Sunday, March 19, 2023

Nottingham Forest 1-2 Newcastle United

Thanks to those birdbrains at East Midlands Railway, the trip home from Manchester, after a two day sesh with Tony Mac, is long and tiring. Northern Rail has come to our rescue, the only downside is that the train makes 10 stops from Sheffield to Nottingham. Usually I'd be eugolising over beers to be taken at places such as Bamford, Eyam and New Mills, but right now all I'm thinking about is some shut eye.

I arise from my comatose slumber on Saturday morning, and gingerly head down the stairs. Ms Moon makes me a strong Nescafe Alta Rica coffee, as we are reunited after a hectic few days away on a 'culture tour' oop north.

I slump into my armchair and regale Ms Moon with some tales from my travels. I'm dead on my feet, folks, when Ms Moon catches me off guard. "Do you fancy going for a walk up to Sherwood?" I'd usually jump at the chance, but after clocking up 20 miles, around Manchester city centre, over the last two days, I could go without. "Of course we can, love", I say through gritted teeth.

The outing is going swimmingly, as we head down 'Millionaires Row' on Mapperley Park. Ms Moon spots a new cafe as we walk away from Carrington and into the Nottingham suburb of Sherwood. I stare across the road and to my horror notice that the cafe in question has a 3G front garden - as we all know, Sticky doesn't do 3G. I decline her kind offer of a coffee on the grounds of 3G, and suggest, instead, a 200 Degrees latte at Birds Bakery, just over the top of the hill.

I don't take the news too well that they haven't got any sausage rolls or caramel doughnuts. Ms Moon says I'm to stop being grouchy as I'm embarrassing her. I sulk as I gnaw my way through a pork cob which is minus any apple sauce or stuffing due to no stock #BREXIT

I have the misfortune to listen to click bait broadcaster Adrian Durham on TalkSport in the afternoon, as I soak in the bath, resting my weary limbs. The BBC have nowhere to go after the Lineker fallout; his colleagues show solidarity and refuse to broadcast in his absence.

There's no football this weekend; a rarity indeed. I owe Ms Moon big time, after my four days oop north last week. We enjoy a fantastic lunch together at The Plough, Normanton-on-the-Wolds, a village located in the south of the county. Sue's daughter, Becky, is General Manager at the gastro pub. She looks on for approval as I sink a pint of real ale. It's a beauty and worthy of the Cask Marque accreditation the pub has recently been awarded.

It's Tuesday teatime and I'm sitting in the bar, with Tony Mac, at the Cock and Hoop pub, a Grade II listed building on High Pavement. Older readers will remember this watering hole was previously called County Tavern. Sticky Palms has got the face on. I watch in envy, as Mac sinks drink after drink. I'm off colour and have an unsettled tummy. I stare at a diet Coca Cola for an hour or so.

Another reason for my mood swing is that I'm missing out on Grantham Town v Carlton Town, as the Millers continue their fight against relegation from NPL East. Angry duo, Sleaford Mods, are on their U.K. GRIM album launch tour at Rock City this evening. I'm going to have to follow the relegation scrap on the Carlton Fans WhatsApp group during the gig.

Lead singer, Jason Williamson, emerges from the dressing room at 9 pm on the dot, as messages appear from Grantham; ironically it's his hometown. Neither the Gingerbreads nor the Millers have broken the deadlock yet. Williamson is playing a blinder and has a fantastic stage presence. He has the crowd eating out of his hand and singing along to his to-the-point lyrics. I frantically check the latest score after each song finishes, as my anxiety begins to heighten.

At 9.40 pm I aim a clenched, raised fist in the direction of Tony Mac, who is taking some snaps on his phone. A last gasp winner from Nat Watson has seen the Millers over the finishing line. I celebrate with a pogo to 'Tweet Tweet Tweet' by the Mods.

It's Friday afternoon and I'm pushing open the front door of The Loxley pub, on Pelham Street, in the heart of Nottingham city centre. I have no memory of ever being in here before, so at least it's a tick off. Dringy is sat in the corner supping a pint of Guinness. It is St Patrick's Day after all. We're joined by a group of Forest Welsh Reds who are sat with blog favourite Jitz Jani.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is about to start. I landed a 40/1 winner yesterday thanks to a tip from former Notts and Durham cricketer Will Smith on social media. I haven't a Scooby Doo about horse racing, but listen to folk that do. I only had £1.50 each way on it .. lol.

The Welsh Reds are in fine form and are out-singing the Irish, who are all dressed in emerald green. They've all had an each way bet on a horse that's priced at 33/1. It takes a tumble a few fences from home. It opens up the race for the favourite to canter home. It doesn't dampen the Welsh lads' spirits as they sink a few more beers and sing a few more songs.

Nottingham Forest are playing Newcastle United in an 8 pm kick off at The City Ground this evening. We're joined by Dringy's dad, John, who was my first ever cricket captain, and a man who I highly respect. He looks really well and has been doing some family tree research in Netherfield, close to where I live. We continue drinking at Six Barrels, before parting company at Herbert Kilpin.

