Sunday, December 22, 2013

Barrowby 4-0 Blidworth Welfare

It's the evening of the Real Ale Trail Christmas Party. I'm dabbing on some of the lads' Shockwaves gel. There's just time for a quick spray of the old Joop, before scurrying down the alley and hopping onto the Trent Barton rush-hour bus to Nottingham.

A smirking Zuffler is already quaffing a pint of Shipstone's bitter in the Ned Ludd on Friar Lane. They have a fine selection of premium lagers, rocket fuel ciders and micro-brewed real ales. We trudge up Maid Marian Way towards Canning Circus. Taggart joins us in the Organ Grinder, where we enjoy a couple of Blue Monkey ales. Much of the night is a blare. I recall Taggart clearing one pub, not with his party-piece fart, but by playing B A Robertson's 'Bang Bang' on the jukey.

My head is certainly bang banging on Saturday morning and so is The Zuffler's, who according to Twitter gossip didn't turn in until 02:00am. Mrs P is watching the BBC News. I sit silently on the sofa reading Hope and Glory by the journalist and broadcaster Stuart Maconie on my Kindle. There's a fascinating chapter about 'Thankful Villages.' Fifty one villages in England and Wales have no war memorial because their soldiers sent to war returned home alive. One of these is Wysall, just over a mile from my home.

Those jokers from the BBC Weather Centre are predicting a sea of blue all over England today. It'll scupper any hopes of Trumpy and I visiting St Ives in Cambridgeshire. He texts in to say he'll be viewing Leicester at QPR in the lunchtime kick-off.

I scour the Interweb to see where the nearest ground in the Non League Pyramid is, that I've yet to chalk off. Barrowby FC, of the Central Midlands League South, are entertaining Blidworth Welfare from north Notts. I put a call in to the Mayor of London at his Southfork Ranch, just a few miles away from the ground. It's a date.

I abandon the cleaning of the inside windows. "Half-a-job again", remarks Mrs P. Murphy the budgie is swinging on his perch. He's listening to Stevie Wonder's 'Yesterday' on Radio 2's Sound of the 60s show.

I'm in the 'Rolls Royce' enroute to the village of Harby in the heart of the Vale of Belvoir. I'm playing 'Radio Roulette.' I chance upon Radio Leicester who are at Loftus Road. I recall their hilarious commentary from Vicarage Road at the fag end of last season, when the Foxes missed a penalty and Watford raced-up the otherend to score.

I drive past the Stilton cheese creamery and into the village of Colston Bassett. I'm soon pulling into 'Southfork.' 'The Mayor' has just returned from a cricket coaching session at Trent Bridge. I'll be assisting him with running an under 10s side at Keyworth next season.

I'm in 'The Mayor's' study, glancing at his bookcase. He is a True Blue (Tory). He has every Conservative MP's autobiography that has been published since 1725. It makes me weep. He only moved back here from London to be near the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher. We'll probably have to lay some flowers outside her old green grocers in Grantham. I'll lob a lump of coal through the front window, for old times' sake.

'The Mayor' fancies the first half of Liverpool v Cardiff. We drop into his local - the Nags Head. I enjoy a pint of Jennings Cumberland. Luis Suarez, once again is in superlative form. We depart at half time, to make the short journey to Barrowby, 2 miles west of Grantham. The village is in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire with a population just shy of 2000.

As we drive through the village we notice the fire-ravaged remains of the Royal British Legion. "I bet there is a story to tell there", says 'The Mayor.' We pass the White Swan and The Cakehole cafe and deli. The ground is situated on the edge of the village. I'm not saying it's a hike from the visitors' car park to the main pitch, but we considered booking a cab.

We make a detour to the brick-built, Football Foundation funded clubhouse to pay our dues. Today's attendance will just about cover the three officials. It's £3 entranance, including an excellent programme.

I've already warned 'The Mayor' about the standard of football. Step 7 ain't been at its best this season. I notice a little bloke in a Blidworth tracksuit directing traffic from the technical area. It's Mickey Gould who used to work with me at Meadow Lane. We have a chinwag between breaks in play.

'The Mayor' is having a tough induction with Step 7. He lets a ball go through his legs and chases one or two stray ale-house clearances to retrieve the ball. Barrowby are bossing it and are 3-0 up at the break. I bump into my old boss at Notts County Youth, Darren Heyes. He invites us back to the boozer for a swift one. I take a look around the cottage he's bought adjacent to the pub. It'll take more than Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team to put it right.

