We’re walking towards the main strip in Alcudia. It’s day seven of our family holiday in Majorca. The four of us are off out for a bite to eat. We amble past a bar full of ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds’ fans, who are watching their Carling Cup clash at Darlington on Sky TV. The Groundhopper, The Skipper and Sticky junior poke our heads round the door and shout in unison: “Come on the Quakers.” Mrs P founds it hard to scarper with her high heels on.
Two days later we are in The Flying Scotsman pub, near the Sea Club complex. England are being pummelled by the team in brilliant orange. Scottish fans mock our inept first half display. They dance, jig and cheer as Holland take a two goal lead. I pass their smiling ‘Sweaty Sock’ faces, on my way to the loo. I’ve got my England shorts on. They’re ripping me to shreds. I ask them how they went on against Norway earlier in the evening (I honestly didn’t know they’d lost 4-0) There’s no time for the toilet now, as we all beat a hasty retreat. Mrs P is none too chuffed. She didn’t manage to finish her ‘Sex on the Beach’ two for one cocktail.
The Virgin Mobile phone bill landed on the doormat yesterday. I noticed that Sticky junior had texted the same number 54 times in the last few days, whilst we were abroad, at a cost of £5. He’s asked to ‘step in the office’ to discuss the matter. He goes bright red when presented with the evidence. He grabs a pen and tries to scribble the number out. He’s fidgeting and scratching his head. He’s making out it’s his best mate’s number. I tell him I’ve phoned it (I hadn’t really). He coughs up. His romance is back on with the barrister’s daughter from Plumtree Park. Good work fella.
There was a bad smash on the way back to Leek from Macclesfield on Saturday evening. I exited Moss Rose immediately after the youngest player ever to have played for Nottingham Forest, Craig Westcarr, had rolled the ball into the corner of the net to put the richest team in Nottingham ‘four to the good.’ Thankfully Sat Nav skilfully steered me from Cheshire to Staffordshire with minimum fuss. I was watering the garden by 6.30pm; watched by a startled Mrs P.
Saturday evening was ruined by a text from English football’s friendliest chairman, Terry Damms of Staveley Miners’ Welfare. Having endured a nightmare journey on a clogged up M61 in Lancashire, they then fell victim to a 94th minute penalty, to draw 2-2 in an FA Cup tie up at Squires Gate. I bet a few sorrowful Black Velvets were downed that night.
I’m up at 6am Sunday publishing the Macclesfield blog. I head out to Highfields, at Nottingham University, to watch Notts County’s juniors train. I’m more than impressed.
There’s time for a spot of gardening before the highlight of the day, watching Big Ron Atkinson make a complete fool of himself on Celebrity Wife Swap. What a buffoon this man is.
It’s Tuesday August 18th. NSL champions Bilborough Pelican open this season’s campaign up at Kimberley Miners’ Welfare. Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year, Neil Swift texts me at lunchtime to confirm he’s had his first shave of the summer. He normally prefers to shave his grass rather than his face.
I dash home from work as ‘The Skipper’ is appearing on the BBC1 children’s programme ‘Beat the Boss’ at 4.30pm. We all crowd around the television. It’s lucky we’ve got a widescreen TV otherwise they’d never fit his big head on it. His moment of fame is over in a flash.
I drop Sticky junior off at Plumtree Cricket Club. He’s playing for the under 14s this evening. Mrs P is in a foul mood; she’s wrenched her shoulder and has been up the doctors’ surgery for a pain-killing injection.
I’m on the ring road and it’s rush-hour. Smooth operator and fellow Lincoln City fan, John Inverdale, is broadcasting on Five Live from the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Kimberley is six miles north-west of Nottingham and lies on the A610. It has a population of just under 7000 people. It was once famous for coal mining, brewing beer and hosiery manufacturing.
Mass producing beer-makers Greene King have bought out Hardy Hansons. It’s another nail in the coffin for this proud county. Three times British Superbike Champion, John Reynolds, was born in the town.
I turn into Digby Street with plenty of time to spare. I grab a space for Sally Gunnell in a crowded car park. I like the ground. It’s enclosed and tree-lined. Traffic roars up the nearby A610.
