Sunday, December 2, 2018
We checked into the King's Head hotel at 5:30pm the previous evening and immediately slumped into posh Chesterfield leather armchairs, next to a roaring fire, in a cosy bar. Sticky Palms was quaffing Wye Valley IPA, Ms Moon was on the bubbles. We ventured out to a posh 'Spoons and a trendy cocktail bar called Leonard's at 39, before having a nightcap at the King's Head. Ms Moon went up to the room with strict instructions to tune the TV in for Match of the Day, whilst I was dispatched down the High Street to hunt down a kebab shop. The next thing I know it's 6am and some complete and utter buffoon is setting up a Christmas market stall outside our bedroom window.
Tuesday and Wednesday are spent at the East Midlands Conference Centre, in the grounds of the University of Nottingham, at a customer conference. Ideagen PLC, the company I'm proud to represent, have put on a couple of cracking speakers. I miss Dame Kelly Holmes at the evening gala dinner. She spoke openly about her battles with depression and self-harming, as injuries threatened her career. I did manage to catch the British TV broadcaster, Royal Marine and marine biologist Monty Halls, who gave a very insightful speech about the interesting and dangerous life he has led, including a one night stay in Nottingham.
I feel like I've been hit by a bus on Saturday morning. When are Tesco going to remove that special offer 14.5% Shiraz from their finest range? I am so excited when I finally freshen up with a shower and a shave. I strut the catwalk (lounge floor) in my new off the shelf Keyworth United tracksuit kindly donated to all the boys by our sponsor Andrew Danzey. Ms Moon is mightily impressed.
I drive across to Keyworth, a village that I lived in for 45 years, a full three hours before kick-off, as there is so much to do. I'm nervous, excited and apprehensive as it's officially my first time in charge of a team in an adult league. Let me tell you the story.
I thought I was done and dusted with coaching when I finally hung up my manager's coat and scouting hat in 2014. Four years later I saw that the Development team was struggling and that the lads weren't enjoying their football. I offered my services to club vice-chairman Mark Ritchie. The plan was to begin the role next season. I was introduced to a guy called Chris Thompson who shared my vision and belief that one day the first team will field a side entirely made up of youngsters who have come through the youth policy. My remit is to find those youngsters and develop them by introducing them to men's football in the Notts Senior League Division Two.
Chris has overseen six wins and a draw in the last seven outings. He's finding it hard to let it go as he has a tremendous bond with the lads, but he already runs two teams as well as a senior role on the committee and overseeing his own business.
I take a deep breath as the 'Rolls Royce' turns into Platt Lane, the home of football. What a lad Chris is. The goals are up, the nets attached, the corner flags slotted in and all the shirts are hung up on coat hangers in number order. I grab a sausage cob from Lucy behind the food bar, before strolling up to pitch four where 'Thommo' is preparing his under 12s for a cup tie with Priory Celtic from Kimberley..
Some of my team begin to rock up including: Sizzers, 'The Krays', Woody and the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' (aka Sticky junior). We congregate in the bar as I interrogate each and every one of them about how many beers they had the previous night and what time they rolled in.
I welcome our opponents and referee, before rallying the troops and sending them out to battle. My heart's racing and my blood pressure rising as I stride over to the dugout. The first half is a pulsating game of football. My lads are magnificent, together and play to the plan. After a few early scares, Keyworth's Callum Barratt picks up a loose ball 35 yards out from goal, he hits an outrageous shot which loops and dips over the 'keeper, hitting the underside of the bar, before nestling into the net. I don't celebrate, I just shake my head in disbelief before barking out instructions to Ronnie Kray.
Crikey moses, I'm going to have to keep the lads' feet on the floor; it'll go to one or two of their heads. I dish out lots of praise because they deserve it. We talk about the pitfalls and how important that next goal is. It arrives quickly and at the wrong end. Top Valley gain momentum and equalise. I try to freshen things up by throwing three 16-year-olds on. But the visitors are canny and cocksure. They score a brilliant free kick and hit a purple patch before putting the game to bed.
Both teams have given their all, with the game played in a fantastic spirit, superbly reffed by Matt Curtis too. We're all bitterly disappointed in the changing room afterwards, but you learn a lot more from losing than you do from winning. Our next game is in a fortnight, a local derby versus Cotgrave; now that will be tasty.