Conversation in the pub turns to the fire at the Royal British Legion two years ago. Darren asks the landlord if he has benefitted from it. He nods in agreement. I start to make a few routine enquiries (PC Palmer) but I'm met with a wall of silence. It's like Royston Vasey, readers. The fire is shrouded in mystery. A committee member was bailed over  a year ago on fraud and embezzlement allegations.

We have a sweepstake on what the score is going to be as we walk back to the ground. A jockey is riding a racehorse up the street. He stops for a natter. Tommy Hawkins is an 8 year old point to pointer, who races at nearby Garthorpe. He used to live at Jonjo O'Neill's yard.

Barrowby are in a cruise control and have already bagged another goal. Poor old Gouldy. The only thing we can both talk about is the fire, though. New Scotland Yard are going to have to drop the Lucan Case for now, remove Clouseau and Cato and wheel out Hercules Poiroit from retirement in Brussels. Who, if anyone, torched the Royal British Legion?

Attendance: 31 (Head count)

Man of the Match: Ned Ludd

Monday, December 16, 2013

Clay Cross Town 2-0 Phoenix FC

It's a blustery Sunday morning at Keyworth United's Platt Lane ground. I'm setting up for my under 18s. I've already spotted the referee in the car park. I don't rate the guy; he has no connection with the lads. I'm usually positive in my match reports about refs.  I rarely speak to officials apart from to welcome them and pay them. This guy loves to get his notebook out and wind the boys up.

He wanders across to me to ask who will be running the line. I take the flag off him and he remarks to be careful as the black plastic cap keeps falling off it. The game is played and managed badly. He'll be using his pencil sharpener when he gets home. There's no dialogue from me with him during the match. He collects the flag off a parent and marches towards me. The black plastic cap has fallen off and he wants to charge me £10. I burst out laughing. He says he's going to report me to the Notts FA. Where do they get these guys from?

It's Friday evening and the 11 day detox is complete. No more celery, raw carrots and Greek yoghurt. I sample a couple of Stella's and some red wine. It's an early start on Saturday morning. Murphy the Budgie is squawking and chirping at a reckless shot played by England's Kevin Pietersen, who has once again thrown away his wicket.

I'm on a scouting mission for the Pies in the old mining town of Hucknall. We've been tipped a boy. The reception on Five Live is dreadful. I can barely hear the squeaky dulcet tones of South Londoner Danny Baker.

I pull into the car park of former FA Trophy finalists Hucknall Town. I bump into an acquaintance. We chatter away as I view the game. I form an opinion quite quickly on the intended target and report in to the Head of Youth.

I've plenty of time to kill, but decide to head up to North Derbyshire as quickly as possible. I join the M1 motorway at Junction 27 and exit at the next turn-off. I skirt through the town of Alfreton, passing its War Memorial as the skies darken and the wind picks up. I'm on the A61 travelling through the village of Shirland. There's a table-top sale at the Village Hall as an alternative if the game is not up to scratch.

Bloody hell, there are speed cameras everywhere. There's no way I'm going to contribute towards  the Derbyshire Constabulary Christmas party. I got nicked for speeding for the first time in over 30 years of driving the other day.

I clock the old winding wheels of Parkhouse Colliery in the town of Clay Cross. I park up the Rolls Royce and take a few snaps. There's a memorial for the many men and boys to have died at the mine. Forty five lost their lives in an explosion underground back in 1882.

The town has a population of just under 10,000. In 1969 the coal mine closed. 'The Beast of Bolsover' - Dennis Skinner was born here in 1932. He has been Member of Parliament for Bolsover since 1970.

The High Street is crammed full of take-away establishments. There's Kathmandu, Pirate Pizza and Mr Wongs. The town has sold its soul to Tesco and its £22 million re-development. If I'd chanced upon a decent pub I'd have grabbed a sandwich and a soft drink. Hey-ho, it's a West Country Cheddar cheese and pickle sandwich, a bag of crisps and a bottle of Tropicana in the £3 'Meal Deal.'

