Sunday, September 24, 2017
My rash decision is not ill-judged; Atherton's Alder House ground is to die for. They've played up here for over 100 years. 281 folk give a double helping of Coronation Street the swerve and are treated to a wonderful game of fast-flowing football, with Michael Clegg's youngsters sweeping aside the visitors, Colwyn Bay, from North Wales, 3-1, after being pinned back in their own half for the first 20 minutes.
I'm full of cough and cold after last night's soaking in Manchester - God, I wish I'd stopped in to see an Oscar-winning performance from Rita Fairclough, Sullivan - whatever her chuffing name is, in Corrie. She'll be nailed on now to scoop up the TV Times best actress award.
I hook up on Wednesday evening with The Taxman and 'The Italian Stallion' in the village of Keyworth, where Sticky Palms was once of this said parish. Bookies' favourites, Keyworth Ressies, contrive to throw away a two-goal lead, losing 3-2 to Real Community. Manager, Ian Marley, chooses to give his players a public dressing down on the field of dreams, moments after the game - Phil Brown style. He's still bollocking them uphill and down dale as we exit the car park. There's no sign of crowd favourite 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky jnr). The Ressies are crying out for an entertaining, old-fashioned winger, with his socks rolled down and shirt hanging out. Put your arm around him and he'll give you everything - he has quicker feet than Strictly's Brendan Cole.
It's Friday evening and my attention has turned to tomorrow's game between Notts County and Lincoln City. I moved from Lincoln in 1969 to Nottingham. Dad took us to Notts County and Nottingham Forest on countless occasions, but we were always drawn back, like a magnet, to Sincil Bank and the brilliant Graham Taylor era of the mid to late 70s. Last season Lincoln City went leftfield appointing a former schoolteacher with only Non-League experience. Danny Cowley and his brother Nicky gave us a season that will live in the memory forever.
My stomach is churning over and the nerves kicking in as I mull over an early evening real ale in Castle Rock's recently renovated Fox and Grapes in the Sneinton Market area of Nottingham. I smell like a wet old dog having taken another dousing on the 40-minute stroll up Carlton Road. I foolishly forgot my brolly. I catch the No.25 bus back home. I flick on the Forest Green Rovers v Swindon Town game, as 'The Princess' is on the sauce up on Mapperley Tops. Man alive, this match is bloody awful - the Pies and Imps will trounce the pair of them. I switch over channels to see Bayern Munich concede a two-goal lead - it can happen to the best of them.
I don't sleep well; I never do before a big game. It was too late to snap up tickets for the Lincoln end. The Notts County online ticketing system would test the patience of a saint. After 15 minutes of the blue circle of death, I throw the towel in and drive the two miles down to the ground and purchase a couple of tickets in the Derek Pavis Stand.
Jesus, it's only 10 o'clock and I've already been to the tip and cleaned all the windows inside and out. I'll do anything to keep my mind off the game. I rustle up a chilli con carne whilst listening to the brilliant Colin Murray on Fighting Talk. We jump on the bus, alighting at the Nottingham Arena. My mood darkens when I see a poster that English 'comedian' Michael McIntyre is pitching up here soon. Me and my old budgie, Murphy Palmer, have never laughed at one single gag of his.
We cross over onto London Road, before walking over a bridge, down some steps and onto the canal towpath. A dad and lad are fishing. The last time we came down here we saw a Rastafarian chap reel in a 20lb Carp. As we close in on Meadow Lane my stomach begins to knot. We pass the statue of Notts County's greatest manager, Jimmy Sirrel, and his faithful sidekick Jack Wheeler. I think of the sad tale of Jimmy's wife of over 40 years passing away on the day of an important game. He arrived at the ground suited and booted and never told a soul. After the match he asked the chairman if it was okay to take the Monday off to arrange her funeral.
