Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nottingham Forest 0 Burnley 2

It’s Saturday tea-time and I’m flopped out on the sofa watching the full-time scores rolling in. I’m still sulking about witnessing my first 0-0 in over 40 games at Hinckley United the other evening, when suddenly there is a huge commotion in the ‘Soccer Saturday’ studio.

“Can you believe it, says Sky’s resident ‘Monkey Hanger’, Jeff Stelling. “The Knitters of Hinckley have come back from 4-0 down to draw 5-5 against Stalybridge Celtic in the Blue Square Conference North” No, I can’t believe it Geoff; they couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo when I was a visitor the other evening.

I notice a tweet from Chappers asking fans to ring in 606 on Five Live if they’ve been to the Hinckley v Stalybridge game. I send him a tweet telling him about the 0-0 I saw against Luton Town in the FA Trophy. He gives me a shout out and sympathises with my plight. He also interviews the Hinckley manager Dean Thomas and a Stalybridge Celtic supporter. It’s great to see the BBC promoting the non league scene and not just pouring all their resource into the big-time Charlies of the Barclays Premiership.

In five days time I will be 48 years of age. Mrs P asks me to write a birthday list. I hand her a piece of paper over with the word ‘BUDGIE’ scrawled onto it. It’s scrunched up and tossed away into the bin. “Try again”, I try again and write ‘BUDGIE CAGE.’ It’s met with the same response.

Perhaps ‘The Reaper’ will come up trumps. I want an inner-city bred budgie, (hard as nails) green and canary coloured. He will be named Murphy, after the legendary eye-blinking former Lincoln City manager, Colin Murphy. I’m going to train him to whistle every single crap soap opera Mrs P watches – it’s a tall order for the little fella, I know.

It’s Tuesday morning, the day of the Forest v Burnley game. I’m scrolling through my timeline on Twitter, when I notice former Evening Post journalist Ian Edwards has suggested teenage scoring sensation Patrick Bamford was not on a list of players recommended to former Steve McClaren as being of first team potential.

A bidding war has broken out with some top Premiership sides fighting for the services of the Newark born 18 year old. He has scored nine goals in his last two FA Youth Cup outings. His hat-trick goal at Southampton would have graced any game at the top level. He reminds me a bit of former Cammell Laird striker Peter Davenport. I hope he starts tonight.

I’m back working in our Production department. Foolishly, I brought in my digital radio to break up the monotony of listening to the entire back catalogue on the NOW CDs 1-80. Fearne Cotton and Bromley-born singer Pixie Lott are gassing like a couple of old women on Radio One. It’s like a version of ‘Junior Loose Women.’

Lunch comes as light relief. I do my homework on Burnley FC, whilst ‘The Reaper’ knocks up a liquid refreshment tea-time itinerary for us at the Vat and Fiddle and the News House on Canal Street in Nottingham.

‘Gormhead’ drops us off at Nottingham Train Station. We make the short walk across Arkwright Street to the Castle Rock owned Vat and Fiddle. It’s a 1930s rebuild of a Victorian ‘local.’ The Reaper has a pint of ‘Urban Fox,’ Sticky Palms samples a ‘Haggis Hunter.’ We follow it up with a couple of pints of ‘Robin Hood.’ It washes down the pork stew and Thai fishcakes we have for tea.

I’m absolutely stuffed as we fight our way through the Nottingham rush-hour traffic, finally barging our way through the double doors of the News House on Canal Street. It’s as dead as a doh doh except for three old codgers, who are a source of brilliant entertainment. One guy reminds me of ‘Tommy’ off the BBC2 situation comedy ‘Early Doors.’ He repeats himself all the time. He can’t fathom out how Arsenal and Chelsea have been tracking youth team stars Jamal Lascelles and Patrick Bamford, when they haven’t ever played for the first team.

One thing’s for sure though, these old guys must have cast-iron bladders compared to The Groundhopper, who makes a world record bid for most visits to a toilet in under half an hour.

