Thursday, April 20, 2017
I'm desperate to see the Imps back in the Football League. The only reason we got relegated was because of that blithering idiot Chris Sutton and his disastrous tenure as manager. I view the game through gritted teeth, kicking every ball inside my head. We nick a goal in the first half and see the game out despite playing the last 25 minutes with ten men, after a straight red card for a pumped-up Alan Power. Gateshead manager Neil Aspin is sat a few seats away from me. The Imps are due up the north east on Easter Bank Holiday Monday. Richard Dryden is also in the stands. Neil Warnock, when manager of Notts County, paid Exeter City £250,000 for his services in 1991.
The weekend can't come quick enough. I quaff a few pints at the Six Barrel Drafthouse on Thursday evening, as Ms Moon sees off a bottle of prosecco. Good Friday is spent traditionally with Leicester City diehard Mr Trumpy Bolton. We had hoped to commence battle over Pop Master on Radio 2 at 10:30 am. Sadly, I'm not picking up the Legend until 11:00 am. He's loitering on a street corner as I squeeze the car down Spinney Road in Keyworth.
Trumpy's all excited about the return leg of the European Cup against Atletico Madrid at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday. He called for Ranieri's head long before the players downed tools and took sides with 'Shakey.' The running and sprint statistics versus Liverpool (Shakespeare's first game in charge) are embarrassing compared to Ranieri's final few matches at the helm.
Gainsborough Trinity's Northolme ground is only a few minutes drive away. Bolton turns his nose up at the Worthington's Creamflow bitter. He swills some of my J2o blackcurrant around his mouth to freshen up his taste buds.
Trinty's ground is a belter. The last time I came here, over 10 years ago, Droylsden were the visitors. I remember chatting to a dad of a player. The lad was called Jamie Tandy - best remembered for having a cigar stubbed out in his face by Joey Barton at the Manchester City Christmas Party. I was saddened to read that Tandy himself appeared in court in 2015 for beating up his partner. It was said in court that he had twice tried to take his own life.
We sit at the back of the Ping Stand. A group of young lads are being mischevious. Trumpy Bolton keeps his beady eye on them. Salford have a Billy Smart's Circus moment, Trinity forward Nathan Jarman seizes upon the opportunity and finds the bottom corner of the net with a smart finish, Salford throw the kitchen sink at them. Efforts hit the woodwork and shots are scuffed and shanked, with the home 'keeper making a 'worldy' at the death.
It's Saturday morning and part two of my footballing fiesta. I race down to Netherfield Retail Park, bag a pair of shoes from Next, fill up the car with petrol and grab Ms Moon a Costa coffee, before hitting the M1 and M69. We're back on DAB radio again, as part of the package of my new wheels. The downside is that Ms Moon has tuned into Absolute 80s.
I've clocked the White Swan Hotel on Rother Street in Stratford-upon-Avon. I fancy a tipple and Ms Moon is gagging for a coffee. The hotel dates back to 1450. We mull over the morning papers, lounging in Chesterfield leather chairs. The hotel is one for the notebook, particularly when there's a deal on.
The sun peeps out from behind some white fluffy clouds as we amble down the banks of the River Avon. Lunch is taken at another cracking Good Pub Guide entry called Encore, before taking the short trip to Tiddington, home of Stratford Town FC.
I've blogged 'The Hop' for over 10 years now. I first came here in 2010 and saw one of the most beautifully executed goals by Dunkirk FC's Darren Garmston. Kettering Town are today's visitors. They are coached by my good mate John Ramshaw.
It's not long before 'Rammers' is pulling his hair out. On three minutes a free kick is punted forward, the 'keeper is rooted to his line as George Forsyth powers home a header. Rene Howe and Nottingham-born Aaron O'Connor are leading the line for the Poppies; they have a wealth of experience. Their finishing prowess sadly deserts them. It's left to 17-year-old winger Ben Baker to show the veterans how it's done with a cool finish on the half-hour.
Kettering take a pummelling in the second half as one or two of them throw the towel in. 'Jack the Collie' has got it on him at the final whistle as the ball is put away for another week. He'll be climbing the walls until next Saturday when he watches Leamington FC down the road in their final home game of the season.
Man of the Match: Jack the Collie
Monday, April 10, 2017
I spot an elderly couple gripping a rail, and gasping for air. I offer to lug their belongings up to a nearby hotel where they are spending the night. We finally dive into the Magna Carta at the top of the hill for a well-earned beverage or two, before jumping on the choo-choo back to Nottingham. Prosecco and local ales are polished off at the Crafty Crow opposite Nottingham Castle.
Sunday is Doomsday. It has slipped my mind that I'd promised Ms Moon a shopping spree up at McArthurGlenn off Junction 28 on the M1. We wolf down a first class breakfast on Mapperley Top, at Copper Cafe, before the daunting trip up to Mansfield. I can't get out the joint quick enough. I tick-off Jeff Banks and Calvin Klein. Ms Moon is beaming from ear to ear after a successful shop.
It's the week from hell on the road as a client relationship manager. There are fleeting visits to Southampton, Gosport, Salisbury and Hereford before returning home for the weekend. I receive a text from 'The Zuffler' that reads 'RIP legendary DJ Brian Matthew.' Regular readers will know that Sticky and Murphy the budgie loved listening to 'Uncle Brian' on his 60s show on a Saturday morning on Radio 2. It turns out to be a massive faux pas by the BBC. Brian Matthew remains critically ill in hospital. He hasn't died, despite his employer reporting he has.
I hear the hooting and tooting of a car horn outside the house. My mate Lee is sat in a magnum grey Ford Mondeo Titanium. It's Sticky's new wheels. I cruise up the M1 North on Friday evening, before turning off at Junction 33. Sat Nav guides me in to Rotherham Titans Rugby Club.
Ms Moon is walking over hot coals, at a temperature of over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, for charity. I need to cool down myself first, so sink a pint of real ale in the plush clubhouse. A pumped-up 'Princess' emerges from the changing room after a 'Neil Warnock' type team-talk. Her name is shouted out in a WWE style. The good lady keeps her nerve, gracefully negotiating the glowing coals. A couple of Strongbow ciders are necked, accompanied with pie, chips 'n mushy peas, before retiring for a few more sociable ones at the Ibis in Rotherham.
We check-out the hotel before a McDonald's breakfast on a soulless retail park. It's full of greasy old hairy bikers. There's an emotional goodbye in the Ibis car park, reminiscent of Scarlett and Rhett in Gone With The Wind - I'll be back in time for Ant 'n Dec's Saturday Takeaway, unfortunately.
I'm picking up 'The Skipper' from Leeds Beckett University; that's if the lazy so and so is out of his pit. It's great to be reunited with DAB radio (and my youngest son). Colin Murray is on flames as he hosts the award-winning 'Fighting Talk' on Five Live. They mention about the best final farewells in sport. Take a look at Kevin Keegan's at St James' Park on You Tube, it's amazing. He shakes hands with a 13-year-old Alan Shearer before being whisked away in a helicopter to pastures new.
'The Skipper lives next door to the 'Emmerdale Experience.' It's a bit too early to sup an ale poured by Amos Brearley or Mr Wilks. We head out towards the Pennines above Bradford. I've picked out a pub in the village of Thornton, with its stone built houses. The Bronte sisters were born here at 74 Market Street.
We're welcomed by a cheery landlord. I have a pint of Timothy Taylor's pale ale, while Joe has a bottle of fruit cider. Lunch is taken in a sun-drenched beer garden, as we enjoy the sweeping views of the landscape.
Bradford Park Avenue's Horsfall Stadium is a 20-minute drive away. Friendly stewards direct us to the Park Road car park on the far side of the ground. On entry I bag a programme, buy some raffle tickets and donate to the Salvation Army.
Bradford is a city in the foothills of the Pennines. Famous people born and bred include: singer Tasmin Archer, cricketers David and Jonny Bairstow, James' lead singer Tim Booth, Sooty and Sweep gloveman Harry Corbett, footballers Len Shackleton and Fabian Delph, magician Dynamo, comedian Adrian Edmondson, 'singers' Gareth Gates and Kimberley Walsh, World snooker champion Joe Johnson, One Direction member Zayn Malik (sorry about that one), swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, novelist J B Priestley and Countdown host Richard Whiteley.
There's nothing on the game and I fear a 0-0 - I've not seen one at a new ground since North Allerton in September. We walk a full circuit of the ground. One or two folk on groundhopping sites have a moan 'n groan about the athletics track that sits on the perimeter of the community stadium. This is compensated by the panoramic views of the countryside, rewarded by the climb of concrete steps on the far side of the ground. The DJ is playing a set from his indy iTunes faves - not published on twitter.
It has a proper end of season feel about it, with FC barely breaking sweat. People-watching is the winner in the first half. One or two from FC (supporters) have been on the sauce. There's the stench of spliffs wafting about in the air. Some guy next to us, so bored with what is being served up, is threatening to do roly-polies on the steep grass bank behind the goal at half-time - it would blow the DJ's set to smithereens.
Neither side have the energy, effort or ability to carve out a decent chance. We troop back to the car, despondent, on the far side of the ground to catch up on the scores on Five Live.
Man of the Match: Brian Matthew (RIP aged 88)
Sunday, April 2, 2017
I'm stood on the banks of the River Trent, with a rather chipper Taxman, on Tuesday evening, adjacent to Sat Bains restaurant - the only two-star Michelin eatery in Nottinghamshire. We're not here for the posh nosh - it's more muck 'n nettles as Dunkirk and Radford go into battle on Lenton Lane.
Radford manager, Big Glen Russell ain't too pleased to see Sticky rocking up, as I'm a proper Jonah. He says 'eh up' but that's about it. It's a wonderful game of football with an ebb and flow about it. Radford claw their way back from 2-0 down, but finally run out of steam and ideas. Glen's on his best behaviour this evening after a misdemeanour the other week. I sneak past the dugout without catching his eye. I bump into a smiling Ian Upton when exiting the ground. I loved blogging the Boatmen when 'Uppo' and Dave Harbottle were joint managers.
It's been a frustrating week at work. I'm pleased to knock off on Friday afternoon. I stroll up to Enterprise car hire on Daleside Road, as my new Ford Mondeo Titanium is not due for delivery until Friday. I need a runaround for Monday and Tuesday as I'm in Southampton on business. 'Kip Keino' has given up the ghost. I think the clutch or gearbox is kaput.
I wander down 'Bread 'n Lard Island' (West Bridgford) before returning to Trent Bridge. I saunter past County Hall and cross over the Wilford Suspension Bridge, before heading through the Meadows where great footballers such as Jermaine Pennant, Wes Morgan and Pedro Richards were born and raised.
It's a glorious day. I have my fleece draped over my shoulder. I'm sweating buckets and gasping for air when I finally reach Listergate. I grab a copy of the popular cult football magazine When Saturday Comes from WHSmith and have a browse through it, whilst sinking a few real ales in the Herbert Kilpin, Six Barrel Drafthouse and the Curious Tavern in the hipster area of Hockley, next to the Lace Market.
I'm fagged out when I finally return home at just gone 6 pm. I must have clocked up some miles on the old 'plates of meat.' Ms Moon and I try to book a cruise, but there's no room at the Inn. I quite fancied Dubrovnik and Athens. We'll have to wait until next year. Southern Spain will do for now.
I wake up early on Saturday morning. I'm usually excited and looking forward to a random Non-League game. Not so this morning. I'm a jibbering wreck and have already got that jabbing, knotting pain you get in the pit of your stomach. I'll make no bones about it, I'm really worried about the Imps run of form, as they enter the final furlong of a long title race. They've played something like 52 games already. Canny manager, Danny Cowley, has recruited shrewdly in the loan market. It takes time to bed-in new recruits; time we haven't got.
I took Sticky Jnr to his first Imps' game back in 1998. Falklands veteran, Phil 'Sergeant' Stant, was in the managerial hot seat. His assistant was former Mansfield Town player/manager George Foster. Lincoln were on a miserable run of form and lost again, 3-2, to Leyton Orient. 'Stanty' was a popular guy amongst the supporters. Sadly, not the same can be said of his pal, George. "Foster out" rang around the stadium, with 3-year-old Junior leading the chanting. Foster was relieved of his duties on Monday morning. I often remind Sticky Jnr that he cost somebody their job.
Ms Moon and I potter up to Nottingham Railway Station. Tickets are collected and a much-needed coffee shouted up, before jumping on the 11:29 am train to Lincoln Central. We're treated to some old lady ringing her entire contacts from her phone. We get the whole potted history of her dysfunctional family. I can't alight the choo choo quick enough onto the platform.
We head towards the Brayford Waterfront - it's England's oldest inland harbour. After eyeing up a number of eateries we opt for the Handmade Burger Company. James Brown's 'Sex Machine' is on the dukey. I have a Belgian blonde (beer) and wolf down a burger soaked in blue cheese sauce, quicker than Scooby Doo. There's a nice ambience about the place and it manages to take my mind off the football for a short while until I check the Live Scores app - Tranmere Rovers have beaten Wrexham 1-0 at the Racecourse Ground. They're now top and slowly turning the screw. My stomach begins to churn again.
I collect the matchday tickets. We park ourselves to the rear of the Software Europe Stand. The DJ's set is not a patch on Salford City, Radcliffe Borough or Brackley Town. I'm clutching at straws when I say that 'Sweet Caroline' by Neil Diamond is the pick of a very average set.
Bromley FC are the visitors. I recently read a hilarious book by devoted fan Dave Roberts who followed them home and away for the whole of last season after returning home from the USA. Notable folk born in Bromley include: H G Wells, Pixie Lott, Peter Frampton and Clash drummer Topper Headon.
Ten minutes before kick-off, 95-year-old George 'Johnny' Johnson, the last surviving Dam Buster pilot from 617 Squadron, emerges from the tunnel to rapturous applause from the Sincil Bank faithful, and the 80 Bromley fans who have made the long trip north. It's right up there with any moving, touching and emotional moment I have ever witnessed in 45 years of watching football.
The game is scrappy. Lincoln hit the ball forward early. We look disjointed, nervous and short on confidence. Nathan Arnold is like a fish out of water on the wide left. Harry Anderson's first touch, on the right flank, deserts him time and time again, as the pressure begins to mount with a hard-working Bromley putting ten players behind the ball.
There's an opportunity to alleviate the pressure on 25 minutes, but a poorly taken penalty by Alan Power is comfortably dealt with by the Bromley 'keeper. The visitors enjoy a good spell of possession. Minshull and Higgs look comfortable on the ball. A cleverly worked free-kick sees a thunderous 20 yard shot cannon back off the woodwork.
Lincoln are desperate for a goal. I'm getting uptight. I've barely breathed a word to Ms Moon at the break. I'm not the only one who has 'got it on him.' Lincoln 'big cheese' Matt Rhead has moaned and groaned at anyone willing to listen to him for most of the game. It's hardly appropriate to go 'big time' when you only notched four goals in five months.
The Imps are well off colour and can barely string two passes together. Cowley makes a double sub. The impact is instant. Ginnelly and Lee Angol tee up Billy Knott, who sweeps home a daisy-cutter into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. The relief is enormous. Lincoln see the game out to grab what might turn out to be a valuable three points, come the end of the season.
Man of the Match 'Johnny' Johnson RAF 617 Squadron