Saturday, September 28, 2013

AFC Emley 7-2 Grimsby Borough

A long drive back from Chorley, was not helped by getting off the M6 a junction too early. There was an awful accident on the opposite carriageway of the A50. It later transpires that 70 people were involved in the pile-up; thankfully no-one was seriously injured.

It's Saturday morning. I wake up from a strange dream. I bagged a pair of jeans at the Next store on the  Riverside Retail Park in Lenton, Nottingham for £347. Mrs P wasn't too chuffed with the bank balance. The most I've ever splashed out on jeans is £30.

A bacon bagel is washed down with a pot of tea for one. Mrs P is in Barcelona for three nights with the girlies. My under 16s have been called off because some of the lads from both teams want to be at The City Ground for the Forest v D***y game.

Talking of the Forest game, I can hear someone stomping around the bathroom, grooming his hair with some VO5 wax. Nottingham Forest's No.1 fan, Sticky jnr, flies down the stairs and marches into the kitchen. He's pumped-up readers and looks in the mood to knock someones lights out. He heads to the fridge and threatens to down a can of Carling Black Label in one. "I'll make you a brew son; it'll be stronger than that maid's water.

He's out of the door in a flash and hopping onto a Trent Barton bus to West Bridgford. I give him some dosh to treat himself to a hearty breakfast cob at Mrs Bunns on Musters Road. Murphy, Finley and Groundhopper have a sweepstake on what time the fool will be ejected from the stadium. I plump for 12.13pm (kick off is 12.15pm).

Bloody hell, my phone is going off. It's Sticky junior; he's on the bus, what can he possibly want? "You blithering idiot; you've forgot the tickets." I leave them in the porch for a pal to pick them up.

I have to clean out Finley the rabbit and Murphy the budgie. Murphy is in a particularly unpleasant mood. I run him a bath (cold water in one of Mrs P's Pyrex dishes ..... don't tell her.) I put him on my hand and lead him to the water. He's having none of it and sticks his beak into my wrist. "It's not my fault that Norwich have had a bad start to the season, you mardy little sod."

I view a kids football game in inner city Nottingham. I spot a boy immediately and will take a second look in a few weeks time. I've really got my mojo back this season. I head up the back of Bilborough and Nuthall and join the M1 at Junction 26.

'Fighting Talk' on Five Live is hosted by Jonathan Pearce. They're asking for the worst ever managerial decisions. Danny Mills pipes up about Stuart Pearce's time at Man City. With two minutes remaining in a game against Middlesbrough in 2005, he replaced Claudio Reyna with 'keeper Nicky Weaver and shoved David James up front. Beleaguered substitute striker Jonathan Macken watched on from the bench in amazement.

I exit at Junction 38. Tom Tom navigates me onto the Huddersfield Road. Within ten minutes I'm pulling into the car park of the Sun Inn, a gastro pub in the village of Flockton. It's low beamed and has recently been refurbished. A couple of two-seater imitation leather sofas are tucked away in the corner of the bar. I have a pint of 'Silver King' from the Ossett Brewery. The menu is a tad pricey, but I'm 'Hank Marvin.' I order a cheese and pickle baguette with chunky chips and side salad.

Sticky junior has texted in, former Lincoln City defender Jack Hobbs has put the Tricky Trees one to the good. I admire the views of the rolling countryside and the Emley Moor transmitter from the tidy beer garden.

It's a short drive to Emley's Welfare Ground. I can see the ground but can't find the entrance. I'm up and down the same road for ten minutes before spotting a tight turning. I park outside a social club.
I pay £4 on the turnstile and £1.50 for a real gem of a programme.

The club has been in turmoil over the last few days. Manager Darren Hepworth was relieved of his duties, only for the committee to re-instate him. The Chairman/Secretary has since resigned from his position(s).

I'd been tipped the ground a while back and it doesn't disappoint. It's three-sided with an open end behind the far goal. A wooden fence runs along the far touchline, beyond this is the cricket ground. There is a covered standing area behind the nearest goal. I take a pew in the Main Stand with its mish mash of purple, yellow and white tip-up seats. It has a playing surface to die for.

A 60s CD is blasting out across the ground. Roy Orbison and The Animals are featured amongst others. There's even the original of 'I Believe' , not a patch on the Robson and Jerome smash hit   .... cough cough.

0-0's in this league are like rocking horse manure. Both teams look capable of leaking a few in the early stages. Emley strike three times in a twelve minute spell, midway through the first half, as Borough fold like a deck of cards. Matthew Hall scores a cracker for the visitors, but they find themselves 4-1 down at the break with a second goal for Todd.