Man of the Match - Chris Thompson for the last two months
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Ms Moon and I head south of the water for a change, into 'Bread 'n Lard Island' (West Bridgford). It's full of well-to-do and high society. The social media rumour mill is awash with tweets that suggest that Lord James Turner of Clifton has upped sticks and pitched up in the land of fur coat 'n no knickers. It won't be long before he's sporting a flat cap, tweed jacket and Oxford brogues.
We enjoy an excellent breakfast served up at Cote Brasserie on The Avenue, before stretching our legs for three miles around Rushcliffe Country Park, Ruddington, an area of Nottingham that I have worked at for near on 15 years. After the walk, I enjoy a pint at The Embankment in 'North Bridgford' before hopping on an NCT bus into town, where I wander down to Hockley and call by the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton for much-needed refreshment. I pore over the Sunday papers and glance at the League Two table. What a sorry state of affairs there is at Notts County right now. They were gubbed 3-0 at home to fellow strugglers Cheltenham Town in a vital six-pointer. They are managerless and rudderless - let's not forget they were favourites to win the League at the start of the season
Tuesday evening is spent up in Mapperley Tops at Gedling Miners' Welfare on a bitterly cold evening. I make my seasonal debut at the Plains Fish Bar where a small fish, chips and curry sauce is the bargain-price of £4.20. The chips are down at the Welfare as the Miners' have had a run of bad luck and misfortune. Popular manager Chris Marks has taken a break. I'm still met with a cheery smile by Clubman Tony Hay. Gedling twice blow a one-goal lead, before bowing out of the League Cup 3-2 to a slicker, fitter outfit in Belper United from Derbyshire.
I'm chuckling to myself on Wednesday tea time as I drive over Lady Bay bridge towards Keyworth. The management team has organised a one-hour boot camp for the lads at a new gym on Debdale Lane Industrial Estate in the village. Every single lad turns up; I feel really proud of the team spirit that has been fostered in recent months. I stand and admire the boys grafting and sweating their gonads off.
This weekend will be the last time Ms Moon and I can go away for a while, as I take charge of the team as Manager from 1st December. I won't be blogging every week, but hope to post some ramblings on a fortnightly basis.
I thought it be best to park the car at the football ground and walk into town. Despite the traffic being gridlocked we manage to shoehorn the car into a space in an overflow car park. Lunch is spent at the Spread Eagle, a bustling, traditional city centre pub on King Street. Ms Moon loves a homemade fish finger sandwich that's accompanied by some dirty fries.
We take a wander back to the ground. I'd already checked with a very friendly steward that we can pay cash on the away turnstile. I like to be among the United fans as they create a good atmosphere and sing one or two good ditties. I love the old school floodlights, they are proper football porn.
Hereford is a cathedral city and county town of Herefordshire which lies on the River Wye and has a population of just under 60,000 people. It's 16 miles east to the border with Wales. The British Army Special Air Services (SAS) are based in Hereford. Major employers in the town include: cider producer Bulmers and Cargill Meats (formerly Sun Valley) - the Wye Valley Brewery and Weston's cider are also from the area. The puppeteer for The Muppets and Yoda from Star Wars, Frank Oz, was born in Hereford as was singer Ellie Goulding and Crystal Palace footballer Connor Wickham.
Hereford FC were founded as a phoenix club to Hereford United FC. They inherited the Edgar Street ground. In 2016 they reached the FA Vase final at Wembley, only to lose 4-1 to Morpeth Town from north east England. Controversially the club sacked popular manager Peter Beadle in September of this year. They somehow find themselves playing in the National League North - don't ask me, haven't a clue, but it must include some gruelling journeys up and down the M5 and M6. Today is an FA Trophy tie, with the visitors F.C.United of Manchester making the 290-mile round trip.
We had hoped to see Ronaldo the bull take his customary parade around the ground, but there's no sign of the old lad. At least he enjoyed his day out at Wembley. The visitors from Manchester also have a new manager in Neil Reynolds who they snared from Bamber Bridge, close to Preston.
F.C. United are wearing their famous red shirts and white shorts - Ms Moon enquires as to which team is 'United.' Despite constant pressure by the Bulls, it's the visitors who take the lead against the run of play with the ball fortuitously falling to Jack Banister, who lifts a shot over the 'keeper and into the net. Hereford are in debt to their shot-stopper, Matt Yates, who makes two fine saves before the break.
