Saturday, August 27, 2011

Clipstone Welfare 1 Yorkshire Main 2

We’re walking hand in hand around the streets of Paris. The pavements are sun-kissed and romance is in the air. I’m sick of football, groundhopping, scouting, coaching and work. It’s been a gruelling, punishing season I (we) need a break.

We scale the Eiffel Tower and have a Champagne cruise down the River Seine. We drink Muscadet and devour moules mariniere. The hotel is par excellence.. We adore the cafe culture and the slow pace of the city.

We’re back in the room resting before evening dinner. JK has recommended a rustic eatery just around the corner in St Michael’s Square. I foolishly turn my phone on and immediately hear the message alert tone. I click the button. My weekend is in tatters, ruined. I want to go home.

The text is from Gangsta’s Dad. New readers let me explain. Gangsta is my Godson’s little bro. We’ve had him at the Notts County’s u7s development group for six months now. He is showing promise and is like shit off a shovel.

Today he has been playing in the Cotgrave Tournament. The text says he has been invited in to our bitter rivals from across the water. Their scouts have missed him time and time again. He’s been spotted by a proper scout. A man who worked for Brian Clough for many years.

Oh well, I’m not bitter. I won’t take it personally. I haven’t spoken to Gangsta since ‘that text’, it’s nothing personal. I hope his team, Wolverhampton Wanderers, are relegated this season. That’ll teach the cheeky Red Dog a harsh lesson.

I’m in the Warehouse at Ergo Computing, a company I’ve worked at for 12 years now. ‘Goods In’ legend ‘Shifty Edwards’ is spitting feathers. He’s booting cardboard boxes about the place and sulking more than Forest’s Lewis McGugan.

I ask him what the matter is. He says he doesn’t want to talk about it. I dig a bit deeper and find out the real reason. Apparently he is unable to ‘listen again’ to the Steve White Northern Soul and Motown Show on Radio Sheffield because it got cancelled, so they could broadcast live from Goodison Park for the Everton v Blades League Cup tie. “Man up, Shifty lad.”

It’s Friday evening. I was hoping for an early drink with Mrs P and a quiet night in with a few Stellas and a bottle of wine. I’ve completely forgot that I’m due at the Tropeiro Brazilian restaurant on King Street in Nottingham. It’s housed in the old Hard Rock Cafe building.

I really have to crank myself up for going out. I’m not feeling it folks. I have a couple of Sagres beers and enjoy the experience of the rodizio (continuous service). You are given a beer mat with a red and green side. If you leave the green side up the waiter will continue to serve you. If you leave it on red it means you are stuffed.

I decline a drink after the meal and walk off my churrasco (barbecue). It’s siling down with rain as I walk alone down London Road and onto Trent Bridge. The floodlights shine brightly at Meadow Lane. Nottingham Rugby Club must be at home.

It’s 3am. I’ve woken up with a raging thirst. Those bloody Brazilians. How the hell does that Anderson bloke cover every blade of grass at Old Trafford, after going to one of them Brazilian barbeques?

I’m helping Sticky jnr on that damn paper-round again. He flicks on 96.2 Capital Radio, a station I despise. It's a bit early for 'Down With the Trumpets' by the Rizzle Kicks.

The newspaper headlines are depressing. Four English children are orphaned on a family holiday in Morocco after both parents are found dead in separate incidents, report the Daily Mail.

I’m driving up to the bottle bank, Mrs P’s empties (bottles of Pinot Grigio) need disposing off. I hope I’m not behind Trumpy Bolton in the queue.

‘Fighting Talk’, hosted by the distinctly average Gabby Yorath, is on Five Live. They’re talking about famous footballers who have disappeared off the celebrity radar. John Fashanu’s name crops up. I remember him arriving at Lincoln City from Norwich City for £15,000 in the early Eighties. It transpires that he now hosts the Nigerian version of Deal or No Deal.

I’m sat on the sofa waiting for White Van Man to pick us up. ‘The Skipper’ is joining us on ‘The Hop’ today. We’re watching Aston Villa versus Wolverhampton Wanderers in the ‘most exciting league in the world.’ It’s 0-0. If Alex McLeish gave a free coaching lesson on our back lawn, I’d shut the curtains.

