No non-league game for The Groundhopper last weekend. We headed up, instead, to Stapleford to watch ‘The Skipper’ perform on his birthday, at the back of The Jaguar pub. It was not for the feint-hearted; we left with a well deserved point.
I had a cruise around Nottingham Sunday morning on the prowl for talent. I popped into West Park, The Embankment and Regatta Way. There was nothing doing. I got back to HQ just in time to see Sticky junior kick-off against arch rivals West Bridgford. I had to referee the game but came out relatively unscathed. Dare I say it but I actually enjoyed it, particularly the 90th minute equaliser for Keyworth United. I might pack up scouting and referee junior matches next season.
Regular readers of this garbage will know that some clown at work smashed by best Denby teapot. We’ve been waiting an age for a replacement and it finally arrived courtesy of the said culprit. It doesn’t feel the same when you’re mashing though.
I’ve grave concerns about the calibre of person reading my BLOG. I’ve a site meter which enables me to look at all the traffic that hits my site. Anyone typing in ‘Blidworth Dogging.’ (as in ‘walking the dog’) suddenly finds themselves on The Groundhopper’s Blog. Unfortunately on a visit to Blidworth, a few months back, to ironically watch Bilborough Pelican in a Notts Senior Cup match, The Reaper left a comment on the BLOG to say that Blidworth is one of the top Dogging locations in the Midlands. Oh well, it’s getting me a dozen hits a week.
I could have gone to Forest last night but have lost total interest. I’m still bitter about the £50 I spent watching them put in a woeful shift at Birmingham’s St Andrews.
There’s a bright light on the horizon. I text UK Groundsman of the Year, Neil Swift to tell him I’m up at Caribbean Cavaliers at the weekend for their match against Ruddington Village, and that I’ll keep him posted on the score. He texts back immediately to let me know that Bilborough Pelican are hosting Gedling Southbank tonight. Sorted, a chance to check-out GSB, who I’ve never seen play before.
I’m back home from work at 5pm and throw a pizza in the oven. Mrs P and ‘The Skipper are at an athletics meeting in East Leake. Sticky junior joins me for tea but has to bale out with a pint of water as the jalapenos and chillies kick in and are too hot for him; they don’t make kids like they used to.
We jump in the car with ‘The Skipper’ and his mates and drive down to the Powerleague at Lenton where they train. His team have outgrown the place, but it’s a central point for all the boys to meet, train and have fun. His team play with smiles on their faces and that is all down to the relaxed style of the coach.
I can’t bear to have a drink in this dull, depressing bar though, with its dim lighting and slow serving bar staff. After a quick chat with JK I’m back in the car and heading towards Ruddington for a pint at the White Horse.
I need some cash and park up close to the Bricklayers Arms on the High Street. It’s a Friday night haunt for the NSL’s footballers’ gallery. Bring your autograph book and get all the big names, including Barthez.
I’ve not been in the White Horse since a disgraceful, shameful performance with ‘The Nuclear Scientist’ last May at the Ruddington Beer Festival. I have a pint of Jennings Cumberland Ale. I’d mark it nine out of ten. I can hear Andy Williams coming from the jukebox in the bar, singing his 1967 hit Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.
The landlady is complaining that she has to keep off the sauce as she’s doubling-up as chef because her regular guy is recovering from a knee injury. A couple of guys sit alone mulling over the daily papers.
My mobile goes off, it’s a mate I used to work with down at ‘The Pies.’ We exchange small talk. He is a top scout, but works for the dark side. (D***y)
I’m back in the car and already on Lenton Lane, passing Pelican Colts, Greenwood Meadows, Dunkirk and the Michelin star Restaurant Sat Bains. The Brian Wakefield Memorial Ground is rammed. I reverse out and park up next to Grove Farm, where I‘ve watched many a Notts County Centre of Excellence game on a wintry Sunday morning.
The world’s busiest amateur football message forum has been in full swing this week, with arguments still being played out from the previous Saturday’s games. Caribbean Cavaliers goalposts have come under scrutiny for looking ‘shabby’ and ‘not standing upright’: even Swifty has chipped in with a whinge about it. I’ll reserve judgement until Saturday, when I will attend the Cavs v Ruddington game.
