Sunday, October 11, 2009
Notts County 2 Torquay United 2
‘Gangsta’ proper wore me out last week. He came back to our crib for a run about in the back garden with his bro, ‘The Skipper’ and Sticky junior. By nightfall his new Wolves, white top was covered in mud. I don’t think his mum was too impressed. He’s back on the phone the next day asking if he can come to the Stalybridge v Gloucester game on Oct 24th. I break the news to him gently that Uncle Trumpy doesn’t do kids.
I had a fruitless 160 mile round trip on Tuesday. We’d been tipped the wink about a couple of under 16 players who were playing in a FA Youth Cup game down south. Having battled our way through rush- hour traffic, on the motorway, we finally arrived at the ground 15 minutes before kick-off. I blagged a team sheet off the secretary and scanned the list of players’ names. Neither boy was on it. Oh well, it could have been worse. At least I wasn’t forced to watch an episode of Holby City.
It’s Thursday evening. Sticky junior has dashed down to Keyworth United FC HQ. BBC East Midlands Today are doing a live interview with his team mates. They are all contributing to a Shoebox Appeal for our armed forces out in Afghanistan. I’ve given Sticky jnr a few lyrics. I sit in front of the TV in excited anticipation. He fools around during the interview and has his finger in his mouth. It’s what’s known in the trade as stage fright.
There was no intention of going to a game this weekend. The plan was to watch my two boys play, do a bit of scouting and potter about in the garden. It was suddenly brought to my attention that the World’s oldest football league club were kicking off at Sunday teatime. Well, it would be rude not too, eh Mrs P?
It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m up at Keyworth Playing Fields. I’ve been out scouting since 10am. I’ve picked a couple up of promising kids. My mood is good. We’ve just watched ‘The Skipper’s’ team win 6-4. All eyes are on his older brother, whose development as footballer, just lately, is nothing short of astonishing.
Sticky junior is a crowd favourite. He has beautiful balance and magic feet. He bamboozles the opposition. The crowd ‘ole.’ It’s too much for the opponents. They resort to ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds’ tactics. Junior is scythed down. His marker is asked to leave the field. Sticky junior says ‘bye bye’ to him.
I’m still chuckling away to myself, later in the evening, over a glass of wine, as Mrs P watches karaoke (X-Factor). I’ve knocked up a fish curry from a recipe I saw on my favourite TV programme – Come Dine With Me. It’s unmissable television. The narrator is first class at the art of Mickey taking.
It’s Sunday, 7am. I make a cup of tea and boot up the laptop. The wires are red hot with reports of the untimely death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gateley. Mrs P is going to be upset about that one.
I head up to Awsworth to watch an under 15 match. It’s bitterly cold stood up on the grass bank at The Shilo. I’m soon heading towards Highfields, close to Nottingham University. The Pies’ Under 16s are playing some trialists against Mansfield Town.
Sven Goran-Eriksson is gazing over our youth. You got to take your hat off to him. The guy’s commitment never ceases to amaze me. He’s not just there for the ride. Most Sundays he can be found watching our junior teams.
I’m back for 1pm. Mrs P is scything down and cutting back in the garden. I lend a helping hand and let Finley Palmer out for a run.
I pick up The Angler (Mrs P’s dad) at 4pm. The Taxman is a late withdrawal due to a runny nose. Sticky jnr is in town. I’ve arranged to meet the clown outside the black iron gates. He’s let his mouth run away again in town and had an altercation with another Big Issue seller.
It’s been a strange old week for the World’s oldest football league club. Events and goings-on are shrouded in mystery. The owners remain unknown (to us) and unnamed. The Football League have deferred a decision on whether to rubber stamp the takeover.
Rupert Murdoch’s media mafia continue to print endless drivel. Those lazy Cockney journalists won’t get off their fat Fleet Street arses (or wherever they print their toilet paper these days). They’re just jealous it’s not a Premiership or a London club. It’s little old Notts County. Their stories should be full of romance, magic and nostalgia, not spite, rumour and ridicule. They’ve met their match in executive chairman Peter Trembling. He bats off their awkward questions with ridiculous ease.
