Sunday, July 30, 2017

Marine 1-1 Blackburn Rovers XI

It's Saturday 8th July, 6pm, and I'm holed up on the sun-kissed patio of the Ship Inn, in Nerja, Southern Spain. Pauline, the Scottish barmaid, is fussing over me, as she pours another stiff gin 'n tonic. I'm reading the fag end of Red or Dead; it's a fictional masterpiece about the life and times of legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly.

A bespectacled gentleman, on the table next to me, is sinking a few pints of San Miguel. His wife joins him and we strike up a conversation. Ken is a Liverpool fan and Joan a Toffee (Everton). Ms Moon, looking a million dollars, crosses the road from the hotel and joins in with the banter. We bid farewell, a few hours later, tears of laughter still streaming down our cheeks, before going our separate ways for dinner. It's our final night; we have a nightcap before turning in, just shy of midnight.

Fast forward the clock, three weeks later, and I'm slouching about on the sofa watching Coronation Street - 'Steve McDonald' is still pulling faces and 'mugging it' for a living. We were meant to be moving house tomorrow. I usually lose my temper twice a year. It's like waiting for bus as two tootle up the High Street together. My solicitor gets the mother of all bollockings, as well some tosspot of a salesman at PC World/ Currys on Castle Marina retail park in Nottingham after offering me a 4% discount on a £1,200 deal. The house move is OFF indefinitely.

I suck up the house delay and contact Ms Moon by text - "weave your magic on, babe, - we're off to Liverpool for the weekend." We've spent more time in Liverpool than the Liver Birds - it's our favourite spot, bar none. It's our Premier Inn debut as 'the Princess' bags a deal including breakfast and evening meal in the glorious surroundings of the Albert Dock. I text Ken and Joan, they're up for a drink in town tomorrow night.

We arrive home, rain-soaked, on Friday evening , after a tea-time tipple in the 'World renowned' Trent Bridge Inn, adjacent to Nottinghamshire Cricket Club. I parked my backside, a few nights ago, in the Larwood and Voce stand, with work colleagues, to watch Notts pit their wits against Worcestershire. Harry Gurney bowled his usual garbage, being dispatched to all parts of the ground (including the A60) by the visiting tail end. It cost the Outlaws dear, despite a valiant effort by young Tom Moores - who will fill the boots of retiring legend Chris Read next season.

I'm awoken at 4am on Saturday by a Messenger ping on my mobile by Little Clem (Brian) who is swinging on a hammock in the Carribean, God bless him, listening to Bob Marley whilst reading my blog. It's great to hear of his loyalty and support of the blog - just not at that time of the morning.

I fill up with petrol in Sneinton and dive into Costa on Colwick Retail Park to refuel with Latte before heading off up to Liverpool. I daren't chance my arm with Test Match Special on 5 Live Sports Extra and I'm not having Absolute 80s - even though Ms Moon loves it (time warp). The compromise is Alan Carr and Mel Sykes on Radio 2 - Christ, I hope there are no roadworks.

Ms Moon has only had one coffee, so there could be fireworks if there are any hold-ups. The journey 'Oop North' is seamless. Blimey Charlie, Formby ain't 'arf posh. The Sparrowhawk is a belter and full of the jet set. The bar staff and management are different class - what a lovely, warm greeting. I quaff a pint of 'Yorkshire Blonde' from the Ossett Brewery.

Roy Keane would be cross as we gnaw our way through a 'prawn sandwich' (on granary bread) There's no sign of Jimmy Tarbuck, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen - they're probably teeing off at Royal Birkdale as we speak.

Ms Moon is piloting. Paul Young is belting out 'Come Back and Stay' on the radio. I had a teenage crush on one of his backing singers - it was like Abba - everyone fancied the blonde, but I always took a liking to Anni-Frid - and she could sing. My Uncle Tony interviewed her once for the Daily Express and said she was great fun.

The beach is amazing at Crosby - a hidden gem, with the sculptures by Antony Gormley, fully clothed and out at sea. Crosby is a coastal town in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside. It has a population of over 50,000 and is twinned with the island of Capri, in the Bay of Naples, where the Lancashire singer Gracie Fields died in 1979. Notable folk to have been born in Crosby or grown up there include: Cherie Blair, Anne Robinson (a friend of my late father,) Robert Runcie and Kenny Everett.

Marine FC were founded in 1894. Marine are well known for having the longest serving post war manager in English football, Roly Howard, who held the post from 1972 - 2005, a total of 1,975 games. Former Republic of Ireland international and ex Liverpool player Jason McAteer began his career at the club. Neil Ruddock told an amusing anecdote about McAteer when he was once applying for a credit card. The form asked what position he held at the company, McAteer wrote down 'Right Back.'

We park up on a side street close to the ground. I'm so excited (sad I know) but I have wanted to visit this ground for years and years, and to share this with someone with my passion.  We pay £5 on the gate. I'm gobsmacked as the ground opens up on our arrival down a tight Snicket. It reminds me of Scarborough Cricket Club - shoehorned in between terraced housing backing onto the ground.

We plonk ourselves on the far terracing with the sun on our backs. I've worked in Academy football long enough to know how Blackburn will approach the game. They play with fear, safety and without risk - I'm not sure what blueprint English football is copying right now - we've tried the lot - maybe it's Italian football, but Ms Moon is complaining (and quite rightly so) about its lack of competitive edge.

Thank the Lord that Marine are up for it. They attack, attack and attack. Rovers are all over the show. The goal has been coming after a sea of forward footy - you can only defend so many crosses. The move is beautiful and the finish sublime. Blackburn are your stereotypical under 23 team - they are unimaginative, boring and lack creation - it's no excuse for being young. They look at coach David Dunn for approval and a thumbs-up - neither are forthcoming.

I queue at The Galley for coffee and Lucozade at the break. It's a wonderful room full of old photos and memorabilia. Blackburn pull a goal back with a scruffy equaliser and even manage to fluff a penalty, before the game fades out.

Man of the Match: Little Clem

Attendance: 334

1 comment:

Mark of Hightown said...

Try the Courtyard in Little Crosby next time you're up here Groundy