Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Hinckley FC 1 Gresley FC 1
It’s a Monday evening in autumn 2002. Sky Sports cameras are at Nottingham Greyhound Stadium in Colwick Park. Smooth operator Jeff Stelling is presenting the show. I have a vested interest in tonight’s proceedings; I’ve bought the back leg of a greyhound for £200, plus monthly training fees.
The dog is called Prince Red Inca. It’s a play on words for a ‘red inker’, in cricketing terms (not out*). ‘The Prince’, if he gets a good start, is like shit off a shovel. It’s Finals Night; the prize money is £1500.
All the lads are trackside. Sticky is laid up on the sofa, streaming with cold. The trainer has told us we’ve got ‘Bob Hope’ of winning the race. Our dog is priced at 16/1, the rank outsider.
The owner of the track has a dog running in our race, he’s a firm favourite. He patronises the boys during his interview with Sky. “Yeah, they’re a bunch of locals who are just having a bit of fun”, he remarks about our syndicate.
It’s time for the feature race and the hare is running, ‘The Prince’ flies out the traps and hits the first bend in front. I take a sip from my hot toddy and begin to focus on the TV set.
Prince Red Inca is on full power. He’s still in the lead on the second circuit as he approaches the final straight. I’m now jumping up and down, Mrs P is doing a Highland fling and the kids are bouncing off the walls.
He’s under pressure from the favourite just metres from the finishing line. ‘The Prince’ and his opponent cross the line neck and neck. It’s too close to call. It’s a photo finish. Mrs P is all over me like a rash, the kids are telling me they love me.
The stadium announcer declares the result as a dead heat. They’ll still be paying out on odds of 8/1. “How much Dad? How much have we won?” shouts Sticky junior. “Erm, erm, nothing, the trainer said not to bother putting a bet on.” It’s three days before anybody bothers speaking to me again.
The weekend is a football fiesta. I spend Saturday morning in the company of former Notts County forward Iain McCulloch; he is proper funny. He tells me a few anecdotes from the Jimmy Sirrell era, as we view a schoolboy tournament at Highfields Sports Fields, in Nottingham.
The Notts County Youth Team, coached by former Pie legend Michael Johnson, are playing at the training ground, just a five minute stroll away. We take in the second half. Our youngsters are fortunate to come away with a 1-0 victory.
I help coach ‘The Skipper’s’ team in the afternoon as they pick up a valuable point in their fight against relegation.
The highlight of the day is a curry and a good film on Saturday evening. Taggart has recommended I watch ‘In Bruges’ on Film Four. It’s a black comedy directed and written by the Irishman. Martin McDonagh. You have to cusp your ear to catch the softly spoken Irish accent of Colin Farrell.
I manage to see Sticky jnr and his box of tricks on Sunday. He performs a couple of nutmegs and deals with a wind-up merchant in a street-wise kind of way. The talented head-strong teenager is booked in for his first Tricky Tree solo mission. It’s a rather low-key affair at ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds’ on April 2nd. His mum will be having kittens.
It’s Tuesday, the day of the game. I’m having a running battle with a supplier at work and have just about reached the end of my tether. I’m on Day 6 of cycling to work. The ride home is relaxing. I shower, shave and feel fully refreshed.
Mrs P has cooked us up some meat balls and spaghetti in tomatoes and chilli. We mop it up with garlic bread. The good lady is not best pleased, Sticky jnr’s team are down on the rota to clean out the KUCFC Clubhouse and changing rooms. It’ll be the same old people turning up, with the shirkers shirking.
‘The Skipper’ and I jump in the ‘Rolls Royce’ and head up to the ‘astro’ at Keyworth Leisure Centre for his team’s training session. Snooksey and ‘The Skipper’ are made to run two circuits of the pitch for fooling around.
I slip away at 6.45pm to pick up ‘The Taxman.’ Within minutes we are heading down the A46, onto the M1 and along the M69 towards Hinckley.
‘The Taxman’ has been toiling away all day at his art class. His latest effort is a painting of the picturesque North Devon fishing village of Clovelly.
Barking born John George Terry (a player Chelsea nicked from the West Ham Academy) is on Five Live, trying to justify his reappointment as England skipper.
The Tom Tom has a bit of a wobble as we approach Hinckley, but we finally find the Leicester Road ground after mistakenly pulling into the Rugby Ground.
Hinckley is a town in the south west Leicestershire, with a population of 43,000. It’s well known for its history of making hosiery and stockings. Castle Street is the first known location of ‘Luddism’, where disgruntled workers took sledgehammers to their machines. The Ashby Canal passes through the town.
Notable people born or have lived in the area include: Human League front man Philip Oakey, actress and dancer Una Stubbs and Coronation Street fruit-cake John Stape (Graham Hawley).
Hinckley FC (previously Hinckley Downes), ground share with Blue Square Conference North team Hinckley United (who I recently saw share the spoils at Stalybridge), at the Greene King Stadium.
It’s a top class venue where Aston Villa and Leicester City's second string play their reserve games. We enter from behind the goal, where there is covered terracing. It’s £5 on the turnstile. To our left is a large main stand, whilst another covered terrace runs along the opposite touchline. The far end is open; making it to all attempts and purposes a three-sided stadia.
Both teams appear to be shelling out some dough and are in a rich vein of form. It’s a game for the football purist. Hinckley have already had Julian Joachim and Tony Thorpe turn out for them this season.
I’m stressed out readers; my new camera is playing up. Or should I say the buffoon who attempts to take the photos has pressed the wrong button and can’t get the viewfinder to boot up.
Gresley FC, attack our end and are already pleasing on the eye. Their Number 10, Brian Woodall has impressed ‘The Taxman.’ I make some discreet enquiries with some neighbouring Gresley supporters. It appears the young man has bagged a deal with top talent spotter John Still at League One’s Dagenham and Redbridge.
Hinckley keeper’ and skipper, Elliot Shillam, is a busy bee in the first period. He might have a voice like a foghorn and appeared to have enjoyed ‘National Pie Week’, but he’s no mug in the nets. He saves bravely at the feet of Spencer. Shilliam also has a kick like a mule; it’s something I remember about him from his previous clubs Kirby Muxloe and Anstey Nomads, as well as his constant droning.
The home team have a golden chance to take the lead, totally against the run of play. Jermain Gordon pounces onto a through ball but is wiped out by Gresley stand-in keeper’ Darren Keeling, with two Gresley defenders protecting the goal.
Keeling is correctly shown a yellow card by referee Kevin Allen and saves a poorly struck penalty.
Shortly before half-time, with ‘The Taxman’ poised for a trip to the tea bar, Gresley take the lead with a beautifully executed free kick, curled over the wall by Dagenham bound Woodall.
We can’t mark the tea as it’s a DIY effort. If any non league club, within reasonable distance of Nottingham, would like my services, free of charge, so I can show you how to make endless pots of piping hot tea, then please leave me a message on my blog and I’ll draw one out a hat.
We’re perched up high in the stand. The winning programme (I use that word loosely) number has been shouted out. My five year barren run continues; I’m seven off the winning prize.
Gresley have to clear off the line as Hinckley press for an equaliser. Gaps in the midfield encourage Gresley to return to their fluent passing game. Brian Woodall nonchantly flicks a cross in with the outside of his boot, Spencer’s downward header bounces up onto the underside of the bar.
The visitors waste endless time. They disrupt play with substitutions. The player coming off takes an age to trudge to the bench.
Rob Spencer shows all his studs in challenging the Hinckley 5 jacket, who retaliates by shoving the forward in the chest with both hands raised. Both are cautioned, the latter’s a lucky lad.
Gresley are desperately running the clock down when the 5 jacket heads home an injury (added on) time equaliser right at the death.
A small, unsavoury element of away fans, abuse the referee. The blame lies squarely at the feet of their team, who have missed enough chances to win a hat-trick of games.
Man of the Match: Rob Spencer (despite poor finishing).