Sunday, March 29, 2020

Neon Raptor 30-0 Covid-19

I sing for most of the day on Sunday, 'Every Day is Like Sunday' by Manchester-born singer Morrissey. Ms Moon and I enjoy our social distance walk at Gedling Country Park, high up on the old colliery spoil heap. The village of Gedling is just a couple of miles down the road from us. I've many happy memories of playing cricket here in the early 80s. The two teams, post-match, socialised together superbly at The Willowbrook Club on Main Road - which always reminded me of Arthur Daley's and Terry McCann's local, The Winchester Club, in Minder.

Back in those days professional footballers played cricket when it was out of season. Former Chelsea and Mansfield Town 'keeper Kevin Hitchcock played for Keyworth. It always lifted your spirits when 'Hitchy' was in the team. He was an incredible batsman and phenomenal in the field. Gedling had a couple of footballers too. One was Steve Burke who was tipped for the very top at NFFC. He ended up with 156 League appearances, mostly for QPR and Doncaster Rovers. 'Burkie' was great fun in the pub after a game, and never took himself too seriously. The other lad was Steve Hodge, who always kept his distance and seemed painfully shy. He famously ended up with Maradona's shirt after the 'Hand of God' incident in the 1986 Mexico World Cup quarter-final. His autobiography is a great read too. Ironically The Willowbrook is now on one of my Sunday lunchtime rat runs.

Bad news arrives from Trumpy Towers on Tuesday morning. Blog legend Trumpy Bolton has been 'Furloughed.' With all pubs shut and no work for the foreseeable, it's going to be a long Spring for our man south of the river. We exchange a few 'are you okay?' texts before I throw caution to the wind and phone him up. He says being off work does have its benefits, at least he doesn't have to listen to 'Jim 't**t White.' He is quite cross that Rylan Clark-Neal is 'on everything' - he recently announced that Rylan was in his top 5 pet hates. The Boltons were meant to be 'sunning' themselves (drinking) in Lanzarote this week, but Covid-19 has put the kibosh on that. Place in the Sun and Wish You Were Here are off-limits on the TV schedule. Trumpy signs off with "got to go chap, it's the bidding stage on Bargain Hunt."

Christ on a bike, I'm having to work from home. My company has taken the decision to close our offices until further notice. I'm climbing the walls folks. A few deals drop out due to Covid-19. We have early morning Team calls, in an effort to lift morale. It's great to hear the voices and see my colleagues. They are spared a look at 'the perfect face for radio' as my laptop camera isn't working - I'm surprised the Chinese lads forgot to put one in on the Dell production line.

I'm not really a big fan of TalkSport, but Max Rushden and Hawksbee and Jacobs have been great value all week. Max Rushden even got Forest skipper Joe Worrall to read out 'The Hungry Caterpillar' live on air - well-played Joe. Paul Hawksbee has a razor-sharp wit that always makes me chuckle. They replay some of the clips from the recent World Cups in Brazil and Russia - it's comedy gold.

It's Thursday tea-time and it's been another tough time of coping with lone-working. I promise myself a treat at the end of each day, whether it's the one hour walk permitted by CV19 victim Boris Johnson or a can of Neon Raptor to get me through Emmerdale Farm or Tipping Point, on catch up. I pick up a coat, lace-up the old faithful black and white striped Adidas Samba trainers (the ones your old PE teacher used to wear) before sliding open the French window door and heading down to Carlton Square.

Netherfield is a ghost town - it's probably for the best. I like some of the touches on the high street when you actually bother to look around your surroundings. The War Memorial, the soldier and poppies stop me in my tracks and bring a lump to my throat. A mate called Jim Henry reminds me on Facebook that he saw plenty of action in a flat where he lived above Graham Reeds on Victoria Rd (now Hawk Cycles). Sadly it wasn't watching his beloved Scotland in the World Cup finals as they failed to qualify.

