Monday, November 27, 2017
A smiling 'Flying Scotsman' answers his cottage door. He lives on the outskirts of Widmerpool, a village where former Nottingham Forest assistant manager Peter Taylor, Clough's talent spotter, was laid to rest. I taxi the 'Flying Scotsman' and his partner, Sarah, who I've known for over 35 years, over the water to the Nottingham suburb of Carlton. After a few nibbles and drinky-poos, we jump in a cab up to Mapperley Tops, a Sunday lunchtime haunt of yours truly. We visit The Old Flower Shop, The Woodthorpe Top and Castle Rock's Bread and Bitter before returning to base camp. Ms Moon hits the wooden hill first after a bout of hiccups (too many bubbles, honey). The three of us end up shouting songs at You Tube on the TV, drunkedly singing out loud until the early hours.
It's Sunday morning. I was up until 2:30am washing pots and tidying up. Sticky Palms runs a tight ship when he's bevied up. We enjoy some breakfast before I make the return journey to Widmerpool to drop off a fragile Glaswegian and Sarah. It's a beautiful crisp, cold, autumn morning. I haven't the energy to peg it down Carlton Road for my Sunday constitutional. Ms Moon kindly drops me off at the Fox and Grapes. I only have a couple of pints before settling in for the day.
I scan the internet for an alternative fixture and spot that Gedling Miners' Welfare and Dunkirk are crossing swords just two miles up the road. It gives me an excuse to call by the Plains Fish Bar - I'll be getting a loyalty card at this rate.
I bump into Miners' Welfare head honcho Tony Hay as I take my customary stroll around the ground. I mention that I'm their lucky charm this season - three visits, three wins. Tony isn't so sure tonight, as they've a few missing and some walking wounded. They run out 2-0 winners after being pinned down in their own half defending a stiff breeze for the first 45 minutes. I'm pleased for them and admire their never-say-die attitude instilled in them by the Management.
There's a tearful farewell scoop with Ms Moon on Thursday evening as she makes her debut in the old 'Pretty Windows.' Don't worry folks, we're not 'parting company' as they say in the football world. No, not at all, the good lady has been invited on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa on safari by her close friend, Jill.
We kiss goodbye on Friday morning. I feel pretty bad as I'm on a team call with my colleagues when she leaves for Heathrow Airport. I don't fancy moping about the house this evening or sitting in a pub on my own, reading my Kindle or scrolling through the social networks. I travel up the A60 on a bitterly cold evening before parking up outside a sports complex on Debdale Lane in Mansfield Woodhouse.
The Central Midlands League have taken the forward step of introducing 'Floody Friday.' It gives the chance to sad old Hoppers like me, whose partner has abandoned him for warmer climbs, the opportunity to tick off new grounds on a Friday. Sherwood Colliery are entertaining Pinxton FC. The pitch is already white-over on my arrival. I view the game with the League's social media man, Tony Squires and a few watching managers. Sherwood wipe the floor with a lacklustre Pinxton, dusting them 4-0. Over 200 people ventured out to watch the game.
It takes two hours for normal blood circulation to return to my toes and feet. God only knows how Captain Scott used to cope. I sit with a brew (mug of tea) and watch an untroubled Aussie skipper, Steve Smith rack up the runs in the Ashes.
I feel like I've lost my left arm with the Princess out in Africa. 'The Big Man' is back in the squad. The plan was to grab a large haddock, minus the chips at the Ruddington Fish Bar, before driving over to Keyworth. Philos Cafe, on the High Street, grabs my attention, as I order up the old favourite, a bacon and brie baguette.
The original plan was to visit Bamber Bridge up in Preston, just off the M6. Lancashire is submerged in water, with the game an early casualty. Once the damp sets in for winter, I like to stay within an hour or so of Nottingham. Stone Old Alleynians v Shifnal Town has caught my eye and ticks off the right boxes.
The Big Man is blowing a gasket that Rushcliffe Borough Council have given the green light to building new houses backing onto his property. He attended a residents meeting during the week and voiced his concerns. He has a beautiful view over fields towards the village of Bradmore. Councillors won't give two hoots about that.
I'd forgotten how fast the 'Big Man' drives as he hurtles down the country roads towards the A453. He gave 'The Taxman' a 'Death Ride' a few years ago, it terrified the poor chap, who has refused a lift ever since.
