Friday, March 27, 2009

Boots Athletic 0 Kimberley Miners' Welfare 1

Boy am I frustrated with Sticky junior at the moment. He’s thirteen, going on fourteen, that dangerous age. We’re not hitting it off right now and he’s doing my duck in. It’s like walking on eggshells. Mrs P has a calmer manner in dealing with his wrongdoings. I’m a little more proactive.

I am awake on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn; it’s probably best that I’m on my own today. I’ve arranged to meet my boss at The Pies, Mick, at The Hemlock Stone in Wollaton Vale, to the west of Nottingham.

I make myself a brew. It’s poured from my china pot for one, and will be the best drink of the day; I’d give it a nine out of ten; I know I’m modest.

It’s 8.30am. I jump in the car and drive down to Ruddington. I park outside Murray’s Bar (the Bricklayers Arms). NSL players will have been propping the bar up last night, chewing over today’s fixtures.

I saunter across the road into The Munch Box and order a breakfast cob; it will probably be the last thing I devour before my meal tonight.

I’ve got a thick head. Too many Kronenberg 1664’s went down the hatch last night. The breakfast cob soaks up some of it. I go to the cashpoint machine; I’m going to need some money for my liquid lunch at the Victoria Hotel in Beeston. It’s in my top ten pubs in the county.

A paperboy whizzes by; he’s got a Notts County beanie hat on. They’re playing my team today, Lincoln City. It’s the first time in forty years that I’ll go a whole season without watching them play live.

I’m listening to the Five Live Breakfast Show. The traffic news is that there’s been accident on the Nottingham Knight Roundabout. I arrive there thirty seconds later to see a car upside down on the island, being winched up onto a lorry.

I drive up University Boulevard and onto Wollaton Vale. The road is dug up close to The Hemlock Stone, due to gasworks.

Mick arrives at bang on 9.30am, and we travel north up the M1, close to Mansfield. I have to keep locations a secret as The Sheep and Tricky Tree scouts come on here to see where I’ve been.

Mick has played over 200 games for Notts County and spent a further five years up at Saltergate. He’s recently come back from Dubai and Hong Kong, following playing and coaching stints.

We watch a low key junior game, but our intended targets perform very well. We arrange to get them in for training. I’m keen for lunch at ‘The Vic’ in Beeston but Mick has another game lined up on our way back home.

It’s tipping down with rain and begins to hail stone. The wind is whipping up into a frenzy. Typically the game goes to extra time. We do the business and head back to Wollaton to pick my car up.

It’s too late for lunch. I’ve looked forward to visiting the The Victoria for a real ale or two all week. I’m starving hungry. Mick bought me a manky sausage roll at the last game, but I’m White Van Man trained, and ate it in one bite.

I drive into Beeston and take a left hand turn south of the town centre. I drive over a hump-backed bridge. The Tom Tom is back home and I’m unsure where the ground is located.

I pull up outside the Jolly Angler and phone a mate from work, who guides me into Trent Vale Road.

Beeston is a town situated three miles to the south west of Nottingham city centre. It has a population of over 20,000 people. Famous folk either born in the town, or have lived there include: the bare- knuckled boxer William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson, fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, Soul singer Edwin Starr and Rising Damp actor Richard Beckinsdale.

The pharmaceutical and retail chemist group Boots has its headquarters on a campus 1 km south east of Beeston. Mrs P spends about £30 a week on cosmetics from the company. Sticky Palms always buys his Gillette Sensor blades from one of their outlets.

I park the car behind a fence, close to the goal Boots Athletic are kicking in against. Their shooting is wayward and skew wiff. I wisely reverse Sally Gunnell out (not much to look at but a bloody good runner) and park up the road, close to Beeston Marina.

I take a nosey around the marina. It’s a hive of activity. There’s a shop open selling tea and ice creams. Optimistically, tables and chairs are laid out for customers to sit down and admire the vista. It’s bloody freezing. I’ve got five layers of clothes on, my Thinsulate thermal gloves and my Next beanie hat.

I walk through the gate at the ground and straight towards a building that is in a state of disrepair. There are cracks to the windows and the wooden frames are rotting. Deb serves me tea with a smile, but minus a teapot; it only gets a six (maximum mark when not poured from the pot)

The pitches look a little rutted and worn. A guy sits alone shielded by some leylandii. We strike up a conversation. I thought he was a sad old ‘hopper’ like me, but it turns out he’s a referees’ assessor. I politely ask if he’s covering my game. Thankfully he’s not, but he does add that our ref, Colin White, is the best in the league.

The Boots boys are trekking their way back to the changing rooms. I manage a quick word with Alex ‘Penguin’ Bowles. We used to work together. He’s playing centre back today alongside ‘The Chief.’