I end up on Victoria Retail Park. I had hoped that DIY stores were open. I find a staff member leaning against a stack of empty pallets, basking in the sunshine. "Click and collect for essential items only, love" is the response I get when asked if they're open. "I need some moss killer," I reply. She gets all stroppy "Sir, that isn't really essential is it?" "It bloody well is, my grass is dying on its arse" I remark as I slope off to the Marks and Spencer Food Hall (Jitz Jani's favourite store).

It's Friday morning and I'm so depressed folks. I'd normally be meeting Ms Moon for a few tea-time scoops. The good lady would then be watching that spiv Eric Pollard and the lads and lasses from 'The Farm' whilst I sunk a couple more rocket fuel ales in Neon Raptor, the best taproom in the world.

There's a knock at the door. My heart races ten to the dozen. It'll be Jeff Brazier from the People's Postcard Lottery waving a big fat £30k cheque. I'm shaking as I unlock the door, the surprise is bigger than expected. It's 30x cans of Neon Raptor craft ale. I ask the APC courier driver if I can kiss him. He declines and asks for my name. "How about an 'Elbow Tap?" but he's not having that either.

I cradle the two boxes of ales for most of the day, kissing a few cans occasionally. I listen to the hysterical calls on the Jeremy Vine Show. Vine stokes up the fires of the Daily Mail readers, who flood his phone lines. He either talks about his cycle ride into work and his contempt for car drivers or brags about £40 haircuts. Old Ted, God rest his soul, from City Barbers on Market Street in Nottingham will be turning in his grave. He cut (butchered) Roy Keane's mop a few days before the League Cup final in 1992 v Man Utd, for £2.50 - it went down as the worst trim in history. To cheer us all up Vine plays 'How Soon is Now?' by The Smiths.

All the days morph into one another, but at least I can spend some time with 'The Princess' at the weekend. I scarify the lawn 4x times in two days, tearing up all the moss (minus killer). We walk to the retail park and back, buying a few snacks from Marks' Food Hall. I post a couple of lip-syncing videos for a gag on social media. I watch a few more episodes of The Test on Amazon. The Nest on BBC i-Player has been recommended too and is set in Glasgow. It feels like Christmas, but without the fun and family.

Man of the Match: APC Courier

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Boris Johnson 2-1 Trumpy Bolton

It's Friday evening. A ruddy-faced man, driving a pick-up truck, switches off the radio after listening to his hero, Boris Johnson, give his daily media briefing. He's shaking with rage and feeling betrayed as he reverses his truck close to a beer cellar trapdoor. Not only has the British Prime Minster taken away his love of watching the beautiful game that Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City play, but has now delivered a further, devastating hammer blow.

That blithering toff, Johnson, has announced that all pubs and restaurants will have to close for business at midnight until further notice. Imagine absorbing that information when your life revolves around taking your missus away to watch footy each weekend and tick off pubs you've never frequented before (one or two folk fall into that category, Sticky).

'True Blue' Trumpy Bolton barges his way through the front door of the White Lion in Rempstone, shouts up two pints of Bass, wanders over to the pub jukebox, puts his ten pence in, makes his selection and returns to the bar to negotiate with the landlord on pricing for a couple of barrels of Bass to get him through one of the bleakest weekends in his lifetime. 'Cry Me a River' by Justin Timberlake booms out of the dukey as Trumpy breaks down in a flood of tears. He has a sneezing fit and races to the toilets, but they're out of bog roll (aren't we all?). For the first time in a 43 year devoted, drinking career, our man, T Bolton will not be gracing any U.K. licensed premises this weekend. A couple of barrels of beer is merely a consolation goal for the blog legend #prayfortrumpy

Ms Moon and I enjoyed a cracking weekend in Edinburgh and feel fortuitous that the desperate measures put in place by BJ weren't rubber-stamped a week earlier, as it would have taken away a lot of pleasure and fun away from our Scottish experience.