It’s bitterly cold as we head up London Road to The City Ground. It’s £10 to sit in all areas this evening. Burnley have sold out their ticket allocation. It’s a proper football club, which is well run. I remember visiting Turf Moor back in 1992 when the Clarets were entertaining Rotherham in the second round of the FA Cup. Graham Lancashire scored a late winner that day, after the Millers’ Shaun Goater had equalised. I think we had a gallon before the match.

Burnley is a market town in north Lancashire with a population of over 70,000. It was once one of the world’s biggest cotton producers and also a major centre for engineering.

Notable people born in Burnley include: BAFTA award-winning screen writer Paul Abbott, Coronation Street crowd favourite Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole), England fast bowler, ‘The King of Swing’, James Anderson, Shameless actor Jody Latham, thespian actor Sir Ian McKellen and deadly Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez.

Burnley FC were formed in 1882 and were a founder member of the Football League. In 1961 The Clarets reached the quarter final of the European Cup. Well known former managers include: John Bond, Adrian Heath, Chris Waddle, Stan Ternent, Owen Coyle, Steve Cotterill and Brian Laws. Record transfer laid out and received is for the same player, Steven Fletcher, now of Wolves, who came from Hibernian. The Clarets doubled their money on him in less than a year.

Forest haven’t troubled the scorers at home in their last six attempts. Burnley have beaten Middlesbrough, West Ham, Hull, Coventry, Millwall, D***y and Brighton on their travels.

The teams are carrying out the ‘Respect’ handshakes as we upset half the Main Stand by staggering down the wrong aisle and shuffling along the incorrect row. We are in the notorious ‘A’ Block in the over 21 section. Neither of us was asked for ID.

There’s only a couple of minutes gone, I’m admiring the Burnley faithful who are situated in the Lower Bridgford End, when a ball is whipped in from the Burnley right by former Manchester City trainee Kieran Trippier, leading scorer Jay Rodriguez leaps like a salmon to head the ball into the top corner of the net.

Oh dear, the last thing you want to happen, when you can’t hit the onion bag, is to concede an early goal. Burnley’s young manager, Eddie Howe, stays remarkably cool. He leaves his assistant Jason Tindall to direct the traffic.

Forest are short on confidence and so are the crowd. They seem resigned to defeat already. Apart from the amusing “we’re all over them” from a wag near to me after 15 seconds of play, there’s been very little to chuckle about.

The Tricky Trees respond with half chances for Anderson, Moussi and on loan Wolves’ midfielder Adiene Guedioura. There’s a game-changing moment on the half hour. Keith Treacy, a player who tormented Forest on his last visit to The City Ground for Preston North End, is replaced by former Celtic winger Ross Wallace.

The half-time scores are flashing up on the scoreboard. I’ve got a Notts County beanie hat on inside out, although most NFFC fans are affable about the Pies. Lee Hughes has put them a goal to the good at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium.

The best DJ in professional football doesn’t disappoint at the break. The lyrics to Daniel Merryweather’s ‘Stop Me’ seem so apt for the former European Cup winners.

I’ve somehow managed to swap seats with ‘The Reaper’ and now find myself next to a bit of a fruit cake. He’s brought his missus with him. She’s a dead ringer for Kat Moon (nee Slater) off EastEnders.

Garath McLeary foolishly trips up Ben Mee. Astonishingly, Rodriguez contrives to lose his footing, appearing to chip the spot kick, in slow motion style, wide of the post.

He makes amends moments later. The impressive Wallace has been tormenting young Brendan Moloney, he gives him the slip and plays in Trippier, who whips another cross in that is met once again by Rodriguez to bury his 16th goal of the season. ‘Alfie and ‘Cat’ immediately head for the exit.

Lewis McGugan has thrown the towel in. He’s pouting and sulking. His corners are casually taken. He hasn’t the stomach for a fight. He storms down the tunnel following a double substitution by former Burnley manager Cotterill.

‘A’ Block rediscover their gallows humour: “We want our tenner back” and “Do you want Cotterill back?” echo around the Main Stand.