I slip into the Clubhouse at the break. It has a maroon 'Emley' embroided carpet. There's a framed West Ham shirt hanging on the wall from their glorious FA Cup run in 1997/98. They dumped my team Lincoln City out of the cup on penalties in a second round replay. Then bowed out to West Ham by only two goals to one. Friendly bar staff serve me up a piping hot cup of tea.

A Sykes penalty puts the game to bed for Emley. The Grimsby Borough forwards never give up though. Hall scores his second of the game. Two goals in the final 2 minutes from man of the match Brighton Mugadza prove to be the final nail in the coffin.

Attendance: 79

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chorley FC 3-0 Blyth Spartans

It's Sunday morning and I'm navigating the Rolls Royce around the tight streets of the Old Meadows area in Nottingham. It's an inner city area that has produced a host of professional footballers such as Jermaine Pennant, Wes Morgan, Kelvin Wilson and Pedro Richards.

I park up on the tree-lined Trent Embankment and head towards a plethora of football pitches hosting pub leagues and junior soccer. Two lads from the same ale-house team fall out and start to push and shove one another. Their man-mountain of a manager, a huge Asian chap, marches onto the pitch and cuffs both players around the back of the head.

I notice a guy sat on a mountain bike viewing the game with astonishment. He's wearing a T-shirt and shorts. I stroll towards him and engage in conversation: "I bet you have played in a better standard than this?" "Just a bit" he replies, with a huge smirk on his face. It's none other than former Notts County and Lincoln City midfielder Phil Turner. I saw him lift the play-off trophy at Wembley. Now, he was a player.

It's Tuesday, midday. I dash out the doors at work. I'm treating myself to a midweek excursion to one of the gems of non league football. Murphy the Budgie shares chicken and mayo in pitta bread. He mops up all the crumbs as Jeremy Vine plays King's 1984 smash hit ';Love and Pride.'

Mrs P didn't bat an eyelid at the announcement of my sojourn to Lancashire: she is due to jet off to Barcelona with the girlies on Thursday. Nevertheless, there are chores to be carried out before the pass-out is rubber stamped. I vacuum up and clean the bathroom, before heading out to Gotham to swap cars with Phil.

The journey is straight foward; the A50 onto the M6. The usual predictable bottleneck occurs at Junction 20. We exit at Junction 27. We pass a young family basking in the sunshine, licking away at their cornet and ice cream at Frederick's Ice Cream Parlour in Heath Charnock, as we head towards the village of Rivington and its chain of reservoirs. Dog walkers stretch their legs as their canine friends bound into the water to retrieve balls launched from the water's edge.

The pub I've chosen is a short drive away. The Yew Tree Inn is perched on top of a hill, with sweeping views of the Pennines. Its flagstone floors, oak furniture and open fire give it a warm and cosy feeling. I have a pint of golden local ale. Pre-match tea is a rump steak sandwich covered in blue cheese and caramelised onions.

We park up a side street a few minutes walk away from Victory Park, named so to commemorate the end of the First World War. Chorley is a market town in Lancashire, ten miles north of Wigan, with a population of 30,000. It is located at the foot of the West Pennine Moors. The town's wealth came from the cotton industry and coal-mining. The Royal Ordnance Factory, a manufacturer of munitions, played a major part in the Second World War. It's famous for the Chorley Cake - a close relative of the Eccles cake.

Notable people from Chorley include: rugby union player Bill Beaumont, comedian Phil Cool, former Labour 'spin doctor' Derek Draper, actor Ken Morley (Reg Holdsworth), Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson, footballers Paul McKenna and David Unsworth, singer John Foxx, the group Starsailor, and sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, who established the Tate Gallery. Chorley FM found fame in the cult Channel 4 comedy series Phoenix Nights.

I enter the turnstile to the left of the black wrought iron gates. It's £9 entrance and £2 for an information-packed programme. A pea-souper of a fog is forecast later this evening. The rolling mist adds to the atmosphere of this glorious old ground. With its picturesque main stand and pedicured playing surface.

There are two rooms in the Social Club. The back room has a covered, full length snooker table. I notice framed replica England and Ipswich Town shirts signed by former Chorley youth team player Paul Mariner.

I cling onto the rail as we trudge up the metal black-painted steps, shuffling up the aisle and plonking ourselves on the back row of the ground's show-piece stand. A huge dog turd causes us to move down a row or two. On the opposite side of the ground a lone orange-jacketed steward patrols the steep grass bank above the terracing.