It's Monday morning and we're checking out of a deserted Hotel Motel One in Edinburgh. Ms Moon wanders over the road to a kiosk to grab a coffee. We make the short trip to Waverley Station. Pret A Manger is deathly quiet as we pick up some food for the three-hour journey to Newark Northgate. All the talk on the train home is COVID-19 - the travelling American citizens are particularly vocal and anxious about it.

It's a bit of a walk to Lovers Lane, where we've parked the car up for three nights, at a bargain £12. Ms Moon suggests we call by Waitrose in the town. I'd normally enjoy perusing the selection of beers, wines and cheeses on offer, but today (Monday afternoon) is utter bedlam. The shelves are bare. Shelf-stackers and till staff are stressed, rushed and harried. It's good to finally get home.

I work for a fantastic company that provides governance, risk and compliance software. They put the employee first, unlike many others. I read an email on Monday evening from our operations director that says we are to work from home until further notice - I shed more tears than Trumpy Bolton.

Many folk would be doing handstands and cartwheeling down the street given this option; Sticky Palms isn't one of them. I chuffing hate working from home. I took the decision, a year ago, to come off the road, which included home-working, and swapped my role to an office-based account manager, as I was seriously concerned about my well-being. Working in an office has been like a breath of fresh air, even if I'm the oldest member of staff on the sales floor by a country mile. The young 'uns have made me welcome and included.

I drive into the office on Tuesday to pick up my headphones. It's eerily quiet with only a few colleagues scattered around the sales floor. I build a siege mentality for the rest of the week, working from home, rewarding myself with walks at the end of each day.

I bury my head into a book called Test Match Special Diary, that I bought for £20 a few months ago. It's 500 pages long and beautifully written by Jon Surtees, who captures the highs and lows of a wonderful summer of cricket from the TMS commentary box, including the World Cup and The Ashes. Ms Moon meanwhile enjoys Emmerdale, Corrie, Masterchef and Hunted. I wound up the good lady and the Big Man (Bish) on social media earlier in the week when I posted that filming on Emmerdale Farm was to be suspended until further notice. The Big Man fell for it hook, line and sinker, taking a massive bite,' but as Gabriel said in 1993 'Dreams Can Come True.'

You can still have fun during dark days, even if it's for only ten minutes or so. A few of the lads on twitter set up a group to take part in Ken Bruce's Pop Master on Radio 2. I've not listened to the show for over 12 months as the music he plays is bloody awful, but do have a soft spot for the quiz. Jitz Jani, Mr John Harris (wife Jackie too busy working at Sainsbury's) and a few other folks participate. I'm a bit ring rusty on Thursday, but post respectable scores of 21pts and 24pts on Friday. I look forward to recommencing battle on Monday at 10.25 a.m.

It's Friday evening, a time of day I usually get all excited about. A glimmer of light appeared on twitter earlier in the week. Neon Raptor Tap Room announced that take-out craft beers will be available from the fridge at their Sneinton Market HQ - a two-mile stroll from Chez Sticky's.

I walk up over Carlton Hill past empty takeaways, pubs and shops; it's so bloomin' depressing and doesn't even feel like the weekend. I pop my head through the Neon Raptor Offy and watch my booty get bagged up. 4x cans of Night Time Radio and 4x cans of Levitating Tactics. £26 might seem a bit steep folks but it's the crack cocaine equivalent of the craft ale world.

I'm not slogging it back up that chuffing hill. Ms Moon is leaving work and says she'll be 20 minutes. It's just a few minutes before BJ addresses the nation. I shoulder my way through the double doors of Castle Rock's Fox and Grapes and shout up a pint of Snow White before distancing myself on a barstool in the corner of the pub. BBC Breaking News music is played on my phone. Johnson has taken drastic measures. I neck my pint, wish the barman good luck in his job search and trudge up the road to Lidl where I'm picked up by Ms Moon.

