Monday, April 27, 2015

Burnley 0-1 Leicester City

It's 10:00pm on a Saturday evening. I'm slouched on the sofa, glass of Merlot in hand, watching the news headlines before Match of the Day. I glance down at my phone when the message alert bleeps. I reach out for my spectacles and stare into the console. The message from Trumpy Bolton reads: "Do you fancy going to Burnley next week?"

I can tell he's been on the sauce all day, when he finally phones up. There's an outside chance of a ticket, despite the Foxes selling out their 2469 allocation. He will have forgotten in the morning. We've no chance of going. On Monday morning at 9:15 the legend confirms he has two tickets. He says that he'll have to kill me if he tells me how he bagged them.

I pick him up on Saturday morning. Trumpy is swinging his carrier bag of full of pear cider and is sporting a St George's Polo shirt. He untwists the top off another plastic bottle full of blue liquid. I thank him kindly for bringing some screen wash. He begins to mix the liquid with his cider, which turns the colour of green. It's only WKD that he's poured in!

Trumpy is not too chuffed to hear that 'The Jester From Leicester' - Mark Selby, has exited the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. The legend is a massive Leicester City fan. He has seen the club play at over 60 different grounds.

Supporters of Burnley and Leicester best be seated when you read the next line. Trumpy Bolton's hobby in life is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland. He's heard on the quiet that there's a new Wetherspoons open in Otley, up in West Yorkshire. It's the birthplace of England rugby union player Mike Tindall and our first port of call on today's trip.

In less than two hours I'm squeezing the 'Rolls Royce' into a tight parking spot on the High Street. Trumpy poses outside the Otley Conservative Club - he loves the Blues. 'The 'Bowling Green' is opposite the fire station. Back in 1857 it was a court and session house. It's been transformed by Wetherspoons and tastefully renovated.

Trumpy has already seen off his cider and WKD. He shouts up a pint of Golden Sheep and a pint of Thatcher's Gold. It's just a full English and a cup of coffee for Sticky Palms. We're soon heading North again, as we crawl through Ilkley towards the village of Glunsby. The Dog and Gun is in a lovely spot. Bolton has soon guzzled his pint of Timothy Taylor's. Burnley is only a short drive away.

It's only 12:30pm, we've got bags of time. I turn right, close to Turf Moor, driving past the Burnley Miners' Social Club, before parting with £4 to park the car. It should give us a quick exit onto the M65. We walk towards the ground. There's a party atmosphere and community feel about the place. I came here in the early 90s. Through a drunken haze I vaguely remember Burnley beating Rotherham 2-1 in an FA Cup tie. A boy called Graham Lancashire scored the winner. Shaun Goater was a sub for the visitors.

Burnley Cricket Club seems a popular venue for visiting supporters. It's full to the brim with Leicester fans. I shout Trumpy a beer up and have a Guinness for myself. This could be interesting, the umpires are about to start play. Around 800 beer-fuelled Foxes' fans cheer as the bowler begins his run up. God only knows what the cricketers make of it all. The opening bat, Vishal Tripathi, a former high school pupil from Burnley, pulls the third ball of the game over the deep square boundary for six runs. It's met with raucous cheers from the Leicester faithful.

A batsman is caught in the outfield. He gets the full 'cheerio' treatment. It must be the lowest point in his cricketing career. He fails to make eye contact with the supporters, who are hanging over the balcony, as he trudges back to the pavilion. The infamous 'Zoonie Bus' has just rolled up. Big Derek grabs a chat with Trumpy. They've just rocked up after a heavy session in Rochdale and are well and truly spangled.

We take a short stroll to Turf Moor. Burnley is a market town with a population of just over 70,000 people. It was a prominent mill town during the Industrial Revolution. It's local brewery is Moorhouses which was founded in 1865 and whose award-winning real ales include the Pride of Pendle. Famous people from the area include: Sir Ian McKellan, Paul Abbot, Chumbawamba, Tony Livesey, James Anderson, Jay Rodriguez and Coronation Street crowd favourite Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole).

Burnley FC were founded in 1882 and were a founder member of the Football League. The won the old Division One in 1960 and were European Cup quarter finalists in 1961. Record transfer fee paid out was £3 million for Steven Fletcher from Hibernian. Record transfer fee received is £7 million from Southampton for Jay Rodriguez.

It's £35 for the ticket and £3 for an excellent programme with over 80 pages. We collect our 'Foxes Never Quit' t-shirts on the gate. They are complimentary from the Club, as well as free breakfasts for travelling support at the King Power Stadium and a £5 voucher to spend on a pie and a pint. It's a lovely gesture - other clubs should take a leaf out their book.

The Foo Fighters and David Bowie boom out of the PA. A minute's silence for the 30th anniversary of the Bradford Fire Disaster is impeccably observed by those actually in the stands - some Leicester fans are unaware of this down in the concourse.

Leicester begin nervously. Wasilewski dilly-dallies on the ball, he's dispossessed and is lucky to see a last ditch block save his bacon. Both teams serve up poor fayre in the first half, it's devoid of any real quality, as the nerves begin to jangle. The most memorable moment is the free Holland's pie that Trumpy has fetched from downstairs.

The Clarets wheel out two former players at the break, who scored the goals that saved Burnley from dropping into the Conference in 1987 - at the expense of my team, Lincoln City.

The second half is much better as the game opens up. The pivotal moment is on the hour. Schmeichel saves from Ings, but Taylor is hacked down by Konchesky. Matthew Taylor is making his first start since August and taking his first penalty in five years. Later on TV he appears to slip before striking the ball against the outside of the post.

The Leicester fans are still taunting the Burnley supporters who stand close by, as only seconds later Albrighton is haring into space down the right hand side. He puts in a peach of a cross that Duff can only slice up into the air. In what seems an eternity, 'keeper Heaton back pedals in slow motion to claw the ball back from the goal line, Vardy smashes the loose ball into the back of net, cue pandemonium in the visitors' enclosure. Not many supporters will have gone from experiencing your stomach churning to a moment of sheer euphoria within a minute of each other.

Leicester begin to knock it about, but Burnley aren't quite done yet. Ings twists and turns his way through the Foxes defence before unleashing a shot that Schmeichel beats away. A deflected Ben Mee effort wrong foots the 'keeper, but he still somehow manages to get a strong hand on the ball to avert any danger.

With the clock ticking away towards 90 minutes we make a sharp exit with two Leicester defenders laid-out in the box having collided as they desperately try to scramble the ball away. Wes Morgan is the standout defender for the Foxes. He has tackled, blocked and headed everything that the Clarets have thrown at him.

As I switch the car radio on, there is some good news for the town of Burnley. James Anderson has taken three wickets for one run with the new ball in the West Indies.

Attendance: 19,582

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton

Bolton Beer Watch:

                               The Bowling Green: 1 cider and 1 real ale
                               The Dog and Gun:   1 real ale
                               Burnley Cricket Club: 3 pints of bitter and cider with WKD
                               Turf Moor - 1 pint at half-time
                               Car journey - 2 plastic bottles full of cider with a WKD topping
                               Michelin Star Restaurant (our house) - 2 pints of real ale.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Harrogate Town 1-4 AFC Fylde

The season is drawing to a close. I've enjoyed my season off from recruiting and managing youth. Next year I'll be involved with Clifton All Whites Under 19s in the North Midlands Floodlit League. I'm relishing the challenge of developing young players, once again, helping them on their way to adult football.

It's Friday evening. I've had a long old week at work. We've all been in sales training for two solid days. It's intense, but also fun. I need a couple of pints to unwind for the weekend. Mrs P and I take a 30 second stroll down to The Pear Tree, my new local. It has replaced the artist formerly known as The Fairway. The old pub was an eyesore and a blot on the landscape. It only took a few months to restore the place.

I have a couple of pints of 'Fool Proof' from the Caledonian Brewery. I miss the old jukebox in here. They'd often leave the back doors open on a hot summer's day, whilst I was spanking the Bombay Sapphire on the patio at my house. It would be accompanied with Boney M or the Bay City Rollers belting out from the public bar.

I dash home to keep Murphy the budgie up to speed on the latest score from Carrow Road as his beloved Canaries take on Middlesbrough. An Alex Tettey own goal puts the kibosh on Murphy celebrating anything this weekend. He asks for the 'Do not disturb' sign to be placed over his cage (towel) as he sulks on his swing.

Murphy's mood has not improved in the morning; he's asked that Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s Show is not switched on - the mardy little sod. It's not gone down too well that I'm travelling to Harrogate. The top of the Conference North is on a knife's-edge. It's a two horse race between Barrow AFC and AFC Fylde.

Danny Baker is broadcasting out in the USA for his Five Live Show. He's near to where the NASCAR Racing takes place. Baker is filming an eight part series called Cradle to the Grave, an adaption of his autobiography 'Going to Sea in a Sieve' which features Peter Kaye playing Baker's father, 'Spud.'

The journey through South and North Yorkshire is without incident. Darren is on board today. I've picked a pub in the affluent village of Ferrensby that requires a tick-off. The General Tarleton is way out of my league. It's a renovated 18th Century coaching inn, and a bloody posh un, at that.