The Tricky Trees play higher up the pitch with the introduction of Blackstock and Tudgay, but it’s The Clarets of Burnley who are the worthy winners.

Howe, the players and coaching team salute the superb away following. They, at least, look as one.

Man of the Match: Ross Wallace

Attendance: 23,147 (2004 from Burnley)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hinckley United 0 Luton Town 0

It’s Friday morning. We’re gathered around our pod at work talking about people’s plans for the weekend. ‘The Reaper’ pipes up that he is down London, clearing up after an exhibition at Olympia.

He seems quite excited. He’s sussed out a parking spot adjacent to Brompton Cemetery and has a few hours to kill. The Reaper is obsessed with celebrity death. He’s scouring a list of well known dead on Wikipedia that are buried in Brompton Cemetery, when he lets out a huge squeal.

His all-time favourite film is the 1969 kitchen sink drama Kes, which is set in South Yorkshire (he bought a hawk on the strength of it) starring balding Bobby Charlton wannabee Brian Glover, who controversially awards a penalty to himself in the film. He is The Reaper’s hero and is buried in Brompton Cemetery.

It’s Saturday morning, I’ve delivered the papers, devoured my poached egg on toast. I’m getting ready for the afternoon’s junior football. I hear a message alert go off in my pocket. The text is short and sweet and accompanied by a picture: “Look what I’ve found” Attached is Brian Glover’s gravestone ‘1934-1997 wrestler actor writer.’ The Reaper strikes again!

Monday evening proves to be a stressful one for Sticky Palms. As part of my FA Youth Award badge I have to put on a 25 minute session for the Notts County under 9s squad. I’m a bundle of nerves folks. FA tutor Mark Kearney rigs up a microphone and sets the camera rolling. The kids are fantastic and make the session easy peasy.

There’s a sharp frost on Tuesday morning. Already the game looks in doubt. I log onto the BBC Football website and notice that the tie at Hinckley has been put back 24 hours. They claim it is a victim of the weather, but a high police presence is expected at the King Power Stadium this evening for the FA Cup replay between the Foxes and the Tricky Trees.

By the time I get home Sticky junior has already text me from the Supporters’ Club bus, en-route to Leicester, to inform me he’s drawn Guy Moussi out in the ‘first goal’ sweep. Honestly, they still do first goal-scorer at NFFC?

I watch the first half. I’m totally shocked and appalled. I opt out of the next 45 minutes and watch a re-run of Channel 4’s Coppers from Monday evening, who follow the Nottinghamshire Constabulary during the summer riots.

It’s Wednesday, the day of the game. I fly through the door at home, wolf a pizza down, put on a heading session for ‘The Skipper’s’ team and finally pick up ‘The Taxman’ at just gone 6.30pm.

We have to take a diversion down the A606, through the village of Upper Broughton, as the A46 slip road is closed. The drive to Hinckley is a cinch, although the queues into the ground are blocking the Leicester Road.

The guy on the gate gleefully fleeces me of £2 to park the car. It’s £12 on the gate. I don’t think I’ll bother with a programme tonight. I make a donation to the Hinckley Sea Cadets instead.

Luton is a town 30 miles north of London in Bedfordshire. It was once famous for hat-making and was the home of the car manufacturer Vauxhall. During the Second World War the factory built Churchill tanks as part of the War effort. This led them to be vulnerable to the German Luftwaffe, with 107 people losing their lives during air-raids.

Other notable firms with headquarters in the town include: Easy Jet (the club shirt sponsor), Monarch Airlines and Thomson UK.

Well known folk born in Luton include: One Foot in the Grave writer David Renwick, music composer David Arnold (Bond films), the author Arthur Hailey, film director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever), Britain’s ‘most violent prisoner’ Charles Bronson, cricketers Monty Panesar and Will Smith, ex Chelsea striker Kerry Dixon and crap singer from the 1980s Paul Young.