The Princess and I plan the weekend. I'm one of those blokes that has to look forward to something even if it's eight hours of back to back episodes of Heartbeat. Ms Moon fires up the grill on Saturday morning as I'm dispatched down to Carlton Tesco. I beat the hoarding, stockpiling imbeciles to a pack of bacon medallions from their finest range yesterday. All we need now is some bread.

Jesus wept, Tesco looks like it's had Supermarket Sweep filming here for 12 weeks - Trumpy will be pleased to know Rylan isn't in sight. I somehow locate a few stray cobs that I find here and there. I have a laugh and joke with the girl on the till - actually I was telling the gags and rest assured she wasn't laughing.

Neither is Ms Moon folks, as I've lined up an 8-mile walk that'll test her stamina after the hike up Arthur's Seat last weekend. We walk down Carlton Road, bathed in early spring sunshine, before turning right towards Netherfield. We cross the road at Tommy Thompson's Boxing Club, also the Fox and Hounds (they're always scrapping in there). It leads us onto a narrow track and onto a woodland path called the Midland Railway, which is alongside the Nottingham to Lincoln line.

We finally reach our destination, Colwick Country Park, close to Nottingham Racecourse. The scenery is spectacular with trees beginning to blossom, you can also enjoy the views of the lakes and the River Trent. Fagged out, we take a short water break. Nottingham Forest diehard fan Jitz Jani walks by with his family. We enjoy a brief chat and discuss how we're coping with the Coronavirus outbreak. Jitz says he's called by Aldi every day to food shop, but has ended up buying a bottle of red wine and a bag of crisps each time .. lol.

We're settled in for the day at 4 p.m. Ms Moon's trash TV continues with Tipping Point, Catchpoint and Ant 'n Dec. The star of the show is the Diego Maradona documentary on Channel 4 at 9 p.m. It's a beautifully crafted piece of work that lasts for over two and a half hours. It's not for the bitter and twisted, but for the football purist. Let's not forget he played in an era when tackles were brutal and eye-watering, particularly in Serie A where he won two League titles and a UEFA Cup.

As Ms Moon summed up, "a dislikeable bloke and a flawed genius."

Attendance: 2 (Sticky and Ms Moon)

Man of the Match: Neon Raptor Off Licence

Monday, March 16, 2020

Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic P-P Gala Fairydean Rovers

I'm in the car travelling back from Stoke. Trumpy Bolton is riding shotgun. He's supped and slurped Abbey Hulton Utd's clubhouse dry of Newcastle Brown Ale. His beer count is about to hit double figures for the day, as I park up outside the White Lion, in the village of Rempstone, close to the Notts/Leics border. I'm due to meet the 'Mad Jock' and his partner, Sarah, later this evening at the 'World Renowned Trent Bridge Inn', adjacent to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. The plan is to leave the car overnight in County Hall car park and hook up with Ms Moon, who will be arriving by taxi (like Royalty) at just after 7 p.m.

We're greeted by a cheery landlord at the community-owned pub. He pours two world-class pints of Bass - that can only be matched at the nearby Wysall Plough. The pub is one of Bolton's Friday night haunts. We chat to one or two of the locals, who crowd the bar, watching the Six Nations rugby between Wales and England. I drop Trumpy off at his yard, just after 6.30 p.m. before enjoying an evening at the TBI - where I had my 21st birthday party back in 1985.

On Sunday lunchtime I peg it up to Mapperley Tops for a couple of pints at Castle Rock's Bread and Bitter. It's a steady 45-minute stroll with one hell of a steep incline, to negotiate, at the top of Cavendish Road, where all you can see before you is the sky. I don't sleep too well on Sunday evening as I'm having a tooth out in the morning.