We're pounced upon by a waiter who sounds like Rene from the sitcom 'Allo Allo.'There about 20 odd tables vacant, 'have I booked one?' No I bloody haven't. I only want a quick pint and a sandwich. After some banter we have a pint of Black Sheep and a beef with horseradish sauce sandwich.

It looks like folk are pouring in from the local Darby and Joan club. Those ladies will be dropping like flies if they clock my new Vans and blue shirt from Next. I'll have to put my first aid skills to the test at this rate. We 're comfortably the youngest in the pub by a country mile.

We can't exit the joint quick enough. It's a beautiful drive to Harrogate through the picturesque town of Knaresborough. We park just off the Wetherby Road, opposite 'Town's' ground. Harrogate has a population of 75,000 and in 1982 hosted the Eurovision Song Contest. Notable people born in the town include: footballers Andy O'Brien and John Scales, actor Hugo Speer and commentator Jon Champion. Electro-Techno band Utah Saints are from Harrogate - they are a personal favourite of 'The Auctioneer' who I worked with for many years.

We stretch our legs and manage to find the only council estate in the town. A Ford Capri flies around the corner and over a speed bump - I thought it was Bodie and Doyle from The Professionals. We pay £12 on the gate and £2.50 for a disappointing programme that is stuffed full of advertising. The ground is a beauty. I grab a cup of Punjana tea from 'Thompson's Tea Bar' and head over towards the 'Eddie Brown Stand' to hide from the sun for a few minutes. I while away the time amusing myself at the PA guy's choice in music. I roar with laughter when he plays 'Rasputin' by Boney M - I thought I was on the patio at home for a minute.

The pitch is patchy, the grass is short. Groundstaff try to revive it with water from sprinklers. Harrogate Town were founded in 1914. They are managed by former Lincoln City defender Simon Weaver, who played alongside Northern Ireland international Gareth McAuley when Big Keith Alexander was the boss of the Imps.

AFC Fylde, from Preston, are managed by former Tranmere defender Dave Challionor - he of the famous long-throw fame. Ironically the two sides could meet in the Conference Premier next season. A coach load of flat-cappers, with trays of pie and gravy, troop off in the direction of the goal their team will attack.

Harrogate start the game well and take a deserved lead with a deflected free kick from James Walshaw looping over the wall into the net. Dave Challinor is edgy and nervous. His team snatch at chances before scoring two in a minute on the stroke of half-time.

A guy walks by at the break as the PA bloke spins Madonna's 'Holiday' for the second time today. He has a cat in a flap on his head. He says he misheard the guys travelling say 'wear a flat cap.' It's Lancastrian humour at its best.

Two further goals in the second half for Fylde kill off any chances of a Harrogate comeback. 'Cat Flap Man' starts off a Conga in the Eddie Brown Stand, which all the Harrogate junior teams join in with amusement. It caps off another fine day in 'God's Own Country.'

Attendance: 704

Man of the Match: Danny Rowe

Monday, April 13, 2015

Grimethorpe Sports 7-1 New Bohemians

Easter is spent in God's own country. On Saturday we're up in York, staying over at my brother's house in the quaint village of Upper Poppleton. Sunday and Monday see us based in the village of Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. The weather is kind to us as we hike the hills of Wharfedale, which is bathed in glorious, unseasonal sunshine. Pint of the day is in the Craven Arms up at Appletreewick. I was tipped the wink on this boozer by none other than blog legend, Trumpy Bolton.

I arrive home in Keyworth just in time for Sticky jnr's semi-final clash with our good friends from Kimberley. A smashing game of football is spoilt by a referee who has no man management skills or personality to handle a 'big game' or razor sharp audience. What should have been a night to remember for the Keyworth young guns turned into a Brian Rix farce.

I had planned to watch FC United up at Witton Albion, as 'The Skipper' didn't have a match this weekend. His semi-final against Heath Hayes is suddenly brought forward by a week. Mrs P kindly agrees to take him. It gives me the chance to visit a ground I've had my eye on for a while since excellent blogger 'The Onion Bag' rocked up here earlier in the season.

It's Friday evening and I'm in Nottingham city centre with Mrs P. I fancy an aperitif before pegging it up to the Theatre Royal to watch the stage version of Mark Haddon's award-winning book 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

I would have settled for a good old spit and sawdust public bar, but Mrs P is in tow and wants to go upmarket. We end up in one of those God forsaken chain bars called Revolution at Nottingham's Cornerhouse complex. I gently tap my fingers on the bar patiently waiting for ten minutes as barmen chop up cucumbers and mint for ridiculously overpriced cocktails. My patience finally snaps. I beckon Mrs P from her comfy seat and storm past a confused doorman, who I'd only said good evening to ten minutes ago.

