustn’t have a big, fat, large wedge of cheese again before bedtime. I wake up on Saturday morning having had the most ridiculous dream. League 2 Barnet were entertaining Accrington Stanley. Former Southampton and Everton striker James Beattie was sent off from the field of play following a high tackle on Dutch international Edgar Davids.

I chuckle to myself at this preposterous scenario as I make a pot of tea for one. England are all at sea in India, the follow-on is inevitable. One or two have lost their hunger.

Mrs P announces that we’re off down to one of those dreadful retail parks. Apparently Sticky Palms needs a new coat for Christmas. I’m up and down the catwalk, glancing in the mirror like Naomi Campbell. I’ll knock the ladies dead in this little £85 number.

“I’ll give my new coat an outing this afternoon in Stoke Bardolph, love.” “Not on your Nelly”, replies Mrs P, “You can’t unwrap it until Christmas Day.” Bugger. My phone goes off; it’s Mick Leonard, Head of Youth at Notts County. He’s caught me red-handed, tossing it off at Riverside Retail Park. He re-directs me to a game he wants me to go to.

I race off to watch it and call in at Highfields Hockey Centre, on my way home, where Notts County u15s are entertaining Luton Town. The Hatters are very impressive. I leave with the score at 2-2.

I knock myself up a cheese and onion baguette and catch a few minutes of the north London derby. Former Eastwood Town manager, John Ramshaw, has arranged to pick me up outside the The Fairway pub in Keyworth at 1.15pm. As I waltz out the back door, Finley, our pet rabbit, who is famous for his crap score predictions, announces that he thinks it will be Real Utd 4 Holbrook St Michaels 4. Right oh, Finley.

We drive through the hamlet of Plumtree and turn right down Tollerton Lane, passed Nottingham City Airport. There appears to be a lion on the loose opposite Regatta Way. It turns out to be ex Coventry City FA Cup winning captain, Brian Kilcline, who’s out for a jog with his dog. Rammers remarks that maybe ‘Killer’ lives in one of the nearby caravan parks.

Parking is a bloody nightmare around Sneinton, with the threat of clamping on every street corner. We sling the car outside the pub and cough up a couple quid in the parking meter. You wouldn’t give the King William IV a second glance, with its scruffy exterior and the backdrop of high-rise flats. It had stood idle and boarded-up until 2007, when this Victorian pub re-opened its doors. It’s a hidden gem. The Reaper is propping up the bar. He shouts up two pints of Flying Rat.

Rammers is holding court as Tottenham Hotspur take a trouncing at the Emirates. We‘re treated to a few non- league anecdotes from the legendary Geordie manager. There’s just enough time for a pint of Scarlet Macaw, from Oakham Ales, before making the five minute journey east to Real United’s Stoke Lane home.

Poor old Rammers is having trouble parking again. I tell him to stick his vehicle in the Ferryboat Inn opposite the River Trent. It’s another glorious day as the geese and ducks gather on the banks of the Trent.

A couple of lads wrapped up in Manchester United scarves are on the gate. Rammers bumps into recently appointed manager Nicky Kennerdale. Rammers signed Nicky when he was the gaffer at Hucknall from Northwich Victoria for £5000.

Nicky is full of enthusiasm and is ably assisted by former Grimsby Town centre half Matt McKenzie. Uh, oh, guess who Sticky has just clocked, only a referees’ assessor – the one without a sense of humour. I try to josh with him; he’s having none of it.

Real United Club Director, Roger Henry, emerges from a Portakabin and makes a beeline towards us. Roger is top man and a driving force behind the meteoric rise of this inner city club. He makes Rammers and I very welcome.

Roger has signed a lease on the former Gedling Town ground and has secured a major sponsorship with Mercedes Benz. Former Notts County legend, Michael Johnson, is an Honorary President of the club.

As the referee blows the whistle to start the game, under the watchful eye of the assessor, I decide to do a head count: just 16 folk have bothered to turn out.

I don’t believe it, Jaylee Hodgson is playing up top for Real. He’s had more clubs than Peter Stringfellow. He plays international football for Montserrat, where famously in 1983 Duran Duran recorded one of their albums.

