Sunday, August 26, 2018
India have racked up 329 runs. England's reply is a pitiful and pathetic 161 - narrowly avoiding the follow-on thanks to a quick-fire 39 runs from a hard-hitting Jos Buttler (he's only 27 years old and seems to have been on the scene for years) I actually get confused on whether I'm watching England or Nottinghamshire CCC bat; both are as equally incompetent with willow in hand. England are rolled out in two and a half hours.
I wave the lads off and saunter up London Road towards the Fox and Grapes in the 'Creative Quarter.' I was going to have a swift one, but I might miss Songs of Praise, and besides, I've had enough 'Irish Champagne' to sink a battleship. I'm still feeling the after-effects of a late YouTube session with 'Taggart' last night. I'm tucked up in bed by ten bells after a superb Sunday roast dished up and cooked by Ms Moon. The highlight of the week is Aggers reading out a tweet I sent into Test Match Special saying I've had 50p on Graeme Swann to win Strictly Come Dancing at 25/1. Swann says he'll go halves with me, as I should be able to get four pints of beer for £12.50 in Carlton - the cheeky sod, unless I'm tooled up with 'Spoons vouchers.
On Tuesday evening I have a chippy tea on Rookery Lane in Lincoln. It's my first viewing of the Imps this season. They've made a steady enough start without setting the house on fire. I take my usual seat in the Selenity Stand - I've not seen them lose when I've been housed up here for the last 20 games I've watched. Our talisman skipper, Alex Woodyard, has jumped ship and done a runner to nasty Steve Evans' Peterborough United. We miss his legs, leadership and energy, as Bury give us the runaround in the first half; taking a deserved 1-0 lead into the break.
The only thing that has cheered me up at Sincil Bank this evening is a supporter's playlist booming out of the speakers prior to the game. He's picked some cracking tunes including, The White Stripes and Stone Roses.
Danny Cowley tinkers with his starting line up and makes a tactical change in the second half; it's a managerial masterstroke. Big John Akinde strokes home a penalty, with 'one of our own', Lee Frecklington scoring a late winner which has me dancing in the aisles with joy. My unbeaten run in the Selenity continues.
The weekend starts late for Sticky Palms as I have a conference call with clients in New York - I'm gutted to miss Emmerdale Farm. In hindsight, I should have watched a re-run of Amos, Mr Wilkes and Seth, rather than watching the dire football dished up by Middlesbrough and WBA in an overrated Championship. An out-of-favour Craig Dawson is on the bench for WBA. He was discovered by Bernard Manning junior playing parks' football in Rochdale on a Sunday morning, whilst being a glass collector at the Dog and Partridge pub in the town.
I love how football comes together in someone's hour of need. 'Forza Garibaldi', a Nottingham Forest supporter driven movement, has sent out an SOS to folk that HOPE, a Nottingham Christian organisation, are appealing for food bank donations, as emergency supplies are running low. I clock this on Jitz Jani's Facebook feed. Ms Moon kindly shoots over the road to Tesco Carlton on Saturday morning, to jam pack a couple of bags of Red Alert items. We drop them off at the Trent Navigation pub, on Meadow Lane, adjacent to Big Alan Hardy's Notts County ground. Today they are playing an in-form Lincoln City - I would seriously have a cardiac arrest if I attended that game, so give it the swerve and head towards the Black Country in Wolverhampton for FA Cup action.
The Bank Holiday traffic is a blooming nightmare. Sat Nav is having a dicky fit down the A453. Five Live are reporting that some poor soul is threatening to jump off a bridge on the M6 and there is a 90-minute delay between junctions 8 - 10 on the M42. We jump off onto the A5 and skirt around the back of Tamworth.
Sticky Palms has a cracking Good Pub Guide entry lined-up in the sleepy village of Codsall in Staffordshire, where the broadcaster and presenter Jacqui Oatley MBE was brought up. There's a beer festival being held at Codsall Station as we roll into the car park. I'm not too chuffed that there's no food on today, just a burger van outside the pub. A cracking pint of Hereford Pale Ale makes up for the disappointment of no snap.