Luton Town were founded in 1885. Their chairman is the former ITV sports presenter Nick Owen. They are managed by former nightclub bouncer Gary Brabin. Their most famous fan was the comedian Eric Morecambe, who became a director at the club.

Well known former managers include: David Pleat, Joe Kinnear, Lennie Lawrence, Ray Harford and Mike Newell. The Hatters most capped player is Northern Ireland’s Mal Donaghy who was capped 58 times. Record transfer received is £3 million from WBA for central defender Curtis Davies. Record transfer paid out is £850,000 for Lars Elstrup from Danish club Odense Boldklub.

I’ve a good mind to ask the gateman for a full refund once I hear some of the toons Bruno Brooks is churning out: East 17 ‘Stay Another Day’, New Kids On The Block ‘Right Stuff’ and ‘I Owe You Nothing’ by Bros have me pulling my free-issue FA beanie hat over my ears.

The stadium is a belter. I’ve been a few times before. There’s a main stand on the half-way line (£2 extra... sod that). Covered terracing is to the right and on the far side. The end to the left backs onto a leisure centre.

We have a mosey around the wonderful club shop. It’s stacked out with old programmes, videos, scarves and football books. I admire the passion of the guy who runs it. We’re thumbing our way through the programmes and having a right old chuckle at a Nottingham Forest v Wolves game from 2000. Number 7 on the team-sheet is old ‘Moonhead’ (David Platt), who single-handedly ruined the Tricky Trees during his disastrous tenure.

The man now lives off the back of ‘Roberto’ at ‘City.’ You’d be begging for a power cut at one of his press conferences. He just talks and talks and talks and talks..... utter baloney.

Luton Town have sent their second string. The numbers are up in the 40s on the back of their shirts. I thought we were watching an American football team. Youth are amongst their ranks.

Both teams defend with a high line. The Knitters’ forward Andre Gray is playing on the shoulder, he has pace to burn. He rifles in a shot that stings the hands of former Posh keeper Mark Tyler.

Luton’s 37 jacket, Alasan Ann, clearly doesn’t fancy it. He feels the force of a Denham Hinds clearance and is felled to the ground. Five minutes later he is waving the white hankie.

The Hatters begin to turn the screw. They counter-attack at break-neck speed. Liverpudlian midfielder John Paul Kissock takes a stranglehold of the game. He has a beautiful balance, a low sense of gravity and can thread the ball through the eye of a needle. He is the Scouse equivilant of Georgi Kinkladze.

Luton are wasteful in front of goal. Dance, Woolley and Fleetwood are guilty as charged as Kissock and the Hatters up the tempo.

I thinks Bruno Brooks has been reunited with Liz Kershaw at the break, as the appalling sounds of pop rock all-brother USA teen band Hanson ring around the Greene King Stadium. To top it all the clown on the decks inflicts further misery with ‘Love Me For A Reason’ by The Osmonds.

It’s at times like this that I hope a power cut kicks in, like it did at Bedworth a few months back. How about a raffle draw? A bit of marching by the Sea Cadets? Or even a penalty shoot-out with both sets of supporters? Anything but the bloody Osmonds.

Hinckley are bursting with confidence but the Luton ‘keeper is in unbeatable form. Young Andre is causing chaos but Tyler is equal to everything he throws at him.

The game is fizzling out. Luton look totally disinterested and have set-up for a replay. Please God, not a 0-0. I don’t do them. It’s been nearly a year – I don’t count Bedworth, it was match abandoned. Where’s Brian Glover when you need him, he’d have awarded a dodgy penno in my hour of need.

It’s all over, bloody hell 0-0. I feel sick. The drive home is silent. Brighton have knocked Wrexham out on penalties. Plenty of goals to see at The Racecourse Ground. Every cloud has a silver lining though. The Normanton Plough has Legend Bitter on as its guest ale. It’s named after Brian Clough. Cheers, ‘Old Big Ead.’