I'm not too sure what's more painful, the tooth coming out or the dentist playing Take That's Greatest Hits on the dukey. It takes near on half an hour for the tushy peg to be dislodged and extracted. I ask for a badge (like Muttley off Wacky Races) for being a brave lad and proudly place a Peppa Pig sticker on my coat. My work colleagues laugh at the sticker but are less than amused when I fiddle around in my jeans pocket and unearth my badly infected gnasher.

My gums start to ache as the anesthetic begins to wear off. I spend the evening up at Radford FC's delightful Selhurst Street ground. The company is good too. I chat to Heanor Town Press Officer, Tony Squires, who is always great value, before strolling around the other side of the ground to catch up with John Harris and 'Wife Jackie.' One person, who's none too chuffed to see me, is Radford manager 'Big Glenn Russell.' He shakes his head at me and snarls an obscenity - I'm a Jonah you see; Radford usually lose when Sticky's in the building. Tonight is no exception, as they are well and truly thumped 4-1, with the visitors' Jamie Sleigh outstanding once again.

We're both super-excited about the up and coming long-weekender in Edinburgh. The weather looks set fair and I've shoehorned a game into the schedule, up at Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, in the Scottish Lower League. The Club confirm a 3 p.m. kick-off.

I ply Ms Moon with coffee on Friday morning before the short trip to Newark Northgate train station. The good lady bagged the train tickets, a few months back, for a bargain-buy £75 each return fare. What could possibly go wrong?

Ms Moon enjoys her fourth brew of the day as we sit around with nervous and anxious passengers in the waiting room. Everyone is keeping their distance due to Coronavirus. The train heads out of the station at a fair old lick. I'm scrolling down my twitter timeline, feeling as happy as Larry, when suddenly I turn a whiter shade of pale. "Are you alright honey?" asks Ms Moon. I read the tweet over and over again. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, (aka 'Janette Krankie') has instructed the Scottish FA to suspend all professional and grassroots football. I start blowing my nose and shed a few tears. I reassure passengers, sitting close by, that I'm not COVID-19 positive. Ms Moon asks if I want to put 'Mardy Bum' by the Arctic Monkeys on the dukey? A 450 mile round trip with no chuffing football folks.

I sulk for half an hour, with my bottom lip quivering. Events take a turn for the worse when I'm charged £4 for a bacon roll at the buffet cart. I sing to Ms Moon on my return to Carriage D "This is the worst trip I've ever been on."

It's a two-minute walk up the hill from Waverley Street train station to the Hotel Motel One, where we're staying for three nights. It's our favourite hotel chain, having stayed a few times at the one on High Bridge in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

We check-in and head out into the streets of Edinburgh pretty darn quick. We turn off Cockburn St onto the Royal Mile. There's a commotion and gathering outside the Court of Justice. Ms Moon asks what's the craic? I know, instantly, that the sea of TV cameramen, reporters and photographers are waiting for former Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, to emerge from the court.

Salmond has denied 14 charges of sexual assault on 10 women. Ms Moon muscles in with the Paparazzi whilst I stand around the corner chatting to a camera crew. A black Mercedes van appears from a side street and parks up close by. I point out to a police officer that there's a sign clearly saying 'No Parking.' Without humour 'Taggart' removes the sign as Salmond hotfoots it out of court, with his wife in toe. The blacked-out car speeds off into the rush-hour traffic.

The first night isn't without incident either. After a pleasant few pints with a Middlesbrough fan in the Halfway House, on Fleshmarket Close, we venture out into New Town. Ms Moon loves a 'Spoons and in particular when it's her round (cheap as chips). I'm at the bar at The Standing Order (yes, an old bank) and shout up a Pentland IPA from Stewart Brewing. I'm presented with a beer that has more clouds than the view from the top of Kilimanjaro.

I've already paid for the round. The barman says he'll pour me another one. I'm not having it. "I'll have my money back and a free Tanqueray Seville, please. That bad pint could have wiped out my weekend." My request is refused. Long story cut short readers, after 15 minutes negotiation with the 'Manager' (a twonk) I'm refunded £2.69 and get a cloudless 6.5% abv rocket fuel ale for free. As we exit the pub I see a guy huddled in a blanket, shielding from the cold air. I handover the £2.69 and a bit more and say "but don't buy an out-of-date real ale in there, Son."