Boots Athletic were formed in 1894. They used to play in the delightful surroundings of Lady Bay. I saw one hell of a Notts Senior Cup game there, a few years ago, when they beat Central Midlands team Clipstone Colliery in a seven goal thriller. The pavilion at Lady Bay was second to none.

I take my tea cup back to the tea room, but I’m prevented from entering as the referee and players are exiting the changing rooms.

I stand opposite the dugouts and cowshed stand. The gale blows behind me and across the pitch,

Colin White is indeed the referee; he was on top form a few weeks ago when I saw him whistle at Caribbean Cavaliers.

Kimberley are Boots’ bogey team; they rarely give ‘The Chemists’ a sniff. Nobody wants to win the NSL. The pressure is getting to a few. Boots are my dark horses. I saw them play a beautiful game on Swifty’s snooker table surface at Pelican.

The game is open and Kimberley are impressive. They win plenty of corners, which hold up in the wind and causes anxiety in the Boots defence.

Boots’ ‘keeper Dean Bonser is playing today despite the sad news that his mother passed away earlier in the week. What a brave man this guy must be, to still want to turn out with his mates, with the tragic events preying so heavily on his mind. He doesn’t want to let the side down and should be applauded for his bravery and courage.

Drama unfolds on the pitch behind us with news of an injury to 49 year old Reserve striker Paul ‘Wily’ Williams. It turns out to be the 29th broken bone in a long and illustrious career.

Despite the swirling wind, both teams try their upmost to keep it on the carpet and counter-attack with pace. Scott ‘Tripod’ Peach blasts the ball wide from a good position, without realising that he has more time on his hands.

Kimberley take the lead with Tony Hapgood smashing home a rebound from close in. Shortly after Boots scramble a shot off the line as Kimberley finish the half the stronger and more confident of the two teams.

I’ve spent the entire first half in the company of Boots secretary Big D, the vice chairman – who’s a little cockney geezer - and Boots legend Gareth Rees (Bradley Walsh lookalike). Rees, despite an impending knee operation, scurries after any stray ball that comes his way, off either pitch. He has just turned 40 years of age, has played over 500 games for The Chemists, but still retains an enormous enthusiasm and appetite for the game.

I bump into Kimberley MW secretary Steve Hobster at the break. He’s blowing a fuse as his missus has booked a Mexican in town for 5pm. He says he’s going to bolt his chicken fajitas and flee up to The Approach to watch the England game.

‘Tripod’ doesn’t show for the second half. Big D enquires with a member of the management team whether Peach is injured. “No he’s just s**t”, replies Miles.

Boots play with more purpose in the second forty five. Sticky’s favourite, Rich Saunders provides them width and balance. The fleet footed Greg ‘Kevin the Teenager’ Whatnall’ orchestrates things in the middle of the park. But he hasn’t the energy of his team mates Scot Boulter and Wayne Jones.

Kimberley are no mugs and are quite happy to let Boots play in two thirds of the pitch. There centre- halves are man mountains. One is the spitting image of Jesus Christ. They shut up shop and close ranks in the final third.

There’s pandemonium on the pitch behind us as Jon Jon Walton has put the Chemists’ Reserves one to the good, with 15 minutes to go.

Boots pepper the goal, but it’s mostly from distance. They have a final throw of the dice when Saunders escapes his marker, swings in a peach of a cross for Gareth Rees to agonisingly fail to get the slightest of touches to steer the ball into the net.

The brilliant referee Colin White ends proceedings, with his his final blow of the whistle. The players have made it easy for him to adjudicate today.

Fair play to Kimberley for their hard earned win. As for Boots, well, what a smashing club. It’s got that family feel about it, that I’ve not noticed in the NSL before.

Man of the Match: Either Kimberley centre back.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ilkeston Town 2 Cammell Laird 1

The final part of Channel 4’s Red Riding Hood didn’t half cheer me up. David Morrissey put in a stunning performance. His pricked conscience swayed him from bad cop to good cop. Thursday night’s won’t be the same without him.

I made my debut for ‘The Pies’ on the scouting front at the weekend. I was out the traps early doors Saturday and watched a couple of top junior teams in the morning. ‘The Skipper’ had a cup semi-final in the afternoon. One or two of his team were way off the pace. They were soundly beaten by Toton FC, 3-1.

I nipped down Platt Lane, Keyworth, to watch the final hour of Keyworth United against Clifton FC in the Nottinghamshire Senior League. It was a scrappy encounter, played on an awful surface. The home team ran out 1-0 victors.