Dringy and I continue boozing at Barley Twist and Cured, a bar that sits on the canalside. I tread on an outstretched dog, on my way to the loo, in the dimly lit downstairs bar. The mutt's owner is upset. I play the Stevie Wonder card. We wander through the Meadows on our way to the game. We part company on Trent Bridge after an enjoyable few hours together.

NFFC sell the best sausage rolls at a bargain-price of £4. I snaffle one up and wash it down with a bottle of water. The game is a sell out. Newcastle arrive on the back of one victory in their last six Premier League outings. 

A sitter is missed by the visitors in the opening exchanges. The woodwork is Forest's best friend in the first half. The goal post may require a fresh coat of paint in the morning. Against the run of play NFFC take the lead with a smart finish by Dennis, after being gifted the ball by Botman. Forest can't see out the half. Swedish striker, Alexander Isak, has looked lively. His finish in added time is insane and has a touch of genius to it.

NFFC are in debt to Costa Rica 'keeper, Keylor Navas, who pulls off a string of first-class saves. A half fit Brennan Johnson forces Tom Pope to block a shot with his legs on a rare foray into enemy territory. A blatant handball by Niakhate presents the chance for Isak to seal Forest's fate from the spot. 2-1 to the visitors isn't a true reflection of how the game has panned out. 

Ms Moon and I are away for the weekend in Bewdley, an attractive Georgian town in Worcestershire, that is nestled on the River Severn. 'Spoons have a nice hotel there, that is good value. We pitch up in the bustling town just before midday. Lunch is taken at Mug Shot Inn, a pub that sits by the river.

I had mentioned, earlier in the week, that 'the princess' might want to wear suitable footwear for the tricky 1.5 mile walk to Bewdley Town's Ribbesford Meadows ground. She's puffing, panting and slipping in difficult, trying conditions, which include a heavy rain shower. I'm no longer the flavour of the month as a number of foul-mouthed sayings are aimed in my direction.

It's £7 on the gate. The ground is a pearler. It's best to leave Ms Moon to ponder on a cigarette at moments like these. She's clearly still cross about the long uphill walk. I take my pew on a carpeted-seat in the wonderful, high stand that rewards you with a bird's eye view of proceedings. The white flag is raised and Ms Moon joins me.

The game is entertaining from start to finish. It sounds the same up in Cleethorpes, where a large Carlton Town contingent is gathered, with bellies full of ale and fish and chips. The visitors, Whitchurch Alport, score a worldy goal to open their account for the day, but are soon pegged back by a young Bewdley side. Whitchurch run out deserved winners with two late goals, the last of which is another fine finish.

I chance upon an Aussie called Brian in the toilets. He's been in the U.K. for a few months now. I notice he has a limp. I quickly click my brain into gear, knowing full well that Ms Moon isn't up for the long slog back to Bewdley. "Hey Brian, don't suppose you could give us a lift home mate?" I can't 'arf pick 'em.

To top the day off, Carlton Town make it three victories on the bounce, with a 3-2 win, up on the coast of Lincolnshire. Like Pele said 'the beautiful game.'

Man of the Match: 'Aussie Brian.' and that sausage roll.

Attendance: 29,362

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Hebburn Town 0-2 Carlton Town

It's Sunday lunchtime and I'm wandering up hipster Hockley towards Nottingham's Market Square. The weather is brassic. I'm wrapped up to the nines, but already sweating. There's no cosy pint by a roaring fireside. I call by Pret a Manger, where I bag a chicken sandwich to eat whilst on the hoof. It's only when I take my first huge bite that I remember we have roast chicken for tea. What a nincompoop I am.

I stroll up past the train station. There's no choo choo today. One of my favourite meanderings is through the Meadows, where a number of footballers from Nottingham Forest and Notts County were born and bred. A police Maria is positioned, in view, just off the Bridgeway Centre.

I'd seen a number of Everton fans drinking outside Cured, a canalside bar, just down from the station. Everyone was behaving and there was no sign of disorder. I cross Trent Bridge and take a sharp left turn where I follow the water. I look across the river towards where Everton manager Sean Dyche now lives. He could actually swim to the game. Be better not to though, as not many come out of that body of water, once in; not alive anyway.

I'm in my seat nice and early, positioned in the Lower Brian Clough Stand. The DJ, probably under instruction, plays the same boring set every home game. Doesn't every club play 'Freed From Desire' by Italian electro-pop singer Gala? I suppose it's better than Nana Mouskouri and Demis Rousoss, who are probably on the set list at owner, Evangelos Marinakis's other club, Olympiacos, who currently sit in third place in the Greece Super League.

Everton start brightly, particularly in midfield, where they pass it around Forest with some lovely two touch and give and go football. They take the lead through a Demarai Gray penalty, but are pegged back through a Brennan Johnson tap in. Forest are off the boil and off the pace too. They are caught napping and concede a sloppy goal, scored by the impressive Mali international Abdoulaye Doucoure.

Dyche deploys some dirty unsettling tactics in the second half, sitting on a 2-1 lead, when a third goal would have put the game to bed. Players theatrically fall to the floor as the game threatens to boil over. Felipe, Shelvey and Gibbs-White fall into the honeytrap, as their emotions get the better of them.