I shout up a bottle of Becks and a glass of wine in the theatre bar and get gassing to Dringy who I've bumped into. The play is magnificent and worthy of a standing ovation.

It's Saturday morning, Mrs P has already skedaddled off to Cannock for the football. Murphy the budgie is in one of of his moods. He missed Brian Matthew's 25th anniversary show on Radio 2 last week because Sticky jnr overlaid after a night on the lash. He catches the last hour of Brian this morning. I leave him whistling to Frankie Valli's 'Beggin' as I dash down to the bookies in Ruddington to place some bets on the Grand National.

I jump onto the A614 and head up towards the A1. Paddy McGuinness is guesting on the Danny Baker Show. Baker asks him who his favourite ever footballer is. The Bolton fan replies Jay Jay Okocha. The A1 southbound is gridlocked. Some poor sod has died in an accident. The police are recovering a vehicle.

I notice signs for Pontefract. I was given the impression by one of their officials on a messageboard that I wouldn't be welcome up there for having the audacity to lambast their management team for using foul and abusive language.I'm soon driving through Goldthorpe towards Grimethorpe. These places are synonymous with the Miners' Strike in the 1980s.

Grimethorpe is a village in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley with a population of 2000. At its height the merged colliery once had a workforce of 6000. The mine was closed in 1992. In 1994 an EU study on deprivation listed Grimethorpe as the poorest village in the country. £164 million was pumped into the area. 50 new businesses sprung up, providing 5000 new jobs.

I pass factories and distribution centres on the outskirts of the village. A sad statistic I did notice is that more men died at the mine than did during two World Wars. The village is in far better shape than I'd imagined. I mistakingly pull into the Working Men's Club, before finding the entrance to the Grimethorpe Sports Ground.

A covered stand has signage above it saying 'Grimet' the 'horpe' is missing. Two teenage boys and two girls are sat on the wall. "What happened to the 'horpe' in 'Grimet'?" I enquire. "Someone 'borrowed' it" pipes up one of the lads. "Are you a 'Bobby'?" asks the other boy. I've got one of my new range of coats on from Next. It'll probably have the ladies in Grimethorpe in all of a lather.

I'm asked again if I'm a Bobby while I take photos of the WMC. Wounds have been slow to heal since the Miners Strike, when Maggie Thatcher sent up to South Yorkshire some of the Metropolitan's finest thugs.

The ground provides a wonderful vista. They even have crash barriers at the top of a grass bank, to lean on and admire the beautiful countryside. I'd already ridden up to the local junior school to take a picture at the entrance of the old pit wheels.

I chance upon a gang of youths swigging from cans of Strongbow cider. I ask about the adjoining cricket pitch. "Not played in ages, team were disbanded, full of drunks." All that is left is an artificial strip. I ask the same youth what he does for a living: "I'm the local knobhead, and him, see him, (pointing at his mate) is a smackhead." I'd already seen remnants of a fire in the stand opposite, where local druggies congregate at night.

Grimethorpe Sports are unbeaten this season in the South Yorkshire Amateur League. The visitors, New Bohemians, are third from bottom and leaking goals. Today I'm a goal whore. The referee is only about 17 and has no linesmen. The players treat him with respect, never questioning any decisions. Grimethorpe are 3-0 up at the break and go on to win the game 7-1. The highlight of the game is the goal scored by the visitors, who have stuck to their task.

The ground and club need some tender loving care and a hug. I'm told the under 14s are their only junior club. The ground is tragic, but also beautiful. It will go straight into my top five, just for those reasons.

Mrs P backed the winner of the National. £43 isn't a bad return for a £1 each way stake.

Attendance: 20

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Barton Town Old Boys 0-3 Cleethorpes Town

I've been losing interest in professional football for sometime now. As a kid I used to be obsessed with the job lot. Back in the day I'd get my father, who was a journalist with the Daily Mirror, to ring up the Sports Desk late at night on a Wednesday evening to find out the Lincoln City's final score, otherwise you wouldn't have found out until the morning papers arrived the next day.

Today the media is saturated with football coverage. There are dedicated sports channels and radio stations. It's took away all the enjoyment for me with its over analysis and waffle of the pundits. It's still a lifetime ambition to visit and see a game on all 92 grounds. I'd planned to visit ground No.76 on Good Friday, for the clash of two Lancashire clubs: Morecambe and Accrington Stanley. Blog legend Trumpy Bolton had agreed to accompany me.