The plan is to go to Stone, with Stafford Town on 3G as back up. Jesus wept, Gem 106 is on the car radio. It's a relief when we pitch up at a puddle-filled, pot-holed car park after listening to Backstreet Boys, Olly Murs and Blue.
Stone is a market town in the county of Staffordshire with a population of 16,000. Stanley Victor Collymore, one of the best modern day strikers ever to grace The City Ground, was born in the town. Two-footed, explosive pace and deadly finishing, and yet his potential was never really fulfilled.
We lounge about in the warm clubhouse with a cup of tea and sausage roll. I came here a few years ago, but never saw a game as the lights went out when a fuse blew. I'm already fretting about this game and chance upon the young referee on his routine pitch inspection. "Tell me it's on pal", I plea. "As it stands now, it's a no" replies the man in black. I about-turn and march back to the clubhouse. I poke my head around the door, "we're off" I announce to a disbelieving 'Big Man' who is eyeing up another sausage roll. After a Grand Theft Auto piece of driving we arrive at Evans Park just in time for kick off.
Racing Club Warwick are the visitors; a club where WBA and England 'keeper Ben Foster began his career. He was on loan at Wrexham from his parent club Stoke City where Alex Ferguson's son Darren was the manager. Dad was tipped the wink, with Foster signing for Man Utd.
The ground lacks character. There's a stand on the nearside, with the crowd protected by netting. Me and the Big Man keep on the move to stay warm. He shouts the teas up and gets the Kit Kats in as we watch the half-times rolling in. Lincoln have conceded bang on 45 minutes. I'm still stewing that Coventry turned around a 1-0 deficit last week.
We chat to a few friendly club officials. They have over 30 junior teams which they'd like to eventually feed into the first team and reserves. I admire the ethos and wish other clubs would follow suit - including my old village team. It's my old pipe dream.
Racing Club Warwick put the game to bed, clinching a 3-1 victory which ensures a teeth-clenched 'Death Ride' back to Notts for Sticky Palms.
Man of the Match: Big Man
Sunday, November 19, 2017
I'm back on the bus at one bells on Sunday, alighting on Lower Parliament Street before pegging it up London Road with the crisp autumnal air blowing off the canal. I pull open the swing doors of Jessie Boot's old dispensary in The Embankment and neck a few Black Iris ales as they have taken over the taps, whilst listening to tales from the armed forces, who are gathered here for Remembrance Sunday. It's important to remember there have only been two years since the Second World War ended that we haven't lost a soldier, 1968 and 2016. I raise my glass in the direction of the old soldiers before leaving the pub and heading home in a sombre and reflective mood.
The 'Italian Stallion' can't make Gedling Miners' Welfare game on Tuesday. The Taxman is also a non-runner; he has more excuses than Arsene Wenger. My old cricketing buddy Johnny Buttery is up for it though. Selston FC are the visitors in a Notts Senior Cup tie - I rate them very highly.
Ms Moon and I pass like ships in the night. I leave the house just before she arrives back from the pub with her daughter. I was up at 5am and in Darlington for 8am. I'm tired and hungry. A visit to the Plains Fish Bar on Mapperley Tops for a belly full of fish 'n chips soon puts me in the mood for football and what a pulsating game is served up. You always get a friendly welcome from Tony Hay and the gang at Gedling. I enjoy the half-time hospitality that the club have kindly laid on. The Miners win the game 4-3 with a late goal in the dying embers of extra time - I really can't arf pick 'em.
I'm back in the pub ('Pretty Windows') on Friday tea-time for a few jars, a frustrated Ms Moon is stuck in the rush-hour traffic. After wolfing down a Marks and Sparks Chinese meal it's lights out for the pair of us as tomorrow is going to be the mother of all days.
'The Flying Scotsman' and his missus are pitching up this evening for a night on the tiles up Mapperley Tops. Ms Moon swerves her normal three episodes of Heartbeat on ITV Encore as it's Operation Clean-up. I try to explain that it isn't Royalty arriving but it falls on deaf ears. I'm dispatched down to the tip after a garage clear-out. I nip in Tesco's to grab a sandwich before heading out east towards Grantham.