The game's best player, Brennan Johnson, is on fire and sending the Everton full back dizzy. He scores a brilliant equaliser after cushioning a clever pass from the returning Ryan Yates. He goes desperately close to getting the winner too. It's a breathtaking game for the neutral and I have good fun with the Everton fans, who I accompany back to the train station.

Monday afternoon is spent at my new favourite haunt, back in Hockley, coincidentally. It's £5 to watch any film on a Monday at Broadway Cinema.  What I like about this independent picture house is the different array of films from around the world. 'Close' is a coming-of-age drama about the intense friendship of two Belgian schoolboys, who drift apart at senior school. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022. It makes me feel really sad as I leave through the exit doors. I soon cheer up after a couple of beers at the Herbert Kilpin on Bridlesmith Walk.

It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm sitting in The Wheatsheaf at Burton Joyce. Nige Harlow sinks a second pint of Guinness as I stare at my lime and soda. We're picked up by 'Club Shop Ken' and 'DJ Murph.' The Mighty Millers are playing up at Hebburn, in South Tyneside, this evening. It's a 300 mile round trip, but it's at a ground I've wanted to tick off for some time.

On the car radio, Five Live is broadcasting a Press statement from prime minister Rishi Sunak. He announces new legislation to stop illegal immigrants, arriving on boats, from applying for asylum. The whole car is stunned into silence. The speech is made with neither compassion nor apology.

We roll into the car park of the Green Energy Sports Ground just shy of 6.45 p.m. I tag along with Murph and manage to grab a cup of tea and some biscuits kindly laid on by the Hebburn Town committee, who are friendly and welcoming. Carlton Town manager Tommy Brookbanks enters the room. He points at the teapot and says "Well Sticky, we did say we'd meet for a drink one day." It's great to see Tommy with a smile on his face again, as times have been hard for him and Mark Harvey of late. Support for these guys has never waivered.

In the bar we meet up with some of the players' parents as well as another supporter, Jason Simpkins, who is sounding rather chipper and predicting, to those who are listening, that the Millers will take away all three points.

The ground is an absolute pearler. It's everything I'd hoped for. The snow has cleared from the excellent playing surface. Tommy and Mark have tinkered with the starting line-up. New signing Alex Troke is thrown straight in. He makes an impact and is a handful. It's a presence that's been absent and missing up top all season.

The lads are at it and looking sharp. Alex Howes puts Carlton deservedly ahead. It silences a gobshite in the stand who has shouted 'snap him' each time a Carlton player gets on the ball. I challenge the clown. The folk around him are embarrassed about his behaviour. It's absolutely bloomin' freezing. We all head back for a warm in the clubhouse. Spirits are high amongst the 'Magnificent Seven' supporters who have made the long trip. 

Something extraordinary happens just before the hour mark. Niall Davie pounces on the ball, deep inside his own half, (80 yards to be precise). He deceives two players and picks up a head of steam, as he bursts up the pitch, leaving a number of Hebburn defenders trailing in his wake. He smokes off the final player and despite the tight angle he squeezes the ball past the 'keeper and into the corner of the net.

Head of the Supporters' Club, Alan Murphy, covers similar yardage in celebrating the goal. I'm on the opposite side of the ground, stood on my own. I clench my fist and punch the air, much to the amusement of the 'Hebburn Baby Squad' who are sat behind me. In over 20 years of blogging Non League football, this must go down as one of the greatest goals I've ever witnessed. Davie is immediately christened 'The Carlton Maradona.' The lad deserves it, after showing the character to come back from a number of serious injuries.

The Millers see out the game with ease. Our fans are euphoric in the clubhouse afterwards. Hebburn Town are very gracious in defeat. It's a fantastic club, like many that have come from out of the Northern League.

Despite only a few hours' kip, I'm buzzing off that win in the north east last night, as I loiter outside Laguna curry house, located just off Maid Marian. I'm chuffed to bits for the Management, backroom staff, volunteers and supporters. They are all proper football people, who deserve their day in the sun.

'Cotgrave Trev' picks up me and 'Crazy Steve. 'Little Al' is already in the car. We're heading up Manchester way to tick off some Victoria Cross graves and CAMRA Heritage pubs. I didn't think I could top last night; it comes a close second. One of the VC graves we visit is in Weaste Cemetery, near Salford. I'm gobsmacked to see the grave of Busby Babe, Eddie Colman, who is laid to rest next to a soldier who was awarded a VC. Colman made 85 appearances for Manchester United, scoring one goal.

The rest of the day is spent in Eccles - yes, where the cake is from - three of the pubs are Grade II listed buildings. The staircase in the Grapes is a stunning piece of architecture. The icing on the cake is a fifth tick off in Cheshire, as the snow begins to fall. I arrive home at gone 11 pm, absolutely out on my feet.

The busiest week of all-time continues on Thursday. Tony Mac and Sticky spend two days in the north west ticking off pubs in Stockport and Manchester. A YOLK breakfast is polished off and the snow is beaten on the train trip north. We end the evening under the railway arches at Sureshot tap house, seeing off strong craft ales. As Mac says, "it's not a game for children."

A good night's kip is had at our apartment in Ancoats. Two workmen, in the city centre, tip us the wink on NQ Kitchen, a greasy spoon, that is 5 star rated on Google. We mop up a jumbo breakfast. The rest of the morning is spent strolling around the Northern Quarter, admiring all the murals and street art.

The highlight of the day is a bar called Disorder, a tribute to the Manchester band Joy Division. There's a mural of lead singer Ian Curtis on the wall. It's by the street artist Akse P19. The music playlist is out of this world. 'Fire in Cairo' by The Cure and 'Nothing Lasts Forever' by Echo and the Bunnymen are the pick of the bunch.

Even East Midlands Railway can't put a dampner on a day. The bunch of clowns cancel our train late in the day. Government run Northern Rail save the day. The quicker the railways are returned to the people, the better.

Attendance: 205

Man of the Match: 'The Carlton Maradona.'

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Carlton Town 1-2 North Shields

I traipse back into the clubhouse after yet another (seven consecutive) home defeat, this time to Hebburn Town, from north east England. Whilst their team laugh and joke, as they tuck into hospitality food laid on by the Club, supporters of the Millers sit with expressions of dismay and disbelief. 

'DJ Murph' tries to lighten the mood by doing the 150 Club draw at our table. 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable' by The Smiths would be very apt right now. The gloom is temporarily lifted when I pull manager Tommy Brookbanks' number from out of the Tupperware box. Mine's a bottle of Harvest Pale ale the next time I see you Tommy.

I swing by the Old Volunteer, on the way home. and chew over the cud with 'DJ Dan' and Lewis. I'm on my lonesome back at HQ - Ms Moon is on a hen night. I thought I couldn't stomach another football game, but Crystal Palace and Liverpool are on TV. It pretty much sums up my day that the final score is 0-0. Goodnight Vienna.

I've gotten over it by Monday. I watch the last two episodes, on BBC iPlayer, of the cult comedy sitcom Early Doors, written by Craig Cash and Phil Mealey. Tears of laughter roll down my cheeks as the vicious one-liners and banter are shared out by the regulars in the Grapes pub in Manchester.

I spend more time watching films at Broadway Cinema than I do from my armchair on Amazon. I pay £35 for a membership which includes two free tickets, a further 20% discount off any film and a fifth off any food in the cafe and Mezz Bar.

The film I watch this evening is on at Screen 4; the tiniest of them all. I have the misfortune to sit next to a lady who has a carrier bag stacked full of snacks and confectioneries. I struggle to hear the first half an hour of the film due to wrappers being opened, crisps being crunched and sweets chomped on. 

The film, ironically, is called The Menu. It's an American comedy horror film. Ralph Fiennes plays the part of a crazy chef who serves up an eight course dinner which the lady next to me salivates over despite eating enough food to feed an army. I comment on the film on Twitter and hashtag Ralph in. He actually likes my tweet. He's dead famous isn't he?

I go on one of my mad walks on Tuesday, up to Colwick Woods. The muddy, sludgy conditions make circumnavigating the eastern edge of the woods a tad tricky. It's worth the effort though as the sweeping views out towards Nottingham Racecourse are stunning. 

I call in at Oakdale chippy in Bakersfield. It's being given rave reviews on Google Review and Trip Advisor. I enjoy some banter with the owner. Much to his dismay I only partake in a small bag of chips. He throws in some samples of kebab meat. I promise to return one Friday evening. I finish Tuesday off with a few craft ales up at Bread and Bitter on Mapperley Tops with Pete and Peachy (good name for a band that).

I've been drafted into Ms Moon's pub quiz team on Wednesday evening at the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton, following a poor showing the previous week. They have some cracking ales on, so I'm as happy as Larry. Nottingham legend Al Needham is mine host. I used to enjoy reading his ramblings in the cult magazines When Saturday Comes and Left Lion. We put up a good fight in the quiz, finishing 4th. Ms Moon is proud as punch, and also isn't a scaredy cat at the bus stop, as she has a one-eyed chaperone to protect her.

It's Thursday evening and there is a killer on the loose on the cobbles of Weatherfield, in Coronation Street. Audrey Roberts' lad, Stephen, is an utter buffoon. He's nailed on to win the TV Times 'best actor award.' He 'acts' out some of the most crass and cringe worthy scenes not seen since blog favourite 'Big Al' pulled endless women on Emmerdale Farm. The clown mixes up his cups of tea. He plants drugs in one of them, intended for Carla Connor, but gets the cups mixed up, resulting in him drinking a spiked cuppa full of drugs. The blithering idiot begins hallucinating and sweating up in a hotel bedroom. I sit in my armchair shaking my head in disbelief. Ms Moon is gripped by proceedings. I'm told to shush each time I speak.

The Friday Club Jolly Boys outing takes place the following day. The Board of Directors (Sticky and Tony Mac) have a morning meeting at award-winning YOLK cafe, located at the bottom of Hockley. We polish off a champagne socialist breakfast of woodland mushrooms, poached eggs, heaped with lean bacon on sourdough bread. Today's trip is out to the historic towns of Lichfield and Tamworth in Staffordshire.

There's a full squadron including: Coops, Ackers, 'Chopper Harris' and Limon. The publicans in Lichfield are dead friendly. They give us some pointers on pubs that aren't on our list. The only downside to the day is having to wait for trains with rubbish connection times at Lichfield Trent Valley Station.

The star of the show is the CAMRA U.K. Pub of the Year. Tamworth Tap has some insane beers on the scoreboard. After downing a few ales we finish off with a rocket fuel 10% barrel-aged stout from the Wander Beyond yard. A taxi is required to enable us to catch the 8.30 pm train back to Nottingham. A few more strong crafts are seen off at BeerHeadZ, an old British Transport Police hut, situated outside the station.

It's Saturday and matchday. What will today bring? As we often say, 'it's the hope that kills you.' I'm on cooking duty this evening. Unfortunately that means a trip down to the worst supermarket on this planet: Carlton Tesco. 

I walk past a building site where the Earl of Chesterfield pub once stood. 26 new flats are being built. I've clocked the site manager tossing it off for months now. He's brilliant at pointing, supping endless cups of tea and playing on his phone. I might apply for a job at that firm.

The shop at Tesco starts reasonably well. Newcastle band, The Kane Gang, are on the Radio Tesco dukey. You can't beat a bit of 'Closest Thing to Heaven', although some of you will remember them more for the theme tune to Byker Grove. There's the usual shambles in the self-service checkouts. I pop another blood pressure tablet on my return home.

I warm up some Tuscan chicken at lunchtime, it was something I rustled up the other evening. Ms Moon has failed a fitness test due to an abscess under her tooth. OUCH! I make the short 30 minute journey down to Stoke Lane by foot, in an attempt to blow away the cobwebs.

The clubhouse is packed solid with folk from both teams. The Millers have laid on a treat for us all by securing the services of former Newcastle United and NFFC legend Frank Clark as a guest speaker. The visiting supporters, from North Shields, near to Newcastle, are revelling in the atmosphere.

Frank Clark tells a lovely anecdote, from back in 1979, just hours before the European Cup final versus Malmo. Martin O'Neill, Archie Gemmill and Clark were all carrying niggling injuries. Only one spot was available in the team between the three of them. Brian Clough asked each one of them if they were fit to play. All three of the players replied in the affirmative. It was Frank Clark who got the final nod from Clough. Years later Clark and Clough's paths crossed again. Frank plucked up the courage to ask 'Old Big Head' why he was chosen in front of the other two. "Because I felt you'd be the least likely one to lie to me" replied Cloughy.

The Millers, desperate for a win, look on course for victory after taking the lead through a far post header from Dean Freeman. I spend the first half catching up with top Millers fan, Nigel Harlow, who has spent the last few weeks in Thailand, and is looking well on it. On the pitch things get better when a North Shields player is somewhat harshly dismissed from the field of play for a dangerous high foot by an overzealous referee.

Everyone's chipper and on good form at the break. I tell 'Murph' I'm 99% certain that I'll be making the 300 mile round trip up to Hebburn, Newcastle, on Tuesday. I might need to negotiate that with Ms Moon during Ant 'n Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway that's on TV later this evening, when she's under the influence of prosecco. He celebrates the news by playing 'Shot by Both Sides' by punk band Magazine.

North Shields are galvanised and united over the injustice of the first half's harsh red card. To a man they are magnificent in the second 45 minutes. They deservedly equaliser and score a brilliant late winner through their 11 jacket.

The visitors are well backed by their supporters. There are joyous scenes at the final whistle. As for Carlton, not sure where they can turn to now. One or two players have jumped ship or been pushed out. Tommy Brookbanks is deflated and low in the post match interview. It's a horrible watch. He admits to having sleepless nights. Tommy's a good man. Whoever said it was only a game, was wrong.

Attendance: 161

Man of the Match: Frank Clark and blog favourite Dan Brown.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Carlton Town 0-2 Hebburn Town

I exit the ground of the World's oldest existing football club. I'm absolutely steaming mad. Sticky Palms has witnessed a 0-0. Blankety bloody blank. Someone else is steaming, but 'Big Tom's' issue is alcohol related. The big 'un spends more time dodging traffic on the Sheffield Road, back to Dronfield station, rather than taking the sensible option of using the pavement. There's a constant honking of horns as I return the big lad to the safety of the walkway. At one point he totally disappears, only to pop up like Mr Benn on the station platform. A Codhead and a Red Imp walking hand in hand. Who'd have thought that?

Tom spends the journey home slumped in the gangway playing on his phone. I do a sweep of the platform at Nottingham station. There's neither sight or sound of him. It transpires, later, on a WhatsApp group, that the clown alighted the train at Alfreton, thinking it was Nottingham. That must be a first in train passenger history. 

It's Sunday lunchtime and I'm waltzing through the Stoke Lane gates of Carlton Town FC. Folk are gathered in the clubhouse to support the book launch of 'Angels With Dirty Faces' featuring stories from the legends Gary 'Boatsy' Clarke and Paul D. Lowe. Nottingham Forest Chairman, Nicholas Randall QC, is also in the house..

I shout up a Harvest Pale Ale from the Castle Rock stable and take my seat close to a large TV screen that is showing Man Utd v Leicester. A tall gentleman with blonde hair engages in conversation with me, as the Foxes swarm all over United. "We need United to win this one." he says. The guy concerned is Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club legend, Luke Fletcher,  - better known in this parish  as the 'Bulwell Bomber.' It's a big year for him too, as it's his benefit season. A couple of Marcus Rashford goals cheer up 'Fletch' but upset the Tory Party WhatsApp groups for the rest of the day.

Carlton Town owner, Mick Garton, does an excellent Q and A with 'Boatsy' and Paul. Gary admits that languishing in a Durham jail at 39 years old was the lowest point in his life, and a turning point too. 'Boatsy' has turned his life around full circle. He has gone from football hooligan to respected charity fundraiser. His work behind the scenes at the Millers is tireless and something he should be extremely proud of; as should the other volunteers at Carlton Town. There may not be much to cheer us up on the football field, but off it the Club is in fine fettle. I enjoy the very small part I play as a season ticket holder, 150 Club member and programme contributor. 

It's a football-free midweek; a rare one too. Tuesday teatime is spent in the Cock and Hoop and Keans Head with blog favourite Tony Mac. We finally wander up to Rock City, on Talbot Street, after a quick scoop in the Barrel Drop on Hurts Yard. We're here for Dry Cleaning and there isn't a tumble dryer in sight.

We saw the south London-based band support Sleaford Mods at Motorpoint Arena 18 months ago. They play a superb 90 minute set this evening. Lead singer, Florence Shaw, remains deadpan and po-faced during her narrative. The bass guitarist looks like former Notts County defender Brian 'Killer' Kilcline, who was a Soccer AM arm-wrestling champion.

It's Wednesday morning and I'm already on my second bus of the day; an NCT 35 to Bulwell. My dodgy eye has been bothering me. QMC Eye Casualty is packed to the rafters. I get dealt with after 2 hours of reading cult football magazine 'When Saturday Comes.' It's grim news folks, I've a buckle in my eye and will probably need another operation. That eye will never, ever win - I always remain positive. I can always audition as Gabrielle on Stars in Their Eyes.

I'm back on the train again on Thursday, this time it's to New Street station in Birmingham. I've signed up for an NHS initiative called 'Future Lives.' I get my height measured and weight taken (let's not talk about the latter). My blood pressure is fine, but even better news is that my cholesterol is bang on the money.

There's a spring in my step as I walk out of the NHS centre, exiting the Mailbox Shopping Centre. I feel like Jerry St Clair, off Phoenix Nights, when he gets the all-clear. There's a couple of CAMRA Heritage pubs I want to tick off in the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth. The Rose Villa Tavern and The Anchor Inn are a joy to behold - the latter has a couple of dark beers from Halton Turner Brewing Company. I neck a Lenton Lane ale, later, at the Partizan Tavern, before returning home at the fag end of Ms Moon's working day.

It was sad to wake up to the news of John Motson's passing. John Murray tells an astonishing story during a Five Live tribute on Thursday evening. The radio station used to do a Saturday morning show called 'Matchday With Motty.' Apparently each week he'd make a private phone call at around midday. The  conversation would start with "Hello Alex (Ferguson) could I have today's starting line up please?"

The following day I celebrate the cholesterol test result with a greasy 'Fish Special' from Carlton crowd favourite 'Oceans Chippy.' I walk off an artery-clogging lunch with a stroll into town. I join Tony Mac in BeerHeadZ adjacent to my second home; the train station.

I've done a couple of recces in 'Tory Mansfield', so tonight is no dress rehearsal. Drinking high percentage craft ales isn't, as Tony Mac says, "a game for children." There's a warm welcome at The Garrison from the landlord, who clocks my Notts CCC hoodie. England Women have just lost by 6 runs v South Africa in the T20 World Cup.

I bump into my old boss, Chris Richards, who was Mechanical Engineer at Calverton Colliery. I haven't seen him in over 20 years. He reminds me of the time he took my father, an author, up the colliery dirt tip, one of the biggest in Europe at the time. Dad wanted to write the final scene, in one of his detective crime-thriller books, on the old pit spoil heap.

Pub of the night is in 'Tory Sutton-in-Ashfield.' It's called Firerock and we have walked bloody miles to get to it. We're packed in like sardines as a band is on. Some strong craft ales are chalked-up on the blackboard. We sup most of 'em. I meet up with another old boss from Ideagen PLC, a leading sponsor at NFFC.

I'm fine and dandy on Saturday morning. I rustle up sausages (Tesco Finest and scrambled eggs for Ms Moon. She'll need a full stomach to drink on, as the good lady is off to hen night in Bingham. She drops me off down at the ground.

I buy the best programme in the Northern Premier League as the best DJ set at any ground in the U.K blasts out of the PA system. 'DJ Murph' is in fine form as his team Coventry City attempts to see out a 2-0 win over Sunderland on Sky TV. There's a hair-raising last few minutes, in what John Motson used to call 'mystery time' as the visitors peg a goal back. There's a huge sigh of relief and a clenched fist from 'Murph' at the final whistle.

Another great event has been arranged by volunteer Kelly Marie. Today's guest speaker is Nottingham's own IBF European Welterweight Champion Ekow 'The Engine' Essuman. He's a fascinating storyteller and holds the attention of the room, apart from a yapping dog, with some amazing anecdotes. He was recently on the Tyson Fury v Dillian White undercard and boxed in front of 91,000 spectators.