I’ve decided to target Leicestershire on my scout radar. I was up with the larks and in Leicester city centre by 9.30am on Sunday. I saw a big strong Somalian boy score four times. It was enough to convince me to get him down the training ground, despite him being a very raw talent. Former Nottingham Forest, Lincoln City and Notts County striker, Jason Lee will be his coach; he’ll put him right.

The Taxman has a long term sick note, but happily White Van Man and The Nuclear Scientist are aboard tonight’s team bus.

I fly home from a busy day at work. I’ve been temporarily deployed, for the last few days, in our production department. They sometimes have Heart FM on the radio in there. It’s been like the old Chinese water torture. All they play is Shania Twain, James Morrison, Spiller and Take That.

There’s time for a bowl of pasta that Mrs P very kindly rustles up. ‘The Skipper’ whitewashes me at cribbage 3-0. He’s improving with every game and is getting a little cock sure.

‘Athers’ texts me, he’s keen to join ‘The Hop’ tonight. We arrange to meet in the Apple Tree pub car park, on the ‘soulless’ Compton Acres estate, at 7pm.

White Van Man cuts somebody in half at Wheatcrofts Roundabout. The innocent party blasts their horn, and shakes their fist. He performs the same trick to a poor old learner driver at Raleigh Island. He’s clearly looking forward to the start of the Grand Prix season in Australia on Sunday.

There are more roundabouts in Ilkeston than in Milton Keynes. We often balls up the final one, near the ground, but manage to take the correct third exit on this occasion.

It’s £1 to park the car. They all shoot off inside the ground whilst I take a few snaps. It’s £7 admission and £1 for a programme that is from the original game, postponed back in January.

Ilkeston lies in the borough of Erewash in Derbyshire. It has a population of just under 40,000 people. Notable folk from the area include: the actor and D***y County fan Robert Lindsey and Coronation Street’s number one womaniser, the ageing, boring Ken Barlow (William Roache} People may have noticed Ken getting his hands dirty down the canal side just lately, snogging Barnet born Stephanie Beacham, rather than sitting in the living room with Blanche and old turkey neck.

Cammell Laird are from Birkenhead, near Liverpool. Famous people from the area include: Everton legend ‘Dixie’ Dean, Jason McAteer, former Nottingham Forest captain Ian Bowyer, TV presenter Paul O’Grady and indie band Half Man Half Biscuit, whose tracks include: ‘All I Want For Christmas Is My Dulka Prague Away Kit’ and Trumpton Riots. They released an album in 2002 called Cammell Laird Social Club.

The Lairds are Sticky’s all-time favourite non-league team. Like many clubs this season, they’ve fell on hard times.

The chaps are already in the bar. The Nuclear Scientist buys me half a pint of Stella. A group of Lairds’ fans are huddled together in the corner of the bar. I ask them where their PR guy Paul McLoughlin (Glocko) is. He’s missed the team bus due to work commitments. It’s a shame because the guy is one hell of a character.

Blondie’s Heart of Glass and Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise are the pick of the pre-match toons.

It’s beginning to spit with rain as we head out the Social Club door. It’s a sad night for The Groundhopper. Lairds’ wing wizard, the talented Eddie Jebb,has flown for pastures new. Cammell Laird have an empty pot; the most talented have departed. Eddie’s gone to Colwyn Bay. You lucky, lucky people of North Wales are going to see those driving runs, silky skills and pinpoint crosses. The boy could play in the Football League; he’s that good.

The Robins have won six on the spin and are pushing near neighbours, Eastwood Town hard. They’ve become the master of the 1-0 win, despite the loss of their manager, David Holdsworth to Mansfield Town.

Paul Hurst and Rob Scott have taken over the reins, and if anything, they now look even a harder nut to crack.

The match is being sponsored by Nottingham insurance company Clark Dove. White Van Man is tickled pink as they insure his van.

God knows what Athers will think of the game. He’s used to The City Ground and the ground hugging passes that are associated with it (pre Davies). Tonight will be hurly burly and 100mph (a bit like WVM’s driving)

The first half is devoid of any quality. Both teams try to get it down but nobody has the ability to put their foot on the ball. Athers is astounded with the levels of fitness and energy that are in abundance.

There’s a world record amount of throw-ins on our side of the pitch as both teams struggle to cope with the strong cross wind.

The game has become stale and predictable. Athers fondly remembers his trips to Royal Birkdale near Southport to watch the British Open. The three of them turn their attention to rugby union’s RBS Six Nations Championship. I yawn loudly and throw a deaf un.

It’s as dull as dishwater; I bet poor old Athers wished he stopped in and watched The Bill. He’s chain-smoking Marlboro Lights faster than Argentinean World Cup winning manager Cesar Menotti.

