Sunday, July 20, 2014

Skegness Town 0-0 Clifton All Whites

I'm in the 'Rolls Royce' driving up Ruddington High Street. At my side is 'The Skipper.' For the last 10 years he has captained his village team on a Saturday. On Sundays he has represented one of the most famous football clubs in our Shire - Clifton All-Whites. Famous players to have donned their all-white strip include: Jermaine Jenas, Jermaine Pennant, Viv Anderson, Darren Huckerby and Garry Birtles.

We swing in through gates of their Green Lane ground. It's the first pre-season training session of the season. The first team manager is James 'Tosh' Turner. This effervescent, bubbly, enthusiastic character and brilliant coach is setting up tonight's drills with his mobile phone glued to his ear. He beckons me across: "Sticky, what yer doing on July 19th ? Fancy Skegness Town away."

It's Friday night. I've had a few quiet beers on the patio. Marouane Fellani pops round to introduce himself to my rabbit, Finley. It's 11:00pm. I laid flat out on the sofa coughing my guts up. I've had the dreaded lurgy all week. I lost my voice for a few days - not great news when you're in the customer services game. Murphy is perched on top of my pillow, plucking all the feathers out.

It's teeming down with rain on Saturday morning. I grab a few bits and bobs together before heading out to the east coast. The A46 is a breeze these days. I turn the radio on. Murphy the budgie will be whistling his little head off at Herman Hermit's on the Sound of the 60s Show on Radio 2.

I'm in 'The Lincoln', birthplace of Sticky Palms. The rain has cleared. Lincoln Cathedral dominates the skyline. The journey through Wragby and Horncastle is painstaking. Reports are coming through that Tosh and the gang have tipped up at Wolfies Wine Bar on the seafront. Tosh allows the boys a few looseners as part of this team-building exercise. It's an old Brian Clough trick.

I decine his kind offer of a 'few sociable scoops' and head towards Gibralter Point Nature Reserve. I walk through the bracken and heather, over the sand dunes and onto the beach. It's a beautiful, peaceful spot to wile an hour away or so.

I drop into the Bateman's Brewery at nearby Wainfleet. I neck a pint of 'Yella Belly' and enjoy a spot of lunch. I roll up at Skegness Town's  Burgh Road ground in plenty of time for kick off. The first person I bump into is Sean. He's managed my boy for the last five years and is passionate about the Club. I scour the room and note that their are lots of families from Clifton who have made the trip.

Skegness is a seaside town in the civil parish of East Lindsey. It lies 43 miles east of Lincoln, with a population just shy of 20,000. Butlins in Ingoldmells was the site of the UK's first holiday camp. Notable people born in Skegness include former Liverpool and England 'keeper Ray Clemence and Rainbow lead singer Graham Bonnet.

Skegness Town were formed in 1946. The black comedian Charlie Williams once played for the Club. His catchphrase was "Me old flower." He used to respond to rascist heckling from punters by saying: "If you don't shut up, I'll come and move in next door to you."

I take a customary stroll around the ground. It's a health hazard to the right of the clubhouse as I attempt to reach the only seated area. The grass is knee-high full of nettles and thistles. Planks of wood and broken fencing are strewn about the place. I'm going to have to put a call in to Tommy Walsh off Ground Force.

I take my seat in the stand. Five pensioners on the back row are enjoying some banter. I ask if it's okay if I take a photo. "We're Lincolnshire's most wanted" quips one OAP. I look across to the far side. Dressed in all red, including his face, is Tosh's sidekick, Steve Hardie.  There has been a reversal in fortune since his arrival. Tosh and Steve led Clifton to the Central Midlands South Division title last season. Steve looks to have spent the close season at the Clifton Kwik Tan Salon.

Clifton are wearing a rather fetching red strip. It was donated to the Club by QPR'S Jermaine Jenas. There's nowt doing in the first period as both teams struggle with the stifling heat. The linesman on the far side is having a 'Weston Super-Mare.' A spectator remarks that the 'lino' once cost him a year's ban. I enquire why. "I threatened to knock him out at my lad's game." Oh dear.

Sean shouts me up a cider at the break as I start to think the unthinkable. This could be a 0-0. Tosh makes a few changes. Ben Clark, with his brilliant first touch and gifted footballing brain is replaced by former Nuneaton striker Nicky Kennerdale.

The entertaining Jaylee Hodgson has a cigar on at the back. He's had more clubs than Peter Stringfellow. He never wastes a ball, working in tandem with the impressive Jake Richardson.

Tosh throws on a couple of 16 year old kids with 30 minutes remaining. It's a managerial masterstroke. Clifton get the ball wide to their young guns. The Skegness defence is peppered with crosses. Only an outstretched leg prevents young Ross from opening the scoring.

The final whistle goes. It's my first 0-0 since Jan 2012. Bloody hell, all those so-called mates of mine will be terrorizing me on the social networks this evening. It'll be the usual suspects - White Van Man , Bruiser and The Zuffler.

Tosh has a pub crawl lined-up for the lads. I'll catch up with him again on Tuesday when they travel to Gedling Miners' Welfare.

No comments: