Monday, August 29, 2016
What a wretched day we had up in Ramsbottom on Saturday. The Audi conked out half a mile from the pub. John the Glaswegian breakdown recovery driver saved the day, as we dropped off the heap of scrap at Frank Butcher's Car Lot in Alfreton. Oh well, at least we've got a courtesy car.
It's Sunday morning and Ms Moon is off to Morrisons for a spot of shopping. I hear her turn the car over and over again. Even the courtesy car won't fire up. Jesus wept, what a bloody weekend we're having. My car's blocked in, we can't move Ms Moon's piece of junk because of parked cars on the street. I cope with the situation in my usual style, by retiring to the Starting Gate in Colwick for a pint of real ale.
I continue my walk down the Colwick Loop Road before waltzing into Morrisons on Netherfield Retail Park. I exit 15 minutes later with two full bags of shopping, before the long 3 mile slog home. It's a shoe-in that'll be requesting a foot massage later in the day. I still knocked a blog up from Ramsbottom, despite not seeing a ball kicked, we'll return there before Christmas.
Tuesday evening is spent in the charming village of Radcliffe-on-Trent, at Wharf Lane, as Radcliffe Olympic take on Sticky's favourites, Radford FC in the East Midlands Counties League. It's a sweltering evening, I'm covered in thunder flies and have been bitten to death. Radford aren't at the races and get the thumping they deserve. Big Glenn Russell, the Radford manager, is having a dicky fit on the far side of the ground. He spends most of the night picking up his baseball cap that he's flung to the ground.
Murphy the budgie and I are listening to Ken Bruce's Love Song spot on Radio 2. We both break down in tears when he plays 'Miss You Nights' by Cliff Richard - the song's rubbish, but it reminds us of our best friend, Finley the rabbit, who passed away earlier in the year. He was famous for his crap Non League score predictions - everybody loved Finley. Murphy is soon popping his head out of the cage and sticking his beak into the off button, when Ken Bruce asks a contestant to name three Craig David 'songs' on the 'three in ten slot' on Pop Master.
We tune into Five Live Sports Extra. A vital County Championship game between Yorkshire and Notts is being played at Scarborough's picturesque North Marine Road cricket ground. The commentator, Kevin Howells, confesses to having watched the British period medical drama The Royal on ITV, that was set in the town. I tweet him to say it wasn't a patch on Heartbeat - he has a chuckle as he reads it out live on air.
We're up and at 'em by 7am on Saturday. There's an emergency pit stop at Costa Coffee on Daleside Road, as Ms Moon can be a nasty so and so without a caffeine intake. We jump on the A1 near Newark, there's not much traffic about. Brian Matthew is having a nightmare on his Radio 2 60s show. Murphy the budgie won't be giving two hoots though, as he's staying at his Auntie Val's for the weekend, so will be listening to Classic FM.
We park up at the ice rink in Whitley Bay. The skies are sun-kissed and the air still. A guy from ZZ Top is fishing on the sea front. He's ledgering around 100 metres out to sea and is hopeful of landing some cod and pollock. I chance my arm on the darts at the fairground. I just need to score over 10, in different beds, with each dart, to win £10. Sticky P is on flames but doesn't read the small print properly - doubles and trebles don't count. I 'win' a cuddly toy. I'm still sulking as we wolf down some haddock 'n chips on picnic benches outside the Whitley Whaler chippie. Lunch is washed down with a pint of 'Ring of Fire' at the King George. We walk past the The Rex Hotel and The Deep nightclub, The Rex ceased trading six months ago. The Deep remains open, but for how long ? You couldn't move for folk when I was last here 25 years ago.
Whitley Bay is a seaside town in Tyne and Wear with a population of 10,000. Notable people from the area include: Captain Gladstone Adams, the inventor of the windscreen wiper, former Aston Villa, Leicester and Blackburn forward Graham Fenton (North Shields manager) and the screenwriter Ian La Frenais who co-wrote Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and Porridge.
Thursday night used to be the big night out in the resort, folk used to flock in from North Shields and South Shields for hen parties and stag nights. I was privy to one of these nights in 1991. We were still supping ale on the pavement outside the Royal Hotel at 5am, spilling out into the road like they do in Malia. Whitley Bay FC were founded in 1897 and are nicknamed the Seahorses. They have won the FA Vase on four occasions - the only team to do so.
The Phoenix Tap looks a decent pub and it's not far from the ground. A pint of Aurora is cheap as chips at £2.30. We stroll up to the Hillheads Park. It's £6 on the gate and £1.50 for an information-packed programme. The ground is a belter, with two large stands, a club shop and tea huts on both sides of the ground. Local rivals North Shields are today's visitors.
The standard of football is extremely high, as good as I've witnessed at this level. I hear the famous 'North East Roar' that I read about in Harry Pearson's A Far Corner - A Mazy Dribble Through North East Football - a book that influenced my love-in with Non League football.
North Shields look particularly slick going forward. Slightly against the run of play the Seahorses take the lead with Adam Shanks sweeping home a cross from the right hand side. There is a round of applause on 26 minutes for North Shields toddler Frankie Sherwood, who is bravely battling cancer for the second time in his short life. A bucket collection raises £669.10.
The Whitley Bay DJ is having a 'mare, I'd expected to hear Bryan Ferry, Sting or heaven forbid Cheryl Cole and Jimmy Nail, instead it's some woeful R'n B whack. Ms Moon says he sounds like Dennis off Auf Wiedersehen Pet. I've stiffened up since our 6 mile hike around the resort. I drag my weary body to the loo, passing the Whitley Bay WAGS. I feel like putting my feet up in the glorious main stand and having forty winks.
North Shields awaken and roll their sleeves up. They score two quick goals from the head of substitute Ryan Carr in similar fashion.
The Seahorses throw on big unit, Ross Wilkinson. His legs might of gone, but he is a bloody nuisance. North Shields don't know whether to stick or twist. Whitley Bay nick a deserved equaliser with a few minutes remaining to share the spoils.
Man of the Match: Marc Lancaster (North Shields 3 Jacket)
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Keyworth play a beautiful game and are two to the good, when on the hour, junior is let off his leash. The boot and run, neck-breaking football of the last few seasons is now a distant memory. Keyworth manager, Steve Pembleton, knows his onions. There's a few flicks and tricks from the crowd-favourite, but in the main he keeps his game simple. The match is in the dying embers when 'Georgie' picks up a loose ball 25 yards out. He spots the 'keeper off his line before delicately floating the ball over him and into the roof of the net. The crowd behind the goal applaud. It's a beautiful moment that sets my heart racing. There's no arms raised, fuss or skidding on his knees, he just nonchalantly walks back to his mark. That's my boy.
My other lad hasn't doesn't bad either. On Thursday, news came in that he'd passed his A-Levels and is off to Leeds to study Business and Management. I just hope he stays away from Elland Road, or at least doesn't apply for the manager's job.
It's been a football fiesta this week. On Monday night Rammers and I bumped into Groundsman of the Year Neil Swift at Basford United. They had a sun tan-off competition, which Swifty won by a country mile. Wednesday was spent in the charming village of North Littleton, in Worcestershire. Bromsgrove Sporting were the visitors. John Ramshaw was on a spying mission as his team Rugby Town are due to play Bromsgrove in the FA Cup on Saturday. We managed a swift pint of Espirito De Carnaval from the Wadworth stable in the Ivy Inn before seeing Sporting turn over Littleton 3-0.
Murphy is livid on Saturday morning, Ms Moon has left 6 Music on his radio. Uncle Brian, on Radio 2, has already put in a one hour shift. I must teach Murph to tune the radio in with his beak. The young canary is a bundle of nerves as his team have a local derby with the Tractor Boys on Sunday lunchtime. The weather forecast looks wretched. I feel sorry for all those folk heading to Edgbaston for the T20 Finals. Ms Moon is dispatched to Netherfield Retail Park to purchase a couple of brollies from Poundland. I give her £2.10 and tell her to keep the change.
The skies are reasonably clear on the M1 as we head oop north. Fearne Cotton and Martin Kemp are having a shocker on Radio 2. I slip on my Motown CD that Ms Moon very kindly bought me from Morrisons. We're soon tapping our feet and 'singing' to The Supremes and Four Tops. Blimey Charlie, it's looking black over Bill's mother's, as darkened clouds roll in from Saddleworth Moor on the M62.
I'm looking forward to a real ale or two at the Fisherman's Retreat and the Irwell Brewery Tap, that comes highly recommended by those lovely, warm friendly folk on the Ramsbottom United message board. I'm really excited about the day, as Ms Moon suddenly pulls the car up on the corner of Bye Road. I see the blood drain from her face. The car is stuck in first gear and is clunking, banging and knocking. Chuffing hell, we should have brought the 'Rolls Royce.' Heavens to betsy, she only bought the darn Audi a few weeks ago.
It suddenly dawns on me there'll be no football for us today. I leave a raging Ms Moon to ring up the breakdown company and trudge off up the road towards the pub. It's siling it down with rain. I've forgotten my coat and my hoodie. All I have on is a thin fleece. I ring up Murphy Palmer the budgie in his cage as a river of rain gushes down from my head onto my face. Murphy whistles 'Cry Me A River' by Justin Timberlake down the phone. It's out of tune, but topical and beautiful, and makes me weep and wail even louder. Murphy reminds me that I did 40 consecutive weekend games last season. I end the call and break down in tears. My phone goes off again, It's Murphy whistling 'Dry Your Eyes' by The Streets - I block him.
There's no sign of the bloomin' pub, it must be further up the hill. Chuff that for a game of soldiers, I'm soaked to the skin. I about-turn and head back towards the car. We're parked on double yellow lines on the corner of the road. Our abandoned car is causing mayhem with the traffic and neighbourhood. It's like a scene from the cartoon series Wacky Races. Ms Moon looks fit to blow a gasket, I think the car already has. She walks up the road and grabs a disgusting meat and potato pie and a bag of Walkers plain crisps. It's hardly the romantic lunch we'd dreamt about.
The local cricket club has seen famous Aussies such as Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke and Ian Chappell don the Club sweater. The defunct pub, the Corner Pin, was where the band Elbow played their first gig. The Black Pudding World Throwing Championships are held at The Oaks pub on Bridge Street each year. The Rammy Festival takes place in September. Sticky and Murphy's favourite band, Smoove and Turrell, are playing, along with Julian Cope, Gaz Coombes, Fun Lovin' Criminals and The Selecter. Ramsbottom United FC were founded in 1966 and play at the Harry Williams Riverside Stadium. Floodlights were installed in 1996 from Oldham Athletic's Boundary Park ground.
I tweet the Rammy Utd timeline to tell them of the catastrophic events. They very kindly offer assistance. What a wonderful club, I can't wait to come back. John the Glaswegian breakdown driver tips up at 1pm. The car ends up on the back of the truck as we make the depressing trip back to Riddings in Derbyshire, where the bloody heap of scrap was bought from.
We bid farewell to John, whilst we pick up the courtesy car. I'd like to stay with him for the rest of his shift as he was such a cool guy. Ms Moon shoots off to Morrisons, whilst I slump on the settee, sulking about missing the game. At least my team, Lincoln City, are winning, with new striker Jonny Margetts bagging all four goals.