The kick off is delayed by 15 minutes, which is a good thing, as there are more stories to come from 'The Engine.' Hebburn were late arriving due to the hordes of Newcastle fans clogging up the lanes of the A1, on their way to Wembley for tomorrow's League Cup final. It's nip and tuck in the opening 45 minutes, with not much doing. 

I spend most of the half chatting to Malc Brown, father of Dan Brown, one of Sticky's favourites. Dan is only 22 years old and has a very bright future ahead of him. He has an old head on young shoulders and reads the game superbly. Malc and I while away the time discussing Hull City (his team), Lincoln City and the old Notts Alliance from back in the day. Malc's a lovely bloke and I enjoy my time with him. Hebburn take the lead when a cross isn't dealt with. It's deja vu.

Perhaps 'Murph' will cheer us up with a banging toe-tapping tune at the break. Instead he plays 'Reel Around the Fountain' by The Smiths. Morrissey's haunting, baritone voice sends the home crowd into further depression. I read his autobiography. The first 100 pages were as grim as it can be.

I spend the second half talking about anything but football, as I can't see the Millers hitting the back of the Onion Bag unless substitute Romello Nangle is unleashed from the subs, bench. Topics discussed with John, 'DJ Dan', Lewis, 'Big Joe' and Dean Gripton include: detached retinas, Forgotten 80s on Absolute Radio, best chip shops and pubs, podcasts including Gangster and When Saturday Comes and the best craft ales and real ales to be found in Nottingham. To be honest it's for the best as Hebburn seal Carlton's fate when a whipped in cross is headed home. Fair play to Millers' six jacket Khyle Sargent, who never gives up the ghost.

Attendance: 136

Man of the Match: Ekow 'The Engine' Essuman

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Sheffield FC 0-0 Carlton Town

I've a spring in my step the day after the Notts Senior Cup upset in Mansfield. I whistle "We are the Millers, the mighty Millers", all the way down Listergate. It echoes around the empty buildings, in an area that was once vibrant. The blot on the landscape, an eyesore called Broad Marsh Shopping Centre, still hasn't been knocked down. Nottingham City Council's money jar is empty. The spiteful Tories made sure WE missed out on any 'levelling up' money. The Council haven't covered themselves in glory; a lot of the taxpayers money has been frittered away on disastrous investments in energy companies and propping up Nottingham Castle.

I have to say the new bus station is pretty damn smart. It's my mode of transport today. The rail lads and lasses are on strike again - good on 'em too. Up the Mick Lynch. Tony Mac and I board the National Express coach to Leicester; our second visit within four days.

Shouty, Teesside issues-based indie band, Benefits, are in town at Firebug. It'll be the fourth time we've seen them. They never, ever, disappoint. We tick off the Black Horse on Foxon Street, before heading miles out of town to check-in at a couple of craft ale bars in Stoneygate and Clarendon Park. It's an interesting walk that takes us close to the Leicester Rugby Club ground, on Welford Road, and the King Power Stadium, where there is a statue of former chairman, Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who tragically died in a helicopter crash, close to this very spot.

It's 7 am, Saturday 4th February. Ms Moon and I are in a taxi: destination East Midlands Airport - well it's six weeks since I've been in Tenerife The flight goes smoothly and we're all checked in by 3 p.m. CD Tenerife are at home up in Santa Cruz this evening, with CD Marino playing on Sunday lunchtime in nearby Playa de las Americas. I've given my word to Ms Moon that I won't be attending either game. 

It was so close to being a football-free holiday, but I couldn't resist joining Craig Farina and 'Dave' to watch Nottingham Forest v the 'Dirty Ones' at the Anchor Bar in Costa Adeje. After all, it is my 59th birthday. What a weekend it is too, with most of my favourite teams winning and none of them conceding a goal. I was particularly chuffed for Carlton Town, who won in Tadcaster, to end a wretched run of form.

Seven days fly by in the blink of an eye. We celebrate both our birthdays at two first-class eateries called Coeur De Filet and Restaurant Sebastian - thanks for the heads up Craig and Non League legend John Ramshaw. We're back at home for 8.30 pm on Saturday evening. It's just in time for Ms Moon to catch up with her rubbish TV schedule (Soaps) on ITV X. I'm washed out and turn in for an early night. 

It's nice to return to real ales; boy have I missed them. Sunday lunchtime is spent in the Sneinton Craft Ale Quarter. I enjoy a few scoops in the King Billy and Partizan Tavern before raiding the beer fridge at Neon Raptor for some take-outs. The Mansfield v Millers blog is well received, with over 1000 hits. It's lovely that folk still read 'em, as I've often thought of retiring this diary.

It's Monday evening and there's a bit of a set to in the Woolpack Inn between folk hero Cain Dingle and Kim Tate's fella, who is as thick as a slice of bread. They would have both been shown the door on Amos's and Mr Wilks's watch. A banning order would have been served with names added to the Pub Watch list. I give out a little yelp. "Ooh .... has Cain startled you darling? says Ms Moon, whose eyes are transfixed on the TV screen. I peer over my laptop screen, "it's better than that Love, I've just found out where Brian Clough is laid to rest.

It's Tuesday afternoon. I'm on the 2.15 p.m. train to Derby. The plan was to tick off a CAMRA pub called York Chambers in Long Eaton, have a potter around Derby and grab some tea before taking my seat in the West Stand with the bleating enemy. The mighty Lincoln City are the visitors at the 'Sheep Dip. A team I have supported for over 50 years.

The Clough resting place revelation, from last night, has turned my day on its head. It's the biggest celebrity grave I've visited since Sir Matt Busby in Southern Cemetery, Manchester. I make the short train journey to the picture postcard village of Duffield, in the Amber Valley district. I wander up the High Street before turning up Makeney Road. I climb a narrow path that leads me up into the churchyard. Brian Clough is laid to rest with his beloved wife Barbara. Today is Valentines Day. Fresh roses lay by the graveside.

I end up back in Derby with time to kill. I peg it across to the suburb of Normanton; an interesting part of the inner city. Falstaff Free House is tucked away in the back streets. I quaff a pint of pale ale before making the long trek to Pride Park.

Lincoln are unbeaten away, when I sit in the home end. It worked a treat at Barrow and Barnsley this season. I'm superstitious and keen for this trend to continue. I park my backside in the West Stand. 'The Lincoln' have brought 2,500 fans and they are making a right racket. The Imps are rapid on the counter-attack. They take the lead shortly before half-time. Sticky Palms is sat on his hands and unable to celebrate.

The DJ doesn't stick to the corporate script. There's no 'Freed From Desire' or 'Insomnia.' We're treated instead to Althea and Donna's 1978 Number One hit 'Uptown Top Ranking.' There's a gamechanger on 55 minutes when Lincoln's petulant striker, Ben House, is sent off for his second stupid tackle of the evening, after being mugged off by the impressive veteran striker David McGoldrick.

It's all hands to the pump and like the Alamo as the Rams camp inside our half. We can't quite hang on, but the defending has been heroic and resolute. We have the game's best player in Jack Diamond. He has ran 'the Sheep' ragged, turning them inside out. "Thank God he's gone off" says the bloke behind me. Remember his name; he'll be in Sunderland's first team next season. 

I'm back in Nottingham city centre on Thursday and Friday evening. I have a few scoops with Tony Mac and 'DJ Dan' in Junkyard before viewing indie band Pale Blue Eyes at The Bodega. 'Murph', Roger Wilson and the Horsburghs are all at the gig.

The following evening, I've some creeping to do, as I was AWOL for Valentines Day. Ms Moon and I enjoy a few drinks at Lillie Langtry's. We take a stroll up to Hockley and climb up the steps that lead us to Broadway Cinema. Armed with two bags of popcorn we watch a film that is up for 9x Academy awards, called Banshees of Inisherin. The film is set on a remote island on the west coast of Ireland. It's dark, bleak and not for the faint-hearted. We finish the evening up in the Fox and Grapes, in Sneinton. There's no room for a dirty kebab, that popcorn has done for both of us.

I'm out of the house by 10 am the following morning. It's my first proper away day with the 'Mighty Millers' as a gaggle of fans head towards the Derbyshire town of Dronfield, where the World's oldest existing football club, Sheffield FC, play their home games to the rear of the Coach and Horses pub.

There's another healthy turnout despite a poor run of form. First port of call is the Dronfield Arms. The beer scoreboard is tip top. I have a couple of pints of Wild Light from the Temper microbrewery, based in the town.

Our group is joined by 'Pat' a Sheffield FC stalwart. Gary Clarke gets a football card going in the bar. Pat, a Rangers fan, has to pick Celtic, much to his displeasure, as they are the only remaining team left on the card. Alan Murphy scratches off the winner. Blow me down it's Celtic. A huge roar goes up in the pub as a smiling Pat collects his winnings.

The pint of the day is Thornbridge's 'Jamestown' in the Coach and Horses.  We arrive in the ground shortly before kick off. The DJ adds to the atmosphere by playing 'Heavyweight Champion of the World' by Sheffield band 'Reverend and the Makers.

There's nothing much doing in an evenly matched contest until the Sheffield 'keeper inexplicably handles the ball miles outside of his area. With no sub 'keeper on the bench an outfield player bravely volunteers to go in the nets. Surely Carlton will take advantage. Incredibly it's Sheffield who come the closest to scoring when a 25 yard shot clatters against the crossbar.

The DJ continues his good form at half time by spinning a couple of Badly Drawn Boy tracks - I'm off to see him in a few weeks time at the Metronome in Nottingham. Carlton can't break down the hard-working 10 men of Sheffield. They lack any nous, craft or guile. The best route appears down the left hand flank which Hylton and Howes work well together. The strikers can't get on the end of a succession of crosses.

The fans are frustrated. It's two points dropped and feels like a loss. Fair play to Sheffield, they have toughed it out just like 'The Lincoln' did on Valentines in Derby. Every cloud has a silver lining. A late Chris Wood equaliser at The City Ground sees 'Boatsy' do a little jig of delight.

Man of the Match: Niall Hylton

Attendance: 354