Ms Moon slams the brakes on halfway down Stubby Lane, just outside Bargain Booze. I dash across the road and take a snap of the street sign, with bemused onlookers giving me the odd eyes. Flawed genius Kevin Rowland, the frontman of Dexys Midnight Runners, lived on this road as a kid. Wednesfield is two miles outside Wolverhampton with a population of 22,000.
We park outside an old people's complex just off Amos Lane and take a short stroll to the turnstile. It's £7 entry and £1 for a programme. I'm up for banter on the gate; the chap clearly isn't. We're both 'Hank Marvin' - the snack bar is just opening up for trade. Two small hot dogs and a tray of chips are served up by a cheery lady for £5.50.
We chance upon a couple of 'Northern exiles' from Darlington who are Chasetown followers. The Scholars are winless this season and they are cautious and nervous about this afternoon's outcome. Wednesfield are two steps below Chasetown, they play with freedom, confidence and desire.
Blimey Charlie, Wednesfield look hungry; particularly wing wizard 'Harry' with his mazy runs and silky skills. In contrast, Chasetown have little to offer and it's no surprise that they go a goal down following a smart finish by Pond.
Chasetown lack leaders and play without heart. They are fortunate to go into the break with just one goal separating the sides, after a glaring miss by the bald-headed Ben Wilkins. Ms Moon and I have a sugar rush. I take a stroll across to the social club to grab a bar of chocolate; the place is heaving with folk. I return empty-handed; the Princess has the face on.
Jane has positioned herself next to the visitor's dugout so she can accurately write down the substitutions for the FA match report she has to submit. Chasetown restore parity with a brilliant finish by Jacob Lovatt, who has put in a performance worthy of a place in the Chasetown Amateur Dramatic Society, with his rolling around and theatrics. They take a 2-1 lead and look to be cruising into the next round with a £2,890 winning cheque.
It's getting tasty where we're stood. A gang of sewer-mouthed youths appear from nowhere and start hurling abuse at the Ref's assistant, as does a track-suited Wednesbury official. Incredibly the Cottagers equalise to force a replay that they certainly deserve.
Man of the Match: Forza Garibaldi
Monday, August 20, 2018
I take a stroll down to the city's oldest pub, the Crown Posada, whilst the Princess chills out and gets ready in the hotel room. The pub is mobbed out with folk. I stand on my tip toes scanning the pumps to see what ales are on - I can't see a flipping thing. I clock on the back shelf, in a beer fridge, a small can of Tropicana craft ale from the Tiny Rebel Brewery. I'm gagging for a drink, so shout up one of them. WHAT? Four pounds chuffing fifty. I down the can in two gulps, whilst admiring the stain-glassed windows, before slipping out of the door and heading down a jam-packed Quayside.
We have a cracking night in the Toon, apart from being ripped off for £18 in The Botanist for a gin and prosecco. Match of the Day is viewed in bed, sharing kebab meat and chips - does anybody else do this? We're greeted with darkened skies and pouring rain on Sunday morning. Blakes on Grey Street does the best breakfast in the Toon. There's no point in hanging about after, so we head home down the A1. I'm in Castle Rock's Willowbrook on Gedling Road by 2pm, slurping a couple of ales while watching Liverpool tonk the Iron 4-0.
Ms Moon watches a couple of films on Netflix as I smash out the Blyth blog. I'm astonished again to see 3,000 hits on the blog counter. I can't wait for the Vlog to start in October, as a YouTube Channel should reach a larger audience.
It's Tuesday evening and I'm chugging down the A52 towards the old coal mining village of Cotgrave. It's 'El Classico - Cotgrave FC v Keyworth United in what I used to call 'the best League in the World.' (Notts Senior League). 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky jnr) is on the bench for the 'Green Army.' The visitors are all over the shop and are soon 2-0 down. They pull a goal back and are in the game until on the hour. It's gutless performance in final 30 minutes, where many throw the towel in, preferring to whinge, moan and point the finger of blame at one another.