'The Arsenal' are 2-0 up against bitter rivals Spurs. I'm listening to Nigel Adderley commentate on Talksport, as Five Live are covering the rugby at Twickenham - Sticky doesn't do rugger. Adderley's co-commentator is Ray 'Butch' Wilkins. Man alive this guy is banal and unimaginative. He makes Owen Hargreaves sound like John Motson.
I see a signpost for Plungar and Granby, so turn right off the A52. I've arranged to meet a mate called Malc Shenton, a legendary village cricketer from this parish, in the Marquis of Granby. Malc's propping the bar up and tucking into a bowl of chips. He very kindly buys me a pint of citra pale ale from the Brewsters Brewery based in Grantham. Malc has been rocked this morning with the news that Nottingham biker, Dan Hegarty, a friend of his, has been killed in an accident during the Macau Grand Prix. He's not feeling up to going to the football.
We chew the cud for half an hour or so. The pub -iPod shuffle is belting out some cracking tunes from Blancmange and Aztec Camera. Malc is decked out in his England rugby clobber and is looking forward to the friendly international versus the Wallabies from Twickers later today.
Blimey Charlie it's ten minutes until kick-off, I best skedaddle. I hurtle through the village of Elton, before rounding a bend and taking a right turn into the car park at Orston Recreational Ground. Aslockton has a population of 1,742. I have spent many happy days playing cricket there for Keyworth. I remember once, back in the early 80s, a cup tie one Sunday. It rained throughout our time in the field. When it came for our turn to bat the hosts refused to field. We had a bowl off. I recall bowling bare-chested, bare-footed and in boxer shorts. Needless to say I didn't hit the stumps. I was also in the field at Whatton and Aslockton on a balmy spring day in 1993 when Brian Clough retired as manager of Nottingham Forest.
The greatest winger I have ever had the pleasure of seeing ran a pub (The Greyhound) in the village back in those days. John Robertson won two European Cups with Nottingham Forest, scoring the winner versus Hamburg in 1980. Cloughie described him as 'the Picasso of our game." I kid you not, when teams used to visit The City Ground back in the day, they had to double-mark 'Robbo.' His right foot was as good his left.
I can remember sitting in Copper Cafe on West Bridgford's Avenue with my two lads a few years back. I pointed at a guy drinking a pint and said to my boys "you see that fat, scuffy unshaven bloke sitting over there, he scored the winning goal in a European Cup final." They both looked at me and burst out laughing. The guy was 'Robbo.'
Former Notts County scholar George McCartney falls awkwardly and has to hobble off. Aslockton will have it all on without him against League leaders Hucknall. I get gassing to Richard who's doing a BA in football journalism at the University of D***y. He's the roving reporter for the Hucknall Dispatch. He'll not have much to report on in the first half apart from Hucknall hitting the bar more times than Trumpy Bolton. A couple of efforts on target ensure they go in 2-0 up at the break. It's been men against boys, to be honest, with Aslockton having a lone wolf up top.
Twelve years ago, Hucknall reached the FA Trophy final at Villa Park. They lost the game on penalties to Grays Athletic. Financial woes have hit the Club hard over the years. They now find themselves in Step 7 of the football Pyramid.
We go in the cosy cafe for a warm. Wales are on the TV playing rugby. I check the scores, the Imps are beating the Sky Blues 1-0. We venture back out. I can't feel my toes. The visitors put the game to bed just as 'The Reaper.' rocks up. I'd completely forgot that he lives just down the road. Hopes are dashed of a Non League dog photo when 'The Reaper' coughs up that he's not brought his two daft lads, Frank and Stanley.
There's a sickening clash of heads between two players on our side of the ground. Hucknall's player is pretty much out for the count. They lose another one shortly after, with blood oozing out of Jordan Phillips nose. Aslockton and Orston peg one back with a goal of high quality. I've more pressing matters to attend to. We're on the sauce with a Stella-fuelled 'Flying Scotsman from 5pm. More on that next week.
Man of the Match: John Robertson
Sunday, November 12, 2017
It would have been easy to crank up the heating, flop into the armchair and check out all the Non-League results on the laptop this evening, but we've a party to go to. Our friend, Piers, from West Bridgford (but I don't hold it against him) is hosting his annual fireworks' extravaganza and fancy dress party. The theme this year is 'The Curse of the Mummy.' Ms Moon has bagged a Cleopatra outfit. There was chuff all left in the shop when Sticky waltzed in late bells on Friday. I notice a skeleton; that'll do.