I've stumped up £20 each for tickets. Today is the clash of two of the brightest young coaches in League Two. The ink is barely dry on Kevin Nolan's new three-year contract. Another defeat for his beloved Bolton Wanderers will only heighten speculation. The only saving grace is that the Trotters haven't got a pot to pee in. Nolan was a shrewd appointment, with the new owner taking the advice of Nottingham based TV and radio presenter Darren Fletcher, who has since been made a director.
Notts County were on their knees and Conference-bound 8 months ago. The Trews did a moonlight flit, leaving the oldest association football club in the world saddled with debt. The potty-mouthed, sunken-cheeked, John Sheridan, punch drunk from a Club record 10 consecutive defeats was sacked following the leaking of an FA extraordinary incident report. Nolan steadied the ship, safety was achieved with promotion-winning form.
We're sat at the back of the Pavis Stand in C Block. There's little conversation between the pair of us, as I'm a bundle of nerves. 'Seven Nation Army' from White Stripes is blasting out the PA system as the teams emerge from the tunnel. Lincoln are still hurting from their 1-0 reverse against the Stags last week and their classless Glaswegian manager Steve Evans.
The Imps are well on top in the opening exchanges. Lincoln lad, Ryan Yates (Dad an Imps' season ticket holder), in centre midfield and on loan from Nottingham Forest, is being knocked about by Lincoln's man mountain, Michael Bostwick. The visitors cause havoc down the right-hand side. Knott, Green and Anderson are particularly impressive. Green, Ginnelly and Luckie miss gilt-edged chances.
The game-changer is on the half hour. Billy Knott goes foot up to win the ball, Yates bravely puts his head in where not many modern day footballers would. We have a bird's eye view of the challenge. I say to Ms Moon that Knott's a goner before referee Seb Stockbridge brandishes a red card.
The normally unruffled Danny Cowley is incandescent with rage. He shuffles his pack as the Imps try to run the clock down for half-time. Sticky's favourite, and former Imp, Terry Hawkridge, cleverly hoodwinks and sees off a couple of Imps defenders, before unselfishly laying the ball back to Jones who whips a cross in for Stead to spectacularly see his shot ricochet off a defender and hit the back of the net.
The game is magnificent, with a superb ebb and flow. The crowd of 11,672 play their part (4,100 from Lincoln). Brilliant hold up play from the much-maligned Stead ( loads moaning about him where I sat) sets up Tootle for a delicious finish. Jorge Grant puts the game to bed with a ridiculous long-range free kick.
I've watched Terry Hawkridge since his Scots Grey days (a pub in Bulwell) and have been amazed they nobody has taken a punt on him - I recommended him to Matt Alexander, Notts County chief scout, during the ill-fated Chris Kiwomya reign, when Tel was at Gainsborough Trinity. He was the standout player in Lincoln's two epic FA Cup ties versus Ipswich Town last season. His first touch is ridiculous, his crossing first class. He jinks and glides across the surface, like an old-fashioned winger. It's only fitting that he seals Lincoln's fate after cutting inside and firing the ball home into the bottom corner of the net.
Man of the Match: Jonathan Forte (Ran himself into the ground)
Sunday, September 17, 2017
It's 4pm and the lads are playing out the final holes on the back nine in the Baker Cup 2017, as I open a can of Dead Pony craft ale. I call Ms Moon back in Nottingham to see how things are. 'The Princess' coughs up that she's watching the film Fatal Attraction. Loyal readers will remember I once had a rabbit called Finley. He had a mate called Thumper who was well known for acting roles in Winnie the Pooh and Watership Down. He was spotted by a Hollywood scout in the latter movie and was snapped up for a cameo role in Fatal Attraction. Finley said he'd not seen Thumper since his Hollywood debut and had presumed he'd gone all big time in Los Angeles. I hadn't the heart to let the wee man know of Thumper's grisly demise in a pot full of boiling water.