Man of the Match: 'The Beast'
Sunday, November 18, 2018
Each morning is spent tucking into breakfast at El Cedro, where two full English and four coffees comes in at less than 10 Euros. It gets rowdy on Friday evening. We're at the Royal Garden, on the front, having a peaceful gin and tonic, watching the sunset over the Atlantic, seeing if Robert Maxwell's final Cuban cigar washes ashore. Suddenly there's a rumble and a commotion. You tend to hear him before you see him; yes folks, the Big Man has rocked up with 'Bruiser' and Paul.
Saturday is the mother-of-all benders (well that's what I thought at the time). Chopper and I are stepping out by eleven bells and heading up towards the resort of La Caleta, 7km away (disgraced ex football TV pundit Ron Atkinson lives up there). We take in bar after bar before calling by the Big Man's HQ, Leonardo's, to watch the scores coming in. Only one result really interests Sticky Palms; Keyworth United Dev 7-0 Ravenshead United. We return to 'HQ' later after a session and bite to eat at Bad Bobs, to watch the 'Big Fight.' Chopper is out for the count quicker than Scouse cruiserweight Tony Bellew.
Events take a turn for the worse on Sunday. After spending one hour looking for my passport - Chopper found it in the oven (don't ask) - we jump on a bus from Los Cristianos up to the island's capital city, Santa Cruz. I've bagged a couple of tickets from a lovely chap called Chris Todd, who runs an ex-pat bus, up to CD Tenerife. Santa Cruz is the most unremarkable place and is also dead as a dodo. We sit in a bar in the centre of town contemplating what to do next, as Chopper is desperate to watch the Manchester derby. He searches on Google maps before hunting down a tiny sports bar on a narrow, cobbled side street. One TV is showing Barca' v Real Betis, the other has Chelsea v Everton. Three hours later after watching Barcelona and 'United' both get tonked, we stagger up the road to the CD Tenerife Supporters' Bar. We'd earlier drank that little bar dry (watching Barca) and ate copious amounts of tapas - for just 33 Euros.
I've not seen a 0-0 at a new ground since April 2017, when Ms Moon and I saw Colne v Droylsden fail to register a shot on target, up in the Lancashire hills. I've grave concerns about tonight's game after reading up on the stats. A couple of gins go straight down the hatch before we peg it up to the ground.
The stadium is a belter and holds 23,000. I'm starting to feel worse for wear after neat Amarettos and goldfish bowls full of gin. It's not bloody well helped by a couple of buffoons banging their drums two rows down. The game has 0-0 written all over it. The visitors, Albacete (near Valencia) are woeful and couldn't hit a Pamplona bull with a pair of castanets. CD Tenerife swarm all over them, doing everything but score. The Big Man and Bruiser are going to rip me to bits - 2,000 miles for a chuffing 0-0 - I shed a tear at the final whistle.
We sink a few more gins before returning to our resort. Chopper suggests we drop into The Dubliner for a nightcap to see the lads - five hours later I collapse into my pit, still singing Sweet Caroline and 'Laid' by Manchester band, James. It's deja vu on Monday evening, following an epic day out which began with a 'Lads' Lunch' up in the hills - the Big Man retired early (3pm) to watch Tipping Point and Home and Away, the rest of the boys pushed on. Sticky Palms aged 54 and 3/4 ends up on all fours after more stumbles than Raheem Sterling due to another sing-song at The Dubliner. After four failed attempts at opening the patio door, I call for a paramedic (Chopper).
It's Friday evening, how the hell did I get out of Tenerife alive? Tuesday was the longest day of all time. The three-day working week has lasted a lifetime. Not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips in the last 100 hours. I've drunk more water than Robinson Crusoe. I venture out up Carlton Hill to the Free Man a comedy 'Spoons watering hole. I sink a pint of Shipyard and catch up with Ms Moon before trotting up the road to The Brickyard for a swift one. Lights are out for 9:30pm; Tenerife has done for me!
A few weeks ago a 270-mile round trip to Nailsworth, in Gloucestershire, sounded a great idea. On Saturday morning I feel battered, broken and shattered, just like Tony Bellew (and Chopper) the other weekend. I'm on Spinney Road at the heart of the 'Keyworth Bronx.' I can see the Big Man's van parked up and 'Big Ed' knocking on his door - "he'll still be in his pit me duck" I shout, as I wind down the window. We do a Facebook live of Trumpy Bolton pottering down the hill towards us. He's had a pint of 'Fursty Ferret' for 'breakfast' and is full of cough and cold - it's only 10 o'clock.
It's been a sad old few weeks for Trumpy and his wife, Jayne, following the tragic helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium. He went to Leicester to pay his respects and both were at Cardiff City for an emotionally-charged afternoon, where their team played their hearts out.
We travel Coventry and Stratford way, before hitting traffic that's heading to Cheltenham races. Forest Green play in the small, picturesque town of Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. We find a free car park, high up overlooking the town. Trumpy has a couple of cracking pubs lined-up. The first is the Britannia, a former manor house, with a big log fire. Bolton necks a couple of ales as Sticky devours a brie and bacon burger. The second boozer is a snorter. Egypt Mill is a converted 16th Century mill with working waterwheels and a stone floor bar. It's two more real ales for the legend, as Sticky struggles with a half, still feeling the after-effects of 'the Reef.'
After two aborted attempts, we finally rock up at The New Lawn. We're fleeced for £7 to park the car. A very friendly steward ensures we aren't double-parked ( must of heard I tripled parked in Tenerife) so we can get a quick getaway.
Trumpy has got the moaner-meter on full power. It takes an age to purchase a ticket (I know, before you start, should have done it online). How was I to know they had a kids' deal on? There's worst to come for Bolton when time is called before he can buy a pint at the Green Man. He's seething and starving by the time he catches up with me in the South Stand behind the far goal.
Forest Green were founded in 1889 and are owned by green energy industrialist and former New Age traveller, Dale Vince, the owner of Ecotricity. Mark Cooper is the gaffer; he's managed more clubs than Peter Stringfellow and seems to have beef (sorry Dale) with Danny Cowley at 'The Lincoln' - fair play as we always seem to beat 'Rovers.'
Morecambe are today's visitors and have one of the best managers in the League in Jim Bentley. Year after year he keeps them up on a shoestring. Ms Moon and I have loved our two trips up to the Globe Arena.
Trumpy has got the hump because of a beer-free zone. I suggest he hunts down the famous Forest Green vegan pie. He returns with a tray of chips soaked in curry sauce. Forest Green play a neat passing game, but nobody is prepared to take a risk, shoot or cross. The Shrimps are rapid on the counterattack. They force the Rovers 'keeper to make a few good saves. Resolute defending sees the visitors go in at the break at 0-0.
I'm chuffed to bits for Morecambe when their skipper Aaron Wildig scores at the death to send the visiting supporters into wild celebrations, which will last long into the night on their long journey home. I think of the little boy and Dad who we saw earlier in the town earlier today. What a memorable day out for Dad and lad.
Man of the Match: 'Chopper Harris'
Sunday, November 4, 2018
I've also coached the Keyworth U16s all season, with my good pal Jon - another team I've been involved with for over ten years. I'm fagged out, stressed out and over and out. We have a joint presentation evening; it's emotional and I'm desperately fighting to hold back a flood of tears, but I have to let go for my own sanity. I had hoped the club would run an Under 19 floodlit team the following season - that invitation never came; I felt my vision and passion wasn't shared, it was a massive missed opportunity that would have an impact in the years to come. The blame lays squarely at the foot of my door, but my fuel tank was running on empty.
Fast forward the clock four years and I'm stood down Clifton All Whites one evening watching CAW Dev v Keyworth Dev in an NSL Division Two fixture. The visitors are going through the motions. Nobody seems to be enjoying it. Both my boys are playing; it's breaking my heart to witness it when I know I can make a difference. I want to give it one last go and suggest to someone at the Club that if a vacancy arises next season, I'd be willing to step in. "Why not come now?"
It's Wednesday evening and I'm sat in the Platt Lane clubhouse two hours before kick-off with Keyworth Utd Dev manager Chris Thompson (the lads love this guy). We both have a passion for the game, but more importantly, share a vision for the future. We want to work with the first team and provide a pathway for our young guns. A club can't function properly if teams are run as separate entities, as they were last season. I don't want a side choc-a-bloc full of mercenaries who drift from club to club, not giving two hoots about playing for the badge or wearing the famous green shirt.
I've been involved with the Dev team for over a month now. Chris Thompson, since his involvement, has turned the team on its head. They shipped 50 goals in their first 9 games and only registered one win. We're now unbeaten in the last three games, and guess what? 15 out of the 16 playing squad have come through the youth system. Three lads out of the back four are 16 years old - "you'll never win anything with kids." Training is compulsory, which all the boys have bought into. We're very lucky to have a FA Level Two coach called Phil Anstey onboard, who generously gives up his time to help the lads out.
AFC Clifton are tonight's visitors. We get the boys pumped up and warmed up for kick-off. I take my place in the dugout for the first time in four years. Some folk will say 'what's all the fuss about, Sticky, it's only NSL Div Two?' Just seeing these boys with smiles on their faces, enjoying the dressing room banter and sharing a drink with each other after the game, win or lose, means the world to me.
I say to Chris that I'll sit back and have a look at the opposition for the first 15 minutes. It lasts for all of 45 seconds when hesitancy at the back should see us go a goal behind. I'm pointing, cajoling and gesturing to the lads. We concede a goal to a well-struck free-kick that's poorly defended, before our talisman, Tom Siswick, gets us out of jail, after being slipped in with a slide rule pass by 'Woody.'
Our fitness levels are astounding in the second half as we swarm all over the visitors up the famous Platt Lane slope. Chance after chance goes begging. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' sees an effort tipped onto the crossbar and young Shyan sees a close-range header sail over the bar. A stonewall penalty is turned down in the dying embers. The lads have given their all and are disappointed to only take a point against a team who have lost one game in ten outings.
The drive back from Bury St Edmunds on Saturday evening was a nightmare. It was teeming down with rain for most of the journey. I'm exhausted and pretty much hit the sack on arriving home. I wake up to the tragic news of the death of five people in a helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. One of the dead is said to be the Club's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Our great friends, The Boltons, are Foxes through and through. They are 'both totally numb.'
It's a bit of a Keyworth themed week, folks. Ironically the first team are down at AFC Dunkirk on Tuesday evening. I say hello to manager Ian Marley and his assistant Sam Ralph before viewing proceedings to the right of the away dugout. The Green Army are under the cosh for the first 20 minutes, before taking a vice-like grip on the game. Things are looking good at 2-1 up at the break.
I'm joined by Sticky junior, Stolly and Sizzers for the second half. A trim-looking 'Tank' (Scott Litchfield) gives a masterclass in the art of finishing as he bags a hat-trick ensuring that Keyworth make it five consecutive League victories in a row.
Thursday is the most exciting day of the week. Today will see the arrival of a brand spanking new cribbage board from the Amazon depot in Bardon Hill, Leicestershire. I follow the tracking on the parcel for most of the day - crikey Moses it's been on the van since 10:am and it's now 6pm. Where the chuffing hell is it? I'm fuming readers. I head up to the Elwes Arms on Oakdale Road for a couple of pints of Guinness to calm down. Ms Moon is all beams and smiles on my arrival back at HQ. The eagle has landed. I'm still quite cross because I wanted to sign the parcel off with the driver; it's my board.
It's Friday evening and I'm flopped out in my armchair after a one-hour demonstration of the software I sell with a customer from the USA. The console of my phone lights up; it's James 'Tosh' Turner the first team manager at the world famous Clifton All Whites. He's holed-up at a wake at a community centre in Clifton. He wants to know if he can jump in for a lift to watch Keyworth United v Wollaton under the lights for some Friday night football.
I drop Ms Moon off up at Mapperley Tops. She's meeting her best friend Jill for a two hour Strongbow sesh in the poshest 'Spoons north of the river. I'm pogoing in the car and banging my head on the roof to 'New Rose' by The Damned as an unsteady Tosh staggers down the road in a 'whistle and flute.' He's had a couple of scoops and appears to be speaking Swahili as 'Relight My Fire' from Lulu belts out of the radio on the Tony Blackburn Golden Hour on Radio 2.
There's a good attendance at the 'Floody Friday' game. There's bad news for Sticky Palms though; half his team have rocked up and are on the sauce. Thank the Lord the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' is piloting tonight. Keyworth cruise to a 7-0 victory following a horror tackle by the Wollaton centre back, which sees the excellent referee Mick Leslie brandish a Red card - the youth is still protesting his innocence half an hour later as I wander back into the bar to check on the state of my gin-swilling star striker.
I'm like an excited little kid on Christmas Eve on Friday night as I toss and turn in bed, restless and excited for the game. Who's taking the free-kicks? What about the corners, both sides? Throw-ins? Penalties? Is it just me?
I drop Ms Moon off in town on Saturday morning as she has an open day at work. I'm mooching down Platt Lane by 11am; a full hour before the agreed departure up to north Notts. Chris and I chew the cud over a cup of tea and discuss tactics, as the lads begin to roll up - two are missing in action (Bingham) and need to be picked up enroute.
'Our Joe' is back from Uni in Leeds for his bro's birthday tomorrow. He travels as a fourth sub in case there's a no-show or late withdrawal. I'm as nervous as hell as we pull into the car park (the lads will be laughing when they read this).
The boys are blasting out the tunes on the Bluetooth speaker in the changing room. I was going to ask if we could listen to Paul Gambacinni's Pick of the Pops on Radio 2. 1967 & 1983 are today's years. I choose to set up the warm-up instead. We have a long chat about any complacency that might be creeping in, as our opposition are lower than us in the table.
I chat to a timid referee and explain we're trying to instil discipline with lads and are working with them on ways to accept decisions when they don't go their way. The first 15 minutes is scrappy and disjointed. We get a foothold in the game and start to play at a tempo we expect. Chances come thick and fast, but the Kirton 'keeper is equal to everything we throw at him. His performance is alien to anything I've seen at this level. I jokingly ask their manager if he's on loan from Mansfield Town.
Chris says not to be too harsh on the lads at the break. He's dead right; we've done everything but score. One and all have given 100% and played for the badge. Anyhow, Sticky doesn't do 0-0s.
These boys never know when they are beaten. We go 3-5-2. Incredibly our 16-year-old sub defender, Ben, puts us on level terms, following a brilliant move from open play. Woody coolly slots home from the spot to maintain our unbeaten run. Kirton are a very welcoming club and are sporting in defeat. I console their tearful 'keeper at the final whistle.
Man of the Match: Kirton 'Keeper
KUFC Man of the Match: Josh Stolworthy
Sunday, October 28, 2018
We walk for an hour around Colwick Country Park, adjacent to Nottingham Racecourse, on a beautiful, autumnal Sunday morning. The leaves are changing colour; the setting is peaceful and tranquil until we bump into around 200 bleating Canadian Geese sat on the lake - I avoid these buggers like the plague, particularly when I'm cycling.
I exit the car on Weekday Cross and slip down a passageway next to the Ibis Hotel. I swing open the front door of the Herbert Kilpin and shout up a pint of Kilpin from the Black Iris Brewery. I watch the fag end of a seven-goal thriller in Serie A - Sticky doesn't do 0-0s. I pop into the Six Barrel Drafthouse on Carlton Street and the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton before settling in for the evening.
I have a daft £1 bet on Crystal Palace, Serbian international midfielder, Luka Milivojevic, to score the first goal of the game up at Goodison Park on Merseyside; he's at a juicy odds of 28/1. I'm proper cross six hours later when I see the blithering idiot fluff his spot-kick on Match of the Day.
Monday is Lincoln manager Danny Cowley's 40th birthday. This living legend has turned our Club on its head with his younger brother, Nicky, and has brought back a feel-good-factor around the city not seen since the late great Keith Alexander was the manager of the Imps.
The Club have given Danny the honour of picking a playlist of his favourite tunes to be played before the clash with Carlisle United. Being a Cockney he's bound to have some Blur, The Jam and The Clash up his sleeve. I'm so excited about the sell-out game at Sincil Bank as I hurtle down the A46 on Tuesday tea-time.
I park the 'Rolls Royce' at my lucky spot outside the old people's home on St Botolph's Crescent, where my Nana, Lucy, spent her last few years. I peg it up the High Street past the Ritz, where I'll have an all-nighter if we beat 'Dirty Mansfield' on November 24th. I slip down a walkway onto the Brayford Waterfront. I like having some pre-match pasta at ASK Italian, which is rammed full of Imps fans. As per normal, I'm one of the first folks to go through the turnstile at Sincil Bank just before 7pm. I sit high up at the back of the Selenity Stand, where I have no recollection of the last time I saw the Mighty Imps lose a game.
There's some strange music blasting out of the PA. Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and Lionel Ritchie's 'Destiny.' I look at Lincoln's Twitter account and notice DC's playlist - blimey they were his picks, along with Elton John. Danny, are you sure you're only 40?
Tonight's visitors, Carlisle, have a makeshift central defender who usually plays as a striker and Steven Gerrard's cousin, Anthony Gerrard , playing as his partner. It's an exciting first half which ends 2-2. Carlisle are great value and have caused our defence some uncomfortable moments with their hassling, harrying and movement. The second half is a non-event with the game ending in a stalemate. Danny Cowley is furious at the end of match Press conference, not only at the sloppy defending but also that they were unable to water the pitch due to an internal cock up - I prefer to blame it on some of those song choices, Danny.
The highlight on Friday is a reduced 20p off a cheese and pickle sandwich at Tesco. I spend the early evening with 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' and 'Sizzers', the hottest property in the Notts Senior League. I've allowed them a night out - we haven't got a game tomorrow. We have some tea at the 'World renowned iconic Trent Bridge Inn' (a posh 'Spoons) in West Bridgford. I've got my 50p off CAMRA vouchers again and Liberation is a guest ale - it's a steal at £1.65 - you wouldn't get a Latte, Mocha or Flat White for a sniff of that down 'The Avenue', the coffee capital of Notts. We sink a few more at a refurbished Southbank Bar, before I'm very kindly dropped off at base camp by Sticky jnr's girlfriend, Alix.
Blimey Charlie, I've got a banging head on Saturday morning. It was well worth it though, to spend some time with Sticky jnr. Ms Moon is off to Cheltenham at the weekend to help her daughter find some accommodation, as she has just landed a job as restaurant manager at The Botanist. I won't need any excuses to visit the Regency spa town and get the odd game in somewhere in the Cotswolds.
I'm off out to the Fens to pick up my best mate from school, 'Ackers' for a day out in Suffolk. He has legendary status in our village for being accident-prone and the worst driver since Maureen off Driving School. I pick him up in Thorpe Meadows, at the Peterborough Rowing Club, where he's enjoyed a few strokes on the water - I hope for the crew's sake he wasn't the cox or they might have ended up in The Wash.
He's still dressed in his rowing gear as we head down the A14 towards the village of Great Finborough, in Suffolk. I park on a sleepy road adjacent to St Andrew's Church. Back in 1978 when I was at school, I was still into disco and pop music. Ackers mentioned a late-night DJ on Radio One called John Peel was worth a listen - it was a life-changing moment in my childhood.
John Peel died in 2004 at the age of 65 years old from a heart attack whilst holidaying in Peru. He was laid to rest in the village churchyard. On his gravestone are the words "Teenage dreams so hard to beat, lyrics from The Undertones classic 'Teenage Kicks.'
I stick the car in a long stay car park right outside Ram Meadow - home of Bury Town. We head into town for a spot of lunch at the Mason Arms - and very nice it is too. Ackers eats like a horse.
Bury St Edmunds is a historic market town in Suffolk with a population of 40,000. It is known for brewing and malting (Greene King Brewery) and for a British Sugar processing factory, where Silver Spoon sugar is produced. On the 3rd March 1974 a Turkish airline jet crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 346 people on board. Among the dead were eighteen members of the Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club who had been watch and play rugby in France. There are two memorial stones in the area to remember those who passed away in the tragedy.
The town's main football team, Bury Town, were founded in 1872 and are the fourth oldest Non League team in England. English actor Bob Hoskins was born in the town. He appeared in many well-known films including: The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Bury take advantage in the second half scoring three fine goals. The second one, in particular, is worth the gate money. Ten-man Tilbury plug away but don't get a goal their efforts deserve. 'The Lincoln' have had a miserable time of it 40 miles down the road in Colchester - I saw that one coming a mile off.
Man of the Match: Ackers
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Ms Moon's brother, Andrew, is having his 40th birthday bash at the Cock Inn in Wivelsfield Green, out in the sticks. It's a joint do with the landlady, who has turned fifty. I have a couple of pints of Harvey's best bitter; a barrel that has been very kindly bought by the birthday boy. I'm dog tired - talking of which, Ms Moon mentions that there's an unpleasant whiff and pong in the air. I turn up the heel of my shoe; Jesus wept folks, I've traipsed into some poop in the back garden, which matches the colour of my shoes. I spend the rest of the evening wiping my dog shit coloured and covered shoes clean on a nearby grass verge, much to the amusement of onlooking partygoers.
It's an early exit from the Premier Inn on Sunday morning. There's no second chance for the buffoons on the Beefeater waiting staff to serve me a cooked breakfast, after yesterday's omnishambles. A rare outing to McDonald's on a nearby retail park, to bag a sausage and egg McMuffin, is relatively successful. Not the same can be said for an hour of Steve Wright's Love Songs with Ms Moon's Mum riding shotgun - the company is better than the disc jockey.
By 2pm I'm sat in the King William IV (better known to the locals as the King Billy). It's an old Victorian boozer in the heart of Sneinton, with bags of character. I have a few ales from the Black Iris stable, as a couple of old boys play out a game of cribbage. A wry smile comes across my face as I think of the time I locked Ms Moon out on the balcony when she beat me at crib by two legs to zero in Spain back in early September.