I'm back in Cotgrave the following evening as a Keyworth Development team take on Cotgrave Reserves. 'Georgie' and 'Our Joe' are playing along with a few other boys I used to coach back in the day. They're are 3-0 down at the break with a Keyworth player sent off. A spirited second half sees them stick together and earn a 45-minute clean sheet. I'm not surprised that the Keyworth first team manager and assistant have popped down to view proceedings, and to see what's in reserve - I would of done the same after last night's omnishambles. 22-year-old Josh Stolworthy is outstanding in the heart of Keyworth's defence.
It's Friday evening and I'm shouting up a Fruit 'n Flame Pepper and Strawberry real ale at the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton. Ms Moon joins me for a glass of bubbles, before we part company. I peg it up London Road and wander onto Meadow Lane. Notts County owner 'Big Alan Hardy' has made it £10 a ticket for tonight's game versus Yeovil Town - I guess it's been brought forward due to the Test match starting at Trent Bridge tomorrow.
I'm sat up in the Gods of the Derek Pavis Stand, next to the Directors' Box. The last time I was here the Sky Blues of Coventry passed the Pies off the park. The owner has backed Kevin Nolan in the transfer market. He has revamped his forward line, but not a creaking defence. 'Big Al' has splashed the cash on a new DJ. He includes The Smiths and Empire of the Sun in his set. I notice Hardy breakaway from an interview to shake hands with ex Pie Carl Dickinson who now plays for Yeovil.
The Pies are shambolic in the second half. It ends up 4-0 to Yeovil, who are made to look like Brazil. The remaining few thousand supporters, housed in the Pavis Stand, sportingly applaud off the visitors - it warms the cockles of my heart. 88 Yeovil supporters will enjoy the 200-mile coach journey home.
Saturday morning is spent hoovering and cleaning up as we have guests this evening - Mr and Mrs 'Taggart' are staying over. No doubt it'll end up messy, with a sing-song on You Tube. Newark is predictably in gridlock. I jump out of the car and arrange to meet Ms Moon outside one of our favourite hostelries, the Prince Rupert, on Stodman Street. I need to tick off another Good Pub Guide entry on Town Wharf.
The Castle Barge is a floating pub. Below the deck is a cosy bar with Lincoln Green ales. I have a pint of Archer, whilst listening to Brick House by The Commodores, a single that peaked at 32 in the UK singles chart back in 1977. Lunch at Rupert's is sublime, although a wasp has taken a liking to my aftershave (Brut). Flowserve's ground is a short drive away in New Balderton.
It's £4 on the gate, £1 for an excellent programme - I particularly enjoyed the focus on hotshot striker Sam Agar, who is a soldier. His miscellaneous dislikes tickles my ribs. There's quite a few folk knocking about and by all accounts a big investment is being made in the Club's development. I'm saddened to hear of the recent passing of the groundsman Colin Briggs. His pitch looks a picture, with clear evidence of his tender loving care. Rest in peace, Colin.
Heanor Town from Derbyshire are today's visitors; a club I absolutely adore and enjoy visiting. The team is unrecognisable from last season.I strike up a conversation with a chap standing next to me. His uncle was called Billy Cobb who became the first player to score a European goal for Nottingham Forest versus Valencia in the 1961-62 Fairs Cup.
The teams are announced over the PA system. The guy on the microphone is the consummate pro. The Highwaymen of Newark emerge from the dressing room to the tune of Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants.
Flowserve are unfortunate to go in at half-time at 0-0. They've hit the woodwork twice, with 'Soldier Sam' a constant thorn in Heanor's side. His strike partner, Jordan Thomas, the youngest player to have played in a competitive game for Lincoln City at aged 16 years old, has hobbled off injured. The raffle numbers are announced during the break; we won't be claiming owt this week. The DJ spins Winner Takes it All by Abba.
Come end of the season Newark Flowserve should be in the mix for the title chase with a Champions League spot a minimum target. Another great day out and met some lovely people.