It's Wednesday evening and I'm at my wits end. Not only is another episode of the ghastly Midsomer Murders on ITV, but it's also bucketing down with rain in the north west of the country. I punch out 'T' for Trumpy on my mobile. I express  concern over a potential 300 mile round trip to Morecambe to see a game that might be hosed off. A sober Bolton (he doesn't touch a drop on a school night) asks about an alternative venue. "How about Barton Town v Cleethorpes Town near the Humber Bridge, Wetherspoons at Brigg serve ale after 09:00am?"

A bleary-eyed Bolton trudges down his drive at 07:45am, as Sticky performs a three point turn from out the Reginald Molehusband manual (one for the older generation). He's got his litre of cider securely stashed in a Disney Store plastic bag. Mrs Trumpy must have bought their granddaughter a cuddly toy from the store. Trumpy calls her Elsie Mo after the award-winning pale ale from the Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham.

He takes a huge slurp of cider to wash down the toasted teacake he chewed on for breakfast. Murphy's hero, Alan Dedicoat, hasn't even read out the 8 o'clock news on Radio 2 yet. He salutes the soon to be opened Pear Tree in our village. We both have a good old groan and moan as Arsenal supporting self-promoting northerner Sara Cox's annoying dulcet tones are heard across the airwaves, accompanied by some wretched Christina Aguileri song.

Bolton is all set for two nights in Chepstow over the weekend, as he continues his quest to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland - I kid you not.

We both have a laugh over the deluge of rain at Bury last Saturday which made Southend United manager Phil Brown's fake tan run - sorry Shrimper fans if you made the trip. Trumpy says he won't miss sacked Notts County manager Shaun Derry, with his V-neck jumpers, shirt, tie and ridiculously tight trousers.

We hit the market town of Brigg at just gone 9:00am. The White Horse, a Wetherspoons establishment, has only been open a few months. "Bloody hell, it's a bit quiet in here love", remarks an already booze-fuelled Bolton. "It's only 9 o'clock darling, wait until midday, it'll be bumper to bumper" quips the blonde barmaid.

The legend treats me to a full English and an Americano. He plays around with his bacon cob, whilst potting a pint of Ruddles ale and a cider. We're soon parked up on a grass verge on the edge of Barton upon-Humber staring out towards the Humber Estuary and the Humber Bridge shrouded in mist.

The annoying Zoe Ball is hosting Pop Master on Radio 2. After an even first round, Bolton finds a second gear and gives Sticky a thorough going over. Hoards of Hoppers are heading out this way, as it is Day Two of the NCEL Groundhop. I take the executive decision to street park away from the ground to avoid being blocked in. It looks like the 'Groundhop Tour Bus' has managed to achieve this, as cars try to squeeze by in an attempt to park in the ground.

Barton upon Humber is a town in North Lincolnshire with a population just shy of 10,000. Isaac Pitman, the inventor of shorthand hand writing was once a Master at the Free Charity School in the town.

It's £5 on the gate and £1.50 for a bumper programme. The conditions are overcast. There are puddles of standing water on the nearest touchline. The pitch is already cutting up badly. The place is mobbed with Hoppers from all over the country. Trumpy emerges from the bar with another pint of bitter as I get gassing to a chap from Harlow.

I clock clean-shaven Cleethorpes manager Marcus Newell. He looks less scary than he did at Wisbech Town earlier in the season, when he sported a beard and looked like he burst a blood vessel in his neck when they exited the FA Vase. He chews gum more furiously than Wee Billy Davies and Sam Allardyce put together.

Cleethorpes take a battering for the first 40 minutes as Old Boys football them off the park. 9 Jacket, Scott Phillips, is too hot to handle. His touch is majestic, headers are cushioned, not a ball is wasted, unlike the chances that his side spurn, in a one sided first half. When a chance comes their way, the Owls of Cleethorpe take advantage. Brody Robertson curls a 20 yard shot into the bottom corner of the onion bag to give the visitors an undeserved lead.

The guy next to me is a proper hopper. He has a stopwatch and jots down the time of the goal and who the scorer is in his notebook. He's visited over a 1000 grounds and tries to watch 5 games a week. Trumpy nearly chokes on his second homemade chicken curry when the guy mentions his missus is driving up from Essex to spend the night with him in a hotel in Wakefield.

Old Boys have lost their best player in Phillips, who has picked up a hamstring injury. Cleethorpes finish the game off with two late strikes, the first of which sees the whole team pile onto the Owl mascot, who has his head ripped off during the raucous celebrations.

There's still time for the legend and I to visit four more pubs, including the delightful Dam Busters, in Scampton near Lincoln, with all it's fantastic RAF war memorabilia.

Attendance: 510

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton