Sunday, March 26, 2017
It's Wednesday afternoon and I'm heading back into Manchester, again, after a meeting up in Runcorn. I've had a pig of a day, nowt seems to have gone right. The M62 is at a standstill. It takes 90 minutes to complete a 30-mile journey. I'm feeling sorry for myself as I flop onto my Premier Inn bed in Prestwich. I flick the TV on, to be met with the horrific news coming from Westminster. It puts all my trivialities into perspective. I notice the following day a picture of a scarf draped over a red plastic seat at Charlton Athletic's Valley ground. PC Keith Palmer, a victim of the attack, was a season ticket holder at the Club. He sacrificed his own life, to save others.
I take a stroll around Colwick Country Park late on Friday afternoon, which is adjacent to Nottingham Racecourse, allowing time to drop by the Starting Gate for a pint of Tribute Cornish pale ale. Ms Moon asks if I fancy a game of scrabble. I decline the invitation, as it usually ends up in controversy, and in my case, tears.
I'm up and away at just gone 9 am on Saturday - I have a Royal engagement in one hour's time. It will be HRH Trumpy Bolton's third outing of the season. The Audi needs a clean and valet. The Kosovan lads do a tidy job. I always enjoy some banter with their boss, because if looks could kill, he probably would.
The roadworks on the Melton Road absolutely kill me. Trumpy Bolton is loitering on a street corner on the Keyworth Bronx, swinging his Kwik Save carrier bag full of booty (Dark Fruits cider), patiently waiting for me. We greet each other with a Happy New Year greeting; it's been that long, too long in fact. He's already had a couple of Fursty Ferret and crumpet and cheese for breakfast.
Graham Norton is non-negotiable on the radio; we both can't abide the overpaid blithering idiot. We've got some dodgy radio station on. The DJ plays 'Can't Stand Losing You' by The Police. I casually mention that Sting and the lads played a gig at Rushcliffe Leisure Centre to the fur coat 'n no knickers brigade of West Bridgford back in the late 70s before they hit the big time. "Yeah, I know", replies Bolton, "I was there." California punk band, The Cramps, were supporting them that night.
Trumpy is on a high since Leicester City's renaissance. He was calling for Ranieri's head after an early exit from the FA Cup at Millwall. Last Saturday he went on the Mother-of-all benders before, during and after a 3-2 win versus the Hammers. I enquire what he had to eat that day: "one and a half doughnuts, on the train home", he replies.
The Legend announces that he will be making his debut over in the Algarve in the summer. Workers at the Superbock beer-bottling plant in Faro have been put on a seven-day working week until Bolton lands back on UK soil. Trumpy has already seen off a litre bottle of cider before we exit the M1 onto the M25.
We park up just off Chipping Barnet High Street, next to a pond awash with ducks. Barnet and Cheltenham fans, please be seated while I explain this; you may just keel over if not pre-warned. Trumpy Bolton wants to make a financial transaction (usually in a pub) in every city, town and village in England, Wales and Scotland. He has pursued this hobby for 40 years. He only has Brentford to tick off in the whole of Greater London, and that is because my old SRI Cavalier blew up en route to Griffin Park in 1988.
We've a pub sorted called The Monk. We poke our head through the door as the omens don't look too good with a 'To Let' sign erected outside. Two young lads tell us there's no food on today. A grumpy Trumpy chunters off up the street in search of another hostelry.
Bolton sniffs out another boozer up the road. He's unimpressed with a cocksure young 'un behind the bar. The lad is wearing a black leather bomber jacket. He looks like Tucker Jenkins off Grange Hill. The pub is nowt to write home about. The food is bang average, and so are Lincoln City, on the pub TV, who have fallen behind to an early Forest Green goal in their biggest six-pointer of the season at Sincil Bank. Bolton is upset again when the arrogant barman fluffs up his drinks order. We bale out while the going's good.
Barnet's ground is 6 miles down the road. Due to traffic congestion it takes an age. We drive past the John Keble Church in Edgware. Trumpy says he didn't know that the former Spandau Ballet drummer had turned to God (for older readers only).
Barnet FC were founded in 1888 and play at the Hive Stadium. They recently left Underhill, their home for over 100 years. The new ground is situated in Edgware, away from their community - work that one out. Supporters are shipped in by bus.
Former players that have gone on to ply their trade in the Premier League include: Dougie Freedman, Marlon King, Linvoy Primus, Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie and Albert Adomah. Jimmy Greaves and Dutch international Edgar Davids have also played for the club. Transfer record fee received is £800,000 from Crystal Palace for Dougie Freedman and record fee paid is £130,000 for Peterborough United's Greg Heald. Notable folk born or raised in Barnet include: actress Stephanie Beacham, singer Elaine Page, broadcaster Johnny Vaughan, former BNP chairman Nick Griffin and the cricketer Phil Tufnell.
I have a bottle of water in the bar as Trumpy quaffs a couple more Dark Fruits. I check my phone. I'm delighted to see 'The Lincoln' have stormed back to win 3-1. Ms Moon and I will be at Sincil Bank next Saturday when they entertain Bromley.
The Barnet DJ is playing Fire by Leicester band Kasabian. Trumpy chuckles that the Foxes fans haven't sung this song much at the King Power Stadium until recently. I'm disappointed to see Cheltenham striker Dan Holman is on the subs bench. I've followed his career at Long Buckby, Histon and Braintree Town. He banged in 30 goals last season in the Conference.
We're sat with the Press Pack and commentators for local radio. Trumpy is amused with the two guys behind him from Radio Gloucestershire. They seem rather chipper when they take the lead in the following a smart finish by Danny Wright.
The natives are getting restless as 'Nugent Out' rings out from the terraces and stands. The Bees find energy in the second half. Sub, Curtis Weston, thumps home a volley on 70 minutes. Leading scorer John Akinde, who hardly broke sweat first half, puts the game to bed on 77 and 79 minutes following some woeful defending by the visitors.
The commentators from Radio Gloucestershire are holding a post-mortom. They are in total shock. They mention the 'Nugent Out' chants and remark that the fellow will probably be penning a two-year contract on Monday, such are the small margins in a game. Trumpy tells them that the Cheltenham skipper has had a stinker. One of the guys just shrugs his shoulders.
Rest in peace PC Keith Palmer.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
We could have got in the Arsenal end. But I've proper got the monk on with the whole saga. We tune into the game live on TalkSPORT. Lincoln give a good account of themselves in the first half. They're treading water for the final 45 minutes as the brilliant Chilean forward, Alexis Sanchez, runs riot.
It's Tuesday evening and I'm absolutely wetting myself with excitement. I'm in a 4x4 on the M6 with the 'Mayor of London' and his brother 'Big Bear Baker.' We're staying the night in Birmingham before heading over for Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival. We enjoy a few scoops in the city centre whilst watching the Foxes outwit Seville in the 'European Cup.' More beverages are consumed at Be At One Bar, before turning in for bed at some God unearthly hour, after Doner meat and chips.
Sticky Jnr has been texting me a few duff tips. I ignore his last one in the 5:20, due to intoxication. It duly canters up the hill to romp in at 11/1. I'm never betting again or drinking. We sink pint after pint at backstreet boozers in the town, before the night ends in utter carnage back at Be At One Bar. A surly and rude French barman is serenaded with "getting sacked in the morning" after the worst bar service seen since Rene from Allo Allo mucked up a drinks order for the Gestapo.
Jesus wept, Cheltenham has made me a broken man. I'm tired, grouchy and penniless. I just need a nice quiet weekend in. What's that 'Princess?' We're out on Friday night in Nottingham and staying over in Manchester on Saturday. Hell's teeth.
It's Saturday morning and we're both slouched on the sofa watching a re-run of The Bill on ITV Encore. PC Reg Hollis is more incompetent than the French barman. I summon the energy to scrub up, before we both jump in the car and head up the M1 North towards Manchester.
Graham Norton is doing my nut in. I scan a few stations on the whack Audi radio, before stumbling upon Murphy Palmer and Sticky's favourite artist, Jess Glynne - Murph loved her to bits.
First port of call is the iconic Salford Lads' Club on the corner of Coronation Street. It was opened in 1904 by Robert Baden-Powell, who later founded the Scout movement. It was used in the sleeve for The Smiths album The Queen is Dead. There are a few folks taking snaps in the pouring rain, coming from the slate-grey skies. The journey to Moor Lane, home of Salford City, is only a short distance away.
Salford is a city in Greater Manchester with a population of over 70,000. It was once well known for its cotton and silk spinning, and weaving in the local cotton mills. In 2011 Salford's MediaCityUK became the HQ for CBBC and BBC Sport. It is said the fictional setting of the soap opera Coronation Street is Salford. The folk song 'Dirty Old Town' written by local musician Ewan MacColl (father of the late Kirsty MacColl) is the origin of Salford's nickname.
Famous people born or brought up in Salford include: Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the founder members of the Suffragette Movement, Joy Division and New Order band members Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, The Smiths frontman Morrissey, footballer Paul Scholes, Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays and the actors Robert Powell and Albert Finney.
We park up in a residential area just down the road from the ground. There's an over-the-top police presence. The lads are lined-up outside the away turnstile. Police horses parade up and down the street, leaving shit everywhere. 'The Boys in Blue' love a bit of overtime, particularly when 'United' and 'City' aren't playing at home on a Saturday. Chuffing hell; they'll only be 1500 or so supporters in attendance.
We sit in the Main Stand, sheltering from the wind and rain. I get chatting to a guy next to me from West Yorkshire, who knows Salford's George Green who's on loan from Burnley - he signed for Everton from Bradford City in a deal worth £300,000 in 2013.
I'm intrigued as to what set the Salford DJ will play. Radcliffe Borough, up the road, are this season's benchmark. The guy on Salford's decks doesn't disappoint. He spins Primal Scream, New Order, James, The Charlatans and The Smiths.
I check the full-time score from The City Ground. NFFC have scored in the last kick of the game to grab a point. There's no doubt that a seething Sticky junior will have sloped off before the final whistle to wave the Sheep off back over the cattle grid towards D***y.
Ms Moon arrives back grumbling from the Ladies toilets on the far side of the ground. There's no running water. She says that a few private number plates are parked behind the goal, suggesting that Phil and Gary Neville are in town.
Salford are rocked by the goal, as three minutes earlier Josh Hine had fluffed a sitter, when losing his footing. Salford exert pressure on the Stockport defence who remain gallant and steadfast. Half time allows both teams to rest their legs from the boggy, rain-sodden surface. The DJ continues his pre-match form with a Stone Roses track.
Hatters' substitute Kaine Felix spurns a golden chance to put the game to bed having rounded the 'keeper. Stockport are made to pay 10 minutes from time when Michael Nottingham is bundled over in the box. Sub, Richie Allen, coolly sends Hinchcliffe the wrong way from the spot kick to earn the Ammies a thoroughly deserved point.
Man of the Match: Ben Hinchcliffe Stockport 'keeper
Sunday, March 12, 2017
I'm stuffed after a large portion of mixed kebab meat and chips. It's the first Saturday night in a long time without an alcoholic beverage. I retire to bed at midnight after Barca trounce Celta Vigo and Match of the Day - today has been a footballing fiesta.
Oh, where to go on Saturday ? 'The Lincoln' are playing 'The Arsenal' in an FA Cup quarter-final. The Imps have handled the 9,000 ticket allocation badly in my eyes. There's a strict criteria set by Arsenal. They want traceability of all tickets. I'd be happy to show my driving licence, passport or any ticket from the Cup run. 'The Lincoln' choose not to go down the general sale route. Oh well, in all honesty, I never fancied a trip to the Emirates. Middlesbrough or Millwall were more my bag.
Tuesday night is spent down at Lenton Lane on the banks of the Trent, as young guns AFC Dunkirk pit their wits against a more experienced Clifton All Whites. Poor fayre is served up, with only a Niall Mellis penalty for Clifton separating the two sides.
I'm up at Heanor Town on Wednesday evening - I flipping love it up here. They're a club with a fantastic ethos and good values - not only that, the pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy are a must. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a 46-page programme, which includes a blog written by some bloke called Sticky Palms (self-indulgent moment). I grab a quick chat with Press Officer Tony Squires and legendary 'On The Road' blogger Malc Storer, before seeing Heanor thump Leicestershire team St Andrews 4-0.
There's an SOS from Joe Palmer up at Leeds Beckett University on Thursday evening. Train fares are extortionate, any chance Dad can pick him up ? I start work at the crack of dawn on Friday, before sailing up the M1 towards 'Dirty Leeds.' It's great to spend some time with my youngest, even if it's only for a few hours in the car. Dad and lad tick off a McDonalds in Bobbers Mill, Nottingham, before I drop him off in a deserted Pear Tree car park in Keyworth.
There are more pressing issues at hand. Ms Moon and I haven't played Scrabble for a few weeks since a Sticky Palms spat following a controversial 1-0 loss. I head into town and get my ears lowered at a barbers on Mansfield Road. The lad in the chair next to me has just come out of prison. He tells the guy shaving his 'barnet' that he used to spend 23 hours a day in his cell.
I drop by at Waterstones on Bridlesmith Gate and ask for directions to the dictionary section. The dirty deed is done. I celebrate with two pints of ale in the Herbert Kilpin. It's another nasty, vicious game of Scrabble, with sledging and verbals of the highest order. I lose by 100 points. Is Ja a real word ?
We're awoken by some scruffy, little Heinz variety mongrel dog, yapping on our street, early on Saturday. I threaten to throttle the little excuse of a mutt. Ms Moon says I'll get sent to prison. I quite fancy 23 hours a day in a cell reading my Kindle.
Ms Moon goes shopping, whilst I stretch my legs around Colwick Country Park. We head towards Brackley at midday. Graham Norton and his posse are getting on my wick on Radio 2. We exit the M1 at Junction 15A and are soon pulling into the car park of the thatched roof New Inn in Abthorpe.
The homely bar is full of locals. We're reliably informed that the barmaid is having a crafty fag in the backyard. A rather flustered, red-cheeked lass sheepishly sneaks in through a side door. I enjoy a pint of Hook Norton Gold. Ms Moon opts for rump steak, whilst Sticky prefers fish 'n chips.
St James' Park is a 20-minute drive away. I came here with 'The Taxman a few weeks ago. We park up on a residential street, a few minutes' walk away. It's £12 pound on the gate. The DJ, when I came v Kiddy 10 days ago, was on flames. He played loads of Indie music as well as The Libertines and Razorlight.
I first came here 7 years ago with blog legend Trumpy Bolton. It's a wonderful club, full of friendly folk. Trumpy drank so much that day - they're still counting the takings. Sadly, no stand is named after him. Somebody ought to do that - he'd sponsor it. 'The Trumpy Bolton Stand' - it's got a ring to it.
It's my third look at Salford in the last month or so. I saw them 'throw in the towel' at The Shay and put in an inept performance at The Lamb last week. Joint-manager Bernard Morley gave an honest and forthright interview after last week's debacle. He said the game was 'lost in the warm-up.' A warm-up he surveyed from the safe haven of the dugout without intervention. Salford didn't look comfortable on the 3G - it didn't suit their style of play or tactics.
I reckon someone from Manchester has hijacked the decks as the teams walk out of the tunnel to the brilliant 'Come Home' by James. There's a lively start to the game. It's toing and froing. Salford seize upon Brackley's 3-5-2 formation and punt the football forward quickly. Josh Hine finds himself one on one, but fluffs his chance by firing straight at the 'keeper.
Morley prowls the technical area, appearing more vocal and animated. He's overseen the warm-up. Him and 'Jonno' seem more chipper as the ink has barely dried on two-year full-time contracts. The Ammies are tense on the field of play. It doesn't take long for one or two to fall out.
While you can't question the energy or effort levels, the distribution is poor. The ball is like a hot potato. Sticky's favourite, Scott Burton, vents frustration at the bench, telling Jonno and Bernard that the team have time to take a touch and get on the ball.
It's deadlock at the break. We don't do 0-0s. I saunter off to take some photos of flags behind the goal, where Brackley and Salford fans have sung and shared banter. Ms Moon brings back coffee, tea and some chocolate.
The game is crying out for a goal. Mrs Norris whips in a corner from the left, Phenix bravely heads it back, Nottingham nods it onto the bar, before slotting home the rebound from close range. The whole Salford dugout punch the air in delight.
We have more pressing matters. At half-time the 'Dogs For Good' charity had collared (get it) Ms Moon. Bless her, she only had 10p in her purse. A distraught and embarrassed 'Princess' informs me of this on my return from the toilet. I have £5 on me. She races around the ground to chuck it in the bucket.
The game fizzles out. There's endless substitutions, as Salford change formation to 4-4-2 and 4-4-1. Neither team trouble the 'keeper. But at least the Salford camp seem happier at the final whistle.
Man of the Match: Phenix
Man of the Match: Phenix
Sunday, March 5, 2017
White Van Man has organised a 10km ramble over stiles, traipsing down footpaths and through the surrounding villages of Nether Broughton and Upper Broughton. The conditions are testing and the walk exhausting, due to a plethora of puddles and mud-caked fields. Three hours later, we're both out on our feet, and close to death. We leave White Van Man to polish off a carvery at the brewery - I hope the Yorkshire puddings are spot on, or at least Aunt Bessie's.
I haven't the energy or ability to walk up to the King Billy in Sneinton for my lunchtime constitutional. 'Ms Moon Taxis' drop me off 50 yards from the pub door. I slump in my seat and down a pint of Citra from the Oakham Ales stable. There's no Ms Moon taxi home; the 'Princess' charges treble time after 3 pm on a Sunday - plus the omnibus edition of 'Come Dine With Me' is on the box.
I pick up a fragile Taxman who is still feeling the after effects of an afternoon session with the 'Monday Club' at the Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham, yesterday. We head over to Brackley in rush-hour traffic, listening to the excellent Simon Mayo on Radio 2. We grab some tea in Silverstone at the Green Man on the A43, before the short journey to St James' Park (not the one in Newcastle).
I've already phoned up the Club, as countless games fall by the wayside due to waterlogged pitches. I'm reassured that the game is ON. I can see why; you could play Crown Green bowls on this playing surface. Trumpy Bolton reminds me on Facebook that we've been to Brackley in 2010. I reply that they're still counting the bar takings and that the Club have named a stand after him. The Harriers can consider themselves unlucky, going down to two late strikes from substitute David Moyo.
I switch on the radio on Saturday morning. Dermot O' Leary has replaced 'Sir' Brian Matthew on Radio 2 - it reminds me of when former Nottingham Forest boss Frank Clark used to draft in old 'Pineapple Head', Jason Lee for Stanley Victor Collymore, such is the gulf in class. Murphy the budgie will be turning in his grave.
Ms Moon fails to make the team bus for today's clash between Tamworth and Salford. The good lady has a sales conference up in Brigg, Lincolnshire. I tip her a visit to the White Horse Wetherspoons pub and Brigg Town football ground - both ticked off with Trumpy Bolton - before waving the good lady off, in Sainsbury's car park, on Mapperley Plains, following a hearty breakfast in the Copper Cafe. It's like a scene from Gone With the Wind.
White Van Man is called up from the substitutes' bench. First port of call for 'Hopper' is the Nottingham Forest Academy, just off Wilford Lane. The Under 18s are pitting their wits against Coventry City, who were sensationally knocked out of the FA Youth Cup earlier in the season on the banks of the River Trent by Dunkirk FC, where they found the players and locals too hot to handle.
The Sky Blues win at a canter, 3-0 - the Tricky Trees field a side with a mix of 16s and 17s. White Van Man is in his pit ('armchair') watching Man Utd v Bournemouth. He makes me a brew before we hit the A453 and M42.
A coach from St Helens has broken down on the hard shoulder. It later transpires that Marine FC, from Liverpool, were on their way to Coalville Town. Non-League family pull together as a procession of cars from Coalville Town rescue the stranded Scousers. It ended 0-0. Sticky doesn't do 0-0s.
We park in a residential area of Tamworth, close to the official car park. I saw Dagenham and Redbridge pretty much clinch the Conference title here a few years ago. Tamworth is a large market town in Staffordshire with a population of 70,000. It lies on the River Tame which flows through the town. Up until 2001 it was home to the car manufacturer Reliant, who produced the three-wheeled Robin and Scimitar. The Lamb football ground, home of Tamworth FC is next to the Snowdome, the UK's first full-sized real snow indoor ski slope. Drayton Manor Park is also close by.
One of Sticky's heroes - Teardrop Explodes lead singer Julian Cope - was raised in Tamworth. Cope was staying with his grandmother in South Wales on his ninth birthday, on the day of the Aberfan Disaster in 1966. He later described it as having a profound effect on his life - 144 people, including 116 children, lost their lives that day. Premier League winner, Marc Albrighton was also born in Tamworth.
It's £14 to sit in the stands or £12 for on the terrace. We wander across to the far side of the ground, positioning ourselves adjacent to the Salford dugout. Murphy the budgie would have loved it here. His two favourite artists - Jess Glynn and Little Mix are booming out of the PA system.
Salford joint manager, Bernard Morley, is slouched in the dugout watching his team warm-up. Their away form is a concern. Only a few weeks ago I saw them wave the white handkerchief, at The Shay in Halifax, after being 2-0 up at the break. I'm somewhat of a Jonah, having never seen them win in five outings. It will be interesting to see what tactics are deployed on Tamworth's 3G surface.
Over 1300 supporters have rocked up at The Lamb. Bernard and Jonno are already getting an earful early doors. It only takes nine minutes for the Tamworth fans to pipe up with "you dirty Northern bastards' after Priestley clatters into the back of Dyer.
The Ammies (Salford) just don't look 'at it.' They pump up endless long balls to striker Mike Phenix, a willing runner. But where are the runners to support him ? Salford fail to clear their lines properly on 40 minutes with Connor Taylor lashing home the loose ball. A miserable and fruitless 45 minutes ends in tears with the impressive Danny Newton hanging in the air at the back stick to head home a pinpoint corner.
Blimey, I can't see the Salford changing room sound system banging out the Stone Roses or Happy Mondays - it'll be Joy Division after that showing. They're shooed out onto the pitch after only a ten minute break.
Salford push the full backs on in the second half. Their talismanic midfielder, Scott Burton, is the sacrificial lamb. He's pushed back to protect the defence. They miss his energy, crunching tackles and will to win. One or two don't want to know - the Conference North isn't for pretty boys. They start to bitch and moan at one another. Phenix becomes disheartened and disinterested. There's a flurry of yellow cards brandished for indiscipline and dissent, as the Ammies lose focus.
Morley has stood stern-faced, arms folded in the technical area. 'Jonno' sits on a brick wall next to the dugout. The joint managers barely exchange a word all afternoon. Something's not ringing right about the whole day. Credit must go to Tamworth who have chased down, hustled, harried and won individual battles all over the pitch.
We're driving home when I get a text from 'Our Joe' saying that 'Lincoln are s**t." That's rather odd, as we picked up a useful point away at Aldershot Town. There's a picture of a betting slip. The Imps have cost him close on £300 in an accumulator. Joe, you can't arf pick em.
Man of the Match: Luke Jones (Tamworth)