Nottinghamshire grass guru, Swifty has already cheesed me off. He’s got a better tan than me and I’ve been abroad for nearly a fortnight. He’s been working hard, freelancing at Arnold Town’s Eagle Valley.
His godson is Pelican forward Matt Eastwood. He became a father for the first time today and has failed to board the team coach.
Kimberley MW secretary Stephen ‘Hobo’ Hobster greets me. He played skittles with my father in-law last night for the Lord Nelson at Basford. He has a confession to make: he’s forgot the teapot. It’s not a good start.
Hobo and Swifty are soon talking about ‘leaving the top on’, mowers and weed killers. It’s the perfect cure for Sticky’s insomnia, as I grab the chance for a quick forty winks.
Media man Neil Frazer is on the scene tonight. He’s had more clubs than Phil Stant. He’s a good lad though and promises to e-mail me a few photos over of tonight’s match.
I glance at the Pelican team-sheet that Swifty’s written out. I recognise most of the names. There still waiting for international clearance for their Polish import.
Bilborough Pelican kick down the sloping, grassy surface. Poor old Hobo has been here most of the day preparing the pitch. He’s left a bit on it, which is fair play for this time of year. There’s a series of misplaced passes and skew-wiff clearances. The game takes an age to settle down.
Pelican create the clearer openings and look the more likelier team to score in the opening 20 minutes. Former Stoke City trainee Neil Thompson blasts a shot over the bar. Centre forward Danny Blanchard sees the Kimberley MW ‘keeper make a brave block with his feet.
KMW have bundles of energy. Rather than trawl the NSL and Central Midlands League looking for cast offs, they prefer to rear their own. Their under 14s and under 10s are the best in the county. It’s a club I’ve always enjoyed watching and scouting at. Nick Walters, their under 14 coach, is the friendliest coach on the circuit.
KMW take the lead on the half hour. It’s been coming to be honest. Pelican look very creaky in defence. The ball is pinging about in the visitors’ penalty box. It finally falls to Emmet Edwards who blasts home from 12 yards out. Swifty goes as quiet as a mouse.
KMW burst forward again,Tobias Clayton shrugs off the challenge of the gangling Pelican number 5. He slides the ball across the face of goal but no-one can get on the end of it.
Hobo comes round with the raffle tickets. I fancy my chances of breaking my four year duck tonight as there are only 40 or so people in attendance. I buy two pounds worth.
At the break I buy half the ground a cup of tea as I’ve only got a £20 note. East London rapper, Tinchy Strider’s ‘Number One’ track is playing on the radio. I look at where the dial on the radio is positioned. It appears that the KMW clubhouse are fans of Heart FM. I don’t know, no teapot, Heart FM. It’s another black mark, Hobo.
A few Pelican fans complain that their team ‘haven’t woken up yet.’ I didn’t want to point out it’s nearly 8pm at night.
I stand on my own in the second half. Swifty might not be good company. I’ve no idea if the guy is a good loser or not. The Club means so much to him that I know he’ll be hurting right now.
I’m on the opposite side of the ground. I act as a glorified ball boy for the entire second half. Pelican come out all guns blazing. Their right back, Tony Boulton, looks one hell of a player. He plays with drive and determination. He rarely wastes possession and leads the team from the back. He sets up Danny Blanchard who can only find the side netting.
Neil Thompson hits the top of the bar with dipping free kick from distance. Gadsby has a great first touch, a brilliant range of passing, but no longer the legs to get past the opposition. It’s not their night. Their twenty minute spell of intense pressure doesn’t pay off.
Bilborough Pelican chairman, Glenn Russell, is a source of amusement on the NSL message board, with his no-holds-barred postings. Excellent referee, Billy Bingham is not impressed with Glenn’s humour. After being grassed up by the linesman, Big Glenn is sent to the stands (well the other side of the rope actually)
Kimberley go at them again. The young number eight, who looks a class act, and whose twin brother has been immaculate in goal, drives through the midfield, teeing up Jake Fisher to smash home the winner.
There’s still time for KMW to hit the upright and spoon a gilt edged chance over the bar. But they’ve stuck at it and deserve their win for ruthless finishing and effort alone.
I double-check with Hobo the winning raffle numbers. My miserable four year losing run continues.
Attendance: head count 40 and a Jack Russell.
Man of the Match Tony Boulton.