I flick on the T20 cricket, Notts have already made an early exit. I watch Durham bowler Mark Wood cutting Joe Root in two with a 92mph delivery. I open a bottle of Punk IPA, it's only 5pm, it's going to be a long night. Poor old Rammy have lost to the oldest club in the World, Sheffield FC, 2-1. It warms the cockles of my heart when 'Snap Dragon' from Ramsbottom makes a generous donation to the Parkinson's Disease charity. I can't wait until we return to this wonderful club.
Footnote: Ms Moon's run of bad luck continued on Sunday morning when the courtesy car refused to fire up. Next time we're in Riddings we'll give Frank Butcher's Car Lot the swerve. She can't 'arf pick em.
Man of the Match 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' and John the vehicle recovery driver.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
It's Monday tea-time and I'm strolling over Trent Bridge towards the cricket ground. There are no queues at the ticket office as I hand over £20 to the cashier. I have a swift pint in the back garden of the Stratford Haven, before finding a seat in the Larwood and Voce Stand, where I'm exposed to the bright evening sunshine. Notts are playing Essex in a T20 quarter final. My good friends, the Baker brothers, (Essex fans) are in the Fox Road Stand, adjacent to me. I'll see how many Notts rattle up before hunting them down.
Notts look 20 runs short as they limp their way to 162-7. I join the Bakers, who seem rather bullish, and a gathering of folk from Keyworth Cricket Club, including Barnsley FC fan Roger Wilson. New Zealand fat lad, Jesse Ryder, is at the crease and looking in imperious form, as he finds the gaps during the power-play. The Baker boys think the game is in the bag. Ryder is the victim of a freak run out. Essex crumble under pressure. Samit Patel is on flames, as Notts run out comfortable winners.
I'm down Selhurst Street in Radford on Tuesday evening, at the One Call Stadium. Local businessman, Adrian Rawdon, has very kindly donated some money into grassroots football. I'm stalking Radford manager, Big Glenn Russell, who is sporting his trademark baseball cap as the Pheasants romp to a 5-0 victory over local rivals Arnold Town.
We're back at HQ on Friday, in The Embankment, just over Trent Bridge. I gate a couple of craft ales from the Gamma Ray stable. It's 5.4% and amber nectar, folks. JJ, a Heinz variety dog, wolfs down a bag of pork scratchings that the barman has very kindly bought him. We switch on the Comedy Channel on our return home, and watch Nottingham Forest take a battering down in Brighton. We went to the corresponding fixture last season, they were bloody awful that night, too.
It's Saturday morning and Murphy is chillaxing on his perch to Merseybeat band the Swinging Blue Jeans and their 1964 hit 'You're No Good.' I take a trip to the tip before rocking up at the SCS furniture store on Lady Bay Retail Park. I sign a four year contract for a swish, leather sofa - it's a year longer than Armand Traore the Forest left back got, when he recently signed a three year deal from Queens Park Rangers. I really need to get a grip on my life as I emerge from B&M with a set of new baking trays. There's time for a headloss in Morrison's where the food aisles are clogged up with OAPs, who've had all week to flipping shop.
We head out to towards Leicestershire down the A46, as the A606 to Melton Mowbray is shut off. By chance we enter the village of Burrough Hill. A famous thoroughbred horse called Burrough Hill Lad came from here. He was trained by Jenny Pitman and its wins included: the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National.
We pitch up at the Stilton Cheese, in Somerby. Leicester City flags are fluttering on the roof. The chef has radio commentary on from the KCOM Stadium, in Hull. I have a pint of Maori from the South Island Brewery in New Zealand. We both opt for homemade sausages. Oh dear, Trumpy Bolton isn't going to be too chuffed, the Foxes are losing 2-1 to the Tigers.
Melton is bustling with folk today, 'Pie Fest' is taking place at the Cattle Market. Digital Deadline Park is on the outskirts of town, on the Burton Road. It is also known as the Melton Sports Village.
It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a four page programme. Hoppers come from as far afield as Surrey, Sussex and Felixtowe to tick the ground off, as it's Melton Town's first season here following promotion from the Leicestershire Senior League. I have a friendly chat with vice chairman Howard Eggleston. I remark that it is somewhat of a coup that they have managed to attract former Bristol City and Luton Town striker Tony Thorpe as their manager this season.
A silver-haired Thorpe takes his position in the technical area, his assistant, Ross Perkins, is on a five match touchline ban for a misdemeanour at his previous club Barrow Town. The visitors are soon in front, a deep cross from the left is nodded into the net by Ryan Kalla. It isn't pretty on the eye. The Melton defence seem content to hoof the ball down the middle, with strikers Palfreyman and Love living off scraps.
'Thorpey' isn't in the dressing room for long at half-time, he's steaming and looks to have blown a gasket. He apologises to Ms Moon and I, if we caught any bad language. Ten Red Arrows, in two banks of five, roar across the skyline, heading back to base in RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. Melton don't look as if they have a goal in them. Substitute Jack Baker, back in the early hours of the morning after being on the lash abroad with his mates, lifts the spirits of the team with some skillful, jinking runs.
A stray clearance heads in my direction as referee Stewart Walker blows for time. I scurry after the ball, before bowling it back towards the ref. Envious Hoppers look on, as they always like a touch of the match ball.
Man of the Match: Ryan Kalla
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Last week I awarded March Town right back Adam Conyard my man of the match. Totally by coincidence I catch his 16 year old brother Rob in action on Tuesday; he's on trial for a Nottingham Forest X1 at Dunkirk FC. I was accompanied by The Taxman, fresh from his holidays in Cornwall. Forest have some good 'uns coming through now. Charlie Jemson, son of former Tricky Tree and Preston North End forward Nigel Jemson, is the pick of the bunch.
The highlight of the week is the 4-0 drubbing I give Ms Moon on BBC 1's Pointless. They're that many tears shed I have to ring up Severn Trent to turn all the water off. I'm away on business in Birkenhead, Rochdale and Birmingham. It's not a bad old life driving around the clogged up motorways in our country listening to Test Match Special. I'm pleased as punch to see Gary Ballance has been recalled to the team. There is an instant return, with a calm, cool, composed 70 runs.
I arrive back on Thursday evening, jump in the shower, before wandering over Trent Bridge and hooking up with Coops and the 'Mayor of London' at the Southbank Sports Bar. Nottinghamshire Cricket Club's fast-medium pace bowler, Luke Fletcher, aka the 'Bulwell Bomber', is on stage with Dave Bracegirdle. Fletch is comedy gold. It's the best £5 I've spent this year. He's seriously under-cooked his value. I'd have paid four times that amount. He rolls out a string of anecdotes. Tears of laughter are streaming down my eyes.
I'm fagged out on Friday. I potted too many of those Ghost Rider IPA's. We're back in town early in the evening. The Bell Inn has tables outside. It's a great people-watcher as you look out onto the Market Square. The Punk IPA ain't bad either.
I catch Murphy Palmer the budgie gnawing his way through a millet spray ('crack cocaine'). We whistle together to Georgie Fame's 'Say Yeah Yeah' - although I prefer the Matt Bianco version. I nip out to Aldi to buy some bottled water. A procession of police vans are heading into town, with fully tooled-up plod frothing at the mouth in anticipation of a battle with the English Defence League, whose presence are gracing our town today. It's a busy day for the rozzers, as NFFC are at home and it's also the Riverside Festival in the same area.
Ms Moon is piloting the Audi towards Newark, the town is gridlocked with traffic. We head north up the A1. Myleene Klass is playing Whitney Houston on Smooth FM - it about tips me over the edge. After navigating some winding roads we enter the village of Epworth and more importantly the Old School Inn.
The actress Sheridan Smith was born in the village, perhaps she'll be in the pub, I've heard she likes a tipple. She starred in the ITV drama Mrs Biggs, which was directed by a chap called Paul Whittington. I used to play reserve team pub football with Paul.