I've managed to come down with a chill after the high jinks of the weekend. I give West Bridgford v Kimberley MW the swerve and suffer Emmerdale Farm in silence. I scour the net looking for a weekend fixture with a difference. I'm intrigued to see what the Hope Valley League in Derbyshire's Peak District has to offer. Gerry the groundhopper from the Onion Bag blog has tipped me the wink of a few good ground visits over the cattle grid. Top of the table Bradwell v Bakewell Town looks a tasty fixture. We could have a stroll around Bakewell, before heading up High Peak and ticking a pub off in the new 2018 Good Pub Guide that Ms Moon very kindly put herself out to buy me last weekend, after an anonymous tip-off from a mystery shopper in Waterstones bookshop in Witney, Oxfordshire.
It's Friday evening and I'm emotionally drained after a tough and demanding week. I had to travel down 'the Smoke again', which is worrying in itself, with the threat of terrorism - a point reinforced with the tragic events taking place at Parsons Green tube station in Fulham, west London. It later unfolds that casualties could have been on a larger scale had the bomb been detonated correctly. We unwind on Friday evening at the splendid Old Volunteer real ale pub. I enjoy a couple of house beers from the Flipside brewery before returning to base.
We've settled in nicely at the new house in residential Carlton. There was a murder six days in, a seven iron away, which unnerved us. The neighbours are pleasant and sociable enough. Our crib is adjacent to a primary school. It's got up my nose that the flipping school alarm keeps going off in the evening and during the night, with no apparent rush from the janitor/caretaker off the Hong Kong Phooey cartoon show, to attend the scene. I snap on Friday evening following half a bottle of Douro Portuguese wine on special offer at Morrisons at £6 a bottle.
Obviously, it's not an emergency, but surely it will give the Nottingham police a break from murders, muggings and stabbings. I punch out 150 to give a friendly police call handler the heads up. She's not too chuffed to hear Sticky's dulcet tones. I'm rudely asked if I've bothered to inform the Headmaster of the reoccurring faulty alarm. After a short, sharp, curt reply I'm accused of being aggressive. They ought to take some public relation lessons off PC Ventriss when he answers the Aidensfield Police Station switchboard, the miserable sods.
I make a strong cup of coffee on Saturday morning, it's not my normal tipple, but once again I'm sleep-deprived. There's time for a couple of toasted slices of Warburtons fruit loaf, before we head out of the door and up to Derbyshire. Les, at Bradwell FC, has very kindly confirmed that the game is on and the pitch is cut
Ms Moon has got Graham Norton on the DAB radio. I feel the red mist rising again. One TV show a week and a three-hour slot on Radio 2 on Saturday morning earns him £0.85m per annum. I could phone the Met Police to complain, but they've got it all on at the minute.
We exit the M1 at junction 28 and head into the Peak District via the A38. The bustling market town of Bakewell is the first pit stop of the day. I've been banging on all week about wolfing down a slice of Bakewell Tart at a local cafe - it doesn't flatter to deceive and is dispatched down the cakehole with consummate ease. Ms Moon has a spending spree at the pastry counter - we'll be living on puff pastry homemade steak and ale pie indefinitely.
The Bulls Head is near to the village green in Foolow. It has a flagstoned bar and Edwardian pictures dotted around the place. We're the youngest folk in here by a country mile. I'm still stuffed from the Bakewell experience so opt for some smoked salmon sandwiches smothered in cream cheese, whilst Ms Moon tucks into jacket potato and chili.
There's a whistle-stop tour of Eyam, the village where the bubonic plague began in 1665, when a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived at the local tailor from London. It is said that the plague accounted for 260 villagers out of 380 inhabitants.
We park up opposite the AA five-star Samuel Fox Country Inn. I'd kept this one under the radar as I'm not feeling that flush at the minute. Ms Moon can't help clocking it, as it's right next to the ground. Samuel Fox was born in the village and is the inventor of the umbrella frame and the founder of the Stocksbridge steelworks. The views up into the Peaks are a joy to behold. This is the lowest level of football that I've ever blogged. I look forward to the tales of the unexpected - or so I thought.