Man of the Match: Denham Hinds (Hinckley ‘keeper – ex Leicester City Academy)

Attendance: 752

Friday, January 6, 2012

Burton Albion 0 Accrington Stanley 2

It’s Monday January 2nd. I’m sat up in the Gods of the Derek Pavis Stand at Notts County’s Meadow Lane. Lee Clark’s Huddersfield Town are the visitors. They are here to spoil the Magpies’ 150th birthday party. Legends from the past are paraded around the ground (my boss Mick is one of them). 150 black and white balloons are released into the sea-blue sky.

It’s a scrappy first half, chances are at a minimum. Notts refuse to let the Yorkshire Terriers steamroll all over them. I’m sat with ‘The Angler’ and cigar-smoking Keyworth United legendary Reserve Team manager Alan Jackson. Jacko celebrated his 60th birthday in style last weekend by scooping the Notts County Lifeline jackpot draw. It’s his second pay-out in 30 years.

Huddersfield are coasting at 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go. They gift the Pies a blatant penalty, which is dispatched by Northern Ireland midfielder Jeff Hughes. Their talismanic striker, Lee Hughes, finishes emphatically with five minutes remaining. It’s been a pulsating and breathtaking second half. I record my third 2-2 in three days. Right now, I really can’t half pick em.

After three games on the spin, kindly rubber-stamped by Mrs P, I’ve had to keep my head down and buy into the good lady’s hectic night-time TV schedule. She unearths a gem on Wednesday evening. Sticky’s favourite, Anna Friel, headlines in the BBC drama ‘Public Service.’ The star of the show, though, is the brilliant Daniel Mays, who plays the role of a ‘convicted murderer’, adjusting to life after a ten year prison sentence.

It’s Friday morning. It’s been manic at work. I’m been pulled here, there and everywhere, but hey-ho it makes the day fly by. I’m walking through the Warehouse door, where I see booking-in legend ‘Shifty Edwards’ skulking about the place, looking a bit sheepish. And no wonder why readers; he’s only listening to a re-run of the ‘Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show’ on 6 Music, without asking Sticky Palms to join him.

I’m spitting feathers folks. We always listen to ‘Craigy Boy’ together. To top it all, our favourite band Smoove and Turrell are live in session. I trudge back upstairs to my office. I’m proper sulking. I surf the net at lunch and notice that Smoove and Turrell are playing The Maze, on Mansfield Road, in Nottingham, on March 10th. I bag a couple of tickets at £13 apiece and wave them in the air at Shifty. The Geordie duo are the best thing to come out of Newcastle since Joe McElderry (lol).

I spend the afternoon in our ‘Production’ department. It’s bloody torture listening to both sides of Now 79. It’s as if someone has just tuned in to Capital FM.

I’ve asked permission, by text, to attend tonight’s game. After a table tennis text rally and a few “I love you xxx”, I finally get the thumbs-up. Accrington Stanley are one of the few teams in the Football League that I’ve never seen play.

I bolt out the works’ door at 4.30pm. I’m straight into the garage searching for the hay and sawdust. Keyworth’s friendliest rabbit, Finley Palmer, needs the Kim and Aggie treatment. Accrington fans may not be aware but Finley is famous for his crap score predictions. He fancies a 1-1 draw tonight. “Both sides are struggling to find the back of the onion bag”, he remarks, whilst chewing on some raw broccoli.

After a quick whizz around the bathroom with Mr Muscle, that Mrs Doubtfire would be proud of, I just have time for some chicken stir fry before Dafty rings the doorbell bang on 6.30pm. We avoid the A453 and hurtle through the backstreets of Kegworth and onto the A50. Talk Sport are chatting the usual shit on the car radio.

The conversation soon turns to talented 8 year old ‘Sport Billy’, ‘Gangsta.’, who is Dafty’s youngest lad. He’s currently training with the Tricky Trees and The Pies. Burton Albion are also expressing an interest in the speedy winger. He’s on trial at more clubs than Robbie Keane.