I'm full of beans and up and at 'em on Saturday morning. We enjoy breakfast at an independent cafe called Em's Kitchen on St Mary's St. We did a recce yesterday, so Ms Moon knows what lies in wait for her. Arthur's Seat is a hill that rises above the city to 823 feet. The views over Edinburgh towards the Leith and Hibernian's Easter Road ground are breathtaking. According to Wikipedia "it's relatively easy to climb." Try telling that to a panting, puffing and hungover Sticky Palms. An exhausted Ms Moon and I retire to Cafe Palace to stock up on caffeine after two hours of hard yards.

I break down in tears at 5 p.m. Ms Moon asks me if I'm still upset about the cloudy beer at 'Spoons and the nasty 'Shift Manager.' I reply it's chuff all to do with that and it's more about not being able to check the final scores as lots of games have been cancelled.

The non-footballing weekend in Edinburgh has been a blast. Cafe Royal was the standout pub and The Witchery was a restaurant to die for. Thanks to Scott in projects and G J Dunkin in sales (no relation to PJ and Duncan) for the pub tips - we loved The Hanging Bat and Fierce Beer. Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, we're gutted that we missed you; maybe another time. Ms Moon loved the visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia too.

Attendance: 2

Woman of the Match: Ms Moon xx

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Abbey Hulton Utd 1-1 Cammell Laird 1907

I turn off Radford Rd, in inner-city Nottingham, and stick the car in Asda Hyson Green Superstore. The maximum parking time is two hours. I'll be longer than that this evening and run the risk of being clamped by a jobsworth security man. Don't panic if you're the Store Manager at Marks and Spencer Food Hall in Netherfield and are reading this drivel - I'm neither deserting you or shopping at Asda.

A tram passes by, as I cross the road and head down Selhurst Street, in one of the most multi-cultural areas of our city. I sidle through a turnstile. The floodlights are turned off. The ground is dimly lit with lighting from the clubhouse.

I handover £15 to a guy holding a Tupperware box in the corridor. Former Nottingham Forest manager, and one of Sticky's favourites, Paul Hart, is a guest speaker at Radford FC this evening. Radford manager, Big Glenn Russell, clocks me in the bar and beckons me over towards him. I'm invited to sit on his table. I upset the barman by handing over a Euro for a can of Diet Coke. The excuse of being in Tenerife recently falls on death ears; I'm well and truly rinsed.

I'm sat with Alfreton Town Sporting Director, Nicky Hawkins, and Dunkirk legendary full-back 'McGoo.'Former Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year 'Swifty' is mein host. Paul Hart had a distinguished playing career, making over 500 senior appearances. There are the inevitable Clough anecdotes from Hart's time at The City Ground. One of them is a gem.

Barca v NFFC in a pre-season friendly after the World Cup finals in 1986, at Nou Camp, in front of a six-figure crowd. The players are lining up in the tunnel. Diego Maradona suddenly emerges from a chapel room after saying a prayer and takes his place in the line-up. Brian Clough clocks Maradona and makes a beeline towards him. He puts his hands down his shorts before grabbing his testicles and says "Now that's the Hand of God, Son"

I'm sick to the back teeth of the wind and rain. I announced to Ms Moon, after a couple of rocket fuel ales at Neon Raptor Tap Room, last Friday evening, that football is off tomorrow's agenda. We have a wander around Nottingham city centre. I show Ms Moon the plaque of Peter Pan author J M Barrie, that rests above Tanners estate agents on Pelham Street. Barrie worked for the Nottingham Journal before finding success as an author.