League leaders Bradwell are warming up - I use the term loosely. The visitors from Bakewell keep the hosts waiting, ambling out of the dressing room at 2pm on the dot. A local wag pipes up "Here they come, bloody Barcelona." I detect some acrimony and cynicism in the air. It's not long before the bitter and spiteful atmosphere clouds the game. Bakewell are sporting an Inter Milan replica strip. They must brew the Bass shandy strong around here as this is lost on our beer-hazed wag. Bradwell take an early lead with a goal out of context with this level of football. A left-footed free-kick clipped into the box is guided expertly home by the forward.
Bradwell are 2-0 up at the break and appear to be coasting. Their Achilles heel is their ability to fall out with anyone, including their brethren. It's wonderful karma to see Bakewell peg them back to 2-2 and then 3-3. Sadly, for the neutral, they run out of steam with Bradwell snatching victory after sloppy defending from a set piece.
Attendance: 35 Headcount
Man of the Match: Bakewell Tart and Cream.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
The back room is packed to the rafters. What's poppin' fresh? Christ on a bike, I'd totally forgot it's T20 Finals Day at Warwickshire's Edgbaston ground. I hope the Notts lads can get one over irritating Sky presenter Nick Knight, as he has made unnecessary and disparaging remarks about the Outlaws over the years.
Bloody hell, my youngest lad and his cronies have pitched up. They're sinking scoop after scoop and getting a bit raucous as Sticky's favourite, Samit Patel, digs Notts out of a hole. Skipper, Dan Christian, tees off, blasting 24 runs off 8 balls. The Outlaws post a respectable 190.
Harry Gurney (who I have no faith in) finally steps up to the plate after a below average tournament. He silences the Hollis Stand with outstanding figures of 4-17 to bring home the bacon and leave the Birmingham Bears and Sky buffoon Nick Knight with sore heads.
I have a little trot out on Sunday lunchtime around the Castle area of Nottingham, partaking in a few sociable ones in an attempt to blow away the cobwebs. I knock up the Witton Albion v South Shields blog and post it on a few north-eastern football message boards. I get flamed by the Mariners' fans because I said they were from Newcastle (11 miles away) - one even has the brass neck to call me a 'southern t**t.'
I'm holed up in a Marriott Hotel in Glasgow for two days during the week at a sales conference. It gives me the chance to catch up with some work colleagues. There's over 100 folk in the conferencing suite. During the day we have a 'lucky dip' spot where someone is randomly chosen to go up on stage for 15 minutes to present a strategic account plan to their peers. Need I say more, I'm first out of the hat. It's bloody terrifying. I'd have sunk a Cognac if the chuffing bar had been open. The big boss takes the time out to congratulate me, so I can't have been too bad.
Blimey Charlie, I've put some miles in this week. Friday is spent in Leominster, in deepest Herefordshire. I spend a horrific three hours snarled up in traffic travelling to Oxfordshire for the lads' weekend away ... aka 'golfing holiday.' The M5 is a pig. I rock up at the ranch at 6:30pm. Rich Collier from Oslo and Dave Pilgrim from Manchester are waiting for the Asda van. The rest of the boys are en route from Stanton on-the-Wolds Golf Club after the Keyworth CC Golf Day, which raises vital funds for the Club.
We take a walk up the road to The Woodman Inn in North Leigh, where coincidentally I'm groundhopping tomorrow. The three of us are 'Hank Marvin.' We're met with a sign swinging on the pub door in the gentle breeze which says 'kitchen closed until further notice.' I shout up some ale to soften the blow and engage with a couple of blokes crowded around the bar who've had a few sherbets. A guy asks if I'm from Barnstaple. When I reply I'm from Nottingham he calls me a 'northern monkey.' "That's great" I laugh, "better than a southern t**t.'
The rest of the boys have arrived. We hit the town of Witney where Tory toff David Cameron was MP for 20 years and former Middlesbrough and Oxford United midfielder Robbie Mustoe was born. We tuck into some snap at Good Pub Guide entry the Hollybush on Corn Street. Wetherspoons is given the swerve as the night gets messy.
I gingerly descend the spiral staircase as the smell of fried bacon and sausages waft in the air. Five hours kip is not the one. In the light of day, the Grade II listed farmhouse with 8 acres of land and 7 bedrooms looks a beauty. Deer roam the land while bunny rabbits hop in the garden. 'Big Bear Baker' has negotiated a cracking deal as it's £5,000 per week in peak season.
The lads head off golfing despite the adverse weather warning. I head back into Witney as black clouds loom over the market town. First port of call is Waterstones. I love browsing through all the books and then downloading them onto my Kindle. I tip Ms Moon the wink that the 2018 Good Pub Guide has been published.
I take shelter in a shopping centre as the heavens open - the lads will be getting a dousing but will have all the clobber to cope with it. I queue up at a local delicatessen for a spot of lunch, before returning to the aftermath of 'Kebabgate.' I was fully expected the crime scene to be sealed off, with coppers on all fours rummaging around for any incriminating evidence. I nip into The Horseshoes for a swift pint. A local has had a sniff of the barmaid's apron and has his car keys confiscated by a member of the bar staff.
North Leigh FC is only five minutes up the road. I drive up a track that turns into woodland. I come out into a clearing. An old, in disrepair green-painted clubhouse, is perched on top of a slope. Music blares out of a large marquee where a wedding reception is taking place.
It's £10 on the gate for entry, programme and raffle ticket. Today's visitors Barnstaple have made a 320-mile round trip. Heavens to Betsy, what a beautiful ground we have here. It's lined with trees and has quirky features. I take a pew in the George Hazell Stand as rain hammers down onto the green corrugated roof. Neither team has taken a point from four games. It has a whiff of a 0-0 about it.
I'd already been pre-warned in the boozer last night about the idiosyncrasies of North Leigh manager John Brough. The Ilkeston-born defender was at the Pies as a kid before making over 250 appearances for Cheltenham, Shrewsbury and Newport. His voice bellows around the ground. "You two, that's shite" he roars at his hapless defence.
Somehow, despite his negativity and vitriol, North Leigh build their confidence. By the break they are 2-0 up following some haphazard defending and Kamikaze refereeing. As I come out of the toilet I overhear Barnstaple's manager's team-talk. He reckons they can still win the game despite being unable to hit a cow's arse with a banjo - not on your Nelly son.
There's a commotion at the break as Baxter the cockapoo has escaped his leash. I chance upon the little monkey destroying a plastic cup that has blown its way from the stand. I hear a committee member complain incessantly about the referee charging £111 match fee including expenses. He has a point though as the blithering idiots at the FA have deployed him from out of Tamworth.
It's all handshakes at the final whistle as the insults are forgotten and an enjoyable afternoon comes to an end.
Man of the Match: Big Bear Baker
Monday, September 4, 2017
Horncastle Town was an experience to die for. I'll definitely keep my beady eye on their progress. A few more alcoholic beverages are consumed at a local golf club as we join in the wedding celebrations of one of Ms Moon's family.
A fragile Sticky blows away the cobwebs on Sunday lunchtime with a walk up to the Northern version of West Bridgford, a place called Mapperley Tops, on the outskirts of Nottingham (it's nowhere near as pretentious). It's where legendary former Notts County and Liverpool striker Tony Hateley (father of Mark) once lived - and the recently deceased mother of Freddie Mercury.
I have a revisit to Gedling Miners' Welfare on Tuesday evening; coincidentally it's on Mapperley Tops. I receive a warm welcome from club press officer Tony Hay; one of the nicest guys on the circuit. I remember seeing a blood-thirsty FA Vase cup tie here back in 2008, when big-time Charlies Atherstone Town rocked up in a posh coach and got turned over by the Miners 3-2. It whetted my appetite for Non-League football forever.