We park up at the back of some industrial units, across the road from the Pirelli Stadium. I still pine for the old ground at Eton Park, with its filthy, beer-stained 1970s flowered carpet and its Phoenix Nights good-feel factor.

Having paid £14 on the turnstile, and £3 for a programme, we enter the ‘Popside Bar’ and meet up with Robbo, who I’ve known for over 40 years. He was a decent player back in the day, but still holds the record for the most own goals scored (apart from Richard Dunne) in a season.

We’re in the beer-making capital of England and I’m waiting at the bar with thirty other folk. Four people are trying to change a barrel in the cellar. It’s a comedy moment that only a football club could throw up. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. I opt for a Coca-Cola, which I spill all over Robbo.

Accrington is an old mill town on the western edge of the Pennines, in Lancashire, close to Blackburn and Burnley. It has a population of 35,000. Accrington Stanley were formed in 1968, although a previous club from the town, Accrington FC, were one of the original twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888. They play at the Crown Ground, which has a capacity of just over 5000.

Notable people born in Accrington include: the cricketer Graeme ‘Foxy’ Fowler (who informed his second wife by FAX that he wanted a divorce, cricket commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, Jon Anderson, the lead singer with the rock band Yes, Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley Cropper) and Vicki Entwhistle (Janice Battersby) from Coronation Street and the astrologer Mystic Meg (“what’s that Meg, 2-0 to Accrington?”).

Stanley arrive at the Pirelli on the back of an eight match unbeaten run. AFC Wimbledon and Morecambe have been amongst their scalps on their recent travels. The Brewers have stuttered of late, only winning once in their last five outings.

The first half is a non event and short on action, as both teams play a safety first game. It’s Accrington Stanley who are pleasing on the eye. They play a short passing game that in my experience is pretty alien in this league, particularly on a shoestring budget.

Stanley are managed by Liverpool-born John Coleman, who was a formidable non-league striker back in the eighties. It has always mystified me, why after 12 years of performing a minor miracle, no other league club has took a punt on him.

I used to love coming to ‘The Albion’ when they were a top-drawer non league team under Nigel Clough. I miss the passion of Darren Stride, the jinking runs of Keith Gilroy and the speed and shooting prowess of Shaun Harrod. It says it all when one of their best players on view tonight is 19 year Callum Driver, who Mrs Brady has loaned to her husband (Paul Peschisolido) from West Ham United.

I’m desperately disappointed with their journeymen centre forwards Calvin Zola and Justin Richards. Robbo remarks that the injured Billy Kee, with a 12 goal season tally, is more direct. Dimunitive Irish midfielder John McGrath, an old favourite of Sticky’s, is also struggling. His passing is off the radar and his legs look heavy.

The game is in need of a goal, it arrives on the half hour. Stanley are awarded a free-kick 22 yards from goal. Former Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic midfielder, 35 year old Bryan Hughes, is lining it up, it’s cleverly rolled to Kevin McIntyre who fires home a deflected effort. Phew, I don’t do 0-0s.

The Brewers spurn a golden chance on the stroke of half-time, a quickly taken short corner is whipped in, but Zola heads over totally unmarked.

We’ve been joined by Robbo’s two teenage sons. The eldest is like a chip off the old block, young un is also very sociable. Jessie J is the pick of the half-time toons. Word spreads around the ground that Oldham-born Jordan Rhodes has rediscovered his shooting boots and has already bagged a brace at Wycombe.

The second half is entertaining as the game opens up. The Brewers play with more width. I’m astonished when the tricky Maghoma is withdrawn, although two wide men (Cleveland Taylor and Jimmy Phillips) are flung on.

Accrington’s 19 year old Congolese centre half Aristote Nsiala, on loan from Everton, has been immense this evening. He’s substituted on the hour following a clash of heads. He’s replaced by Tom Bender, who’s also on loan, from League One Colchester United. He hit the news headlines back in October when a JPT game between Stanley and Tranmere was abandoned after he was carried from the field unconscious.

