Sunday, December 24, 2017
The fur coat 'n no knicker brigade are out in full force on 'Bread 'n Lard Island. It's the poshest place in Notts with barely a decent pub in sight - the wonderful Stratford Haven is its saving grace. My Dad opened this pub, back in the day, for the owner of Tynemill, Chris Holmes. It took Chris five years to be granted a license for the 'Strat', which was previously a pet shop. Rushcliffe Borough Council are missing a trick. 'The Avenue' will be a pub graveyard in a few years time, unless they open their eyes. I quaff a couple of real ales in there, still reeling from the shock of stumping up £83 for two rounds of six in the pretentious Botanist on Bridgford Road (the artist formerly known as Fire 'n Ice another poncy pub).
I've only got one visit lined up with work this week, and that's only to Doncaster. I'll go stir crazy if I have to stay in the house. Big Dick Durrant comes to the rescue. He's the President of the Notts Senior League - it used to be 'the best league in the world.' His lad, Ross, ex NFFC, is in the nets for North Ferriby United, up in the East Riding of Yorkshire, for their Tuesday night Conference North clash with Curzon Ashton - a club who sold jinking winger, Steve Wigley, to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest in 1981.
There's time for a superb pint of Wainwright in the Duke of Cumberland public-house before viewing the game. The moneyman has pulled the plug on Ferriby, and a new owner is in, who I'm introduced to. Ferriby can consider themselves to be unlucky, with a new-look and patched-up side putting on a brave performance. Ross is excellent in goal and should have no trouble pushing onto a Conference side next season. His handling is exemplary and distribution first-class.
It's Wednesday evening and the night of the office party. I'll be comfortably the oldest person there. I jump off the No.25 bus at the Southwell Road stop, and peg it up London Road, before turning right down Station Street. I've a new Castle Rock pub to tick off on Arkwright Street called the Barley Twist, which was previously an old sweet shop. I bump into a good mate who I haven't seen in ages - we worked together for close on 15 years.
I catch the Newark to Matlock train, alighting at the picture-postcard village of Attenborough, close to the nature reserve. It's a short walk up to the Village Hotel, in Chilwell, the venue for the party. It's not my scene and quite a tame affair. I'm tucked up in bed for 1am.
I've been kindly invited, on Friday afternoon, to the 31st edition of the Tollerton Air Hostess FC Christmas party. I've a few loose ends to tie up at work, so don't arrive in 'North Bridgford' until later in the afternoon. Some of the lads have already been 'on the sauce' for a few hours, but are looking rather glum as I swing open the door of the Brewhouse and Kitchen, situated on the banks of the River Trent. It transpires that one of the boys, only half an hour ago, administered CPR to a man who had collapsed outside The Embankment pub - tragically the guy didn't make it. The afternoon is tinged with sadness.
The Larwood and Voce pub on Fox Road, next to the cricket ground, is a major disappointment. Timothy Taylor Landlord and 'Rockin' Rudolph' beers are flat and rancid. 'Trevor Nelson' is on the decks and spinning Kool and the Gang, Shalamar and The Whispers - I remind the clown it's Christmas after another sharp exit.
'Our Joe' and his mates rock up in the Stratford Haven. I coached some of the lads at football until they were 16 years old. I love it, that they still take the time-out to make a fuss and have a chat. I hit the wall at 9pm, bowing out with a Doner kebab and DG cab home.
I'm as fresh as a daisy on Saturday morning. I brave Tesco in Carlton before leaving 'the Princess' with her runny nose and high temperature. I'm off to Peterborough to meet up with one of my best mates of over 40 years. A whinging Alan Green and insightful Leon Osman are commentating from Goodison Park as Everton and Chelsea meet in a lunchtime kick-off.
I see signs for the village of Scarrington, close to Bingham. Back in 1990, Roy Keane signed for Nottingham Forest from Cobh Ramblers, in Ireland, for a paltry fee. He ticked off more watering holes in Nottingham than blog legend Trumpy Bolton, often getting himself into more scrapes and rucks than Oliver Reed. My father had to fly out to Jersey to cover a story after a mid-winter break (remember them) involving Keane and a hotel waitress. Brian Clough told him to find a girl and settle down. He met a lass called Teresa from Bilborough, and took up Clough's advice, moving out into the sticks and residing in Scarrington, a dry village, near to Newark. He's still married to her to this day.
The A52 and A1 are as clear as a bell. Sat Nav navigates me into a tasty-looking housing estate. I can see the players warming up, but there's no access to the ground. Some youth is smoking a spliff in his front yard. I ask him directions to the ground. I might as well of asked my thick-as-a brick old budgie Murphy Palmer.
Peterborough is a cathedral city in east of England Cambridgeshire with a population of over 160,000. The River Nene flows through the city centre. It was designated a new town in 1967. The city is well known for Perkins engines, British Sugar, Indesit, Pearl Assurance and Thomas Cook. Famous people from the area include: actor Paul Nicholas, TV Presenter Jake Humphrey, Talksport gobshite Adrian Durham, Erasure lead singer Andy Bell and former Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder David Bentley.
I stumble across the ground on the Lincoln Road and stick the car in a medical centre, to the rear of the stadium. My mate Ackers is propping up the bar, drinking a pint of mild (or a frothy Coke). It's a lovely old-fashioned clubhouse with plenty of memorabilia adorning the walls. The club i-Pod shuffle has a stuttering start with Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan, but quickly rectifies itself with 'Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds.
It's £8 on the gate. I think they've sold out of programmes, but manage to buy a golden goal ticket. I saw the reverse fixture back in the autumn, as both teams cancelled each other out in a goaless draw. I like Sports' manager Jimmy Dean. I witnessed only one of two defeats last season, when they were beaten by a wonder-goal at Eynesbury Rovers - he was very sporting in defeat.
Lincoln United are the visitors. I like them very much, as they try to play an intricate game. You wouldn't mess around with their backroom staff, as they are the land of the giants. One of their Management, Stuart Reddington, was signed from the Club by Chelsea when Gianluca Vialli was the manager.
We stand on the far side, exposed to the slight wind chill blowing in from the east. A dour first half with both teams poor in the final third livens up when defender Liam Marshall is red-carded for pulling back a Lincoln striker who is through on goal.
Lincoln start to pull the strings with creator supreme Rob Norris spraying the ball to all corners of the park. This can't be matched with the lack of firepower up front. We take advantage of the kind offer of mulled wine and a mince pie at half-time.
I mention to Forest diehard, Ackers, that 18-year-old hot property Ben Brereton has put the Tricky Trees 1-0 up at Deepdale in Preston - crikey at least they've seen a goal. Lincoln finally break the deadlock, and not before time. Jimmy Dean throws on his Christmas cracker, a Polish lad plucked from the District League. The return is instant. Much-travelled captain, Mark Jones, sensationally puts Sports 2-1 up from a torpedo long throw.
The Lincoln technical area, who have been chirpy, are lost for words and ideas. Sports spurn a glorious chance to put the game to bed with Jones aiming skew-wiff from close range. Lincoln throw the kitchen sink at it. Oliver nods home an equalizer before a last-ditch winner from Wightwick brings home the bacon for the visitors.
I'm gutted for Jimmy and the lads; they've given their all and played near three-quarters of the game with ten men. Their luck is down right now.
Man of the Match: Ashley Robinson
Merry Christmas, Sticky 'n Ms Moon xx
Sunday, December 17, 2017
I've been confined to the bargain buy Next armchair for most of the week, reading a book called 'Six Stickers', which has raised a few smiles. It's about a guy who discovers an old 1996 Panini sticker album in his parents' loft. He flicks through it, only to discover that six stickers are missing. The book records his comical, laugh out loud attempts at tracking down the players across Europe so he can take a photo of them to complete the album. The players, who are good sports are: Keith Curle, Lars Bohinen, Stuart Ripley, Phillipe Albert, Scott Minto and Gary Penrice.
I can still confirm that 99% of contestants on Tipping Point are as thick as a brick and that Bradley Walsh is still dyeing his hair on The Chase. In other news, the M1 is still going straight through the Dingles' yard and Oscar-winning actor, Michael Le Vell, (Kevin Webster) is back on the set in Corrie.
It's Friday tea-time and I've hot-footed it through the streets of St Ann's, onto Mansfield Road and waltzed through the door of Wisdom Hairdressers- the best barbers, bar none, in Nottingham. All the lads, with scissors in hand, are from Kurdistan - Sticky loves them all to bits. The old 'Barnet Fair' gets a good old shearing - it's changing colour (grey) faster than Bradley Walsh's.
Blimey Charlie, this Christmas shopping malarkey is thirsty work, I think I'll nip into the Herbert Kilpin, my favourite watering hole, for a quick scoop. Crikey Moses it's a bit quiet in here. My tongue is salivating at the prospect of a real ale, as I clock the Kilpin beer pump on the bar; it'll be down the hatch in the blink of an eye. The landlord is sat in a corner of the downstairs bar tossing it off on his tablet. "Sorry mate, we have a private party on, we're closed." I feel the red mist beginning to descend with a hate that is only reserved for Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans.
The Herbert Kilpin has sold its soul to Santa. It's a different story on Sunday lunchtimes when I'm handing over lolly in an empty bar, whilst watching another dreary 0-0 in Serie A. Well I tell you what, I'm done with all those beard-stroking hipsters!
It's Saturday morning 4:15. My outstretched hand reaches out to the bedside table, as I fumble around for my phone. I check the cricket score from Australia. Jeez, Steve Smith's scored another big ton. I don't bother switching the TV on five hours later. The Ashes are gone and Greengrass is up before the beak on Heartbeat for the umpteenth time.
We're on the road at eleven bells. I'm in radio heaven as Colin Murray is hosting the brilliant Fighting Talk. They asked a cracking question the other week: Who scored the fastest ever goal in the Premiership? (answer at the bottom of the blog).
Ms Moon's got the 'face on', she's sick and tired of Five Live. We have to switch over to Absolute 80s (yawn). I continue my tour of the UK's best fish and chip shops as we pull into the 'Sea Queen' on Rookery Lane, on the outskirts of Lincoln city centre. Britney Spears' 'Toxic' is on the chippy radio as two mini haddocks, chips and peas are served up
We're parked up two hours before kick-off and only a ten minute walk away from Sincil Bank. Ms Moon randomly announces she fancies getting her nails done. There's no shortage of takers as Lincoln's High Street has more nail bars than Albert Square.
I spend lunchtime sitting on a wall gazing at Lincoln Cathedral, which is bathed in winter sunshine. An eastern European trio, playing an accordion, saxophone and keyboards, strike up some tunes. I do a little jig before throwing some money into the hat.
Third-placed Accrington Stanley are in town with an in-form Imps chasing their tails. Accrington is a town in Lancashire four miles east of Blackburn and six miles west of Burnley, with a population of over 50,000. It is well known as once being the centre for cotton and textile manufacturing. It is also famed for producing the Accrington Brick which was used to build the foundations of the Empire State Building and Blackpool Tower. Another well-known association the town has is the 'Accrington Pals' the nickname given to the smallest home town battalion of volunteers formed to fight in the First World War - 865 men were killed from the town during the War. I'm raising money next season for Help for Heroes to commemorate 100 years since the end of the War.
Notable born and bred from Accrington include: Dire Straits drummer Andy Kanavan, Jon Anderson the lead singer of rock band Yes, Coronation St actresses Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby) and Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley Cropper), ex-Test cricketer Graeme Fowler, Sky commentator David 'Bumble' Lloyd, astrologer 'Mystic Meg' and former Manchester United defender Mike Duxbury.
Sticky Palms and Ms Moon had a lovely afternoon and evening out in Accrington a few seasons' back. Before taking in the League Two game versus the Stags of Mansfield, we visited the picture postcard town of Whalley in the Ribble Valley and dined out for tea at the Aspinall Arms in Great Mitton. We both adored The Crown at Accrington Stanley (the ground, not the pub). I seem to remember that less than 1,000 turned up on a balmy summer's evening. Their brilliant manager, John Coleman, and his backroom team deserve more than that. They sit third in the table on a shoestring budget. Accrington have the 23rd lowest average crowd (1,699) in League Two, Lincoln on the other hand top the table at 8,608 as the Cowley affect continues.
We're shoehorned into a corner of the back row in the Selenity Stand. To view the goal at the Stacey West end of the ground we have to look through a dirty old window (can we have it cleaned please, Danny?).
The Lincoln DJ plays it safe with the Dave Clark Five, Bruno Mars and Tears for Fears. My stomach begins to churn as the players emerge from the tunnel - if I came to every game then St John's would be on full alert. My last viewing of the Imps was at Swindon Town's County Ground. We played them off the park but left it late when my hero Sean Raggett brought home the bacon. I sang in the car all the way home.
It's nip and tuck in the first 20 minutes as both teams eye each other up. Lincoln begin to get on top. I love watching Harry Anderson galloping down the right flank. He's a speed merchant with a much improved final ball. It's the same old story as 'The Lincoln' are either thwarted by the 'keeper or by last-gasp clearances.
The game is officiated by Sebastian Stocksbridge (it's no surprise he's a school teacher, sorry Danny Cowley). I remember this bungling fool down at Meadow Lane earlier in the season. We were controlling the game until the blithering idiot sent off Billy Knott for a 'foot up' as it was trending at the time from a Sadio Mane incident at the Etihad Stadium - we lost 4-1 and fair play to Notts who were terrific in the second half. He must still have a guilty conscience as Lincoln are given the softest of soft penalties. The industrious Matt Green dusts himself down before planting the ball into net for his fourth goal in four games - thank you Steve Evans for letting him go on a Bosman.
The game's been on simmer for some time. Big Rhead is putting himself about and Stanley don't like it up 'em. Cowley drapes an arm around his shoulder and pulls him away from a baying pack of seething Stanley players at half-time. Lincoln are physically and mentally stronger than the Lancastrians.
The Lincoln DJ goes hell for leather and proper old skool with 'Rappers Delight' and 'The Message' at the break. Ms Moon has drunk more coffee than PC Alf Ventress off Heartbeat. Sticky knows 'The Lincoln' need a second goal to be sure. Accrington are down to ten men with 'Seb' controversially sending off Nottingham lad Farrend Rawson (on loan from D***y) - a boy who I scouted at 11 years old that Forest didn't fancy.
The game's never in doubt following a cool finish by Matt Rhead who's celebrating a contract extension until 2019. Credit to Harry Anderson and Neil Eardley for great work down the wing. I can chillax for the first time in ages - Stanley aren't going to score in a month of Sundays. I spend the rest of the second half having banter with 50/50 ticket seller, Paul, who's a cracking lad.
Attendance: 7,696 (135 from Accrington)
Man of the Match: Paul the 50/50 ticket seller - great banter
Quiz answer: Ledley King
Sunday, December 10, 2017
I've got 'Radio Red' on. They're live and exclusive at Portman Road, where Big Mick McCarthy's Tractor Boys are giving NFFC a pummelling. Commentator, Colin Fray, is saying through his Tricky Tree rose-tinted glasses that 'You Reds' have been unfortunate. Anybody at the Cardiff game would have seen it coming. I do like though, how Mark Warburton has stuck in a few kids from the endless conveyor belt of talent feeding in from the Academy. You'd never see 'King Billy' do that.
I'm back home for 5pm and showered, shaved and changed for early doors. We jump in a cab and head over the water to a J D Wetherspoon's 'professional drinking' watering hole called the Trent Bridge Inn. The cricketing theme continues, after visiting the birthplace of Notts legend Derek Randall this afternoon, tonight we're attending the Keyworth Cricket Club Christmas Party at the Long Room inside Notts CCC's pavilion - ironically the Derek Randall Suite is adjacent to this, where I had my wedding reception in 1993.
Keyworth Cricket Club is very dear and close to my heart. More importantly, it's on the up, due to a dedicated committee and huge army of volunteers. The Mayor of London and his 'Team' can be very proud of where we sit right now. It's good to catch up with folk that I've not seen in a while. The meal is distinctly average, but the drinks flow all evening. My close friend, Rob Baker, hosts a hilarious game of 'Irish Bingo.' I'm dog tired and Ms Moon is recovering from her long haul journey back from Johannesburg - we turn in before twelve bells.
I treat Ms Moon to a surprise lunch out in the Vale of Belvoir at the Staunton Arms, in Staunton in-the-Vale, on Sunday. I have a pint of Bass real ale that can only be rivalled by the Wysall Plough.
It's Tuesday evening and deja vu. I flash my season ticket at the chip shop assistant at the Plains Fish Bar on Mapperley Tops - mini fish 'n chips is a steal at £3.50. Sat Nav takes me up the A60 and through Forest Town and its spectacular Christmas lights display that line the main drag.
I pay £5 on the gate for Clipstone FC v Gedling Miners Welfare in the Notts Senior Cup. I hook up with Tony Hay, one of my favourite characters on the Non-League circuit. We're privileged to witness one of the games of the season, with the visitors dead and buried at the break. The Miners claw their way back into the game and are unlucky to bow out of the Cup 5-4 after a breathtaking tie. I phoned Ms Moon at half time to tell her 'we' are 3-0 down, only to learn the devastating news that Hotton Council have given the thumbs up to a relief road being built straight through Zak Dingle's home (tip) on Emmerdale Farm. I shed a few tears before watching the second half.
I'm up at Kimberley Miners Welfare, another friendly club, the following night. Their foghorn of a manager isn't spoken to by the referee until the 40th minute for gobbing off, which must be a personal best for him. 'Hobbo' makes me a proper cup of tea in a mug at the break. I spend the rest of the evening chatting to Priory Celtic 'Big Cheese' John Harris who's always good company.
My mate 'Babs' is on a flying visit from Spain. We've sank enough beers over the years to sink the Bismarck. It's ironic that we meet in 200 Degrees Coffee Shop on Flying Horse Walk, late on Friday afternoon. It's like a scene from Nicky Campbell's Long Lost Families as we embrace; Davina McCall would have been in bits. It's the same old Babs as he tries to diddle the barista with a dusty (old tender) £5 note. I meet Ms Moon in the Fox and Grapes for a swift one, before jumping on the No.27 bus home.
In a moment of madness I purchased a top of the range Sony TV. It's taken me three months to work out how to turn the chuffing thing ON. The Flying Scotsman fully briefed me the other week, after a heavy session, on how to shout at the TV to play your favourite tunes on You Tube. Ms Moon shouts out in her poshest West Bridgford voice "The Alan Parsons Project." I kid you not folks, I'm asleep within the flick of a switch.
I'm off to Leeds to pick up 'Our Joe' on Saturday morning. The plan was to have some lunch up in the hills above Bradford before viewing Eccleshill United v Yorkshire Amateur in the NCEL Division One. A heavy frost has scuppered any chance of the pitch being passed fit.
Another option is to travel back down the M1, nearer to home, to take in the top of the table Midland League Div One clash between Ilkeston Town and Walsall Wood. 'Ilson' owner, Alan Hardy, in between a Twitter rant with Rushcliffe Borough Council, has informed me that the game is 100% ON - I reckon he must have lent them some frost covers from Notts County's Meadow Lane ground?
I can see the floodlights of Headingley Cricket Ground as I circumnavigate around the backstreets of the suburbs of Leeds. We pile up Joe's luggage into the boot of the car and head back south. We're parked up within an hour in Ilkeston town centre.
Ilkeston is a town in the Borough of Erewash in Derbyshire with a population of 38,000. It was well known for coal mining, iron working and the lace industry. It is called 'Ilson' by locals. Ilkeston Town was liquidated in 2010 after a 114-year-old history. It was reformed in 2011, which was in turn liquidated in 2017. Notable residents include: the actors Robert Lindsay ('Wolfie' Smith and William Roache (Ken Barlow).
There's a warm welcome at the Burnt Pig micropub on Market Street. There's a selection of cheeses, scotch eggs and pork pies available. Sticky has a pint of Atlantic Hop from the Merrie City Brewery in Wakefield; and very pleasant it is too. We grab some lunch at Greggs as we stroll through the marketplace. Joe places a few bets at Ladbrokes, including a tip from Dad that the Imps will win at Yeovil.
It's £2 to park the car and £5 on the gate. 'Big Alan Hardy' has brought the feel-good-factor back to the Club and town, following historical mismanagement. Former manager, Paul 'Dutch' Holland, was recently given a suspended sentence in the courts for fraud and forgery, when he admitted siphoning money off into his own bank account when hiring the pitch out to another club. Supporters still question where the money went from the transfer of star striker Che Adams in a six-figure fee to Sheffield United. A few seasons later Adams was sold on for £2 million to Birmingham City - did 'Ilson' get a slice of the cake?
On a positive note the good times are back, and so are the crowds (726 pay in today). The clubhouse is choc-a-bloc. We have a quick chat with 'John Mac', 'Chet' and Robbie before walking across the far side of the ground to view the game. There's a minute's applause to remember a loyal supporter of the Ilkeston.
Walsall Wood look sharp up top with 9 and 10 jacket leading 'Ilson' a merry dance. Home defender Shaw is dispossessed, Sullivan sets up Agar who finishes with aplomb. Ilson have started poorly but begin to find success down the left-hand side with a flurry of crosses coming in from former Notts County Academy youngster Jamie Walker. It's Walker who restores parity a minute before half-time, smashing home a close-range volley.
We peg it round sharpish back into a jam-packed bar. 'Our Joe' is crowing that all his bets are in. He just needs Crystal Palace to beat Bournemouth. I say to Joe that I think the visitors' craft and guile will see them over the finishing line, as 'Ilson' have a few young guns playing including the impressive Charlie Jemson, son of former Forest striker Nigel Jemson.
Walsall Wood score a beauty five minutes into the second half. 'Ilson' 'keeper, Ian Deakin is catching flies as the impressive Sullivan takes a touch, before knocking the ball out of his feet and firing home a shot off the inside of the post. 'Ilson' defender Bennett tries to deflect the blame onto the assistant ref instead of shouldering some responsibility himself. He's told by his own player (Walker) to shut up and crack on.
The Walsall Wood 'keeper looks to have a ricket in him, having been caught 'cleaning windows' from a few crosses in the first half. Gibson hits a speculative shot from distance which somehow ends up bouncing over the keeper's 'jazz hands' and into the back of the net.
Walsall Wood are fortunate to end the game with the full eleven on the pitch. Sullivan is a lucky lad, having being previously yellowed, he scythes down an opponent but escapes a second caution after weak refereeing.
We exit the ground with seconds remaining. Five Live are at Selhurst Park. We hear the dying embers as Christian Benteke fluffs an injury-time penalty to cost 'Our Joe' £150 on his coupon. He can't pick 'em like his Dad.
Man of the Match Jamie Walker
Sunday, December 3, 2017
The 'jam fool' is having a soak in the bath. We watch the fag end of Liverpool v Chelsea before driving over to Carlton. The rest of the night is spent in Nottingham city centre quaffing real ales and putting the world to rights.
On Sunday I drag my weary body out of bed at gone 11am; this ill-feted Ashes series is killing me. I've arranged to meet 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky jnr) outside the Nottingham Forest club shop at 12.30pm. Neil Warnock's high-flying Bluebirds are in town this lunchtime. Dad and junior are sitting in the notorious Main Stand 'A Block' (Peter Taylor Stand). It's my first visit since 'King Billy' lost his crown three years ago. Mark Warburton is the latest incumbent. The jury is still out on him. He was lucky to inherit a good side at Brentford when Uwe Rosler upped sticks to the pie-eating capital of Wigan, and made little impression up in Scotland, at Rangers, with a string of poor signings with results to match.
Forest are woeful in defence. My mate Druers' and Sticky's favourite, the Canadian "Junior" Hoilett leaps unmarked to nod a header home. A 25-yard pile-driver from Danny Ward soon sees Sticky junior ripping up his betting coupon and sprinkling it as confetti. On a positive note the NFFC DJ was on flames playing a number of classic indie tunes. Warnock gets dog's abuse from the Forest faithful. He cups his ear, begging for more.
Monday night is spent fielding a flurry of phone calls from stressed out, anxious ITV executive producers from Tipping Point, The Chase, Emmerdale Farm, Corrie and I'm a Celeb, who are concerned about dwindling viewing ratings. They're keen to understand why my TV hasn't been switched on for four days. I deliver the bad news that the Princess is out of office in Africa, and that I won't be watching such drivel.
I'm up in York on business on Tuesday, but manage to get back in time for an East Midlands Counties League cup tie between West Bridgford and Big Glenn Russell's Radford FC. I have the hoodoo sign over Radford. There's no need to worry about that tonight as they canter to a 3-0 win against last season's League champions.
Sticky junior pops round on Wednesday evening to re-hang a few doors for me as he's a joiner for Barratt's by trade. He's on the works' Christmas party up at Doncaster Racecourse on Saturday afternoon followed by a scoopathon in Sheffield - Sunday will be written off ... lol.
It's Friday morning 10:30am. I hear the squeak of the side gate, the good lady is back in town. I would love to say it was like a scene from the film Gone with the Wind, but nothing interferes with Ken Bruce's Pop Master. Prince Harry is in town with his new bride to be who I keep getting mixed up with the South African fast bowler Morne Morkel, because his bride to be has a similar name. Big H has a bigger entourage than Mariah Carey as he pops into the Nottingham Hood.
Ms Moon and I catch up in The Willowbrook, on Gedling Road, on her trip of a lifetime to a game reserve at Hanglip Mountain three hours from the capital, Johannesburg. On the safari she saw giraffes, elephants, leopards and lions. She's clearly in the mood to see more animals, as on our return home she begins to plough her way through a back catalogue of ten episodes of Emmerdale Farm on catch-up.
I don't sleep that well on Friday night, so I'm up early doors watching the Ashes. There's an extraordinary incident between Aussie skipper Steve Smith and a sullen-looking Jimmy Anderson. Smith looks set for a headloss at the non striker's end as Anderson stands immediately in front of him at short mid on, blocking his view. A steaming Smith doesn't last long with his stumps knocked over by the 23 year old debutant Craig Overton.
Heavens above, I best get a shift on it's a 2pm kick off. I'm flying solo today as Ms Moon recovers from her sojourn to Africa. She shoots off to the retail park to look for an outfit for the Keyworth Cricket Club Christmas bash at the Trent Bridge Long Room this evening.
Conor McNamara and the monotone Danny Murphy are commentating on Chelsea v Newcastle Utd at Stamford Bridge. Underrated Magpies' striker Dwight Gayle gives them a shock early lead.The car sat nav irritates me, it wants to send me to Newark and onto the A1. I stick on the A614, a decision I soon regret as it takes me through the village of Bothamsall and up a boatload of B roads. First port of call is the village of Rampton, famous for it's prison hospital which has housed some of Britain's vilest and notorious murderers including: Beverley Allitt, Ian Huntley, Bruce Lee and Charles Bronson.
The village itself is quaint. I call in at the Eyre Arms a pleasant enough pub. I have a pint of Pale Ale from the Pheasantry Brewery just down the road in East Markham - it's amber nectar folks. Two guys are propping up the bar watching the Pies take on Oxford City in the FA Cup. Coincidentally one of them is a Keyworth lad who used to be head chef at The Griffin in Plumtree back in the day. I nod at him without saying hello.
I drive to Retford passing Rampton Hospital which is actually in the hamlet of Woodbeck. Retford is a market town with a population of 22,000. The cricketer Derek Randall was born in the town. I can't describe what an impact this guy had on my love for cricket. A brilliant, brave batsman, whose only weakness was nerves. He took on Lillee and Thomson and their barrage of bouncers on hard uncovered Aussie wickets, donning just a cap. He is the greatest fielder I've ever seen down the 'Bridge.' They nicknamed him 'Arkle' after the famous Irish racehorse. I remember bursting into tears when that blithering idiot Geoffrey Boycott ran out Derek in the Silver Jubilee Test in 1977. I was in awe when I met him a few years ago at a charity night.
I stick the Mondeo in the ATS car park and wander up a tunnel towards 'The Rail.' A friendly chap is taking money at a green-painted hut. I pay in £3 and bag a programme at £1.50. I really like the ground. Retford Academy and a SEN school back onto it. It's roped off on the far side with refreshments available behind the goal to the right. I stand close to the dugouts with CMFL media team man Tony Squires, who is the chap in the know.
There's a minute's silence before the game in the memory of a friend of Retford FC. The home bench are visibly moved; it's a very touching, poignant moment.
A guy with a flat cap on and sporting a Prince Buster Ska T-shirt strolls up the touchline. Tony introduces me to Rob Waite the scribe from The66POW blog. How our paths have never crossed in the last ten years, Lord only knows. Rob's a master of story-telling, which is a good job really as all the game offers are a few crunching tackles.
I check my phone, Notts County's on loan attacking midfielder Jorge Grant has scored another last ditch winner, his 14th goal of the season. Club owner, Alan Hardy will be noisy on social networks this evening. Good luck to them, I hope they go on a Cup run and make £3 million like 'The Lincoln' did last season.
I go big and buy two raffle tickets as there are three prizes on offer. Harworth take the lead with a quality cross and looping header over the outstretched hands of 'keeper Jon Kennedy. I peg it round the far side of the ground for a cup of tea as the PA guy shouts out the winning raffle numbers; I've not had a sniff today and neither has Red the dog who won't let me stroke him.
Retford are never going to score in a month of Sundays. Harworth make it 2-0 early in the second half. Retford huff and puff but never blow the house down.
Man of the Match: Derek Randall
Monday, November 27, 2017
A smiling 'Flying Scotsman' answers his cottage door. He lives on the outskirts of Widmerpool, a village where former Nottingham Forest assistant manager Peter Taylor, Clough's talent spotter, was laid to rest. I taxi the 'Flying Scotsman' and his partner, Sarah, who I've known for over 35 years, over the water to the Nottingham suburb of Carlton. After a few nibbles and drinky-poos, we jump in a cab up to Mapperley Tops, a Sunday lunchtime haunt of yours truly. We visit The Old Flower Shop, The Woodthorpe Top and Castle Rock's Bread and Bitter before returning to base camp. Ms Moon hits the wooden hill first after a bout of hiccups (too many bubbles, honey). The three of us end up shouting songs at You Tube on the TV, drunkedly singing out loud until the early hours.
It's Sunday morning. I was up until 2:30am washing pots and tidying up. Sticky Palms runs a tight ship when he's bevied up. We enjoy some breakfast before I make the return journey to Widmerpool to drop off a fragile Glaswegian and Sarah. It's a beautiful crisp, cold, autumn morning. I haven't the energy to peg it down Carlton Road for my Sunday constitutional. Ms Moon kindly drops me off at the Fox and Grapes. I only have a couple of pints before settling in for the day.
I scan the internet for an alternative fixture and spot that Gedling Miners' Welfare and Dunkirk are crossing swords just two miles up the road. It gives me an excuse to call by the Plains Fish Bar - I'll be getting a loyalty card at this rate.
I bump into Miners' Welfare head honcho Tony Hay as I take my customary stroll around the ground. I mention that I'm their lucky charm this season - three visits, three wins. Tony isn't so sure tonight, as they've a few missing and some walking wounded. They run out 2-0 winners after being pinned down in their own half defending a stiff breeze for the first 45 minutes. I'm pleased for them and admire their never-say-die attitude instilled in them by the Management.
There's a tearful farewell scoop with Ms Moon on Thursday evening as she makes her debut in the old 'Pretty Windows.' Don't worry folks, we're not 'parting company' as they say in the football world. No, not at all, the good lady has been invited on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa on safari by her close friend, Jill.
We kiss goodbye on Friday morning. I feel pretty bad as I'm on a team call with my colleagues when she leaves for Heathrow Airport. I don't fancy moping about the house this evening or sitting in a pub on my own, reading my Kindle or scrolling through the social networks. I travel up the A60 on a bitterly cold evening before parking up outside a sports complex on Debdale Lane in Mansfield Woodhouse.
The Central Midlands League have taken the forward step of introducing 'Floody Friday.' It gives the chance to sad old Hoppers like me, whose partner has abandoned him for warmer climbs, the opportunity to tick off new grounds on a Friday. Sherwood Colliery are entertaining Pinxton FC. The pitch is already white-over on my arrival. I view the game with the League's social media man, Tony Squires and a few watching managers. Sherwood wipe the floor with a lacklustre Pinxton, dusting them 4-0. Over 200 people ventured out to watch the game.
It takes two hours for normal blood circulation to return to my toes and feet. God only knows how Captain Scott used to cope. I sit with a brew (mug of tea) and watch an untroubled Aussie skipper, Steve Smith rack up the runs in the Ashes.
I feel like I've lost my left arm with the Princess out in Africa. 'The Big Man' is back in the squad. The plan was to grab a large haddock, minus the chips at the Ruddington Fish Bar, before driving over to Keyworth. Philos Cafe, on the High Street, grabs my attention, as I order up the old favourite, a bacon and brie baguette.
The original plan was to visit Bamber Bridge up in Preston, just off the M6. Lancashire is submerged in water, with the game an early casualty. Once the damp sets in for winter, I like to stay within an hour or so of Nottingham. Stone Old Alleynians v Shifnal Town has caught my eye and ticks off the right boxes.
The Big Man is blowing a gasket that Rushcliffe Borough Council have given the green light to building new houses backing onto his property. He attended a residents meeting during the week and voiced his concerns. He has a beautiful view over fields towards the village of Bradmore. Councillors won't give two hoots about that.
I'd forgotten how fast the 'Big Man' drives as he hurtles down the country roads towards the A453. He gave 'The Taxman' a 'Death Ride' a few years ago, it terrified the poor chap, who has refused a lift ever since.
The plan is to go to Stone, with Stafford Town on 3G as back up. Jesus wept, Gem 106 is on the car radio. It's a relief when we pitch up at a puddle-filled, pot-holed car park after listening to Backstreet Boys, Olly Murs and Blue.
Stone is a market town in the county of Staffordshire with a population of 16,000. Stanley Victor Collymore, one of the best modern day strikers ever to grace The City Ground, was born in the town. Two-footed, explosive pace and deadly finishing, and yet his potential was never really fulfilled.
We lounge about in the warm clubhouse with a cup of tea and sausage roll. I came here a few years ago, but never saw a game as the lights went out when a fuse blew. I'm already fretting about this game and chance upon the young referee on his routine pitch inspection. "Tell me it's on pal", I plea. "As it stands now, it's a no" replies the man in black. I about-turn and march back to the clubhouse. I poke my head around the door, "we're off" I announce to a disbelieving 'Big Man' who is eyeing up another sausage roll. After a Grand Theft Auto piece of driving we arrive at Evans Park just in time for kick off.
Racing Club Warwick are the visitors; a club where WBA and England 'keeper Ben Foster began his career. He was on loan at Wrexham from his parent club Stoke City where Alex Ferguson's son Darren was the manager. Dad was tipped the wink, with Foster signing for Man Utd.
The ground lacks character. There's a stand on the nearside, with the crowd protected by netting. Me and the Big Man keep on the move to stay warm. He shouts the teas up and gets the Kit Kats in as we watch the half-times rolling in. Lincoln have conceded bang on 45 minutes. I'm still stewing that Coventry turned around a 1-0 deficit last week.
We chat to a few friendly club officials. They have over 30 junior teams which they'd like to eventually feed into the first team and reserves. I admire the ethos and wish other clubs would follow suit - including my old village team. It's my old pipe dream.
Racing Club Warwick put the game to bed, clinching a 3-1 victory which ensures a teeth-clenched 'Death Ride' back to Notts for Sticky Palms.
Man of the Match: Big Man
Sunday, November 19, 2017
I'm back on the bus at one bells on Sunday, alighting on Lower Parliament Street before pegging it up London Road with the crisp autumnal air blowing off the canal. I pull open the swing doors of Jessie Boot's old dispensary in The Embankment and neck a few Black Iris ales as they have taken over the taps, whilst listening to tales from the armed forces, who are gathered here for Remembrance Sunday. It's important to remember there have only been two years since the Second World War ended that we haven't lost a soldier, 1968 and 2016. I raise my glass in the direction of the old soldiers before leaving the pub and heading home in a sombre and reflective mood.
The 'Italian Stallion' can't make Gedling Miners' Welfare game on Tuesday. The Taxman is also a non-runner; he has more excuses than Arsene Wenger. My old cricketing buddy Johnny Buttery is up for it though. Selston FC are the visitors in a Notts Senior Cup tie - I rate them very highly.
Ms Moon and I pass like ships in the night. I leave the house just before she arrives back from the pub with her daughter. I was up at 5am and in Darlington for 8am. I'm tired and hungry. A visit to the Plains Fish Bar on Mapperley Tops for a belly full of fish 'n chips soon puts me in the mood for football and what a pulsating game is served up. You always get a friendly welcome from Tony Hay and the gang at Gedling. I enjoy the half-time hospitality that the club have kindly laid on. The Miners win the game 4-3 with a late goal in the dying embers of extra time - I really can't arf pick 'em.
I'm back in the pub ('Pretty Windows') on Friday tea-time for a few jars, a frustrated Ms Moon is stuck in the rush-hour traffic. After wolfing down a Marks and Sparks Chinese meal it's lights out for the pair of us as tomorrow is going to be the mother of all days.
'The Flying Scotsman' and his missus are pitching up this evening for a night on the tiles up Mapperley Tops. Ms Moon swerves her normal three episodes of Heartbeat on ITV Encore as it's Operation Clean-up. I try to explain that it isn't Royalty arriving but it falls on deaf ears. I'm dispatched down to the tip after a garage clear-out. I nip in Tesco's to grab a sandwich before heading out east towards Grantham.
'The Arsenal' are 2-0 up against bitter rivals Spurs. I'm listening to Nigel Adderley commentate on Talksport, as Five Live are covering the rugby at Twickenham - Sticky doesn't do rugger. Adderley's co-commentator is Ray 'Butch' Wilkins. Man alive this guy is banal and unimaginative. He makes Owen Hargreaves sound like John Motson.
I see a signpost for Plungar and Granby, so turn right off the A52. I've arranged to meet a mate called Malc Shenton, a legendary village cricketer from this parish, in the Marquis of Granby. Malc's propping the bar up and tucking into a bowl of chips. He very kindly buys me a pint of citra pale ale from the Brewsters Brewery based in Grantham. Malc has been rocked this morning with the news that Nottingham biker, Dan Hegarty, a friend of his, has been killed in an accident during the Macau Grand Prix. He's not feeling up to going to the football.
We chew the cud for half an hour or so. The pub -iPod shuffle is belting out some cracking tunes from Blancmange and Aztec Camera. Malc is decked out in his England rugby clobber and is looking forward to the friendly international versus the Wallabies from Twickers later today.
Blimey Charlie it's ten minutes until kick-off, I best skedaddle. I hurtle through the village of Elton, before rounding a bend and taking a right turn into the car park at Orston Recreational Ground. Aslockton has a population of 1,742. I have spent many happy days playing cricket there for Keyworth. I remember once, back in the early 80s, a cup tie one Sunday. It rained throughout our time in the field. When it came for our turn to bat the hosts refused to field. We had a bowl off. I recall bowling bare-chested, bare-footed and in boxer shorts. Needless to say I didn't hit the stumps. I was also in the field at Whatton and Aslockton on a balmy spring day in 1993 when Brian Clough retired as manager of Nottingham Forest.
The greatest winger I have ever had the pleasure of seeing ran a pub (The Greyhound) in the village back in those days. John Robertson won two European Cups with Nottingham Forest, scoring the winner versus Hamburg in 1980. Cloughie described him as 'the Picasso of our game." I kid you not, when teams used to visit The City Ground back in the day, they had to double-mark 'Robbo.' His right foot was as good his left.
I can remember sitting in Copper Cafe on West Bridgford's Avenue with my two lads a few years back. I pointed at a guy drinking a pint and said to my boys "you see that fat, scuffy unshaven bloke sitting over there, he scored the winning goal in a European Cup final." They both looked at me and burst out laughing. The guy was 'Robbo.'
Former Notts County scholar George McCartney falls awkwardly and has to hobble off. Aslockton will have it all on without him against League leaders Hucknall. I get gassing to Richard who's doing a BA in football journalism at the University of D***y. He's the roving reporter for the Hucknall Dispatch. He'll not have much to report on in the first half apart from Hucknall hitting the bar more times than Trumpy Bolton. A couple of efforts on target ensure they go in 2-0 up at the break. It's been men against boys, to be honest, with Aslockton having a lone wolf up top.
Twelve years ago, Hucknall reached the FA Trophy final at Villa Park. They lost the game on penalties to Grays Athletic. Financial woes have hit the Club hard over the years. They now find themselves in Step 7 of the football Pyramid.
We go in the cosy cafe for a warm. Wales are on the TV playing rugby. I check the scores, the Imps are beating the Sky Blues 1-0. We venture back out. I can't feel my toes. The visitors put the game to bed just as 'The Reaper.' rocks up. I'd completely forgot that he lives just down the road. Hopes are dashed of a Non League dog photo when 'The Reaper' coughs up that he's not brought his two daft lads, Frank and Stanley.
There's a sickening clash of heads between two players on our side of the ground. Hucknall's player is pretty much out for the count. They lose another one shortly after, with blood oozing out of Jordan Phillips nose. Aslockton and Orston peg one back with a goal of high quality. I've more pressing matters to attend to. We're on the sauce with a Stella-fuelled 'Flying Scotsman from 5pm. More on that next week.
Man of the Match: John Robertson
Sunday, November 12, 2017
It would have been easy to crank up the heating, flop into the armchair and check out all the Non-League results on the laptop this evening, but we've a party to go to. Our friend, Piers, from West Bridgford (but I don't hold it against him) is hosting his annual fireworks' extravaganza and fancy dress party. The theme this year is 'The Curse of the Mummy.' Ms Moon has bagged a Cleopatra outfit. There was chuff all left in the shop when Sticky waltzed in late bells on Friday. I notice a skeleton; that'll do.
Jesus, this outfit is tight. I can feel it ripping around my shoulders. "What the bloody hell is that?" shouts an exasperated Ms Moon. I peer down towards my nether regions. Stone the crows I have an eight-inch penis; well not me personally, but the outfit has. It gets worse, attached to the costume is a little black box with a pipe leading to said member. When you press the button it inflates the John Thomas fully erect. Ms Moon asks me if I knew this before I bought it. I dodge the question and the bullets that come firing in my direction.
The party is off the charts, with 'my thingy' going down a storm. Piers has spent a king's ransom on the fireworks and has had a Tutankhamun cask shipped in from North Yorkshire. We end up wandering down The Avenue and into Forty Four bar. The bouncers ask me to remove my mask, totally ignoring my todger. After a few Hendricks and far too much attention, Ms Moon whisks me away home in a taxi.
It's Tuesday tea-time and I'm on the A17 heading towards Boston United's wonderful, old York Street ground. I have the best fish 'n chips of the season at Eagles Fish Restaurant, before taking my pew high up in the stand to view a managerless Pilgrims against high-flying Salford City. The game is bloody awful. The visitors grab the only goal of the game after a defensive mishap.
The week has dragged on, but Friday finally arrives. By 7pm I'm necking gin after gin listening to all the storytellers on our trip to Tenerife (see previous blog). It's Wednesday morning and I'm sat with the lads in the Giddy Goose having a bacon sandwich, feeling as fresh as a daisy after a 12-hour kip. The same cannot be said for the Big Man, Bruiser, Rotton and Moysie who are all hanging out their arses after clocking off at 4am.
We've a few hours to kill before the flight back to Old Blighty. I'm accompanied by the little lad, Bruiser, on another 13km round trip to Costa Adeje in the searing heat. We take a peek at the Bahia Princess Hotel, where Sticky and Ms Moon are stopping in early February. I've already got another game lined-up in the Canary League at Las Zocas.
It's Thursday morning 9am. I drag my weary body down the stairs. I didn't get to sleep until the early hours. I catch up on work emails and admin. I'm in good books with the Princess as I bought some last minute Jean Paul Gaultier perfume from the duty-free. I can't arf pick em.
We proper laze about on Saturday morning before heading off to Northamptonshire just shy of midday. I've found a pub in the Good Pub Guide called the White Hart in the village of Hackleton. We saunter into the bar area to be met by a sour-faced, unwelcoming barmaid. I ask if it's okay to order food. She starts waving her hands in the air, complaining that a party of ten have walked in and they have only a small kitchen. Toodle pip mi'duck.
Luckily Sticky has another Good Pub Guide entry up his sleeve in Great Billing. The welcome is warm and the food is spot on. Curtis Mayfield's 'Move on Up' is on the jukey/ipod shuffle. In 1990 Mayfield became paralyzed from the neck down after stage equipment fell on him after a gust of wind, during a concert in Brooklyn, New York.
Northampton lies on the River Nene and has a population of over 200,000 people. Notable folk born in the town include: TV presenter Toby Anstis, rugby player Ben Cohen, vicar and Communards band member the Reverend Richard Coles, Bauhaus lead singer, Pete Murphy (legend), Doctor Who, Matt Smith, Test cricketer Graeme Swann and BBC DJ, Jo Whiley.
Old Northamptonians Sports Ground is lemon squeezy easy peasy to find. Northampton ON Chenecks was formed in 1946 by George Lloyd to enable boys at the rugby-playing Northampton Grammar School to play football.
It's £13 on the gate for entry, a programme and two raffle tickets. "What's the prize?" Pipes up Ms Moon. "Me", replies a tall bespectacled gentleman. "Can we have a refund?" remarks Sticky P. The ground is a beauty. The changing rooms and clubhouse are behind the nearest goal, with rugby pitches and a sharing cricket ground to the left. On the far side, there are two stands where we later take shelter from the bitterly cold nip in the air.
I'm approached by Chairman, Eddie Slinn. Ms Moon and I are made to feel very welcome. We position ourselves to the far side of the ground adjacent to the visitors' dugout. Eynesbury take the lead 'early doors' with a fluke cross hitting the back stanchion before nestling in the net. The visitors owe a debt of gratitude to their 'keeper who makes two fine saves before they race into a three-goal lead just before the break.
The Eynesbury bench have constantly been getting at 'Browny.' Ms Moon thinks that every player is named 'Browny.' She asks a sub who he is? We're both disappointed to find out he's wearing salmon-pink boots - just black, polished boots in my team, son.
We're all congregated in the clubhouse at half-time. VIP's are drinking tea and coffee as well as tucking into complimentary sausage rolls. Eddie looks a trifle peeved that the boys are 3-0 down; they don't deserve to be. He soldiers on with the raffle draw. We break this season's duck with a 2nd prize win of Terry's chocolate orange segsations. Ms Moon struts the catwalk to collect the prize - I'm blowing a gasket, I bought those tickets.
ON Checknecks have bucket loads of heart, soul and team spirit. They also have the game's best player in pocket rocket 10 jacket Brandon Williams. Boy oh boy has this lad got a heart as big as a lion. The 18-year-old has terrorised Eynesbury all game. Only misfortune has cost him a goal. His just deserts arrive early in the second half with an incredible finish from wide out on the right byline. The lad is worth the gate money and raffle win. We're devastated to see him withdrawn at 1-4 with a slight hamstring pull.
ON Chenecks pull a further two goals back, with the visitors indebted to their 'keeper for blocks and saves to earn them a win that many would say they didn't deserve.
Man of the Match: Brandon Williams
Without a doubt the friendliest club we've visited this season. Thank you to Eddie and Neil for your time.