My oh my, Sticky Palms was nursing one hell of a hangover last Sunday. I’d been to the Cricket Club’s annual dinner the night before. I caught up with a few old friends and gave the old Rioja a bit of a tonking. Sticky junior cheered me up with a spirited performance for his under 13 team, before finally going down 5-4 to the last kick of the game.
“Where’s Goole?” Flipping heck Mrs P has been reading the first paragraph of the blog again. She’s rumbled that the White Van Man and I are heading north on December 13th to watch Shepshed again. I’m surprised she didn’t interrogate WVM when she caught him at the bacon and pie counter, not for the first time, at Sainsbury’s the other evening.
Mrs P is in sparkling form at the minute. Saturday night is her Tic-Tac-Toe: Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor and I’m a Celebrity. The Groundhopper seeks sanity in the kitchen, listening to Five Live’s Premiership evening kick-off.
I’ve sat and watched Ant and Dec, with their lame jokes, and camera crew canned laughter. I’ve racked up the creepometer points; it’s another week without a midweek game. I’ve my eye on two in two days next week.
It’s Saturday morning and I’m filling the car boot up with branches off the trees I cut a few weeks ago. I tell Mrs P I’m off down to the recycling centre. On the way back home I can’t resist popping in to West Bridgford’s West Park to watch a few junior matches.
One or two of the coaches bawl and shout at the kids. They scratch their heads in disbelief that the instructions they bellow out are not carried out by the players. Some play with genuine fear. Every coach should read ‘You’ll Win Nothing with Kids: Fathers, Sons and Football by Guardian journalist Jim White. It epitomised my one dreadful year I had in charge of a team. I couldn’t walk away quick enough.
I drive away from West Park quite upset. People often ask why I don’t always watch my sons play. The above paragraph is the answer why. When I coached, I encouraged the boys, it somehow got results.
On the way out the car park I spot the Notts County centre of excellence manager strolling around the ground: those bloody Pies are everywhere.
Eammon Holmes is on the radio. He announces that Southampton ‘singer-songwriter’ Craig David is to be a guest on the show. Holmes claims that the R&B star has sold 13million records worldwide. I nearly crash the car. Never mind naming and shaming BNP coppers on the net, let’s have a list of the idiots who bought all his albums. I bet they are going at two for 50 pence at Colwick Car Boot Sale.
‘The Skipper’ has a cup game in town today. He confesses to not having cleaned his boots. He gets the hairdryer treatment off dad. As captain he should lead by example.
Just before I leave White Van Man is on the blower. He’s all buffed up for his West Bridgford shandy bender. He’s splashed the Brut all over. He has a load of friends coming over from Norwich for the evening kick-off at the Tricky Trees.
I haven’t a Scooby Do which way to go today. I opt for the A453, A50 and A38. It takes 45 minutes. Holbrook is a charming village. There’s an array of pubs to choose from. The Dead Poet’s Inn looks the pick of the bunch, but I’m running a little late and can’t find the ground.
Holbrook is a village 5 miles north of D***y and lies on the southern tip of the Pennines. It’s close to the old mill town of Belper, which has one of my favourite football grounds.
Holbrook Miners’ Welfare FC were formed in 1996. They are nicknamed The Brookies and play on Shaw Lane in the village. I get myself in a terrible pickle and can’t find the ground. An elderly gentleman, walking his dog, guides me in the right direction. Santa, that Tom Tom can’t come soon enough!
I pull up in The Welfare car park. They’ve never had a coal mine here but apparently a lot of miners lived in the village, hence a Welfare. The views into the D***yshire hills are delightful, even on a bitterly cold day.
Dave Harbottle’s big guns, Dunkirk, have rolled into town. I spoke briefly to him last Sunday. He was bitterly disappointed with their 2-0 reverse at Blackstones in the FA Vase. They were a bit skinny that day, but are nearly at full strength today.
It’s £3 entrance. I ask for a programme. I’m told they’ve sold out. I look around the ground there are about ten people milling around. Everyone else is in the Welfare. I ask what sort of print run they have. I’m told, in fact, that the printers have let them down. Urm.
I wouldn’t fancy it here on a gusty old day. Boy, I bet it’s bleak then. The pitch is on a slope and has taken a battering from the elements and a midweek game. On one side of the ground there is shelter under the Robert Parker Stand. This is named after a player who died suddenly at the age of just 27.
I checked out the website before I came and it’s excellent. And it’s a bloody good job it is, as where else would I get my information from?
Dunkirk’s personnel are unrecognisable from the team I saw thumped 4-1 by Alvechurch in an FA Cup qualifier back in August. Carder and Soar provide strength at the heart of the defence. Ex Chasetown cup hero and Forest trainee Nick Hawkins is in centre midfield. Whilst the much travelled pairing of Aaron Brady and Alan Jeffrey provide the firepower.
Dunkirk come flying out the traps. Speed merchant Adey Bascombe really should have given them the lead in the early stages, but his shot is blocked by the ‘keeper. Tom Baker also misses two good chances. Harbottle is furious.
One or two of ‘The Boatmen’ start to bend the referee’s ear. Harbottle’s having none of it and tells his players to stop making excuses and get on with it. He manages a quick hello to me, in between snarling at his team.
Holbrook improve in the final quarter of the half and force Darren Wheater- Lowe into a couple of fine saves. Both teams look to keep it on the carpet.
I’d seen Nick Hawkins playing for Quorn a few months ago and thought he looked a bit tasty that day. No disrespect to Dunkirk, but I’m shocked and surprised he’s chose to pursue the game at this level. He’s having a bad day at the office. He’s scuffed a couple of corners and shanked a free-kick. He’s beginning to get frustrated and it’s having a knock on effect on the rest of the team.
My feet are numb and my body is shivering. I follow the 35 strong crowd into the Welfare. I’ve only got a £20 note and realise they may struggle to change this at the tea bar. They haven’t got change, and were going to let me have a freebie; thankfully a punter comes to the rescue and changes my money.
I don’t know if it’s because of the weather but I’d rank the tea with an all-time high mark of nine. Len Goodman would have given it a ten. Notts County are 3-0 down at Dagenham. Ian McParland won’t be crowing about this result, like he was at Barnet last week.
We’re all back outside again, braving the elements. I’m not really up for it and neither are Dunkirk. An alehouse ball comes sailing through the air, Carder tries to guide it back to his ‘keeper, but gets too much on it, Wheater- Lowe has raced out too far. A lapse of concentration and Dunkirk are behind.
Dunkirk withdraw their ineffective forward line, who in fairness, have received very little service. Phil Massingham shows more desire and skill. He holds the ball up, awaits support and plays people in. But they still can’t work the ‘keeper.
The winning goal is a beauty. Holbrook sweep the ball across the pitch from left to right. A diagonal long range cross is expertly headed home by Joe Ashdown.
There’s a late rally by Dunkirk but it’s not to be. Their bench is disconsolate, the players know they have under achieved. I’m hardly their lucky charm; in five attempts I’ve yet to see them win.
The game should have been put to bed in the first twenty minutes, but Holbrook rode their luck, and won comfortably in the end.