Accrington put the game to bed on 62 minutes when a Craig Lindfield corner is misdirected towards his own goal by Tony James, it clips the underside of the bar and hits the roof of the net. Stanley have played a beautiful game with the veteran Bryan Hughes and Andy Proctor bossing the midfield. They’ve been powder puff in attack. They desperately miss the goals of Bobby Grant, who was sold to Scunthorpe United in a deal worth up to £260,000.

As for Burton, they need to get their walking wounded and suspended back quickly or on this performance their season will just fizzle out.

Man of the Match: Andy Proctor

Attendance: 2486

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eastwood Town 2 Boston United 2

All I seem to have done is drink lager, wine and eat cheese and biscuits. The build-up to Christmas was quiet. The Loughborough University v Gresley FC, Midland Alliance Friday evening Christmas appetiser was washed away by torrential rain.

Christmas Eve afternoon and evening was spent in the company of my Godson, Will, and his cheeky little brother ‘Gangsta.’ We went down to ‘Megabowl’ on the soulless Lenton Lane Industrial estate. I sank a couple of San Miguel’s, returned to our house for a few more and then devoured some smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, accompanied by a bottle of champers.

Present opening on Christmas Day morning was the usual disappointment – there was no Murphy the budgie to report on folks. He would have been a breath of fresh air to this blog. I’d train him to whistle the EastEnders theme tune and to dive-bomb Mrs P during Holby City and Casualty. We (me and the kids) cling onto fading hope that he’ll turn up for my birthday in February.

I asked Mrs P if it would be alright to take a game in on Boxing Day morning in the Leicestershire Senior League between Asfordby Amateurs and Melton Mowbray. The good lady was having none of it and gave me an icy glare that even I knew meant NO.

I tentatively enquired about a treble groundhop at the weekend (including two re-visits). I craftily mention that I’ll take her Dad down Meadow Lane for the ‘big one’ against the Terriers of Huddersfield. It gets the royal seal of approval.

New Year’s Eve is spent with some good friends, one of whom is celebrating her fiftieth birthday. A curry is delivered to the door. I’m tucked up in bed by 2am, sober as judge.

I’ve not been to Eastwood since they battered Alfreton 4-2 at the fag end of last season. Looking back over the last few seasons I appear to have been a lucky charm. I listen to 6 Music, slurping on a mug of tea, whilst quaffing a crumpet, smothered in butter and Marmite. The DJ is playing ‘The Look’ by English Riveria band Metronomy.

We’ve two car-loads travelling up the North today. White Van Man, Groundhopper, Sizzers and Sticky Junior are in one, whilst the Nuclear Scientist, Snooksey & The Skipper join the convoy in Inspector Morse’s’ Jaguar.

I must have a ghost in the ‘Rolls Royce’ as the radio has suddenly been tuned into the woeful 96.2 Capital FM. Rizzle Kicks latest offering is blaring out. The kids know it annoys me. We collect a bleary-eyed White Van Man, who has only recently rolled out of his pit. He was on the West Bridgford run last night and finished up in the Pearl Bar. He drank them dry of shandy.

We seem to have missed a torrential downpour as water gushes down the road and congregates around the drains. I’ve literally had my wipers on intermittent for most of the journey. We manage to park up on Chewton Street, facing the right direction, ready for a quick get-away

It’s tipping it down with rain. We prefer the warmth and cover of the social club. Sticky jnr bags an Eastwood Town scarf for a bargain £2. The kids then fleece me for a tenner to get some drinks in. £7.20 for four small bottles of Coca Cola is bloody scandalous by the way.

I bump into ‘Lank’ in the lavatory. He’s not as chipper as usual. Turns out he had a skinful last night and has also made an early start on the beverages this morning - Trumpy would be proud of that performance. I notice that the taps have no running water.

I’m fleeced for a further £19 at the gate for one adult and three kids. I don’t bother with a programme as the well has run dry.

