Sunday, November 30, 2014

Brodsworth Welfare AFC 2-2 Ollerton Town

When I was a teenager I started going to Youth Club. I loved the socialising - playing darts, table tennis and football in the Barn. There was your usual waifs, strays and tearaways. They all looked up to one man at the Club, our youth leader Cliff. He had the coolest head I've ever seen on a man. If a fight brokeout and the perpetrators were hauled into the office for a dressing down, they took their punishment on the chin, such was their respect for the man. His job was no easy ride. The kids worshipped the ground he walked on. Cliff and his lovely wife Jean mentored and shaped the lives of so many in our village.

It was so much fun back in those days. The 'Film Nights' were legendary. Over 100 kids roaring on Rocky Balboa to his latest World title.. We had discos and day trips out to the Capital. I used to help Cliff set up the film nights and tidy up after. One evening he called me into the office and produced an envelope from out of his jacket pocket. Now, you have to remember I was a football nut at the time. "I want to thank you for all your help" he said. My fingers were trembling as I tore away at the seal on the envelope. Inside was a ticket for the League Cup final between Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers. I'd never been to Wembley before.

We had lunch at Cliff's sister's. I even remember a sneaky pint of Watney's bitter. Two Tone was all the rage down the 'Smoke.' Everyone wore black suits, white shirts, leather ties, winkle pickers and pork pie hats. The atmosphere at the Twin Towers blew me away. Forest lost. I didn't care. What a day. What a memory to take away. All because of one man.

I'm welling up writing this blog. Last Sunday evening I learnt of the devastating news of Cliff's untimely passing. He was one of the kindest, gentlest men I have ever had the privilege to meet. He'd just retired as secretary of the Cricket Club, after 20 years as a volunteer, to look after his wife. I'll be there to say goodbye on Thursday. And I look forward to sharing anecdotes with others about Cliff and the Youth Club.

It's Saturday morning and there's one hell of a commotion downstairs. I walk into the Lounge. Murphy the budgie is on the dining room table dragging a millet spray and spitting all the seeds everywhere. He'll be in big trouble when the Gestapo get back. It's gone 10:00 and he's missed the Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s show. He's a bundle of nerves about his team Norwich City and there recent slump in form. One win in the last ten is poor form. He applied to Delia Smith at the fag end of last season for the managerial vacancy, but was foolishly overlooked for Neil Adams.

Finley the rabbit hasn't been out of his cage in days now. I'm starting to worry about him and his crap Non League tips. He fancies Ollerton Town to win 4-2 this afternoon. It's a short trip to just north of Doncaster. There aren't many Good Pub Guide entries in those neck of the woods, so it's a re-visit to the delightful village of Laxton, near Ollerton, and its picturesque red-bricked Dovecote public house. Laxton is famously home to three huge medieval fields. A pleasant lunchtime is spent eating a ham sandwich, which is washed down with Castle Rock's award-winning Harvest Pale Ale.

Brodsworth is a village in South Yorkshire with a population of 3000 people. Brodsworth Colliery had the highest UK production for a three shaft coal mine in the country. It closed in 1990. I drive through the gates and park the car behind the Welfare. I already know that I'm going to love this ground. I can hear a bit of shouting going off. I rub my eyes in disbelief. Folk are playing bowls on a mud-caked green. Even the French aren't that mad. It's a massive hat-tip from Sticky for these guys.

It's a bit of a hike to the ground; I should have booked a taxi. The Welfare building is beautiful and also mobbed out, as there is a kids party on. It's £2.50 on the gate and £1 for a pretty good programme. Sticky loves his grounds that are located in the heart of the community. The Snack Bar and changing rooms are behind the nearest goal. A blue-painted stand with wooden benches runs alongside the nearest touchline, with further cover behind the far goal. The far side is open, with what looks like a leisure centre behind it.

The local community haven't turned out like Wisbech did last week. There's barely twenty people here. I grab a cup of tea from the Snack Bar, sadly not poured from out of a teapot. I see two kids throwing mud at one another. They're a couple of rum uns. The youngest is wearing a Man Utd shirt. I say to the oldest: "What do you think to Man Utd ?" "They're crap", he replies.  I position myself to the left of the visitors' dugout. There's a presentation taking place on the pitch. Brodsworth have won the Fair Play award for the season's first quarter.

It's a very lively start. Ollerton see efforts kiss, crash and thud off the crossbar. 'Broddy' take the lead from the penalty spot. Ollerton restore parity. A cross from the right is tapped home at the far post. Broddy score another in bizzare circumstances. I get my grubby mitts on the matchball on 25 minutes. The referee complains they'll be added time because it took me that long to retrieve a stray clearance.  The visitors are denied a stonewall penalty on the stroke of half time. The linesman and ref both bottle it. I ask the ref at half-time about the penno. If looks could kill.

Ollerton pile on the pressure in the second period. Another shot cannons off the woodwork before they deservedly equalise.

Man of the Match: Cliff Anderson

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