We’re travelling executive style today. White Van Man is already trying to wind me up. He’s got Absolute 80s on the radio. Some awful UB40 track filters out the sound system.

WVM is piloting towards Cotgrave, ‘The Skipper’ tells him he’s missed the turn for Clipstone. Bless him, he thought we were going to Clipston near Tollerton. He’s proper got the face on.

Next weekend about 20 of us are off to North Wales for a long weekend. We’ve hired a big house on the cliff top in Abersoch. WVM reminds me that we’ve got an ‘Abba Gala Night.’ I must buy some white socks and a false beard.

As we’re driving up the A614 Absolute 80s comes up trumps with the Talk Talk’s classic 1986 hit ‘Life’s What You Make It.’

We finally reach the old mining village of Clipstone. ‘The Skipper’ asks what the two big towers are in the sky. They are of course the distinctive winding gear that took the miners up and down the shaft. It’s a fantastic sight and pleasing that they’ve been left as a lasting memory.

It’s £3 entry for WVM and I. I presume that kids are free. I snap up a programme for £1. It’s a really good effort for this level.

Clipstone Welfare seems a really friendly club. They are managed by former Mansfield Town midfielder Gary Castledine.

‘Shifty’ would be pleased, the Clipstone PA guy has slung on a Motown CD. The Supremes ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ is the pick of the bunch. We take a pew in a stand that runs along the half-way line to the left of the clubhouse.

The Lido Ground looks out towards, what probably is, the old Colliery spoil heap. Today is a top of the table clash.WVM predicts a draw, ‘The Skipper’ says 2-1 to the visitors, whilst earlier in the day, Finley (our rabbit) had shouted out from under the shed that it would be 2-2.

The teams march out to a little medley the PA man has put together. Sadly and comically the CD keeps sticking. I notice that 18 year old Harry Hawkins is refereeing today’s game. My information is that the Nottinghamshire FA are fast-tracking this lad.

Clipstone are wearing a replica Newcastle United strip. It even has the Northern Rock sponsorship splashed across the front of the shirt. Maybe there is a story behind that.

It doesn’t take long for the visitors to take the lead. ‘Ryan’ pounces onto an under-cooked back-pass and knocks the ball past a startled goalkeeper.

Clipstone play the better football, ‘Cass’ and Danny Tighe control the midfield, but they tend to overdo it and have no end product. Things have been brewing up for a while, like they do when Notts and Yorkshire do battle. Main win a free-kick but their 6 jacket retaliates and kicks out. After consultation with his assistant ‘Young Harry’ sends him off.

Yorkshire Main increase their lead on the half hour, despite being one player light. ‘Ryan’ heads home a corner unchallenged.

The highlight of the day is at half-time. I poke my head through the tea bar and notice a sprightly young girl filling up a teapot with boiling hot water. All three of us have a brew. It’s marked with a 9.8 and will take some beating.

I check my phone for a few scores. My good friend Rammers’ team Shepshed are behind at Stamford. ‘The Skipper’ is spitting feathers; he’s missed out on winning the raffle by one number.

The second half is delayed whilst referee Harry Hawkins completes his evening paper-round.

We’re walking at the back of the goal towards the dugouts when Clipstone’s Number Three commits a horror two-footed tackle on a Main player. It’s in front of my 13 year old son, who is visibly shaken. I shout to ‘Young Harry’ that the challenge is ‘appalling.’ The full back is correctly shown Red.

Moments later Tighe fires a wicked free kick in from the left, the Clipstone centre half heads the ball into the roof of the net. Clipstone have a real go and pile on the pressure. Young Scully brilliantly tips an effort onto the bar.

There’s five minutes left on the clock. The young Yorkshire Main forward scurries away onto a through ball, he is completely wiped-out by one of the worse challenges you’ll ever see by the Clippo goalkeeper. Referee Hawkins allows the offender to escape with a yellow despite it being serious foul play (Law 12)

The goalkeeper shows no remorse at all. There’s no apology, a pat on the head or any sign of concern. The boy lays on the floor motionless. They put a blanket on him. It looks bad. ‘The Skipper’ is upset and asks if we can go home. It’s a very sad and tragic end to the day.