Second from bottom Torquay United are in town. They should be rich pickings – not one win in the last seven outings.
Torquay is in South Devon and has a population of just under 65,000. It is commonly known as the English Riviera. Famous people from the area include: hotelier Basil Fawlty, the comedian Peter Cook, Soccer AM presenter Helen Chamberlain and murder mystery writer Agatha Christie. How Keyworth police could do with a Miss Marple to delve into all those unsolved shed burglaries and vandalism to cricket pitches. It would save time on just dishing out a crime reference number.
Back in 1985, Sticky was on tour in Torquay. I had endured a winter of discontent during the miners’ strike and had witnessed at first-hand the sickening actions of our beloved Metropolitan Police on the front of the picket lines and their brutal assault of a workforce fighting for their future. I found myself, one balmy summer’s evening, after a shed load of cider, standing outside Torquay Central Police Station singing at the top of my voice: “Maggie’s Boot Boys.” They were too busy dunking McVities digestive biscuits, into endless cups of tea, to bother feeling Sticky’s collar.
In 1987, Torquay, Burnley and Lincoln are all one game away from reaching the Vauxhall Conference. It was looking good for ‘The Imps’ until the 89th minute at Plainmoor, when a police alsatian dog, called Bryn, took a chunk out of Gulls’ midfielder Jim McNicoll’s leg. The referee played 4 minutes added time, in which Paul Dobson grabbed the winner. Lincoln City were relegated. The Mayor of Torquay supplied K9 with free steak for a week and people wonder why I’m anti-police.
We’re sat in the back of the Derek Pavis Stand. Sticky junior has scuttled off to the front with his daft lad mates. Around 200 Gulls’ fans have made the 460 mile round trip from Plainmoor.
The Killers and Kings of Leon are the pick of the pre-match toons. The Angler is a Magpie casual. He’s been with me about dozen times in 15 years and has yet to see ‘The Pies’ win.
County begin the game at a quick tempo and get at the visitors. Ritchie whips a cross in from the left, Lee Hughes’ goal-bound header is tipped over by the Torquay keeper.
We don’t have to wait long for the opener. Torquay only half clear a County free kick. The ball falls to an onrushing Craig Westcarr, who blasts the ball through a crowd of players and into the net.
The Pies are rampant. Ben Davies is behind it all. He plays at a heartbeat, covers every blade of grass and keeps the ball moving. But it’s the Gulls that go close with Schmeichel smothering an effort by Elliott Benyon.
Michael Poke, the Torquay ‘keeper makes a string of fine saves from Westcarr, Davies and Ritchie. He can do nothing about a skilfully executed free kick from Davies on the half hour.
County look comfortable but are unfortunate to concede a free kick on the stroke of half time. The ball is curled into the box by former Pie Kevin Nicholson. Nobody takes responsibility as Mark Ellis pokes a foot out to steer the ball into the net. It’s took the gloss off a fine footballing fiesta. But it must be gripping for the neutral.
The goal gives Torquay confidence and they poor forward after the break. County can’t cope with Nicholson’s long throw and dead ball technique. Kaspar’s rooted to his line and the full backs fail to defend their posts. The centre backs struggle to deal with the aerial bombardment.
The Gulls rack up chance after chance, as their power-house forward Tim Sills roughs up the Notts’ defence. Ellis, Benyon and Sills all miss gift-wrapped chances.
Notts have disintegrated. Bishop is out of position at right back. Westcarr, Ritchie and Edwards struggle to stay on their feet on the greasy surface. Their playmaker Ben Davies can’t get on the ball.
Torquay get their reward on 77 minutes with a scruffy equaliser from the dangerous Sills. The teams slug it out in an exciting final quarter. Davies draws a save from Poke and Hawley somehow sees a header come back off the inside of the post.
It’s been an absorbing encounter, enjoyed by a crowd of nearly 9000. But Torquay are well worth the point.
Man of the Match: Torquay back three.