Blyth Spartans have made the gruelling 175 mile trip south from Northumberland. The Magpies of Chorley are top of the pile, whilst Blyth, unbeaten on their travels, lie in eighth position.

The football is sublime as both teams make use of the carpet-like surface. The bald-headed James Dean (not the actor) is posing problems for the visitors. He's like a rabid dog, hunting down his prey. Chorley take a two goal lead in a crazy five minute spell through a Darren Stephenson header and a deflected shot from Dean.

All I can hear is "Come on Charlie." The poor sod, get off his back. I peruse the line-ups, but there is no sign of a Charlie playing. Silly old me, they're shouting "Come on Chorley."

I scroll down my twitter feed, glancing at the half-time scores rolling in. The Chorley disc jockey plays the tune of the season. It's 'Rescue' by Echo and the Bunnymen. It was number 176 on the jukebox in the Keyworth Tavern public bar many moons ago.

The teams have been playing for two or three minutes in the second half before the DJ  surrenders to the heckling of the crowd and fades out Shaun Ryder and 'Reverend Black Grape'. A family behind me have spent the entire game gossipping and passing comment on all and sundry. It's like being in Norris Cole's Kabin.

Blyth play a smashing game in the second period; it's glorious to watch. They pass and move and torment the Magpies with triangular football. Chorley's Sam Ashton pulls off some spectacular saves to keep Blyth at bay. Shots dip over the bar or go wide of the mark. There are last ditch tackles; they even strike the base of the post.

Spartans leave themselves skinny at the back. The deadly Dean converts a cross in the dying moments. The result flatters Chorley, but they themselves played some champagne football in the first 45 minutes. They are managed by former Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers midfielder Garry Flitcroft. He is assisted by his pal Matt Jansen, who spent six days in a coma after a motorcycle accident in Rome back in 2002. It's been a festival of football and a cracking day out. I can't half pick them.

Man of the Match: James Dean

Attendance: 685

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Brighouse Town 4-1 Crook Town

It's Sunday morning and I'm down at my local club, setting up for my first game as manager of the Under 18s. I'll do well to get eleven out today. Last night was the Captain's 18th birthday. It was total and utter carnage. Sky TV were live and exclusive at the Queen's Medical Centre hospital in Nottingham. I watch a couple of potential patients/TV stars drink themselves into oblivion.  They celebrate late into the night at a hostelry behind my house.

Locals report it was like a scene from Malia in Crete, with teenagers spilling out of the bar into the car park and nearby road. I showed my face for a couple of hours, before turning in just before midnight. Sticky junior (my lad) staggered up the wooden hill at 3am.

My record of never having a player booked or dismissed lasts for of all of ten minutes. A lad I should  have never of signed is shown a straight Red on his debut. The visitors behaviour is appalling. One is finally dismissed, when they could have easily been down to eight men. The moron refuses to leave the technical area and causes mayhem at the end of the game. Oh well Sticky, one down, nineteen to go.

It's Friday evening and I'm scrolling down my Twitter timeline whilst downing a bottle of that bloody Rioja that is on offer again. I notice that former BBC Radio Leicester, Five Live and Sky Sports presenter Ian Payne is plugging the News at Ten on ITV. I drop him a cheeky tweet to say he's had more moves than Robbie Keane. He replies and says he 'kisses the badge of them all.'

There's a busy schedule on Saturday before the trip north to Calderdale. For those first-time (and probably last-time) readers from Brighouse and Crook, I'm Head of Talent ID for Notts County youth. I've been tipped there's a schools tournament at a village close by.

I bolt down a bowl of muesli and leave Murphy the Budgie arguing with himself in the mirror, as Brian Matthews plays the Spencer Davis Group's 1966 smash hit 'Somebody Help Me' on his Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2.

I have a ride around before parking the car on the edge of Ruddington in a deliberate attempt to stretch my legs for some much-needed exercise. As I walk through the gates I spot my Godson playing in a game. He's already signed up for Burton Albion, but still loves a kick-about with his pals. I glance across the pitch and a clock a Nottingham Forest scout with all his clobber on. Those lads love parading about in their kit. I tend not to wear mine, so not to attract attention or distract the kids playing football.

I introduce myself to the organiser of the tournament and produce my ID. I identify a player with potential. His teacher, a Notts County fan, tells me which club he plays for. I will go and watch him next weekend.

I dash home and grab a ham and cheese sandwich. Murphy is hanging upside on a clothes peg, smashing it with his beak in time to M People's 'Moving On Up.'