We enjoy lunch at Bar Iberico, a Spanish tapas restaurant on Carlton Street. I kill a bit of time in Rough Trade on Broad Street, bagging a bucket hat that I can wear on sun-drenched evenings at Trent Bridge cricket ground. I collect two tickets at Nottingham Broadway Cinema for the 2 p.m. showing of Dark Waters starring Tim Robbins and Anne Hathaway - it's a cracking film and definitely worth a peek.

My hat fetish takes a further twist, with my second purchase of the day, at Neon Raptor. A flat-peaked baseball cap doesn't go down too well with Ms Moon, who says she'd prefer it if I didn't wear it in her company   ...  lol. I'm 56 years old btw.

I've enjoyed my 10-day winter break from football, but feel as ring rusty as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool. Tuesday evening is spent up at the old mining village of Rainworth, in north Notts. In 1975, armed robber, kidnapper and murderer Donald Neilson (the 'Black Panther') was overpowered by two burly mineworkers, outside a chippy, who had just clocked off from the afternoon shift at Rufford Colliery, after Neilson had kidnapped two police officers.

I get a nice welcome from the Radford management team, tonight's visitors, and legendary groundhopper Malc Storer, who does so much to promote the Non-League game in Notts. It's good to see folk take action on players that they are tipped off about. I saw 21-year-old Lucas Cotterill bag a hat-trick for Cotgrave a few weeks ago. He's off the mark for his new club, Radford, early in the second half. Simon Hore makes it 2-0 from the spot in the 48th minute. Radford look to be home and hosed. Rainworth claw one back after a horror show from the visiting right-back and equalise with a brilliant header from a set-piece. Big Glenn is fuming, but at least he doesn't fling his baseball cap to floor in anger, which normally makes me chuckle - even though I love Radford.

The plan on Saturday was to travel up to Barrow AFC v Notts County with Trumpy Bolton. But, with the weather being unreliable, particularly up in the Lake District, I decided to play the safety card and go somewhere nearer to home. I tag Abbey Hulton Utd (in Stoke) in a tweet to say we'll be in attendance and receive a very friendly and welcoming tweet back from them. I'm already excited for the day, and so is Trumpy when it's confirmed the ground has licensed premises.

It's Friday evening and I'm driving home from work. TalkSport are waffling on and on and Five Live are scaring us all to death over Coronavirus. I flick on Radio 2 expecting to hear Steve 'Silly Boi' Wright's 'Serious Jockin'. I'm pleasantly surprised to hear his replacement is the excellent Leicester-born presenter O J Borg. What's even better is that he playing New Order's 'Temptation' from 1981 - which only reached number 29 in the charts.

I enjoy a pint of Shipyard with Ms Moon at the worst 'Spoons in England - The Free Man on Carlton Hill. It's been a bad day for leading Brexiteer and Wetherspoons Chairman Tim Martin, as shares have tumbled due to nervousness in the market about Coronavirus.

I wave Ms Moon off to Emmerdale Farm and the cobbled streets of Weatherfield and jump on the No.27 bus into town, before alighting at Southwell Road. Neon Raptor have four new lines of beer on offer tonight. Sticky's fave, Naughty Luggage, is back on the production line. I guzzle down a half and another half, and on and on - you have to show respect readers at 6.8abv; it's the Black Mamba of the drinking world. I catch up with Tony 'Dog' McDonald before returning back to basecamp slightly worse for wear.

I'm as rough as a badger's arse on Saturday morning - I didn't have any tea or supper the previous evening. Fuelled with a couple of extra-strong Nescafe Alta Rica coffees I head over to Trumpy's yard. He emerges from his crib carrying a Kwik Save bag which he reckons he can get £50 for on eBay.

The Boltons spent last weekend in Norwich. They witnessed the Canaries beating the Foxes 1-0 on Friday evening. My old budgie Murphy Palmer would have enjoyed that one (and Finlay my rabbit). We were meant to join the Boltons on Saturday as the plan was to watch Wroxham v Bitton AFC in an FA Vase quarter-final tie (Wroxham is only a few miles outside Norwich) sadly we didn't make the trip due to the deteriorating weather conditions.