It’s a cracking turnout for a school night. Bilborough Pelican have turned up the heat on long-time leaders Wollaton. They are wobbling like jelly at the Wollaton Sports Association Ground; it looks like a few suspensions might be kicking in.
Pelican were formed in the snug of The Pelican public house in Bilborough by Swifty and his mates over a quarter of a century ago. The Pelican Colts ground is named in the memory of Swifty’s mate Dave Eastwood, whose son Matt, is a talented striker for the club.
Nottingham Forest’s Matt Thornhill and D***y County’s Welsh international Lewin Nyatanga both played for the club. Kieron Freeman is another former player who is doing well on a YTS at the Tricky Trees.
Swifty is scurrying about the place on pre-match duties; he’s probably been buffing up his Ransome Mastiff all afternoon.
It was a filthy night on Tuesday, as the Nottinghamshire skies emptied its load on our wonderful county. Even the bowling green surface at Ilkeston Town’s New Manor Ground failed to escape postponement. As I stroll up to the BPFC pitch I can’t help but notice what fine fettle Swifty’s surface is in.
Gedling Southbank are from north of the river. I don’t know much about them but presume it’s an amalgamation as I remember a team called Arnold Southbank. They were formed in 1972. and are second from bottom of the league. They play at Carlton Hill Recreation Ground and I will be getting that one in before the season is out.
I stand to the right of the dug outs closer to the end that GSB will attack in their replica Brentford FC kit. Bilborough Pelican sport a more traditional blue, similar to Gillingham’s.
Pelican are unbeaten in their last 10 outings, whilst GSB produced a shock result a few weeks back at title contenders Wollaton.
BPFC are the quickest out the traps and play with a lot of confidence. They take an early lead with the white-booted former Boatman striker Danny Blanchard firing home from close range, with the GSB ‘keeper rooted to the spot.
They double their lead shortly after through the evergreen Mark Gadsby, who takes a wild left foot swinger, which the GSB ‘keeper can only help into the back of the net.
A grinning Swifty comes sauntering by: “what you reckon Groundhopper 6 or 7?” he smirks. He hasn’t time for a chat as he’s spotted that about ten GSB staff are stood in the technical area, which is against FA rules. He scurries up the touchline to remonstrate with them. They look like they’re off the film set of the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch.
GSB make a valiant comeback and exert real pressure on the Pelican defence with their direct style of play. But they cannot finish for toffee, spurning chance after chance. Pelican are strong at defending corners and have aerial supremacy.
Leading scorer Blanchard puts Pelican 3-0 up, against the run of play, shortly before the break, after more poor defending.
I take a walk up to the clubhouse at the break and purchase a cup of tea for 70 pence. I’m left to mash it myself as it doesn’t come out of a pot: I’m afraid Swifty I can only give it a six. Sky Sports is on the TV set but it’s having a Norman Collier fit.
Swifty is like a local celebrity and is talking to all and sundry. He has a smile as broad as a Cheshire cat; he knows his club will top the table this evening.
GSB are already piling on the pressure and do everything but score. Their number eight (I’ve no team sheet so don’t know their names) is par excellence. He battles away and shoots on sight.
Pelican play with pace and power. Gadsby doubles his tally, racing away and finishing comfortably. He’s surely played at a higher level than this. His touch is deft and his passing accurate. The partnership with Blanchard is devastating and blossoming.
Swifty’s Godson, Matt Eastwood comes on to play a cameo role. They’ve missed the excellent Cory Bowler who impressed me up at Blidworth Welfare. He provides them with balance and beauty.
GSB finally find the back of the net through Lee Elliott. It’s much deserved. There’s been no bad tackles and total RESPECT for one another. The referee applies common sense and allows to game to ebb and flow.
I bid farewell to Swifty, he’s way too busy on the Bilborough jungle drums to notice an exiting Groundhopper. I’m off to Cavs on Saturday to check-out these wonky goalposts; at least it should provide a decent photo opportunity.
The camaraderie in the NSL is second to none, the players even share food at most grounds in the bar after the game. The NSL committee must be applauded for suggesting this.
Man of the Match: GSB 8 Jacket