The highlight of the half is when Alex pops his head out of the club shop and gives all the old boys, sheltering under the social club guttering, a roasting for not getting behind the team.

There’s hardly been a shot on goal as the tallest referee in the world blows up for half-time.

I shout four teas up and the service is swift. I treat WVM to a burger for kindly driving us all here. People are asking where the burger is; he’s wolfed it in two huge bites. He really should audition for Britain’s Got Talent.

We stand on the opposite side of the ground to the Social Club for the second half, closer to the end the Robins are attacking. I’ve been branded by all and sundry at the break for picking this game, but it’s beginning to look stretched already.

The linesman gives a couple of dubious offside decisions, but ups his game following a bollocking by WVM.

Ilson take the lead eight minutes into the second half. Good work from Cahill finds Douglas who cuts inside and fires a cross field ball to an advancing Sleath, who under pressure hits a deflected shot into the bottom corner.

It’s 2-0 five minutes later with Jon Douglas once again the creator supreme, playing in partner Tom Cahill who makes no mistake from close range.

The Lairds reduce the deficit three minutes later with the hard-working John Corrigan peeling of a dozing Robins’ defender to nod home past a wrong-footed Arron Jameson. They miss a gilt- edged opportunity moments later with the Ilson defence in tatters.

On 65 minutes WVM remarks that ‘there’s some gripper on the western front.’ I turn round to see a good looking lady waltzing past the four of us. WVM is catching flies;he’ll be looking forward to a rub down in a Prague massage parlour this weekend. (Back massage of course)

Ilkeston make a few tactical substitutions and put up the shutter doors. The game becomes scrappy and disjointed. Lairds get frustrated particularly their Number 5.

Little Sam Duncum is dancing down the wing for the Robins. He has quick feet and can use either foot. The Robins have rested up a couple tonight in preparation for Thursday’s trek up to Guiseley, the land of Harry Ramsden. It’s the Badgers of Eastwood who’ve been battered tonight by the West Yorkshire side, as the Robins chase the Badgers’ tails.

Man of the Match: Steven Istead

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ibstock United 0 Greenwood Meadows 0

Boy have I been a miserable old sod this week. I’ve upped sticks and left the Tricky Trees, to cross the water to Meadow Lane. I said my goodbyes on Tuesday evening; I felt sick in the stomach and didn’t realise that people cared about me that much.

I’ve not felt like this since I was forced out of coaching my beautiful team 18 months ago. Lack of support and child protection issues were the reasons then. This time it’s my own doing. I’ve hardly eaten; I’m even off the ale. I believe in loyalty. I’ve only ever worked for two companies in my life. I won’t just put any old coat on, unlike some scouts, who just go from club to club. I don’t even like wearing club colours when I go scouting. I support Lincoln City, end of story.

Have I made a terrible mistake? Has it been a decision made on impulse? Well the damage has been done and there’s no going back.

I went for a look round the set-up at the centre of excellence. They’ve done an incredible job to get it back up and running. My immediate boss is a guy called Mick Leonard, who made over 200 appearances in goal for ‘The Pies’ in the 80s.

The Groundhopper certainly will become a watered down blog next season. I will probably do a game once every two weeks on a Saturday, and perhaps try and get some cheeky midweek games in whilst the night’s are light.

It’s only the thought of watching Channel 4’s trilogy Red Riding Hood that has kept me going this week. Mrs P has been unable to handle the dark, cynical moments that David Peace’s dramatisation has thrown up. She’s hit the wooden hill at 9.30pm every Thursday and left me on my Jack Jones to slug out this gritty, northern epic.

I’m not feeling it tonight though, and have to crank myself up for the visit to north Leicestershire. Greenwood Meadows always put a smile on my face. I rate their management team: Mark Connors, Nev Sillcock and Horace.

I’ve a mate at work called ‘Cheese.’ He lives out Coalville way and has fixed me up to meet with a guy called ‘Scottie’ who’s involved with Ibstock.

I hit the A46, navigate my way onto the A511 and finally onto the A50. Ibstock is in an area of north west Leicestershire which was once well known for its coal mines. The name Ibstock is a derivative of `Ibestoche` meaning the dairy farm of Ibba. It has a population of just over 5000.

It’s a desolate old place and could do with a spruce up. I’m not sure how much coalfields community money has been spent here.

There are a number of teams from around here who also ply their trade in the East Midlands Counties League: Ellistown and Bardon Hill are amongst them.

I park the car up outside the Bowls Club. It’s £4 to get in and £1 for a programme which is a fair effort.

There’s sad news in the programme, some scumbags have burnt down the garage, taking with it three lawn mowers and a line marker.

Greenwood Meadows are tonight’s visitors. Along with Dunkirk, they are Sticky Palms favourite two in this league. I saw them beat NCEL outfit Teversal in a penalty shoot-out back in October; they’ve hardly won a game since.

I nip into the tea bar and enjoy a bit of banter with the girls serving. Tea is poured from the pot and had it not been luke warm then I would have marked it with an eight. The girls have made some rock cakes which should go down well at half-time.

I stand with Mark, Nev and Horace for the first 25 minutes. Greenwood are sporting their Norwich City colours; Ibstock are more like Stoke City in appearance.

Both teams look well drilled and want to get the ball down and play. But they both struggle in the final third, where the final ball is often lacking.

‘Coops’ the Ibstock left winger has got great balance and quick feet. A lad I picked up for ‘The Pies’ a few years ago, Craig Meakin is playing for Meadows tonight; he’s what you call a street footballer. His shirt’s hanging out and he’s gelled up to the hilt. He’s got it all on tonight and has to track back to keep ‘Coops’ in check.

I spend five minutes retrieving a stray ball, which has cleared the perimeter concrete fence and nestled itself in a holly bush; I’m cut to ribbons and throw the ball to a mightily relieved Ibstock sub.

There’s a hunger about these two teams; they all want it. It’s ten times better than the garbage I saw on Saturday. I’m stood behind the Greenwood goalkeeper’s goal when the Ibstock winger miscues a cross. The ball is level with the floodlights and the goalie is having to back pedal. He swears under his breath as the ball fortuitously bounces off the top of the crossbar.

Greenwood are beginning to apply some pressure; they’re a side with pace. Incredibly their forward Jordan Blair smashes the ball against the underside of the bar from ten yards out.

There are only 21 people here, and not many are hanging about for a chat at the break, so I slip into The Welfare to try and keep out of the biting wind. They’re coming off the pitch at The Emirates Stadium, Hull City are one to the good. There appears to be an altercation between members of both management teams in the tunnel. There are a few toys out the pram; it’s mainly finger-wagging.

I don’t bother with a drink and head outside again into that bitterly cold wind. I have a chat with Nev Sillcock during the second half. He’s telling me that they’ve lost a few players since their cup win up at Teversal. People work during the week so you never at your strongest for night games.

Ibstock look a lot stronger in the second period as the Greenwood young guns begin to tire. Ibstock fail to test Meadows’ ‘keeper Farnsworth despite having a stiff breeze behind their backs.

White Van Man has already phoned in twice from The Dovecote to brag he’s seen a couple goals from Shepshed, who are entertaining Stocksbridge Steels this evening. He’s chortling away to himself that I look to be witnessing my second 0-0 in three days.

Stoic defending by young 18 year old Kieran Walker at the heart of the Greenwood defence prevents the Ibstock attack from making headway.

The game peters out to another 0-0 for The Groundhopper. At least I have seen some effort and desire from both sets of players, unlike Saturday.

White Van Man is hammering my phone for the final score. I put it on silent. The last thing I want to do is talk to that clown tonight.

Man of the Match: The Little Asian referee.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bourne Town 0 Wellingborough Town 2004 0

I’ve rekindled my love affair with Notts County after spending three seasons across the water at Forest. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make as I’ve become frustrated with my role as a scout co-ordinator for the Tricky Trees. It just wasn’t challenging enough. I like working for the underdog.

I will be responsible at ‘The Pies’ centre of excellence for the entire scouting operation and I’m relishing the challenge ahead. I fully expect ‘The Reaper’ and ‘Homebird’ to come on my message board and flame me.

I spent two years at County as a scout before they controversially closed their youth system down. I was hurt, angry and said things on the blog that I don’t regret. It’s all water under the bridge now; it’s given me a second chance to scour inner city Nottingham and give boys an opportunity to do something positive in their lives. ‘I had a wheelbarrow ……….’

Mrs P is fuming about the new job; she’s a born Red. So are the kids, too. No-one leaves Forest for County except for Sticky Palms. I’m afraid The Groundhopper will become a watered down affair next season. I will do well to get 20 new grounds in and about 30 games, top whack.

Trumpy Bolton finally got back to me with his preferred choice of ground for Saturday. As regular readers will know his mission in life is to make a financial transaction in every village in England. There is a pub a few miles outside Bourne that he’s never been to. Bourne it is then.

It’s Friday night and The Groundhopper is in excruciating pain. I have a rotten, black molar in the upper part of my mouth that is causing me discomfort. I’m on antibiotics and will take a rain check in the morning.

I’ve not slept well but can’t let the legend Trumpy down. I ring him early doors to check on arrangements; he’s just opening his second McEwans of the day. Oh my God.