NB: Curtis Walker suffered a double-leg break. He will probably lose his job.

Man of the Match: Liam Scully.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wycombe Wanderers 1 Nottingham Forest 4

I’m walking at the rear of the Brian Clough Stand. JK is away for the weekend and has very kindly lent me his season ticket. Hordes of Leicester City fans mob the car park. There are obscene chants from a minority about Brian Clough that make my stomach turn.

The game is awful, absolutely dreadful. There’s no pattern, no quality. McGugan sulks like a small child out on the left wing. His shoulders are drooped and his hands are on his hips. Forest gift the Foxes two goals.

My phone has packed up; I can’t even text my frustration to anybody. God, I wish I’d gone to a non league game somewhere.

Manchester born Ishmael Miller provides some muscle, passion and desire in the second period. Leicester City’s time-wasting tactics are embarrassing. They roll around as if been shot by a sniper. They boot the ball away at every opportunity.

A chink of light appears from the bench, like he did at Liberty Way in Swansea back in May. Raddy Majewski breathes fresh life into a fatigued Nottingham Forest. He has the balance and movement of a ballerina. He wriggles in and out of tight areas. He’s light on his feet and torments the over-rated Leicester left back Paul Konchesky.

Forest win a penalty, following a brilliantly-given advantage by the referee, with a ridiculous and unnecessary hand-ball. The biggest clown on the pitch, Kasper Schmeichel, grabs the ball from the spot, in an attempt to unsettle a smirking McGugan, the penalty-taker. He’s cautioned for ungentlemanly conduct.

The penalty is coolly tucked away into the bottom left hand corner. Schemeichel crazily hurls the ball into the crowd in a fit of pique, and is shown his second yellow card. He’s berated by his own team-mates. Moments later George Boateng throws his tiring, aching body at a Chris Cohen cross, to bundle the ball into the net. There’s utter pandemonium.

I’m strolling out of the Brian Clough car park. Those silly Foxes aren’t singing anymore. Police Alsatian dogs are making more of a racket.

A Leicester City fan sidles up alongside me. He has a face like thunder. “Cheer up mate”, I cheekily grin at him. “F**k off” he replies. For good measure Sticky jnr kisses the two stars on his Forest shirt. It’s the perfect end to the day.

It’s Tuesday afternoon. We’re cruising down the M1 in JK’s 2 litre Audi automatic. Jeremy Vine is playing Gloria Gaynor’s 1975 hit ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ on his lunchtime phone-in. Cricketing guru, Josh (JK’s lad) is mumbling to himself on the back seat.

He recently left the thrilling 3rd Test match at Trent Bridge at lunch on Day 5 against India, missing a two session 10 wicket collapse by the tourists, just so he could watch a repeat of ‘Celebrity Come Dine With Me’, for the record Christopher Biggins won it.

His brother Lewis is an even bigger muppet. Whilst local hero Stuart Broad was taking centre stage with a hat-trick in the same game, Lewis opted for a ‘spot of tea’ at McDonalds on the Radcliffe Road.

We have a few quiz questions in the car like: Which former Nottingham Forest player has also managed Wycombe?

We stop off at Moto services on the M40. JK has a latte accompanied by a blueberry muffin. It’s like having a business meeting with Alan Partridge.

Sticky jnr has his mobile glued to his ear. He brokers a deal on Gumtree to sell a moped to some chav in Lincoln.

JK has to pop in to see a customer 15 miles outside Wycombe. The boys play football in a farmer’s field whilst I listen to the amusing Hawksbee and Jacobs.

We drive past the impressive ASM Stadium, home to Uhlsport Hellenic League team Thame United.

The route to Adams Park is well signposted. We’re greeted by a friendly steward. JK is still suited and booted and is mistaken by the guy as a member of the Nottingham Forest Board of Directors. We ask the fluorescent-coated official to recommend a food establishment. He says ‘Linda’s Burger Van’ is Egon Ronay rated. Where’s Heston Blumenthal when you need him? Probably in Udinese.

High Wycombe is a town in Buckinghamshire with a population of 90,000. It was once famous for making furniture; hence Wycombe’s nickname is the Chairboys.

Celebrity chef and the owner of 3 Michelin star restaurant The Fat Duck in Berkshire, Heston Blumenthal, was born in the town. Somewhat bizarrely he supports ‘The Arsenal’ – Lee Dixon is a business partner.

Wycombe Wanderers Football Club were founded in 1887. Notable former managers include: Martin O’Neill, Tony Adams, Lawrie Sanchez, John Gorman and Paul Lambert. Players to have played for both Wycombe and Forest include: Nathan Tyson and Neil Lennon.

Record transfer fee paid is £200,000 to Barnet for Sean Devine. Record fee received is £675,000 from Nottingham Forest for Nathan Tyson. London Wasps rugby union team also play at Adams Park.

We’re a half an hour walk from the town centre. The pubs near the ground are either dingy, up for lease or unsuitable for kids. We chance upon a chippy. I have the worst beef and onion Pukka pie in living memory. The guy just warms it through in a microwave.

We’re back up the ground again as the vibe begins to kick-in. The players have arrived by coach. New cult hero Ishmael Miller kindly poses for a photo with an excited Sticky junior.

I bag a programme for a bargain £2. Later, on inspection, it proves to be thin on content. The ground is in a gorgeous setting. To the rear of the home terracing is woodland, with panoramic views of the Buckinghamshire green belt area.

The away end is filling up nicely. The top deck of the two-tier stand to our left has been closed for the evening. The DJ plays one or two trendy indie tunes and throws in the Stereo MC’s ‘Step it Up’ for good measure.

I notice on the ‘big screen’, when the teams are read out, that Sky football commentator Alan Parry, a huge Chairboys fan, sponsors the playing kit of full back Marvin McCoy.

Tonight marks referee Danny McDermid’s final fixture for a while. He is a Major in the British Army and is being deployed to serve in Afghanistan for six months in the morning.

I’m disappointed that my all-time hero Gareth ‘Wild Thing’ Ainsworth is not in the squad tonight. I used to worship this man when he donned the red and white stripes of Lincoln City. Bought for £20,000 and sold for over half a million – we can’t half pick em.

Another good un Lincoln bought from Wycombe was midfield play-maker Graham Bressington. He used to whistle as he waltzed his way through opposing defences.

Forest soon find there rhythm. Majewski makes an immediate impact, threading a ball through to Miller, who opens his account for the Reds. After 6 minutes McGugan makes it 2-0 from the spot after Wycombe ‘keeper Nikki Bull taps Miller’s ankles.

The Chairboys are in shock at their horror-show start and so are the local partridges who have descended on Adams Park from the nearby woodland. Three or four of them have positioned themselves up front, as manager Gary Waddock changes to an attacking 4-4-6 formation. The remaining two or three stray birds nose-dive into the away support like a Japanese kamikaze pilot. The Forest fans are lapping it all up.

Bull keeps Wycombe in the game with a string of fine saves from Miller, McGugan and Majewski. Wycombe also play a fast passing game. Former Jamaican U20 international Joel Grant, a recent signing from Crewe Alexandra is particularly impressive.

The teams come out for the second half to Dario G’s 1998 hit ‘Carnival de Paris.’ The game is once again open. Wycombe press Forest as the visitors choose to counter-attack. Benyon hits the base of the post for the Chairboys.

Majewski gets on the ball, plays a one two with a partridge and sets up USA international Robbie Findley, who finds the corner of the net with a shot off the outside of his boot.

Wycombe are immediately awarded a penalty as I Tweet the 3-0 scoreline on my new HTC phone to my followers. Camp is sent the wrong way by Elliot Benyon. I edit my Tweet.

I immediately get a text to tell me ‘Katy Perry has put Lincoln two up at AFC Telford. Wycombe substitute Kadeem Harris looks a handful and is one for the notebook. He made his debut at just 16 years old and is attracting plenty of interest.