Jaylee poses for the camera, whilst spending five minutes doing his shoelaces up, having swapped his boots with manager Nicky Kennerdale. Holbrook take the lead with a fine solo effort from their big number nine.

Dalton Stephens skilfully turns his man in the box and fires off a shot to restore parity. It’s not long before Jay Lee performs his party piece to put a smile on Roger’s face.

Real’s Chief Scout, Pablo Grossett, has rocked up. Him and Rammers reminisce about how former Hucknall Town manager Bryan Chambers used to reel off his team selection in the changing room off the back of a fag packet.

The second half is a crazy game. Real are cruising at 4-2 when their left winger, Lance, is sent off for a soft challenge on an opponent, accidentally clipping his heel. I bet the assessor was sticking his chest out at that one.

Real United look fagged out; they just can’t keep the ball as Holbrook find their second wind. With minutes remaining the visitors make it 4-4. Finley looks like he’ll be mopping up at Bet Fred. He’ll be ordering his carrots online from Waitrose.

Right at the death a ball is pumped into the area, it skims off the back of the head of a Holbrook player and nestles into the corner of the net. Roger looks devastated, close to tears. But what an entertaining game of football these two sides have laid on for us.

Man of the Match: Holbrook No.9

Attendance: 16

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Guiseley AFC 7 Whitby Town 0

I flop on the sofa after an exhausting afternoon coaching The Skipper’s team. We’ve scraped a 1-0 victory. Sticky isn’t happy though; we haven’t performed as a team. I grab the remote control and begin to channel hop. Horse racing from Wetherby is on Channel 4.

The Charlie Hall Chase is the next race. Memories flood back from 12 years ago; it was Dafty’s 30th. Our clapped-out Sunshine Tours bus pulls into a waterlogged car park. We pile into a private bar. Pint after pint is quaffed. It’s a boys versus girls syndicate. We go through the card. Sticky’s favourite, See More Business, aqua planes down the home straight, at a canter, to win the Charlie Hall.

I’m steaming readers; it’s the final race. My bleary, bloodshot eyes scan the racecard. Bottom weight is a horse called Truckers Tavern. Bloody hell; we all drink in The Tavern in Keyworth. Every person on the bus has a punt on ‘Truckers’, who jumps like a stag and wins by a distance at 7/1.

Meeky is on the PA on the bus telling gags like a nightclub comedian. We’ve hired the basement of a picture postcard North Yorkshire village pub. We are raucous and noisy during our celebration. We’re on the Havana cigars. The bill runs into four figures. We pay in cash and stump up a large tip as an apology for our rowdy behaviour. I don’t want the day to end.

I’m up at the crack of dawn, researching the West Yorkshire town of Guiseley. I wash and valet the ‘Rolls Royce’ – royalty are aboard today (Sooty & Trumpy).

I reverse up Trumpy’s drive. The legend is limping like Darren Anderton. He spots Sooty strapped up in the back of car on his booster seat. He asks the puppet if he wants to sit in the front.

We have the brilliant Danny Baker Show for company. He cans the popular ‘Coach Poker’ slot following transmission problems. Baker is on tremendous form following his recent sacking from BBC Radio London.

We drive through the Bronx. Sticky jnr is doing what he does better – dossing on a park bench with his homies. Trumpy winds down the window and hurls some football-related banter at the troubled teenager. Leicester City and Nottingham Forest commence battle in a couple of hours time.

“What’s that Sooty, you’re feeling travel sick, bloody hell, we’re not even out of Keyworth yet.” Trumpy has already necked a Greene King IPA and a bottle of Tanglefoot, as he untwists the cap off his litre bottle of Bulmers.

Mrs Trumpy has been left to spring clean his crib. She’s unearthed his 1991 diary. Entries include four day benders in Whitley Bay and Scarborough, followed by a couple of sickies.

We sail up the M1 and pull off at Junction 41. First port of call is the Bay Horse in Morley. It’s 11.50am; we’ve ten minutes to kill before opening time. The doors are unbolted and opened at smack on midday. Trumpy tucks into a pint of Tetley’s, Sticky has a diet Coke, Sooty plumps for half a cider and is challenged for his ID.

There are pictures hung up on the wall of the late Gary Speed, Brian Close and the ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds’ team of the seventies. Some awful satellite TV music channel is churning out Westlife’s dreadful version of the Jimmy Ruffin classic, ‘What Becomes of a Broken Hearted.’

