Sunday, November 4, 2018

Kirton Brickworks Res 1-2 Keyworth Utd Development

It's April 30th, 2014 and the final whistle has just been blown at Dunkirk FC's Lenton Lane ground. Dunkirk U18s have beaten Keyworth U18s 7-3 - I can't 'arf pick 'em. I shake hands with the opposition and wearily trudge off towards the dressing room for the final time, where I thank each and every player for the efforts over the season and for the twelve years they have represented the Club and village

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.

The second half is a crazy game of football and not for the faint-hearted. We fanny about with the ball at the back, a clearance is hurried and returned back, wind-assisted from 55 yards, our keeper is caught cold and off his line. I turn away, my stomach churning, as I hear the ball hit the back stanchion and nestle into the net. 'Harby' our 'keeper is concussed and dazed. We make changes, bringing on 'Shirty' as an emergency 'keeper (he's 6ft 6").

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

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