Sunday, July 20, 2008
Leamington FC 1 Newport County 1
Mrs P, like D***y County defender Claude Davis, has been out of sorts this week. I have generously shared my throat infection with the good lady and she has done nothing but cough and splutter. I’m a firm believer in equality though: she has spent six nights on the bounce sleeping on the downstairs settee
The Nuclear Scientist picks me up at 1pm. We have spent a large amount of the summer getting pished and playing table tennis. He plies me with real ale and tries to take advantage, but I hold the upper hand.
It’s down the A46, M1, M69 and back onto the A46. The Nuclear Scientist talks fondly of the Little Chef Olympic Breakfasts he has troughed his way through on this road. He sheds a tear as we pass yet another boarded-up Little Chef.
We’re in Shakespeare’s County: Warwickshire. We pass signs for historic Coventry. We drive through Warwick and past the castle. NS loves driving his Jag; he thinks he’s Inspector Morse.
Royal Leamington Spa has a population of 45,000 and lies on the River Leam. The New Windmill Ground is out of town. Famous people born in Leamington include: the boxer Randolph Turpin, actor Nicholas Ball, racehorse trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam and footballers Ben Foster and Riccardo Scimeca. They film the cringe worthy BBC “comedy” (?) Keeping up Appearances in the town. For two points what is the name of Hyacinth’s son?
Today’s visitors are former Football League club Newport County. Animal Magic’s Johnny Morris, Stoke City manager Tony Pulis and indie rappers Goldie Lookin Chain are all from the area: youse knows it.
Football in Leamington goes as far back as 1891. They are nicknamed the Brakes and play in Step 4 of the Pyramid. They were cruelly knocked out the play-offs by Stourbridge in front of over 1000 people. A record crowd. British Gas Premier League team Brackley Town have raided the Brakes for three of their best players. There will be a few strangers on show this afternoon.
Newport County play in the Blue Square Premier at Step 2. Their manager is none other than Cockney wide-boy and former Crazy Gang member Dean Holdsworth. Ex-Wolves winger Kevin Cooper and Reggae Boy Paul Hall are in today’s line-up. They are nicknamed the Exiles.
It’s £6 entry and a further 1.50 for a stunning programme. It’s got the lot. We saunter around the ground, the pitch is immaculate. Leamington FC are a very organised and friendly club. There’s an army of officials and stewards at your beckon call.
The PA man has his Best of the 80's CD on. Howard Jones, Bananarama and the Human League can just be heard above the howling wind.
We enter the Ed Mullard Bar and have a Murphy's and a Stella. It costs £5.50. Kids run around the bar with their replica Man Utd and Milan shirts on. Nickelback are on the giant white screen positioned in the corner of the club.
The last time I saw Newport play was at Sincil Bank over 25 years ago. They were 4-0 up at the break courtesy of goals from John Aldridge and Tommy Tynan. I was back home in Nottingham before the game had ended.
The DJ has now moved into the modern era and is playing Dutch Euro dance band 2Unlimited’s Get Ready For This (1991) as the players enter the field of play
We stand on the opposite side to the dugouts. NS is only a little lad and I’m concerned he won’t be able to see over the barrier.
The Brakes kick up the slope with the wind behind them. They seem content to lump the ball forward very quickly, and appear to be devoid of having any game plan. Brakes’ forwards Bellingham and Corbett don’t stand a prayer, although the former misses a golden chance, with Thompson saving bravely.
The Exiles slowly make their way into the game. Adie Harris is orchestrating the midfield and cleverly spreads the play. Both full backs bomb down the wing. They are an organised and well-oiled machine. They begin to show their class.
Walsh and Hughes both go close, before they finally take the lead, shortly before the break. NS has nipped to the loo and I’m in the queue at the tea bar when a Collins free-kick is deflected into the net to put the visitors in front.
The tea is a tad disappointing. A teabag is tossed into a polystyrene cup, with hot water poured onto it from an urn. I’m left to press the bag against the cup and help myself to milk, I’d rate it a 6 out of 10.
I wander off to take a photo of Deano Holdsworth. He throws me a big smile for the camera. One of his entourage suggests I buy Holdo a coffee. I point him in the general direction of the tea bar.
I walk past the terrace behind the goal that Leamington are about to attack. There’s a Scottish flag hanging up from the Kilmarnock Branch of the Leamington Supporters’ Club. A man stands alone further along the terrace, with a Croatian scarf draped around his neck.
The Brakes are now kicking down the slope and enjoy longer spells of possession. Deano has pulled off some of his stronger players.
Large black clouds loom. We retire to the relative safety of the main stand as the heavens open.
The Newport keeper appears to be struggling with the elements. He’s waved at a couple of crosses and looks uncertain. There’s only a few minutes to go and we are making our way towards the exit. Leamington have been awarded a free-kick on the right hand side. It’s hoisted in to the far post, Newport keeper Thompson elects not to come. There’s a series of head tennis between the Leamington players before Guy Sanders heads home. They’ve deserved a goal.
The DJ can’t resist another track from his 80’s collection. We walk out to the Blow Monkeys, Digging Your Scene.
We’re driving back home. NS has put Radio 4’s Test Match Special on. England are been spanked all over Headingley. Aggers has just announced that Scooby Doo has been arrested in the notorious Western Terrace. Don’t worry he says he’ll be back as Batman next year and the police won’t recognise him. We’re doubled–up with laughter.
Leamington 1 Newport County 1
Man of the Match: Paul Hall