Trumpy is still bitter about James Taylor’s move from Leicestershire CCC to Nottinghamshire CCC. He claims to have seen him stacking shelves in Asda recently, following his omission from the tour of India.

Sooty is fagged out after his half a cider. He has a wee siesta, while we have a spot of lunch at the Stone Trough in the leafy suburb of Rawdon. I wash down my 7oz gammon with a pint of Leeds Pale Ale. Trumpy doesn’t show a flicker of emotion as Liverpool-born striker David Nugent edges Leicester ahead in the East Midlands derby. Paul Weller’s ‘Wild Wood’ is piped through the speakers.

We drive up the bustling high street in Guiseley. The traffic is nose to tail due to those annoying, soulless, endless out of town retail parks. We drive passed Guiseley’s Nethermoor Park ground before having a swift one in the excellent Ings. It’s a traditional back street boozer. Copper Dragon is the best ale on view. Edwin Starr and Shakin Stevens provide the entertainment.

Parking is a bit tricky around the ground; we’re advised to leave the car in the nearby Costcutters. Trumpy clocks the White Cross pub opposite.

Guiseley is a small town in West Yorkshire with a population of just over 20,000. Crompton Parkinson and Silver Cross prams were once major employers in the town. Harry Ramsden traded in a small shed next to the tram stop in White Cross. It was later to become the largest chippy in the world, seating 250 people and having a million customers a year.

Children’s entertainer, Harry Corbett, was the nephew of Harry Ramsden. He used to play piano in the chip shop. Whilst on his holidays in Blackpool, Corbett bought Sooty the puppet for 37 pence. He later teamed-up with Sweep the dog. Sticky Palms once saw them at a gig at the Lincoln Drill Hall. Harry died in his sleep in 1989 at the age of 71, following a performance in front of a capacity audience at Weymouth Pavilion. His son, Matthew, took over puppet master duties.

Former England and Yorkshire Cricket Club captain, Brian Close, also used to live in the town. He was a charismatic and colourful character, who often courted controversy during his illustrious playing career.

The legend pays me in for £10 on the gate and treats me to a belter of a programme for £2. Security is lax. I smuggle Sooty in under my coat. I take my customary stroll around this neat and tidy ground. Supergrass are blasting out the ground’s PA system. I notice Bolton has already sniffed out the bar. I find him downing a pint of Blonde beer, staring out the window at the adjoining cricket pitch.

I leave him to it and join the crowd in remembering our armed forces who have lost their lives fighting for their country. Nethermoor Park is bathed in glorious sun-kissed skies. Whitby have brought a decent following. Their supporters sing a few amusing ditties: “It’s full of fish, chips and seagulls, oh Whitby is full of fun.”

Their joy is short-lived as Guiseley take the lead with a low drive from Kevin Holsgrove. Whitby are lightening on the break. Fresh-faced left midfielder Ashley Corker is light on his feet and has pace to burn. The Seasiders force smart saves from the home ‘keeper Drench.

Guiseley miss a hatful of chances in a very entertaining half, before Holsgrove and the impressive Walshaw put the game beyond Whitby’s reach. Trumpy is watching the half-times rolling in. He lets it slip that Mrs Trumpy has a secret crush on Sky Sports reporter Johnny Phillips.

The Lions enjoy the luxury of a couple of early substitutions. They play a beautiful game and move the ball very quickly. 6-0 up with half an hour to go, a proper trouncing looks on the cards. Former Sunderland midfielder Darren Williams is the gaffer at Whitby. He looks like his head is going to explode. It’s not a good time for Trumpy to sing “You’re getting sacked in the morning.” Or for Sooty to ask for his autograph.

Bolton has sloped off to the White Cross for a crafty one after consoling a Whitby supporter he has chanced upon. He tells the guy every pub he’s visited in Whitby and warns him not to throw himself into the estuary off the harbour wall.

I meet him back at the car and remove my coat. My heart begins to beat ten to the dozen, as I rummage in my coat pocket. I’ve only gone and lost Sooty. Who’s going to tell Sweep?

Attendance: 506

Man of the Match: Whitby supporters (never lost their humour)