Friday, December 18, 2009

Shepshed Dynamo P Belper Town P

It’s Saturday December 12th. The Groundhopper is sat in the Great Gonerby Social Club, a mile outside the town of Grantham. It’s Mrs P’s friend’s 40th birthday party. It’s like a scene from Peter Kay’s Phoenix Club.

My mood is dark, very dark. You might remember that I used to support Lincoln City. My love has been put on hold until that clown, Chris Sutton, is removed from his position as ‘manager. The team I have followed all over the country for nearly 40 years, the team who makes Sticky’s heart miss a beat, when James Alexander-Gordon reads out the Sports Report results on Saturday tea-time, have lost again. Rochdale are the latest team to give ‘us’ a good hiding.

October 10th was the last time ‘we’ registered a League victory. ‘We’ sacked the experienced Peter Jackson and appointed a clown (Chris Sutton) as his replacement. He once refused to play for his country, you know.

He has lurched from one crisis to another. He has no idea on how to manage a football club or team. We are nose-diving towards the Blue Square Conference – at least I can blog them next season.

They’ve no strong beer behind the bar. I’m reduced to tears and cringe with embarrassment, as I order my first pint of Carlsberg in over 25 years. I’m sure I saw a Double Diamond pump in the corner of the bar.

There’s a guy on the stage giving a speech. He fancies himself. He’s probably got a mirror in his jacket pocket. He’s trying to be funny, but is not amusing Sticky. I down my ‘maid’s water’ and announce we’re off. Mrs P looks puzzled, it’s only 10pm.

“What’s wrong with you?” asks the good lady as we head up the A52 towards Nottingham. “Why are we leaving so early?” “Because I want to grab someone around the throat love.” “Who? You don’t know anybody in that room” replies Mrs P. “You know the guy giving the speech?” says Groundhopper “Yes”.” replies Mrs P. “Well his name is Steff Wright and he is the chairman of Lincoln City. He is the man responsible for steering ‘our’ club into the Conference. He is the man who appointed Chris S****n. He is the man who has put me in a foul mood tonight.” We don’t speak for the rest of the journey home.

Sticky junior is cocker hoop. He was loitering down one of the aisles at Budgens on Friday evening, browsing at the chewing gum section, when a stray wallet caught his eye on the floor. It had over £70 in it. He handed it in at the till. Good lad. We still await a thank you call from its owner.

It’s Saturday morning and poor old Groundhopper is suffering again. I slipped down to the Wysall Plough last night and sunk a few real ales. I was with The Architect and Bobby. I draw back the curtains and am greeted with a frost-covered lawn. This could be the first blank Saturday of the season.

I’ve already been tipped the wink that there will be a pitch inspection at 11am at Redditch United’s Valley Stadium. I’ve two hours to kill, so decide to clean the bathroom. I know readers, I’m a domestic god.

Next on the agenda is a date with my furry little friend, Finley Palmer. He’s proper got the face on with Groundhopper. He’s been grounded for a month since I let him out and he hid under the shed for an hour, whilst I shivered on foot patrol.

I clean out his cage, whilst he turns his back on me. I notice that his water bottle is frozen up. Perhaps I should put some anti-freeze in it. It would probably poison the little fella, but hey, at least he wouldn’t die of thirst.

There’s a peace offering from Sticky of some white chocolate drops. He gratefully accepts and eats them out of my hand. I’ll let him out for a run on Christmas Day morning.

I’m looking forward to be reacquainted with the best player I’ve seen in three years of groundhopping today. On Oct 1st 2007 I went to Boston United’s York Street to watch a FA Trophy game. Buxton took a pummelling that day, but they had a guy in midfield with a heart as big as a bucket. His energy levels, tackling, closing down and passing were superior to anything Sticky Palms has seen in part time football. His name is Anton Foster and he has the body of a temple.

The first bad news of the day comes in the form of a text from Eastwood No.2 John Ramshaw; it’s short and sweet –‘game off.’

I scour the World Wide Web. Staveley Miners Welfare have an inspection at 12.15pm. I phone their chairman Terry Damms. He invites me up to the boardroom for a Black Velvet or two if the game is on.

I’m down at the Wysall Plough, collecting ‘Sally Gunnell’ when the call comes through from Terry – “sorry son, game off.” More and more games fall to the weather. Kidsgrove are the latest with a P-P next to their fixture.

As the old saying goes: ‘the further you look, the less you can see.’ Right beneath my nose, on the Shepshed Dynamo website are the words ‘Shepshed Dynamo v Belper Town, match definitely on.’

I’m just walking out the door when I notice condensation on the windows. Somebody has written the words ‘GAY’ in large letters. There will be a disciplinary hearing around the tea table tonight.

The Architect picks me up at 1.15pm. We head across to the dry village of Willoughby on-the-Wolds, close to the Leicestershire border. 'Mad Dog' – Chopper Harris – lives in the parish. The Architect turns his engine off outside Chopper’s crib. He always takes an age to get ready. He’ll be pressing a shirt, putting a crease in his trousers, grooming his hair and polishing his shoes. Bloody hell Harris, we’re only going to The Dovecote.

Sticky plays with Chopper’s cat (Snowball), whilst The Architect strikes up a conversation with the lovely Liz (Chopper’s wife).

The journey is barely twenty minutes, through the rolling countryside. We pass through Costock, Rempstone and Hathern. We’re just pulling up in the Black Swan car park in Shepshed, when Groundhopper’s mobile goes off. I look at the display panel; Screats’ name is in lights: “Game off Hopper.” The official referee has turned up and is unhappy about a 20 metre strip of hard ground.

Sticky Palms is inconsolable, he has to have his weekly fix of football on a Saturday. I don’t know who’s crying more The Groundhopper or a tiny baby waiting for his bottle of milk. I make a few calls but they all draw a blank. Non League football is wiped out for the day.

We trudge across the road and up Butt Hole Lane towards the ground. I see Andy Mac driving out the car park. We wish each other a Merry Christmas. What should have been a great day for the Club and a bumper crowd, has turned into a damp squib.

Dave The Van is selling programmes. I feel sorry for him and purchase one for £1.50. The publication is top drawer.

We have another round of drinks. Chopper enjoys a bottle of Roaring Meg, brewed at Sutton-on-Trent, near Newark.

Soccer Saturday is on Sky Sports on the TV in the corner of the clubhouse. It turns out to be the nearest we’ll get to a game today. Liverpool’s miserable form continues with a 2-0 reverse at Fratton Park.

One or two Shepshed players enjoy an unexpected lunchtime beverage. Screats has already scarpered back to Notts. He’ll probably be joining White Van Man at The City Ground for the evening kick-off.

I’m in no rush to get home. The kids have gone ten pin bowling. We nip up The Salutation Inn in our village. It’s a pub where Sticky got in the way of a stray ashtray 25 years ago. The idiot who threw it burst my main artery and severed all the tendons in my right hand.

We have a few more beers and watch the scores roll in on Soccer Saturday. There’s another 40th birthday party in the corner of the pub. It gives the place a nice ambience. And at least at this party I don’t have to put up with a speech from the chairman of the club I once loved.

Man of the Match: Sticky junior

Footnote: An anonymous Christmas card arrived yesterday for Sticky Junior. Inside the card was written: “thank you for finding my wallet Jack, it was a huge relief. Merry Christmas.” His reward was £5. He was made-up.


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