I hook up with 'The Taxman' and 'The Italian Stallion' (Roberto). I predict a 1-1 draw - it's 4-2 to Gedling at the break; it's the reason why I never bet. It's wonderful entertainment as Gedling add a further goal. I'm back home for News at Ten with Reginald Bosanquet.
Ms Moon's daughter, Becky, is back from a year's travelling in Australia - unlike that empty head Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw off Corrie) she hasn't landed a part in the soap opera Neighbours. Mum and daughter sink a few glasses of prosecco on Friday tea-time as Sticky heads out to one of his old haunts, the village of Keyworth, in south Notts, where former Labour Chancellor Ed Balls grew up. Fast bowlers Sir Richard Hadlee and Franklyn Stephenson once lived in the village too.
I'm up at the Stanton-on-the-Wolds car wash on Saturday morning. Christ, if those Kosovan/Serbian lads at the North Bridgford 'Meadows Wash' find out about this treacherous act, they'll have my guts for garters. The Kurdish lads do a cracking job, as I admire their work from a distance with a Bounty bar and cup of coffee.
The blog legend is waxing lyrical about a recent sojourn up to 'Bonnie Scotland' with Mrs Trumpy. He was greeted by bagpipes as he entered the '19th hole' at Gleneagles sporting a King Power Leicester kit. He had to be revived with a glass of brandy having shelled out £10 for a glass of wine for the long suffering Mrs Trumpy.
We avoid the M6 like the plague and Mel Sykes and Alan Carr on Radio 2. Trumpy clocked on Facebook that I'd been dragged up to Ikea on Bank Holiday Monday by 'the Princess.' He said Ikea shares on FTSE went through the roof after we'd checked-out from the till.
The Sat Nav is a sea of red as we head over the Staffordshire border into Cheshire. I glance into my mirror and see a procession of blue lights hurtling towards us. Some poor sod has been knocked off his bicycle and looks in a sorry state.
A mile down the road, in suburban Cheshire, Trumpy clocks a chubby, balding chap at the bus stop. Deadpan he pipes up. "Is that Wayne Rooney?" I'm still crying with laughter as we park up in Nantwich, a former salt-producing market town. We snake our way through the jam-packed streets and enjoy some lunch in the Wickstead Arms, despite the awful 1950s music.
Bolton has scribbled down a list of pubs he has an interest in. Witton Albion and South Shields fans will be taken aback to know that Trumpy's obsession in life is to tick off a pub in every village, town and city in the United Kingdom - he is 95% of the way to achieving this monumental feat.
The ground is neat, tidy, mostly red painted, with cover on four sides. I had to deliver the bad news, publicly on social networks yesterday, that Witton Albion had announced that the bar was to be shut during the game - of course Trumpy took it badly. Even the away fans from the North East (was flamed for saying Newcastle) are having to suffer crowd segregation - FA decision or not, it's bloody ridiculous.
We take a pew in the stand, that's saturated in late summer sunshine. I viewed Witton up at Workington last week. They lacked creativity and penetration in the final third. South Shields, from the Newcastle area, have the subliminal Argentinian Julio Arca in their ranks. The 36-year-old played over 300 games for Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
I fancy South Shields to progress further in this FA Cup tie, a supporter had earlier told me that they've been unbeaten since last November. They are managed by former Aston Villa and Leicester City attacking midfielder Graham Fenton.
Trumpy Bolton has been 'missing in action' for a while now. The crafty sod has breached security and pitched up in the bar. He returns to his seat to see the mercurial Julio Arca strut his stuff. His legs may have gone, but his brain is fully engaged - that's Arca not Bolton. He pirouettes, drags back the ball, finds pockets of space and passes through the eye of needle. It's beautiful to watch.
Only one team will win this as Fenton executes his gameplan to perfection. Witton are tiring as the visitors throw on a sub with searing pace and intelligence. The away fans go wild as both goals are clinically dispatched to put them in the hat for Monday's draw and £3000 prize money for their long journey.
Men of the Match: Trumpy and Julio