Manchester United have already kicked-off against Crystal Palace as I drive up the Nottingham ring road. The radio commentator had earlier in the week interviewed former Eagles striker Mark Bright. He tells the story of how Bright bagged a brace at Old Trafford back in 1989 in a 2-1 win in front of 33,000 fans. Supporters unfurled a banner after the game; daubed on it was 'three years of excuses, ta-ra Fergie.'

I leave my car at a pub close to the M1 and jump in with Phil, a coach I used to work with at Notts. It's plain sailing up the M1. Jon Moss, the referee, not to be confused with the Culture Club drummer, has refused to give a penalty at Old Trafford.

We turn off at Junction 40. Hopes are dashed of a real ale or two as Saturday shoppers clog up the roads enroute to the soulless retail parks in Dewsbury and Mirfield. The Dual Seal Stadium is tucked away from the town centre. The club are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season.

Brighouse is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire with a population of over 30,000. The town rose to fame in 1977 with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band having a No.2 hit in the Pop Parade with the 'Floral Dance' - not going to mention Terry Wogan's daft version. The area is also home to Britpop band Embrace.

It's £5 on the gate and a further £1 for a programme which is a neat and tidy effort. It's an FA Cup first round qualifying tie. I adore the ground. The only thing that spoils it are the Potakabins behind the nearest goal. It's tree-lined, has hard-standing, wooden fencing and is fully-railed. The pitch has a side-slope, but looks immaculate. A big hat-tip to the groundstaff; you could play bar billiards on it. I walk to the stand on the far side. Dignitaries are sat on white tip up seats.

Crook Town are from County Durham. They caused the big upset of the previous round, dumping out Kendall Town from Evostik Division One North on their own patch 4-2. It's what's brought me here, although Brighouse have been on my radar for some time.

Over half of the 161 crowd have travelled down from the north. Brighouse play in a replica Wolves kit, whilst Crook's is like Coventry City's.

It's a breathtaking 45 minutes. The visitors are at sixes and sevens in the early stages. Ernest Boafo hits a rasping shot from the edge of the area to put Brighouse one up. Crook forward Kyle Davis  leads the home defence a merry dance. His movement and touch are mesmeric; if only he'd lift his head and release the ball. He thumps a shot into the roof of the net on the stroke of half time. Brighouse have squandered so many chances. Crook will have been relieved to hear the half-time whistle.

Pie and mushy peas are once again the northern delicacy of choice in these parts. Sticky swigs on a bottle of Becks and chats to a friendly official. I spot a groundhopper slumped in his seat studying his Sudoku puzzle, as I make my way round towards the goal that Crook will attack. Murphy has predicted a 3-1 win for the team from the north east. I have a quick chat with Lucas the dog before the second half commences.

Brighouse blow away the visitors with some high tempo football. Pocket rocket winger Ryan Hall puts them in front on 54 minutes. Tom 'The Hitman' Matthews (46 goals last season) plays a give and go with Boafo, rounds the keeper and taps the ball into net. Crooks misery is complete with 20 minutes to go when Ben Shaw makes it 4-1.

I'm sandwiched between a couple of moaning Minnies from Durham. They unleash their frustration on the young referee. The 4-1 scoreline doesn't tell the whole story; it could have been a wider margin. Now where's that bloody budgie?

Attendance: 161

Man of the Match: Ryan Hall

Monday, September 9, 2013

Burton Joyce 2-2 Ruddington Village


It’s been a while since I stayed local. I spot that Sileby Town are playing host to Rothley Imperial in the Leicestershire Senior League. The Taxman picks me up on another glorious late summer’s evening. Within one mile of driving we’re pulled up stationary on Laming Gap, with hazard warning lights on, close to the village of Stanton on-the Wolds.  All the needles on The Taxman’s car are throwing a wobbly. It’s like the Clapometer off Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks – “I mean that sincerely folks.” At this rate we’ll be travelling like the Anthill Mob off Whacky Races.