Men of the Match: the Yeovil 88.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
On Tuesday teatime I sink the best pint of Bass, ever, at one of my old haunts, the Wysall Plough - I tell Ms Moon it's for research purposes. Wysall is a 'Thankful Village' - 12 men were sent to War in 1914 and returned home safely. There are 52 other Thankful Villages in England and Wales, compare this to only one in France. The villagers in Wysall raised £118 as a thanksgiving celebration and bought the church their first clock in 1920.
I make the short journey over to the Packe Arms, in Hoton, to hook up with White Van Man and Big Ed, for tea, before racing over to the Dovecote to see Ilkeston Town narrowly defeat Shepshed Dynamo 3-2 in the Midland Football League. The following evening is spent yet again in this neck of the woods, watching Quorn AFC with an old mate, Bobby Oldham. The visitors, Long Eaton, are well-beaten 4-2. 45-year-old Russell Hoult, with 445 professional appearances under his belt, has the 'keeper's gloves on for Quorn.
Early on Friday evening I sink a couple of pints of Shipyard at the Woodthorpe Top 'Spoons on Mapperley Tops, ironically adjacent to the war memorial. In another twist of fate, an ex-soldier is proudly showing his friends a phone clip of him playing the Last Post at a ceremony. I spot an astonishing photo of Lord's cricket ground on social media, where England and India have been dodging the showers for most of the day.
I'm like an overexcited little kid at Christmas. Sticky Palms is wide-eyed and bushy-tailed before the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. I'm singing 'I'm So Excited' by the Pointer Sisters in a high-pitched silly voice that wakens Ms Moon from her slumber. I shoot down to Netherfield Costa and make sure the princess is fuelled to the brim with a Latte, as she can be a tad irritable and tetchy first thing in the morning.
I'm raising money for Help for Heroes this season to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War. It's £1 per goal at each new ground visited and £5 for each Thankful Village I visit. As Dermot O'Leary spins 'Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode we roll into Norton Le-Clay and nearby Cundall - both sleepy villages in North Yorkshire, who saw all their armed forces return home in 1918.
In the car park we chance upon a council warden, a member of the public and a young chap from the travelling fraternity having a set to about the well being of a Shetland Pony, who has a nasty flesh wound on his leg. The lad claims to have taken the pony into the sea, so the salt can cleanse the wound - it does look suspicious, but we don't want to get involved, with threats of calls to the police - it's a very strange and delicate situation.
We wander down the beach and clamber up the sand dunes towards the harbour and more importantly the Kings Arms that overlooks the bay. It's Seaton Sluice Harbour Day. All monies raised are going towards the RNLI. There are fairground rides, bouncy castles, face-painting and a band warming up at the carnival.
The pub is bustling with folk. I've arranged to meet a Nottingham-based Blyth Spartans fan called Kevin Marshall - we have mutual acquaintances, but have not met in person before. It's a bit like a blind date. Kev and his other half went to Edgar Street in Hereford to watch Spartans last week, so is a man after my own heart. Ms Moon and I enjoy fish, chips and mushy peas. Kev and I quaff a pint of Abbots ale and an 'Inspired' from the Hook Norton Brewery.
We stick the car on a side street called Arcadia Terrace in Blyth. Ms Moon says she'll remember the name as Election Day by Arcadia (a Duran Duran project) is one of her favourite tunes. Talking of Toon, Newcastle have been beaten 2-1 by Spurs at St James' Park.
Blyth is a town that lies on the coast of Northumberland with a population of 37,000. The main industries that helped the town prosper were coal mining and shipbuilding. The Royal Navy's first aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, was built here in 1914. Notable people with connections to the town include: Captain Richard Been Stannard, recipient of the Victoria Cross, Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler and Brighton Hove Albion defender Dan Burn.
Blyth Spartans were founded in 1899 and play their home games at Croft Park. They are well known for their famous giant-killing feats in the FA Cup. In 1978 they reach the 5th round of the FA Cup. Notable former players include: John 'Budgie' Burridge, Graham Fenton, Marcus Maddison and Alan Shoulder.