The golden era at Coronation Park appears to be over. John Ramshaw has returned to the Badgers from Shepshed Dynamo. He has unfinished business and a total re-building job in-hand. The money from the Rob Yong era dried up. With a ground not deemed fit for Conference football and the play-offs denied, despite finishing fourth, Yong upped and left. Another consortium took over at the beginning of the season – it was an unmitigated disaster.

Ramshaw began his second spell at the Club with them rooted in the lower echelons of the Blue Square Conference North. With a tight budget and dwindling crowds, survival in this league will be a cause for celebration.

I have to admit I didn’t enjoy the hullabaloo and razamataz at the time. Flashing the cash and big-time Charlie’s is not Eastwood Town’s way. It’s a working class area, steeped in a tradition of coal-mining. Folks say it as they see it. Take it or leave, but don’t be offended. The tables have now been well and truly turned. Hyde, Stalybridge Celtic, Guiseley and Gainsborough Trinity are now the league’s grand fromages.

I travelled across to Boston the other evening to see them take on the Steelmen of Corby. It was a terrific game of football played in arctic conditions. Jason Lee’s team play a passing game that is pleasing on the eye. Lee is always available for plan B which consists of a diagonal ball met with a knock-down or flick on by old ‘Pineapple Head.’

Boston is a town and small port in Lincolnshire with a population of over 55,000. It is estimated that a quarter of its inhabitants are immigrants, with a high proportion from Eastern Europe and Portugal. Their York Street ground would coast into my all-time top ten stadia to die for. So would the ‘Eagles’ chippy and Coach and Horses real ale house.

In the opening stages we witness how a centre forward should lead the line. Jason Lee’s supremacy in the air is frightening. He finds the runners and holds up play. A pumped-up Badgers take the lead slightly against the run of play, with a deflected Francis Green effort. The Pilgrims play-maker, Ben Milnes, hobbles off after 15 minutes after a late tackle.

Boston equalise on 18 minutes with a perfectly weighted free-kick from former Blade and Magpie Ian Ross, who had earlier seen a lob tipped over by Eastwood ‘keeper Deakin.

On 25 minutes there’s a mix-up between Jordan Fairclough and Paul Bastock, Eastwood’s Jervaise Christie can scarcely believe his luck as he rolls the ball into an empty net.

We’re stood behind the nearest goal to the clubhouse. At the opposite end is a huge following from Lincolnshire. We’ve hooked up with the Shepshed Van Man, ‘Dave.’ He and White Van Man are discussing the motorways and A Roads of Great Britain – it’s boring me to death, readers. ‘Dave has been hopping in Northants and the West Midlands at the weekend.

We then discuss the coldest we’ve ever felt at a football ground. Dave says it has to be Rossendale in Lancashire. WVM and I agree that Barrow Town, in Leicestershire, a few years ago would take some topping.

It’s 2-1 at the break in an open and entertaining game. WVM very kindly buys a full round of hot drinks. One or two famous faces are in the crowd: Ilkeston Town manager, the former Chelsea striker, Kevin Wilson and ex NFFC and Leeds defender Chris Fairclough are amongst them.. WVM spots an Eastwood WAG with long blonde hair, in tight denim jeans and knee-high leather boots – he can’t half pick em.

Sticky jnr has had an altercation with a Boston United fan at the tea bar. Junior claims he’s ‘Eastwood till he dies’ following his £2 scarf purchase. The DJ, right on cue, plays ‘Rebel Yell’ by Billy Idol.

Boston attack the end at the bottom of the slope where their supporters are crammed in. I’m stood in the middle of them, when a corner comes sailing over, Cannonville heads it towards goal, but it’s brilliantly blocked by the impressive Burge and clawed away by a busy Deakin.

Moments later Eastwood switch off from a Pilgrims short corner, Newsham’s predatory instincts restore parity for Boston. Eastwood hang on for a deserved point, in a fantastic advert for the Conference North. It’s my second 2-2 draw in 24 hours.

Slowly, John Ramshaw is assembling a competitive, strong, energetic outfit. I will definitely catch up with them on their travels soon.

Attendance: 596