Both my boys are playing football today, what sort of father am I buggering off to Bourne with a drunken old fart? I’m watching Sticky junior tomorrow and ‘The Skipper’ next Saturday. I try my best to juggle events in my crazy world of football. Mrs P has a season ticket for both our sons’ teams.

White Van Man has failed to make the team bus. Man Utd are playing Liverpool; he was never going to miss that one. He’d have had full English and will be dozing on the sofa, awaiting kick-off.

I drive past WVM’s house to pick up Trumpy. I toot my horn WVM sticks his fat belly out the window. It’s before the watershed and the sun goes in.

Trumpy comes sauntering out the front door. It’s the same old story. He has his cheesecloth shirt on and a Sainsbury’s lemon and lime plastic bottle, full to the brim with cider. It’s like Groundhog Day.

We drive the scenic route through Melton Mowbray onto the A607. Five Live are wetting themselves over the Man Utd v Liverpool game. We’re just chatting away. Trumpy has been on a few benders since we last met. He’s took Winchester and Abingdon by storm.

Disaster strikes as we approach the A151, it’s closed. Thankfully I’ve the sat nav tucked away in the glove compartment.

Trumpy’s lined up a country pub in the village of Grimesthorpe. Apparently Elton John played in the castle grounds last summer. The road closure has cost us about fifteen minutes. A roaring fire and the Bellamy Brothers on CD awaits us at this glorious countryside inn.

Trumpy shouts up two pints of Tom Woods, which is situated in the Horncastle area of Lincolnshire. We decide to dine, despite a tip-off from Eastwood Town assistant manager John Ramshaw, that there is a top chippy close to the ground.

Trumpy orders a chicken baguette with chilli sauce, The Groundhopper has a smoked salmon and scrambled egg baguette. The music takes a turn for the worst with the dreadful Endless Love by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross. Trumpy commiserates with a pint of strong cider.

It’s a short trip into Bourne and we stumble across the ground. We park on the road as there appears to be no car park at the Abbey Lawn.

Bourne is a market town on the edge of the Fens in the district of South Kesteven in Lincolnshire. It has a population of 12,000. The Wakes are in the United Counties League Premier Division but are having a miserable season and are battling against relegation. They recently parted company with their manager and have a caretaker installed until the end of the season.

We head back into town for a look around. Trumpy is keen to quench his thirst and dives into the nearest watering hole. He has a pint of Old Tosser, whilst it’s just a half of 1664 for Sticky Palms. We are served by the cutest of barmaids.

We take a walk up to the ground and admire the picturesque setting. It not only hosts football but also bowls, cricket and tennis. There’s an open-air swimming pool and a recreational area for kids to play sport and run around in general.

It’s £4 admission and £1.50 for the worst programme I’ve bought in three years of groundhopping. Sorry Bourne but it’s bloody awful. It has hardly any reading content, is full of adverts and is paper thin. A blatant rip off.

The bar more than makes up for it; Trumpy is quick to sniff it out. The legend orders a Magners; in drinkers’ terms, he’s ‘in the zone.’

Reports are coming in that ‘United’ have been drubbed 4-1. I’m immediately on the blower to WVM, but I’m met with with a volley of abuse. I am pishing myself.

I take a walk around the ground whilst Trumpy shouts another Magners up. There’s an old fashioned stand on the halfway line. The rest of the ground is open. A public footpath runs straight through it and makes the place look busy.

There’s plenty of grass on the pitch but the ground looks firm. A strong wind blows down the pitch. It’s disappointing that there’s no music or a PA announcer to tell us all the line-ups.

Wellingborough Town 2004 are today’s visitors. It’s a town 10 miles from Northampton with a population of approximately 50,000. Famous people from the area include Bauhaus singer Pete Murphy and Radiohead front man Thom Yorke.

I’ve bad vibes about the game and have already expressed my fears to Trumpy that it may be low scoring. Wellingborough have only scored 27 goals whilst Bourne have conceded 85.

I’m on the opposite side of the pitch to the stand as the players kick off but spot our man staggering out the bar, stumbling up the stand steps, gripping the handrail as if his life depends on it. He’s waving to me from across the pitch.

I decide to check out what mayhem he’s causing. He’s already made acquaintances with the local reporter from the Bourne Free Press.

The game is dire; the poor hack will have nothing to write about at this rate. The Wakes look the more likely to score, with Wellingborough looking a pitiful outfit. Bourne’s Number 7 misses a couple of good chances and Wellingborough threaten a few times. The standard is shocking. Stewart and Lloyds look like claiming the League title and they were awful when I saw them earlier in the season at Glossop.

The referee gives us all a breather by blowing the half time whistle. Trumpy had already instructed the friendly barman to tuck a couple of bottles of cider away in the fridge to keep cool.