Jesus, this outfit is tight. I can feel it ripping around my shoulders. "What the bloody hell is that?" shouts an exasperated Ms Moon. I peer down towards my nether regions. Stone the crows I have an eight-inch penis; well not me personally, but the outfit has. It gets worse, attached to the costume is a little black box with a pipe leading to said member. When you press the button it inflates the John Thomas fully erect. Ms Moon asks me if I knew this before I bought it. I dodge the question and the bullets that come firing in my direction.
The party is off the charts, with 'my thingy' going down a storm. Piers has spent a king's ransom on the fireworks and has had a Tutankhamun cask shipped in from North Yorkshire. We end up wandering down The Avenue and into Forty Four bar. The bouncers ask me to remove my mask, totally ignoring my todger. After a few Hendricks and far too much attention, Ms Moon whisks me away home in a taxi.
It's Tuesday tea-time and I'm on the A17 heading towards Boston United's wonderful, old York Street ground. I have the best fish 'n chips of the season at Eagles Fish Restaurant, before taking my pew high up in the stand to view a managerless Pilgrims against high-flying Salford City. The game is bloody awful. The visitors grab the only goal of the game after a defensive mishap.
The week has dragged on, but Friday finally arrives. By 7pm I'm necking gin after gin listening to all the storytellers on our trip to Tenerife (see previous blog). It's Wednesday morning and I'm sat with the lads in the Giddy Goose having a bacon sandwich, feeling as fresh as a daisy after a 12-hour kip. The same cannot be said for the Big Man, Bruiser, Rotton and Moysie who are all hanging out their arses after clocking off at 4am.
We've a few hours to kill before the flight back to Old Blighty. I'm accompanied by the little lad, Bruiser, on another 13km round trip to Costa Adeje in the searing heat. We take a peek at the Bahia Princess Hotel, where Sticky and Ms Moon are stopping in early February. I've already got another game lined-up in the Canary League at Las Zocas.
It's Thursday morning 9am. I drag my weary body down the stairs. I didn't get to sleep until the early hours. I catch up on work emails and admin. I'm in good books with the Princess as I bought some last minute Jean Paul Gaultier perfume from the duty-free. I can't arf pick em.
We proper laze about on Saturday morning before heading off to Northamptonshire just shy of midday. I've found a pub in the Good Pub Guide called the White Hart in the village of Hackleton. We saunter into the bar area to be met by a sour-faced, unwelcoming barmaid. I ask if it's okay to order food. She starts waving her hands in the air, complaining that a party of ten have walked in and they have only a small kitchen. Toodle pip mi'duck.
Luckily Sticky has another Good Pub Guide entry up his sleeve in Great Billing. The welcome is warm and the food is spot on. Curtis Mayfield's 'Move on Up' is on the jukey/ipod shuffle. In 1990 Mayfield became paralyzed from the neck down after stage equipment fell on him after a gust of wind, during a concert in Brooklyn, New York.
Northampton lies on the River Nene and has a population of over 200,000 people. Notable folk born in the town include: TV presenter Toby Anstis, rugby player Ben Cohen, vicar and Communards band member the Reverend Richard Coles, Bauhaus lead singer, Pete Murphy (legend), Doctor Who, Matt Smith, Test cricketer Graeme Swann and BBC DJ, Jo Whiley.
Old Northamptonians Sports Ground is lemon squeezy easy peasy to find. Northampton ON Chenecks was formed in 1946 by George Lloyd to enable boys at the rugby-playing Northampton Grammar School to play football.
It's £13 on the gate for entry, a programme and two raffle tickets. "What's the prize?" Pipes up Ms Moon. "Me", replies a tall bespectacled gentleman. "Can we have a refund?" remarks Sticky P. The ground is a beauty. The changing rooms and clubhouse are behind the nearest goal, with rugby pitches and a sharing cricket ground to the left. On the far side, there are two stands where we later take shelter from the bitterly cold nip in the air.
I'm approached by Chairman, Eddie Slinn. Ms Moon and I are made to feel very welcome. We position ourselves to the far side of the ground adjacent to the visitors' dugout. Eynesbury take the lead 'early doors' with a fluke cross hitting the back stanchion before nestling in the net. The visitors owe a debt of gratitude to their 'keeper who makes two fine saves before they race into a three-goal lead just before the break.