We take a pew perched up high in the Port of Blyth Stand. It was £12 on the gate, £2 for a programme and a further £2 to gain access to the stand. I bump into a groundhopper who supports Dagenham and Redbridge. He arrived in Newcastle in the early hours of the morning and spent four hours in the casino, so hasn't had any sleep. He's a bit of a character and makes me chuckle.
Blyth have lost their two opening games. Chester FC are unbeaten and are co-managed by former Salford managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley. I am a Jonah when it comes to watching Jonno and Bernard's teams - I think it's three wins in 10 outings - current form would suggest they should be okay today.
I was expecting the Spartans PA guy to play some Dire Straits, Sting or heaven forbid, Jimmy Nail, but sadly there's no music today. although the teams are announced over the tannoy. Ms Moon is amused by a saying painted on the stand behind the goal. It says 'Spartans Do Not Ask How Many Are The Enemy, But Where Are They?'
A bewildered and shellshocked 'Jonno' and Bernard stomp down the tunnel. What I'd give to be a fly on that dressing room wall. I take a wander around the wonderful Croft Park ground at the break. Ms Moon treats me to a Double Decker from 'Paula's Pantry.'
It's been another day of making memories for us two to cherish. The takeaway for me is what a beautiful game of football Blyth Spartans have played today.
Man of the Match: 'Nippa'
Sunday, August 5, 2018
The reason for my trip into Nottingham is to drop by the offices of ICN on Stoney Street, in Hockley, at the heart of the city's 'Creative Quarter.' The Mayor of London' owns the company and is going to teach me how to set up and edit a vlog, to run alongside this blog I've written for over 12 years. After a quick editorial with one of his young guns, Alex, we all retire to the Southbank Bar on Friar Lane, where I quench my thirst with a couple of New Dawn citra pale ales from the Navigation Brewery. England and India (well Virat Kohli going solo) are pitting their wits in a dramatic finale to the Test match at Birmingham's Edgbaston.
I head home cradling a small Five Guys burger wrapped up in foil. Reading are playing D***y in the Championship curtain raiser. A late Tom Lawrence header from a brilliant Mason Bennett cross sees the Sheep grab a fortuitous three points. Ms Moon is on the lash up on Mapperley Tops, so I turn in early for a good night's kip.
I'm up at the crack of dawn and greeted with the remnants of a Chinese takeaway scattered about the kitchen surface. I bid farewell to a dozing Princess and head over to Nottinghamshire's 'premier resort' - West Bridgford. Piers, a Tricky Tree diehard, messaged me the other day with an offer of a ticket for Ashton Gate - I bit his hand off.
I flick on the radio, Tony Blackburn is playing 'Hey Big Spender' - ooh the irony. Aitor Karanka has thrown the kitchen sink at recruitment in a desperate attempt to reach the Premiership, after 20 years in the doldrums and wilderness.
I take a left turn off the Melton Road before spinning the car onto Stanley Road - not to be confused with where Paul Weller was brought up - an album voted the 46th greatest of all-time by Q Magazine readers. We're soon bombing down the A453 and onto the M42. I've known Piers for a few years now and have shared some cracking group weekends away with him, that he has meticulously planned, with no stone unturned, at Whitby, in North Yorkshire and Abersoch in North Wales.
The chance to visit the town of Clevedon, in North Somerset, is too good an opportunity to turn down. We're parked up on the front by 10am. We tuck into eggs benedict (a West Bridgford housewives' favourite) at a seaside cafe, admiring the wonderful vista of the Bristol Channel and 150-year-old pier, which we stroll down in an effort to walk off the breakfast. Famous residents in the past include: bowls player David Bryant, darts player Bob Anderson and punk rocker Sid Vicious, who used to practise spitting off the pier - better than peeing off it like Monty Panesar did in Brighton.
Travel guides recommend we park the car up at Bedminster Cricket Club - it's only a ten-minute stroll up to the ground. We hook up with a Bristol City fan who lives in Cardiff and engage in conversation. He says he has relatives up in Shirebrook, near Mansfield. I remark that the actor John Hurt was born in the old mining town. "Yeah, I know, my auntie used to babysit for him." he replies.