We notice that Nottingham born Brighton manager Russell Slade is enjoying a 2-0 score line against his previous employers Yeovil Town, who controversially went their separate ways a few weeks ago.

Trumpy and I also part company as he slips open another cider. Our new pal of a journalist has now been joined by a photographer who happens to be his girlfriend; God knows what lines Trumpy will be spinning her.

He looks at some of the notes the journo has been making and asks the young man whether he has been drinking as he can’t decipher the scribbles. The hack replies that it is in fact shorthand that he’s been jotting down; Trumpy is impressed.

There’s a huge cheer from Trumpy; there’s been a goal on the far side where some u10s are playing footie with jumpers for goal posts.

The game deteriorates even further, there’s nothing doing and it’s spoilt by the breeze and lack of ability. Wellingborough are terrible. Bourne fashion even more chances despite playing against the wind.

The Bourne captain has been subbed; we’re surprised he’s lasted this long as he looked fagged out after ten minutes. His only contribution to the game is a couple of reckless tackles, which finally result in a yellow card.

The Bourne forward wastes the best chance of the game 5 minutes from time, spooning a shot over the bar from close range. We’re both ready for a hasty exit and bolt out of the gate at the final whistle.

A cracking day out, spoilt by a bloody awful game of football. Nice ground and barman though.

Man of the Match: U10s

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cotgrave Welfare 1 Keyworth United 0

It was a wet, wild and windy day on Sunday morning. Sticky junior was due to rest on the rota, but was drafted into the team at We had to troop down ‘The Lane’ to support him. I had been due to scout elsewhere, but I’m not feeling the love right now.

Along with Athers and Dave I watched the U12s and U13s battle away against the elements. They hardly got out their halves in the second period; such was the ferocity of the wind. They both came away with hard earnt points, although the U12s were cruelly robbed of a win, with a last minute equaliser for AFC Vernon.

‘The Skipper’ went to Laser Quest in the afternoon and Mrs P dragged Sticky junior around Nottingham on a shopping spree. I was left with the simple task of sweeping up a few leaves and cleaning out my best friend’s house: Finley our pet rabbit.

The coast was clear to write the Caribbean Cavaliers blog from Saturday. The first hour was a very enjoyable game but it lost its way in the final third. It was scrappy and littered with petty fouls. Goal scoring opportunities were limited. But I had a cracking day and hooked up with some good mates that I’d not seen in a while. One gave me a piece of advice that is going to change my lifestyle.

Saturday night was spent in the kitchen listening to Five Live and rustling up a smoked salmon risotto. I’d give it a ten out of ten.

It was my turn on the training roster to go to Radcliffe-on-Trent on Tuesday evening. I never complain, as it results in a trip to the delightful Horse Chestnut Tree public house. I had a pint of Sharps from their Cornish brewery.

Mrs P was watching Holby City when I arrived back. I got the hump and sat in the kitchen, eating my Young’s cod, chips and mushy peas. I listened to Watford and Forest. Even old Radio Red was less than impressed.

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m trawling my way through the Non League Paper during breakfast. I nearly choke on my Corn Flakes when I realise my intended game between Histon and Ebbsfleet is postponed due to the latter’s involvement in the FA Trophy.

I’m hammering a text out to my co-pilot and no.1 pishhead, Trumpy Bolton with a list of alternative venues for Saturday’s outing. He’s still pausing for thought, between beers.

I’ve an important, private appointment this evening. There’s just time for spaghetti bolognese.

Mrs P is all set for Relocation Relocation and Grand Designs, Sticky Palms is off to a secret location, to meet an old flame.The meeting goes well, very well. So well that I’m late for the start of the match.

Cotgrave is in the borough of Rushcliffe in south Nottinghamshire and has a population of just over 7000. It lies on the Grantham Canal, but is better known for its old coal mine and the influx of Geordies and Mackems who arrived on its opening in 1968.

The village has had to re-invent itself since the colliery closed over 15 years ago. Money has been pumped into the community and The Woodview is a ground that has benefited from this.

My mate, Kev ‘Wishy’ Whitehead is secretary at the club but sadly he’s absent tonight. He’s probably watching Man Utd v Inter Milan, like most of the country.

I come into Cotgrave off the A52 and past the Cotgrave Place Golf Club, where I’ve attended many a party and wedding. I take an envious look at the Rose and Crown and I’m tempted to stop off for real ale. There’s no time; I’m going to miss a kick-off for the first time in forty games this season.

I pull into the Welfare car park and walk through the gate. I see Dave Hayes from Keyworth who tells me that there’s five minutes gone and Woolwich has already wasted two good chances for The Greens.