The Eynesbury bench have constantly been getting at 'Browny.' Ms Moon thinks that every player is named 'Browny.' She asks a sub who he is? We're both disappointed to find out he's wearing salmon-pink boots - just black, polished boots in my team, son.
We're all congregated in the clubhouse at half-time. VIP's are drinking tea and coffee as well as tucking into complimentary sausage rolls. Eddie looks a trifle peeved that the boys are 3-0 down; they don't deserve to be. He soldiers on with the raffle draw. We break this season's duck with a 2nd prize win of Terry's chocolate orange segsations. Ms Moon struts the catwalk to collect the prize - I'm blowing a gasket, I bought those tickets.
ON Checknecks have bucket loads of heart, soul and team spirit. They also have the game's best player in pocket rocket 10 jacket Brandon Williams. Boy oh boy has this lad got a heart as big as a lion. The 18-year-old has terrorised Eynesbury all game. Only misfortune has cost him a goal. His just deserts arrive early in the second half with an incredible finish from wide out on the right byline. The lad is worth the gate money and raffle win. We're devastated to see him withdrawn at 1-4 with a slight hamstring pull.
ON Chenecks pull a further two goals back, with the visitors indebted to their 'keeper for blocks and saves to earn them a win that many would say they didn't deserve.
Man of the Match: Brandon Williams
Without a doubt the friendliest club we've visited this season. Thank you to Eddie and Neil for your time.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
I jump back in the car and head towards the south of the river Trent; there's no work today for Sticky Palms. I turn onto Wilford Industrial Estate and park up opposite Orrsum, a clothing distributor. I notice him burst out of the front door, wheeling his case and carrying a rucksack on his shoulder. You normally hear him before you see him - he being the Big Man - the artist formally known in this parish as 'White Van Man.' He's as happy as Larry, with a smile as wide as the Trent, and so am I when I finally hand over my keys to the meet and greet chap at East Midlands Airport.
There's not a soul about at security, there's a deathly hush about the place, as we hook up with 'Bruiser' Rotton and Moyesie in Frankie and Benny's. I have the obligatory couple of stiff Bombay Sapphire gins to calm my nerves before the four-hour flight to Tenerife.
Ryanair have miraculously chanced upon an available pilot and even more ironically managed to take-off on time. I bury my head in my Kindle, only pausing occasionally to shout up a stewardess for more scoops. I grip my arm rests tightly as Captain Seamus somehow lands the chunk of metal on Tenerife South's runway.
We check-in at KN Columbus in the resort of Playa de las Americas - the Big Man and the boys have a season ticket here. There's a huge cheer poolside as the Big Man waves to 'Bungle' and the Cornish contingent - he seems to know ever bugger in the resort.
We get stuck into the all-inclusive that's on offer. There's a whistle-stop tour of pubs and clubs, that includes Leonardo's - the Big Man's favourite - girls pave the streets waiting for his autograph, such is his legend in the area of Arona.
The night becomes hazy and uncoordinated for tour veteran Sticky Palms on his debut, after half a dozen goldfish bowls of Jeff Hendricks gin. There's no recollection of the walk of shame home. The evidence is on my phone in the morning, with Google Maps still open with directions to the hotel somehow typed in.
There are other casualties to report, some are flamed on social media. One of our party has fallen in a flowerbed, with his phone not on his person when awakening from his slumber. The stereotypical performance of Englishmen abroad is there for all to see. A quick headcount confirms that all made it back, not without scrapes and scars to show, though.
I'm as rough as a Badger's arse, but don't want to cough up to the boys, as I'm sure I was the first to bail out. I've time to kill as I gingerly wander down to the seafront. There's a few white clouds kicking about as I punish myself with a 13km round walk to Costa Adeje in the baking heat. On my return to the hotel, after gulping 2 litres of water, I hail a cab and head inland towards the town of El Fraile. All the touring party are down Leonardo's watching Soccer Saturday, getting sozzled, soaking up the sun.
The taxi driver is a cracking lad. He's singing like a canary (get it) about how Chelsea striker Pedro was born in a village close by. He drops me outside the Campo Municipal Villa Isabel and promises to arrange a cab for my return home at 5:30pm.