We pull into the Memorial Ground off the Seagrave Road as the players are exiting the changing rooms. I spot the dad of a lad who I once scouted for the Pies. He’s an Elvis impersonator. He was ‘All Shook Up’ about the 2-0 reverse for his lad’s team. The highlight of the evening was another ‘Swampy’ type character shimming up a tree to retrieve another alehouse clearance. And also a superb brew, poured from a steaming hot pot. Yes, Sileby have set the mark in mashing tea.
It’s Friday morning and I’m in the zone at work listening to Colin Murray on Talksport. He’s promoting ‘Non League Day.’ I send a tweet in to say I’m off to the Notts Senior League game at Burton Joyce tomorrow. It’s read out on air. Former Arsenal striker, Perry Groves, is amused by the name Burton Joyce. He’s says it sounds like an old married couple.
Saturday morning is spent flying up to the north of the county, to the League Registrar’s bungalow, signing players on for the two sides that I run. We’re short-staffed and lacking playing time. I view a game up at Kimberley Leisure Centre and bump into legendary Priory Celtic secretary, John Harris. He is looking rather flash in his new Notts County sweatshirt, a birthday present from the family.
It’s The Skipper’s team’s first league game of the season. We’re light on numbers and have a few round pegs in square holes. It’s a 4-1 thumping for a sulking Skipper. I head out of Platt Lane, down Tollerton Lane and onto the Colwick Loop Road. Rugby Union is on Five Live. I switch over to Radio Nottingham – known in a previous life as ‘Radio Red, before the ‘Media Blackout.’ They’re covering Mansfield Town’s long trek to Newport County.
I turn right off the main drag, past a swanky barber's and over a railway crossing. Burton Joyce is a commuter village on the outskirts of Nottingham with a population of 4000. Coronation Street actress Sherrie Hewson and the actor Mathew Horne were both born in the village.
The teams are heading out to the far pitch. Two guys are scarifying the cricket pitch with two mowers. I slump to the ground on the halfway line and stretch my legs, as the sun lights up Colwick Woods. Jibs on the cranes, dominating the skyline, swing in the distance. The pitch is roped off, with the playing surface looking lush.
The NSL is Sticky’s favourite league. My village Keyworth are a founder member. I took in a game at their Groundhop at Selston last spring and saw a classic 2-2 draw against Wollaton. I recognise the referee immediately; it’s none other than County Councillor, John Cottee. Cracking lad John is, always lets the game flow, bet there aren’t any bookings or aggro.
Bloody hell who’s that on the phone? “Eh up Mick” (the boss). He’ll be in a good mood, the last time I checked my Twitter timeline the Notts County Youth Team were 2-0 up against League leaders Bradford City. It’s a short conversation – we lost 3-2.

Ruddington look tidy on the counter-attack. Former Leicester City Academy forward Craig McMorran has a deft touch and a sharp footballing brain. Burton Joyce have the malnourished ‘Troy’ up top; he is like a whippet and reminds me of a young Georgie Best. He’s already fluffed a few chances before finally finding the back of the onion bag after a brave block by the Rudd’ ‘keeper.
The visitors are soon back on level terms, thanks to a dozing linesman. The Ruddington forward scampers away when clearly offside. I’ve sent a few tweets about the game and hear someone from across the dugouts shout out my name. I feel embarrassed and trudge off to the Clubhouse for a mug of piping hot tea, accompanied by a Kit Kat for £1.40. I pick up a four page programme that are scattered on a table. I pass comment to the lady behind the tea bar that there are no junior games on this afternoon. She says there was a heavy game schedule earlier this morning.
Those two chaps are still mowing the wicket in tandem. Crikey, they’ve used more petrol than Sebastian Vettel. Ruddington up it gear in the second period. I take a stroll around to their dugout to see if I can discover any one-line gems. Tom Randall is one of the subs. He’s sat on more benches than Rumpole of the Bailey. The ‘Housewives Choice’ is hopeful of a run-out. Any chances of that are dashed on the hour with the Ruddington centre back netting from a set piece.

One of the visiting substitutes is former Nottingham Forest striker Adam Newbold. He describes to Tom how he scored on his debut for the Reds against Morecambe in the League Cup at the age of 19 years old. Five years later he’s playing with his mates at grassroot level. He still has the touch, but sadly not the movement anymore.
The game is in its dying embers. The ball falls to Matt Hayes with his back to goal, 20 yards out. He flicks it up and in slow motion both his feet leave the floor, as if he’s walking on the moon. Quick as a flash his right boot catches the ball at head height. His shot arrows into the top corner of the net. It reminds me of Pele’s overhead kick in Escape to Victory – “Come on lads we can win this one.” (Russell Osman). There’s a massive pile on. Hayes emerges unscathed.
Seven years of groundhopping. I’ve seen the likes of Lampard, Drogba and Malouda. But I kid you not, at one of the lowest levels in the Football Pyramid, me and 24 wags, dads and friends have witnessed one of the best goals we will ever see. Viva ‘Non League Day.’

Man of the Match: Craig McMorran

Attendance: 24 (head count)