McClaren throws on Tudgay, Garner and Kieron Freeman for the final 20 minutes. A resurgent Joe Garner unselfishly rolls the ball across the face of goal, allowing Majewski the opportunity for a deserved tap-in to cap a fine performance.

Put your house on him starting against the Iron on Sunday.

Attendance: 2866

Man of the Match: Raddy Majewski.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

South Normanton Athletic 3 Real United 2

The Boeing 737 taxis the runway at Ibiza Airport. Sticky Palms breathes a huge sigh of relief. It’s the start of a ten day break with my madcap family.

A Spanish taxi driver waves a placard in the air with our name on it, as we lug our cases through arrivals. Within 25 minutes we are wheeling our luggage through reception of the Tropic Apartments, on the edge of the eastern resort of Santa Eulalia.

We are met by a stony-faced receptionist (Russian). She delivers the sombre news with a deadpan face – the hotel is overbooked – there is no room at the inn, well, at least not until tomorrow.

I turn to look at Mrs P’s reaction. It’s a face I’ve seen pulled a million times readers, like when I announce I’m off to Manchester for the day with Trumpy Bolton or that there’s extra-time at a FA Cup extra preliminary round 100 miles away.

We’re offered two days all-inclusive as compensation. I snap their hand off and we make hay over the long weekend.

Five days later I’m dashing around the marina on a sultry Tuesday evening, like a man possessed, trying to find out the latest score in the local derby between Forest and the Pies. Mrs P was hoping to enjoy a romantic table for two at a little Italian restaurant close to the water’s edge.

My phone starts buzzing; Craig Westcarr has scored a late equaliser. The game has gone into extra-time.

I deliver the news to the kids when I arrive back at the hotel. There’s a vibration in my pocket, ‘Hughsey’ has made it 3-2. I’m doing the ‘The Hughsey’ on the marble floor of the hotel. I throw my arms backwards and shuffle my feet; it must look like a Michael Jackson Moonwalk. Sticky jnr has proper got the monk-on.

My phone goes off again; it’ll be the final score. I feel for my glasses in my shorts pocket. I read the text with disbelief: ”Wes Morgan scored a 122nd minute wonder-goal, NFFC go through on sudden-death penalties.”

I neck my Bacardi and coke, bid farewell to any stragglers still drinking in the hotel bar and collapse in a heap on the bed. I couldn’t have felt any more exhausted than if I had played in the damned game myself.

I park my backside pool-side for the remaining 8 days of the holiday and bury my head in two delightful books: ‘Changing Ends’ by Mike Bayley and ‘92 Pies’ by Tom Dickinson. Only a boat load of mosquito bites dampen my spirits.

It’s Saturday lunchtime; we’re touching down at East Midlands Airport. It’s been a hot and sticky old ten days. I selfishly leave Mrs P to unpack the cases and head down to Meadow Lane. I’m still sulking that I missed an epic at The City Ground last Tuesday evening.

I sit high up at the back of the Derek Pavis Stand. Notts are short of energy and ideas. It looks as if they gave their all across the water a few days ago. Charlton aren’t much better but are gifted two goals.

West Ham’s on-loan Colombian forward Cristian Montano pulls a goal back for the Pies, but if anything it will be the Addicks that are disappointed that their win was not more convincing. Bradley Wright-Phillips is the arch villain, missing three gilt-edged chances to put the game beyond reach.

I have a fairly lazy day on Sunday. Notts County under 10s have a tournament in the morning at Radcliffe on-Trent. I spend the afternoon fleetingly watching Manchester Utd and Chelsea on Sky – both look impressive. I particularly like the look of the Chelsea full back Jose Boswinga, who rips the Stoke left back to shreds.

It’s Tuesday tea-time. I’m down at Finley’s yard. His score predictions have been ultra impressive this season. “5-3 to South Normanton” he whispers in my ear.

I waltz through the back door. Mrs P is preparing meat balls with spaghetti in chilli sauce. A sheepish Sticky junior slopes into the kitchen; his face looks disfigured. “Have you heard Dad?” “Flipping heck,” says Groundhopper, “you look like you’ve had 30 seconds in the ring with Carl Froch.”