I'm quite excited about my third tick-off in the Canary League, having already bagged at CD Marino and CD Buzanada. The lads will be praying it's a 0-0. I'll be crying like a baby if it is and will be on the first flight home.
It's 8 Euros on the gate. I'm sporting a Panama hat and stick out like a sore thumb. Every local knows I'm English and seem amused by this pale-coloured, pot-bellied chap and his manbag. A bottle of Rioja or Spanish sherry are the raffle prizes - if I win I'll give it to 'Bungle' or 'Moyesie' who'll down in one and make Trumpy Bolton look like a shandy drinker.
The ground is an absolute snorter. Mahon beer is on tap in the outside bar, which is doing a roaring trade. The vantage points are amazing. Three sides have deep concrete steps with a wall you can sit on. On the opposite side of the ground is a stand, perched above the changing rooms. The view out to the mountains is breathtaking, despite the filthy black clouds.
I'm stressing about 'The Lincoln' who have a stinking draw in the FA Cup away at AFC Wimbledon. It's with good reason too, as they fall behind early doors, as do UD Ibarra following a thumping volley from the visiting forward after a pinpoint left-footed cross from an overlapping full back.
The music from the PA is bloody awful. I'd settle for some Julio Inglesis or heaven forbid, Sam Smith, right now. I foolishly swap ends at the break thinking the visitors will push on, but Ibarra are a plucky bunch, and cheered on by their beer-fuelled supporters, deservedly equalize.
There's about 10 minutes remaining as I poke my head out of the exit and see a taxi with its meter running, but driverless. I see a bloke with a blue shirt on watching the game, he confirms it's his taxi. I hate leaving early but don't want ripping off with a taxi fare. I'm mortified later to find out the final score was 2-2; bloody hell I'm not telling our lot, they'll rip me to shreds.
It's carnage back at the hotel. 'Bungle' is spangled after an early session down at Leonardo's watching his beloved Leicester. The troops regroup and have a cracking night out in the resort, with the highlight being Rotton and Sticky Palms throwing some shapes on the Magic Bar dance floor before an overload of Hendricks curtails my evening once again.
I plummet to an all-time low on Sunday night. I went on my lonesome for a stroll up to Los Cristianos at lunchtime. Facebook and texts lured me up to Leonardo's at 3:30pm for 'Super Sunday.' Bruiser and I are met with utter bedlam. Rotton is sinking tin after tin of Guinness down in one, 'Bungle' is speechless again and Moyesie is drinking like a fish.
After spanking the Hendricks on the sun-drenched bar patio with Bruiser and a mate of Mark Crossley's from Barnsley, I somehow find myself back in the comfort of my hotel room. I call Ms Moon before saying goodnight. I take a look at the time on my phone, it isn't even 8:30pm. The shame of it, asleep before Wild at Heart.
It's a bit quiet around the poolside on Monday morning. One or two of the boys got battered as the post-mortems begin. The Big Man's not happy. Moyesie burst into the room at the crack of dawn after another heavy session and chanced upon one of BM's ham and cheese filled baguettes in the fridge. He pleads with BM to let him have a bite. A grumpy BM declines his request. Moyesie starts clapping his hands and singing at the top of his voice "Halves it, Halves it, Halves it." Nobody messes with the Big Man's food.
The highlight of the day on Monday is cocktails at the Papagayo Beach Club, watching the sunset, but even that ends in tears much to the amusement of Sticky Palms who called it an hour ago - let's put it this way, patience isn't a virtue for some of us.
I put a decent shift in on Monday night, but nobody can live with Moyesie, who could drink Phil Mitchell under the table, as well as talk the hind legs off a donkey (and that's coming from me ..lol)
He's a lovely bloke and shares a mutual interest in Herbert Kilpin, the co-founder of A.C. Milan, as well as wearing some well cool T-Shirts that I need to get the website from him.
Lads' Lunch at Hard Rock Cafe is my final contribution to the holiday. After a three course meal, carafe after carafe of red wine and cocktails on the rooftop, it's another early night for Sticky P and his upset tummy.
Moyesie has time for a lager with his breakfast on Wednesday following a sixteen-hour bender before we jump in a cab and head home.
Man of the Match: Sean Moyes. Needs a drink-off with blog legend Trumpy Bolton