Bedminster is in a hipster part of Bristol. We're both dying of thirst, so dive into the Bristol Beer Company Tap Room. I enjoy a pint of Hawaii Juice-O - it's amber nectar and down the hatch in five minutes, as we soak up the sunshine, ambience and street art. We're sat in the much-needed shade in the Atyeo Stand 45 minutes before kick-off.
Bristol has a population of just less than half a million. The city is associated with the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who designed the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London Paddington, two steamships: SS Great Britain and SS Great Western and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Notable people born in Bristol include: cricketers: Chris Broad W G Grace and Andy Stovold, footballers: Jack Butland, Keith Curle, Larry Lloyd (middle name Valentine; I'm not brave enough to ask him to confirm this)) and Marcus Stewart, ice skater Robin Cousins, snooker player Judd Trump, actor John Challis (Boycie from Only Fools and Horses), comedian Lee Evans and TV director Stephen Merchant. The city has always had a vibrant and underground music scene. Massive Attack, Nick Kershaw, Portishead, Pigbag and Rip, Rig + Panic were all Bristol-based.
Bristol City were founded in 1894 and are nicknamed the Robins. They have played at Ashton Gate just short of 115 years. Record transfer fee paid is £5 million to Angers for Senegalese striker Famara Diedhiou (currently serving a six-match ban for spitting at an opponent). Record transfer fee received is £15 million from Aston Villa for Jonathan Kodjia. Notable former managers include: Joe Jordan, Roy Hodgson, Tony Pulis, Steve Cotterill and Sean O'Driscoll.
The ground is impressive, particularly the Lansdown Stand which has an 11,000 capacity and towers above the pitch. David Bryant would love a game of bowls on the lush surface, which at first glance looks artificial. The DJ plays The Killers, Caesars and Madness and the brilliant Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack, who hold cult status in the city.
The teams emerge from the tunnel with the beer-fuelled, overexcited Forest faithful singing 'Dawson is back.' The Tricky Trees are soon on the back foot as the Robins rampage down the left-hand side, playing some fast flowing breathtaking football. A corner is floated in and directed towards goal by O'Dowd but brilliantly beaten away by Romanian 'keeper Costel Pantilimon. Seconds later the ball is returned back into the box with ex-Ram, Andreas Weimann, leaping higher than others to nod home the opening goal.
The home crowd come alive; the away following are in shock and dumbfounded. City are rampant and terrorising Tricky Tree right back Tendayi Darikwa, who has little support, with folk not tracking back. The bloke behind me asks why Forest have 'a dwarf' on the near post' as another corner comes sailing in, with Ben Osborn dramatically clearing off the line.
A chink of light appears for Forest as Gil Dias seizes upon a misplaced pass. He ventures forward and plays in Murphy who dithers instead of shooting first time, choosing to shift the ball onto his left peg before fluffing his chance.
Forest fans are sobering up now and venting their anger at Irishman Daryl Murphy. One shouts out "are we playing with a cardboard cutout?" I remark to Piers that Murphy is usually good for a goal. Karanka has clearly kicked an underperforming Forest up the jacksy at half-time. They play with fire in their belly from kick off. Murphy makes amends within 30 seconds of the restart, guiding a header into the bottom corner following a pinpoint cross from the Algerian, Adelene Guedioura. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' bellows out from the away end, as Forest get a vice-like grip on the game.
Joao Carvalho starts to get on the ball and weaves a bit of magic with his quick feet and sharp turns. Joe Lolley enters the fray and has an immediate impact, forcing a great stop from City 'keeper Maenpaa. The Robins' Bryan forces another fine save from the shovel hands of Pantilimon, before the excellent ref, Darren Bond, calls time on a very entertaining game.
Forest have spent some lolly on their foreign contingent, but it is 'one of their own' Ben Osborn, at the club since the age of nine years old, who is head and shoulders above the rest.
Attendance: 22,395 (Away following 2,692)
Man of the Match: Ben Osborn