Saturday, July 27, 2013
Alsager Town 2-5 Witton Albion
I took both teams down the Trent Embankment the other Monday evening. Twenty four rocked up in the sizzling heat as we played 12 a-side with jumpers for goal posts. Supper was wolfed down at McDonald’s on Radcliffe Road, opposite Trent Bridge cricket ground. The lads were as good as gold. The team-bonding evening worked a treat. I’ll keep you informed with the trials and tribulations of the season ahead.
Friday evening is spent relaxing on the patio, tucking into a special offer Cote Du Rhone, recommended by The Zuffler on our weekly sojourn to the Ruddington Co-op. Finley sits on my knee, letting me brush his fur, as I wade my way through Stuart Maconie’s brilliantly written Hope and Glory. Finley asks if he can shout up one of his crap non-league predictions. He says Witton will win 2-0 at Alsager. I think it will be more convincing than that, son.
I scroll through my Twitter timeline and notice that Notts CCC overseas player David Hussey has had a social media spat with Derbyshire’s Dan Redfern. It’s clearly some sort of overspill from the shortened 20/20 game at Trent Bridge the other night.
Danny Baker on 5 Live has deserted me for Florida, as I drive down the A46 and onto the A52. Greg James and a huddle of bloggers waffle on about the Ashes series. I pull into the Grantham Meres Leisure Centre. A parent kindly buys me a cup of coffee as we catch-up with all the gossip.
I spent three cold and wet Saturday mornings at this venue last season running my eye over a player. We finally offered him a scholarship in the spring time. His name is Jordan Richards. His dad was the late, great Pedro Richards, who made 399 appearances for the Pies in the 70s and 80s.
I sit in the dugout with former Notts left back Darren Davies. Grantham’s boys tower above ours. We never look in trouble for the first 20 minutes, retaining possession and passing crisply. Costly errors gift the home side a 3-0 half time lead. It’s probably best to bail out; Mick and Darren aren’t going to be too happy with the sloppy goals we’ve conceded.
I head west, towards Derby. I hit Stoke at 1pm and navigate onto the A500 and A34 towards Congleton. I’m soon pulling up at Robinson’s public house called the Red Bull in the village of Church Lawton. It’s situated on the Trent and Mersey Canal.
The service isn’t particularly efficient. The landlady is an age on the phone. She reminds me of Sybil off Fawlty Towers. I’m finally poured a pint of golden ale called Cumbria Way. I find a picnic table next to the lock and watch a procession of barges chugging down the canal.
Two old ladies are walking down the road, dawdling behind them is an ageing dog. “Never misses a game” one of the women tells me. “What’s your dog called ladies?” enquires Groundhopper. “Tom Tom” replies one of the old girls.”Did he manage to find the ground okay?” Neither of them bats an eyelid.
It’s £5 on the gate. No programme is issued today. A proper groundhopper would be in a flood of tears after that bad news. Portakabins are at the top of the steps. In July 2011 the old clubhouse caught fire.
Alsager Town play in the NWCL (Step 5) while Witton Albion, from Northwich, ply their trade in the Evostik Premier League (Step 3). Former notable players to have played for Witton include: the comedian John Bishop, Nicky Maynard, Geoff Horsfield and Mike Whitlow.
Witton look more athletic and fitter than their opponents. They are soon knocking the ball about and carving out chances. The visitors are 3-0 up at the break. The first goal was hotly disputed by the Alsager bench. The poor young girl ‘liner’ got some grief. The second goal is well-worked.
I’m intrigued by the Alsager manager’s half time pep talk. He says to his players that they are not in Afghanistan and are not going to get shot (well definitely not by their strikers). He encourages them to play without fear and to try and enjoy it.
They play with more spirit and belief in the second period. One or two start to get noticed. ‘Angelo’ and ‘Leigh’ combine well. Both sides convert penalties in an entertaining 45 minutes. All I can think about, though, is whether Tom Tom can find his way home.
Footnote: The Alsager Town manager was Andy Turner who has played for a host of clubs including: Spurs, Portsmouth and Rotherham United. In 1992, at the age of 17, he held the record, for that time, as the youngest ever goal scorer in the Premier League. He hasn’t lost his appetite for the game, despite his brush with fame.
Man of the Match: ‘Tom Tom.’