No games catch my eye on Tuesday evening; it's a rare night in, where I suffer in silence at endless soaps and cookery programmes. It's a relief to be back on the training ground the following evening. Our army is growing; even some of the first team lads are buying into the philosophy of giving their limbs a midweek stretch.
I officially take the team over (Keyworth United Dev) in early January. In the meantime caretaker manager, Chris Thompson, is doing a cracking job lifting the spirits of the young guns after a mixed start to the season. I address the boys at the start of the session and congratulate them on their Cup win at the weekend that puts Us into the quarter-finals. I'm keen to find out who has been booked and sin-binned as discipline is high on my agenda.
Ms Moon and I meet in the Free Man, a 'Spoons establishment on Carlton Hill, at 6pm Friday teatime. Anglo Saxons gave Carlton their name. Coerl is the Anglo Saxon word for freeman, while ton or tun means an enclosed settlement. Anyhow, the beer is spot on. Liberation real ale is a snip at £1.49 per pint with my 50p off CAMRA voucher.
It's an early start on Saturday morning, as I head over to the village of Keyworth, in South Notts, to chauffeur HRH King Trumpy Bolton. Chippenham and Maidenhead fans I need to explain something to you (sorry about this regular readers). For forty years Trumpy Bolton has travelled the length and breadth of England, Scotland and Wales, making a financial transaction (usually a pub) in every village and town. He highlights the place off in a crumpled old atlas, once he receives a credit card statement telling him where he went on his beer-fuelled visits.
The Legend is loitering half way down Spinney Road, on the 'Bronx', swinging a Co-op carrier bag full of Koppaberg mixed fruit cider. He 'fesses up to having Ardenne smooth pate (on offer at Fine Fare) on toast, smothered in butter, accompanied with a bottle of Lancaster Bomber ale, for breakfast. There's a release of gas as he untwists his bottle of booty, before taking a huge swig of 'apple juice.'
I know all the right buttons to press. I ask him if he wants to listen to the Graham Norton Show. He immediately starts fiddling with the DAB radio before settling on 6 Music. I enquire if he's listened to the Jim White Show recently on TalkSport. It's met with a full-on ten-minute rant about the celebrity-obsessed, name-dropping Scottish presenter.
After sweeping through Moreton-in Marsh (where Gloucestershire CCC used to play Sunday afternoon John Player League Cricket) Stow-on-the-Wold (where I once saw Morris dancing) and the market town of Royal Wooton Bassett (where military funeral repatriations take place) we finally pitch up at at the picturesque Dumb Post Inn in Bremhill, near Calne.
We're driving up Rowden Hill, where on April 17th 1960 American rock and roll legend Eddie Cochran lost his life at the age of 21 years old, after his speeding taxi blew a tyre, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle - Gene Vincent, also in the taxi that night, survived the crash.
Huey Morgan from the Fun Lovin' Criminals is spinning some tunes on his lunchtime show on 6 Music. He plays the 12" version of 'What' from The Damned's Captain Sensible. I give Trumpy a full rendition - he remains unmoved.
The town's turned out in their numbers for this FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie. A mouth-watering £25,000 is up for grabs to the winners. Folk are saying they've never seen queues like it at the turnstile, as we pay £12 in and £2.50 for a programme. I daren't tell 'True Blue' Trumpy that staunch Red, Jeremy Corbyn was born in the town. Ex Chippenham Town player Tyrone Mings signed for Ipswich Town for £10,000, before AFC Bournemouth shelled out £8 million for his services - crikey I hope there was a sell-on clause negotiated by Chippenham.
Trumpy has retreated to a jam-packed social club for a few pints of Old Speckled Hen. I'm on the far side of the ground, opposite the lovely old main stand, basking in the glorious sunshine, which is shielded by my Lincoln City baseball cap.
Maidenhead United, from Berkshire, are managed by ex-West Ham United fleet-footed winger, Alan Devonshire, who stands motionless in the technical area sporting a flat cap. I fancy their chances as I saw Chippenham capitulate at the fag end of last season at Hemel Hempstead.
The playing surface looks uneven and bare in places. The first half is utter dross, with neither 'keeper being tested. Trumpy emerges from the bar to ask what the score is. I tell him to trot back as neither team are going to score in a month of Sundays.
Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel and Pinball Wizard by The Who fail to lift my spirits at the break. Sticky P doesn't do 0-0s; hasn't done for 18 months, but this has one written all over it. The fans swap ends without fuss; it's the beauty of Non League.
Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton (who else)