First port of call is a 'Spoons called The Arnold Machin in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a suburb of Stoke. I like to wind Trumpy up, as he guzzles his way through his litre of cider. The mere mention of Jim White, Jeremy Corbyn, Rylan Clark-Neal, Nicola Sturgeon or women football commentators gets his face ruddy red or causes a coughing fit. There's an embarrassing episode in the car park when we have to beg a random stranger for some coinage for the parking fee - thank you for your act of kindness.

Trumpy shouts up a couple of pints of Ruddles (for him) and asks me if I would like anything to eat. I say a bacon and Brie panini would be nice, but without the chilli jam. There's a monumental cock-up on the catering front, as I'm served up a panini plastered in chilli jam - Trumpy explains it may have been lost in translation when ordering. 'Spoons shares will be dropping again when I grass them up over this faux pas. I ask the legend what were the last two films he watched. "Jungle Book and Debbie Does Dallas" he replies.

The second pub visited is in the picture-postcard village of Bagnall (population 765) It's a corker folks. Trumpy has a pint of Bass and a pint of Peregrine from the Peakstones Brewing Company. I thought Steve 'Silly Boi' Wright was on the decks when I hear What is Love? by Haddaway on the pub dukey.

The ride to the ground is Laurel and Hardy-esque. After two wrong turns, a three-point turn on a bend and plenty of head-scratching we finally roll into the car park. We're greeted on arrival by Twitter man, 'Dave', who makes us both very welcome. Trumpy asks where the bar is and soon disappears, whilst I have a good chinwag with Dave, who is such a lovely bloke.

I take a stroll around the ground and bump into frisky four-month-old Springer Spaniel, George. Today's visitors are from Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, a famous old shipyard that is still in production. I followed them for a while, 10 years ago, when they had some great players such as Ronnie Morgan and Jamie McGuire, who went onto play for Mansfield Town. Don't forget Clough signed Peter Davenport from here, who later on went to play for Man Utd,

Bolton is holed up in the bar, downing his second bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, as the home side kick with the wind behind them. I've left my chuffing hat in the car boot and am already moaning about how cold it is. I'm joined by Trumpy who is saying the game has 0-0 written all over it. A stray clearance heads our way. I nonchalantly stick my left foot out, to cushion the ball, which hits a divot (honest) and ends up nestling in the overgrowth. There's a huge groan from folk around me, while play is interrupted, as I retrieve the ball.

The home side take the lead with a spectacular 'PlayStation' overhead kick. Joy is short-lived when Abbey Hulton are sadly reduced to ten men, just before half-time, after a one-way 'Glasgow Kiss.' Whilst Trumpy drinks the bar dry, I'm introduced to Lee the Chairman and the girls in the cafe. They rustle me up a local delicacy called an oatcake - I thought it was a biscuit, but it turns out to be a cross between a chapati and a pancake and is filled with bacon.

The second half is tough going for Abbey Hulton. Playing into a stiff breeze and with only ten men, proves challenging. The equaliser has been coming as the visitors up the tempo. The 17-year-old home keeper', who has been outstanding, is finally beaten. Abbey Hulton hold their own despite being a man down and thoroughly deserve the draw.

I find Dave standing by the PA system. What a guy he is. He's announced all the substitutions, read out all the teams and played some top toons, including Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Dario G and Faithless. He's 'The Stoke Judge Jules.' He points out a guy who's stood behind the goal. "You see that bloke stood there? His name is John Wightman and he's been involved at this Club since 1953, when his Dad first brought him down. He's spent countless hours down here looking after the playing surface" I saw a plaque in the clubhouse with his name on and a stand named after him. It makes my spine tingle and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Attendance: 80

Men of the Match: 'The Stoke Judge Jules' and Sir John Wightman