We sit on the patio in the baking sunshine. I have a couple of Dizzy Blondes from the Robinson's stable. The food is terrific value. Another cracking pub has been ticked-off thanks to the Good Beer Guide.
Birch Park is only a 25 minute drive away. I clock a sign for the village of Flixborough. My Dad was the East Midlands correspondent for the Daily Mirror for 25 years. He only ever worked one Saturday shift on the paper during his career and this was to cover the Flixborough disaster. On the 1st June 1974 there was an explosion at the chemical plant, 28 people were killed and 36 seriously injured.
Bottesford is a small town in North Lincolnshire with a population of 11,000, that is joined to Scunthorpe. Queen Elizabeth II visited the town on her Golden Jubilee tour in 2002. Famous people from Scunny include: BBC weatherman Darren Bett (Murph and I love Dazzler, he always looks on the bright side, even when it's throwing it down with rain), former Buzzcocks and Magazine frontman Howard Devoto, the golfer Tony Jacklin, Royle Family actress Liz Smith and X-Factor singer Jake Quickenden.
Murph and I have got beef with Quickenden. He sometimes plays footy for Bottesford, so we politely sent him a tweet to see if he was in the squad for the FA Cup game on Saturday. We never got a sniff. Olly Murs was the same, the miserable sod. Anyhow, those Radford lads would rough him up and tease him, after all, he was hoofed out on week 3 of X-Factor. Murph and I voted to keep in 'Only the Young' on gridlock that week.
My Dad was a massive Lincoln City fan. In 1976 he went to Scunthorpe's Old Show Ground to watch Graham Taylor's Imps win 2-1. Dad was in a vile mood on his return home. He missed both goals due to his view been obscured by a dirty glass window in the main stand. Next thing I know he's ringing up the Scunny chairman's home number to put an official complaint in. His wife picked the phone up and politely told Dad that her husband was in the bath. "Well f***ing well drag him out the bath and put him on this call" my dad replied ... lol.
It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a really good programme, which has a picture of Quickenden on it. Murphy will be sticking his beak into that tonight. It's a no-show from Quickenden, he's too busy styling his hair with Dax wave and groom wax. Big Glenn Russell, the Radford manager, is in the bar with the committee, whilst Jon Adams warms the boys up. It's the FA Cup extra preliminary round, with £1500 at stake for the winners. The Poachers DJ cranks it up a notch with Sham 69's 'If the Kids Are United.' Ms Moon is less than impressed with my pogoing on the terraces.
The Pheasants of Radford look sharp in the early stages. I'm more concerned about my man Big Glenn getting fried by the glorious sunshine, as he appears to have forgotten his trademark baseball cap. Bottesford begin to get on top, with Radford thankful to their keeper Luke Edge for some smart saves. Radford have a strong final 15 minutes and look the more likely to score.
The big news at half-time is a little lad called Ryan is stuck up a tree. His Dad prevents a emergency call to Fireman Sam by rescuing the youngster.. I ring Murphy to tell him that the DJ is playing our favourite song - Cake By The Ocean by DNCE (whack name). Murph is on fine form as his team the Canaries are thumping Blackburn Rovers 3-1. His favourite player and distant relative, Jacob Murphy, has scored.
The impressive Kenny Reeves has the chance to restore parity within seconds but fails to pull the trigger. The game becomes scrappy, if anything Bottesford look likely to score again. Big Glenn throws on a few subs as a final gamble. A ball is floated in from the left by the pacey substitute, it skims off the head of substitute Connor Carter and agonisingly kisses the inside of the post before being cleared away from danger.
The final whistle is blown by an over-zealous referee who has faffed about in the second half, wasting more time than the players. It's the end of the road to Wembley for Big Glenn, but we'll be re-united again on Tuesday when they entertain neighbours Arnold in the East Midlands Counties League. Hopefully it will see the return of his baseball cap, as I bet his bonce is sore.
Man of the Match: Luke Fletcher Notts CCC