Tony Blackburn's 'Pick of the Pops' is on Radio 2. I once went to an 'Abba Tribute Night' in a hotel in Nottingham. Blackburn was the compere. He was bragging about huge listening figures on his Gold Breakfast Show. He asked the audience if anyone listened to it. I shouted out "No, it's crap." I wasn't invited back by Mrs P's boss the following year.

I leave the car in the community hall. I can see the players warming-up at the 'I Want Pet Foods' ground on Mill Lane, just a short walk up the road. The club's stadium was re-named 'The Devil Made Me Do It' ground back in July 2012 after a local tattoo studio won a raffle to provide a new name. I can remember this making the headlines on East Midlands Today.

I'm greeted by two jolly fellows on the gate. It's £3 admission, including a free programme, with over 40 pages packed with information. No wonder it wins Programme of the Year for the Central Midlands League, with it also climbing to 12th position in the National Listings. Well done lads, it's a cracking effort. I enjoy the piece on Celtic and their Intercontinental Cup game against Racing Club of Argentina in 1967. Five players were sent off in a stormy encounter.

"Enjoy the game" says the gateman. I love the personal touch. I pass a wooden table with boxes full of old programmes. There are badges and Clay Cross merchandise on offer. I buy a 50/50 ticket. Domino's Pizza's are donating some prizes.

The crystal clear PA is banging out Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl's 'Fairytale of New York.' I walk past the ground's one and only covered stand. Housing from the old pit estate backs onto the far goal. The remaining three sides are open, with 'The Tunnel Cafe' tucked away to the left of the main gate.

The pitch is rolled and in immaculate nick for this time of year. Clay Cross Town believe in tender loving care. I do two laps of the ground before settling in my grey tip-up seat, shielding myself from the gusty conditions.

I'm not expecting much, as it's a League that often falls short on quality. At least the home side try to play it on the carpet. How the Phoenix Club are above them, Lord only knows. Max and Paddy are disappointing, and there's a no-show from club mascot Gerry the Berry.

The visitors' goal has led a charmed life, when the Millers finally take the lead following a corner which hangs in the wind and is nodded in at the back stick by the big number nine.

The West Country Cheddar has caused quite a thirst. I shell out £1.10 on a Lucozade Sport at the cafe. Slade are blaring out of the PA. I hook up with a guy in the second half who lives up at New Mills. He has a good geographical knowledge of the Manchester and Cheshire non league scene. He tips me grounds at West Didsbury and Maine Road, which are now on my to-do list.

We're joined by Clay Cross Jack-of-all-trades committee member 'Martin.' His passion for the club is awe-inspiring. I get a run-down of the club's history. He invites me up to the Woodthorpe Inn for some after-match hospitality. What a splendid gesture. We applaud loudly at the stunning second, and what turns out to be, winning goal. What a day out I've had. All for £3.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Newcastle Town 2-0 Carlton Town

It's approaching midday on a Saturday morning. I heard Sticky jnr crash through the door at 07:00 after a heavy session in town. He's fumbling around the bedroom, getting ready to watch the Tricky Trees of Nottingham. His glum face appears in the kitchen, accompanied with a hacking cough. He slopes off down the alley towards Sainsbury's to purchase 20 tabs.

He returns moments later in all of a fluster. Smoke is coming out of his ears, readers, but it aint from cigarettes. The lass on the till has challenged his ID and called it fake (it was his 18th birthday a month ago). He's bashing away at the keypad on his phone. I check my timeline on Twitter to read his outrage "Absolutely disgusted with #sainsburys telling me my ID is fake #w***ers." Fair play to Sainsbury's though, they tweet him within seconds to ask if he would like to make a complaint. My boy doesn't want to get the girl in trouble though, so he declines #class.

It's been almost a month since I last ticked a ground off. I've not been myself recently, the strain of running two football teams is taking its toll, as is also a 10 day detox programme I'm putting myself through. I'm in desperate need of a football fix.

The console on the phone lights up with the words 'Trumpy Bolton.' He's necking a few in a Wetherspoons in Brighton, before his beloved Foxes take on the Hove Albion. I arrange to pick him up at 3pm on Tuesday.

I leave the office just before noon. There's a dreadful beginning to my half day's holiday, when I switch the radio on to hear the 'Greatest Love of All' by Whitney Houston. I skip down the drive, through the back door and immediately make a beeline towards his cage. Murphy Palmer, the budgie, and Norwich City's number one fan is two years old today. I unwrap a 45p treat I've bought from Wilko's in Clifton: I like to spoil the little fella.