The temperature is mild and the air is still. I recognise a lot of folk from Keyworth. I’m not feeling particularly sociable and keep myself to myself, but do manage a word with Keyworth United legend Robbie Marchbank, who’s talking to referee Dave Southern, who I saw officiate so brilliantly up at Awsworth earlier in the season.

I take a stroll around the ground, where I’ve competed for so many years at cricket, and enjoyed the pleasant company of all at Cotgrave Cricket Club. I think of Biffa, what a character he was. His brother Tony is on the subs bench for Cotgrave tonight.

I nearly lose my footing behind the goal as the ground becomes boggy and soggy. I have a quick chat with the excellent Lee Collinson’s dad, who like me, is trying to find the best vantage point.

There’s no Barthez in goal tonight; he’s sunning himself in the Canaries, supping John Smiths Bitter and spending endless time in internet cafes monitoring message forums.

The Keyworth chairman is amongst the crowd as is reserve team legend, Keyworth Tavern lounge- side season ticket holder, the cigar-smoking Alan ‘Jacko’ Jackson. We could have all watched Man Utd or ‘The Arsenal’, we all chose not to.

Keyworth look up for it, which is more than can be said of my last viewing of them at Christmas at Clifton, where they were abysmal. They’ve shored things up. Cooke, Collinson, Ravenscroft and Stanley were all missing at Green Lane. The youth policy is having an early night.

I can hear Simon Miller, the Keyworth left back shouting and yawping that you can “throw a blanket over it” – The Greens are too close together. I thought Big Ron Atkinson was commentating for a moment.

Keyworth zip the ball around the park and work for one another, but their finishing is woeful. One goal would probably lead to two. Leading scorer Woolich is a frustrated figure, but persists in snapping at the heels of the Cotgrave defence.

Sean ‘Billy’ Bremner controls the traffic in the middle of the park. He never appears rushed or hurried and plays with discipline and intelligence.

A ball is swept out from left to right and finds an advancing Matt Tead. He has bags of time to get the ball out of his feet and adjust his body, ready for a shot. But everything is hurried as he slices horribly wide.

Collinson prevents a certain Cotgrave goal with a courageous block, hurling himself at the ball. He is Keyworth through and through, just like his father was.

Keyworth’s cause is not helped by a shoddy linesman who makes mistake after mistake. On one occasion he apologies to a courteous Matt Tead who questions the decision in a respectful manner.

There’s no quarter given in this local derby as the challenges come thick and fast. Keyworth manager Dave Fisk and his faithful sidekick John Heath egg on their team and get under the skin of the opposition.

The referee is struggling though; he’s ball-watching, as players are clattered with the ball long gone. Both sides are guilty of this charge. It’s local bragging rights, what do you expect?

It’s no goals at the break. White Van Man has blagged a ticket for the Theatre of Hate. United are one up he tells me by text. I mimic a Harry Hill yawn.

The lady behind the tea bar is a friendly sort. I stun all my followers and order a cup of coffee. It’s a Dowe Egberts and I’d give it a seven out of ten. It’s accompanied by a Twix Bar. I’m in celebratory mood over my secret rendezvous, about an hour ago.

Keyworth play with no energy or ideas in the second half. They have run out of puff as Cotgrave begin to show their mettle. Despite this Cooke forces a point-blank save from the Cotgrave’keeper.’

Cotgrave turn their attentions to the vulnerable Keyworth left hand flank. Graham their full back comes storming down the right wing, he plays in the industrious, former Keyworth striker Mickey Shaw (Sticky junior’s sports teacher) who finishes emphatically with a low drive into the corner of the net. The goal is breathtaking and not befitting the game. I’m Mickey’s lucky charm, I saw him bag two up at Kimberley last season.

Keyworth try and freshen things up but it’s too late for the subs to have an effect on the game. They get in good positions but don’t pass the ball quick enough. One or two look to be treading water. They fade badly and don’t have the fitness levels or energy of Cotgrave.

Cotgrave skipper ‘Ebo’ is immense and wants the win so badly. Wing wizard Nicholls snatches at two good chances.

Woolwich completes a miserable evening by heading over a gaping goal. Sticky has yet to see him score in three outings and yet, last season he hit the onion bag no less than 34 times,

I spend the final 10 minutes chatting to a lovely Scottish guy called John Ferguson who used to be Cotgrave manager and is now treasurer. He phones his missus up at the bingo hall to tell her that it’s a full house tonight for Cotgrave Welfare. He collects all the corner flags in at the final whistle. I keep bumping into people like him, Wayne at Cavs and Swifty at Pelican.

Man of the Match: Mickey Shaw ( it should keep Sticky jnr in the school team for a while)