Turns out that a wasp landed in his mouth, junior mistook it for food and now has a fat lip. Moments later he’s writhing around on the floor in pain, the chilli sauce has seeped its way into the wound.

I hear the loud sound of a car horn; must be ‘The Taxman’ right on cue. He’s spent the last week in Cornwall; not that it stops him from having a right old moan about the petulant behaviour of Junior Tax Kid.

The ring road is clear, as is the M1. We’re soon pulling off Junction 28. ‘The Taxman’ is ribbing me about the Tricky Trees penalty-fluke win over the Pies. He confesses to leaving early and missing all the drama.

We can see the floodlights to our left as we enter the town centre. South Normanton is an old mining village two miles outside Alfreton (who incidentally are entertaining Southport tonight in the Conference Premier). It has a population of 8000 people.

Notts County’s Centre of Excellence recruit quite heavily in this area. They breed them rough and tough in these parts. My main man in Mansfield is a top-drawer scout. I’ve spent many a wet and windy morning with him watching games at the nearby Frederick Gent School.

The main industries of the town were framework knitting and coal mining. They were known as Shiners due to the state of their trouser pants after a 14 hour shift sitting down. South Normanton Colliery closed down in 1952.

South Normanton Athletic are nicknamed the Shiners. They were re-formed in 2009 after folding a year previously. They play at the Exchem Sports Arena on Lees Lane.

I manage to pinch a Werthers Original out of ‘The Taxman’s’ glove compartment. I make a hasty exit out of the car, as John McGovern’s monotone voice has been driving me potty on Radio Nottingham.

We walk through a narrow, dark passageway. It’s £3 admission. No programme is issued tonight. I’m immediately attracted to the ground. It’s decked out in blue. There’s a blue concrete perimeter fence and hard-standing all the way round the ground.

A cold breeze wind blows down the ground. There are outstanding views out into the Derbyshire hills.

The first person I stumble upon is Real United head honcho Roger Henry. We shake hands and I introduce him to ‘The Taxman.’ It’s a community football club formed in 2008. It was primarily set up to discourage substance abuse and criminal activity amongst young people in Nottingham.

As a club we (Notts County) have donated kit to both the first team and a junior team during my time as a scout. I have a lot of time and respect for Roger. Former Notts County, Birmingham City and D***y County defender Michael Johnson is Real United President.

We stand to the left of the Real dugout. Former Mansfield Town defender Mark Clifford is Roger’s coach. The Nottingham team make a lively start. Young ‘Scratchy’ on the right wing has caught our eye. He goes close with a header. Clifford remarks: “he would have scored that if he chopped off his pig tails."

Diminutive forward Danny Briscoe bagged a hat-trick on Saturday for the Shiners; he’s already proving a handful for the visitors defence. He opens the scoring by rolling the ball into an empty net.

Real United are pinned back in their own half as South Normanton raise the bar. Against the run of play former Stags trainee Curtis Shaw rattles the woodwork from 25yards out on the left.

There’s a commotion in the Refreshment Bar at half-time, deadly rivals Pinxton FC are a goal down to the Notts Police, who this time last week would have probably struggled to raise a 5 a-side team due to the riots.

There’s plenty on offer on the snap front. Pies, peas, burgers and hot dogs are snaffled up. I can’t see a tea pot, so ‘The Taxman’ and I elect for a coffee.

Real United struggle with the pace of the game they quickly go two and then three down. Their players and coaching staff are a credit to the game. They cajole and encourage one another.

They pull a late goal back with a cracking effort following a cross by ‘Scratchy.’ With five minutes remaining ‘Scratchy’ blasts the ball into the roof of the net following a raking pass by the sublime 6 jacket.

Time has run out in an enthralling game which the hosts deserve to win. I’ve fell in love with Real United and will keep a close eye on when their next away fixture is.

The night gets even better with wins for Forest and U Pies. A pint of Thieving Magpie ends a perfect evening.

Man of the Match: Danny Briscoe.