He's still sulking about The Zuffler's remark on Facebook. He reckoned that WBA chants of "You Fat Bastard" during the Canaries 2-0 win at The Hawthorns, were directed at the wee man. I've got to admit he has put a bit of timber on. It's his winter coat.

Trumpy calls to say the BT Broadband engineer has completed the installation and that he's ready for collection. I clock him walking out of the 'Bronx.' Regular readers my recall him in tears as we walked (he limped) back to the hotel in Yeovil. It's now six weeks since his hip replacement.

The ruddy face and faithful plastic litre bottle of dry cider are on his person. He enquires whether we have got tickets for the Carlton end. He's proud to announce he can now put his own pants on, without Mrs Trumpy having to give him a helping hand. He tested his new hip out on Lincoln's notorious Steep Hill. He passed with flying colours, having had a tipple or two at the many hostelries in the City.

Trumpy has been up since the crack of dawn waiting for the BT engineer to bring him into the 21st Century. His late arrival scuppered any chance of a lunchtime session at the Keyworth Tavern. He waxes lyrical about the weekend in Brighton. He chanced upon Mr and Mrs Nugent, the parents of Leicester star striker David Nugent. "What a charming and down to earth couple they were" he remarks between large swigs of cider.

Trumpy has a Marston's new build in Uttoxeter to chalk off. He sinks a couple of real ales as Sticky Palms stares vacantly into his glass of apple and raspberry J2O. We have a round of sandwiches and listen to the 'Office prat' on a Christmas party deliver an endless stream of boring and predictable double entendres with the lasses in tow. Trumpy taps his toe to David Essex's Christmas classic, 'Winter's Tale.'

We've soon spotted signs to the ground of Newcastle Town, which is actually situated in Clayton. Newcastle under-Lyme is a market town in the county of Staffordshire, with a population of 73,000. Cricketer Dominic Cork and footballer Robbie Earle are one of their own. The town, back in the day, was well known for hat-making, silk, cotton mills, coal mining and brick manufacturing.

We can see the well lit ground, with the stand-out feature being the velodrome, in the distance. After doing a couple of laps we finally chance upon a turning into the ground.

The car park is dimly lit. It doesn't stop Bolton scurrying across the car park, diving into the Clubhouse and shouting up a pint of draught Bass. Just my luck, Bass on draught and I'm on a health kick. Club officials in jackets and ties appear all hot and bothered. It transpires that only half the Carlton team have rocked up, with further bad news that the kit is in the secretary's car, who is stuck in traffic. It gives Bolton the chance to neck a few more, to add the two he had in some characterless Fayre and Square pub close by.

I leave Trumpy watching Munich v City as I start to make my own enquiries. Carlton manager Les McJannet says that kick off will be delayed by half an hour. The ground is gobsmacking, with its panoramic views and quirky stands. It looks even better under the lights.

Bolton staggers out the bar as the teams kick off, I've already walked the circuit once. If I'd bought my bike I could have cycled the velodrome. He scans the teamsheet and enquires where Shearer and Ginola are. I have to explain it's Newcastle Town and not United we're watching.

He starts chatting to an elderly gentleman from Nottingham, who bless him, has forgot to put his teeth in. Neither of them can understand a word they are saying. Newcastle (Town) take the lead with a cleverly executed goal. A corner is played back towards the full back, who smashes his shot through an army of players and past an unsighted 'keeper. Sticky and Trumpy don't do 0-0s.

The Millers (Carlton) play some good football, but are toothless and without energy or aggression in the final third. The temperature begins to dip as we return to the bar again, allowing Bolton to rekindle his love affair with the Bass handpump.

We watch in disbelief as City overturn a two nil deficit with a James Milner winner. "This is taking the match-fixing saga a bit too far" remarks a sozzled Trumpy. Newcastle score early doors in the second half  and also see a penalty attempt screwed horribly wide. Carlton continue to look lacklustre. Their best attempt, from former Notts County scholar Alex Troke, is beaten away by the home 'keeper.

Trumpy has caused quite a commotion amongst the home officials when enquiring about the purchase of a hot pie. The blazers start to squabble with one another on why they have run out. We sneak out with five minutes to go, as Carlton are never going to trouble the scorers this evening.

Attendance: 64

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton