Sunday, November 18, 2018

Forest Green Rovers 0-1 Morecambe

It's 6:30am on Thursday, November 10th and I'm sat in a bar at East Midlands Airport caressing a glass of diet Coke. 'Chopper Harris' is sinking a pint of Guinness. Our Jet 2 Boeing 737 hits the skies bang on time as we begin our five-day adventure (bender) to Tenerife. We're staying in the heart of the liveliest resort on the island, Playa de las Americas - for the record I'm 54 years old and three quarters. Fast forward 15 hours and I'm having to escort a drunken 'Chopper' back home to Parque 3 Santiago - he has the balance and control of Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck.

Each morning is spent tucking into breakfast at El Cedro, where two full English and four coffees comes in at less than 10 Euros. It gets rowdy on Friday evening. We're at the Royal Garden, on the front, having a peaceful gin and tonic, watching the sunset over the Atlantic, seeing if Robert Maxwell's final Cuban cigar washes ashore. Suddenly there's a rumble and a commotion. You tend to hear him before you see him; yes folks, the Big Man has rocked up with 'Bruiser' and Paul.

Saturday is the mother-of-all benders (well that's what I thought at the time). Chopper and I are stepping out by eleven bells and heading up towards the resort of La Caleta, 7km away (disgraced ex football TV pundit Ron Atkinson lives up there). We take in bar after bar before calling by the Big Man's HQ, Leonardo's, to watch the scores coming in. Only one result really interests Sticky Palms; Keyworth United Dev 7-0 Ravenshead United. We return to 'HQ' later after a session and bite to eat at Bad Bobs, to watch the 'Big Fight.' Chopper is out for the count quicker than Scouse cruiserweight Tony Bellew.

Events take a turn for the worse on Sunday. After spending one hour looking for my passport - Chopper found it in the oven (don't ask) - we jump on a bus from Los Cristianos up to the island's capital city, Santa Cruz. I've bagged a couple of tickets from a lovely chap called Chris Todd, who runs an ex-pat bus, up to CD Tenerife. Santa Cruz is the most unremarkable place and is also dead as a dodo. We sit in a bar in the centre of town contemplating what to do next, as Chopper is desperate to watch the Manchester derby. He searches on Google maps before hunting down a tiny sports bar on a narrow, cobbled side street. One TV is showing Barca' v Real Betis, the other has Chelsea v Everton. Three hours later after watching Barcelona and 'United' both get tonked, we stagger up the road to the CD Tenerife Supporters' Bar. We'd earlier drank that little bar dry (watching Barca) and ate copious amounts of tapas - for just 33 Euros.

I've not seen a 0-0 at a new ground since April 2017, when Ms Moon and I saw Colne v Droylsden fail to register a shot on target, up in the Lancashire hills. I've grave concerns about tonight's game after reading up on the stats. A couple of gins go straight down the hatch before we peg it up to the ground.

The stadium is a belter and holds 23,000. I'm starting to feel worse for wear after neat Amarettos and goldfish bowls full of gin. It's not bloody well helped by a couple of buffoons banging their drums two rows down. The game has 0-0 written all over it. The visitors, Albacete (near Valencia) are woeful and couldn't hit a Pamplona bull with a pair of castanets. CD Tenerife swarm all over them, doing everything but score. The Big Man and Bruiser are going to rip me to bits - 2,000 miles for a chuffing 0-0 - I shed a tear at the final whistle.

We sink a few more gins before returning to our resort. Chopper suggests we drop into The Dubliner for a nightcap to see the lads - five hours later I collapse into my pit, still singing Sweet Caroline and 'Laid' by Manchester band, James. It's deja vu on Monday evening, following an epic day out which began with a 'Lads' Lunch' up in the hills - the Big Man retired early (3pm) to watch Tipping Point and Home and Away, the rest of the boys pushed on. Sticky Palms aged 54 and 3/4 ends up on all fours after more stumbles than Raheem Sterling due to another sing-song at The Dubliner. After four failed attempts at opening the patio door, I call for a paramedic (Chopper).

It's Friday evening, how the hell did I get out of Tenerife alive? Tuesday was the longest day of all time. The three-day working week has lasted a lifetime. Not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips in the last 100 hours. I've drunk more water than Robinson Crusoe. I venture out up Carlton Hill to the Free Man a comedy 'Spoons watering hole. I sink a pint of Shipyard and catch up with Ms Moon before trotting up the road to The Brickyard for a swift one. Lights are out for 9:30pm; Tenerife has done for me!

A few weeks ago a 270-mile round trip to Nailsworth, in Gloucestershire, sounded a great idea. On Saturday morning I feel battered, broken and shattered, just like Tony Bellew (and Chopper) the other weekend. I'm on Spinney Road at the heart of the 'Keyworth Bronx.' I can see the Big Man's van parked up and 'Big Ed' knocking on his door - "he'll still be in his pit me duck" I shout, as I wind down the window. We do a Facebook live of Trumpy Bolton pottering down the hill towards us. He's had a pint of 'Fursty Ferret' for 'breakfast' and is full of cough and cold - it's only 10 o'clock.

It's been a sad old few weeks for Trumpy and his wife, Jayne, following the tragic helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium. He went to Leicester to pay his respects and both were at Cardiff City for an emotionally-charged afternoon, where their team played their hearts out.

We travel Coventry and Stratford way, before hitting traffic that's heading to Cheltenham races. Forest Green play in the small, picturesque town of Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. We find a free car park, high up overlooking the town. Trumpy has a couple of cracking pubs lined-up. The first is the Britannia, a former manor house, with a big log fire. Bolton necks a couple of ales as Sticky devours a brie and bacon burger. The second boozer is a snorter. Egypt Mill is a converted 16th Century mill with working waterwheels and a stone floor bar. It's two more real ales for the legend, as Sticky struggles with a half, still feeling the after-effects of 'the Reef.'

After two aborted attempts, we finally rock up at The New Lawn. We're fleeced for £7 to park the car. A very friendly steward ensures we aren't double-parked ( must of heard I tripled parked in Tenerife) so we can get a quick getaway.

Trumpy has got the moaner-meter on full power. It takes an age to purchase a ticket (I know, before you start, should have done it online). How was I to know they had a kids' deal on? There's worst to come for Bolton when time is called before he can buy a pint at the Green Man. He's seething and starving by the time he catches up with me in the South Stand behind the far goal.

Forest Green were founded in 1889 and are owned by green energy industrialist and former New Age traveller, Dale Vince, the owner of Ecotricity. Mark Cooper is the gaffer; he's managed more clubs than Peter Stringfellow and seems to have beef (sorry Dale) with Danny Cowley at 'The Lincoln' - fair play as we always seem to beat 'Rovers.'

Morecambe are today's visitors and have one of the best managers in the League in Jim Bentley. Year after year he keeps them up on a shoestring. Ms Moon and I have loved our two trips up to the Globe Arena.

Trumpy has got the hump because of a beer-free zone. I suggest he hunts down the famous Forest Green vegan pie. He returns with a tray of chips soaked in curry sauce. Forest Green play a neat passing game, but nobody is prepared to take a risk, shoot or cross. The Shrimps are rapid on the counterattack. They force the Rovers 'keeper to make a few good saves. Resolute defending sees the visitors go in at the break at 0-0.

Trumpy has a smile as wide as the M5 at half-time as bucket loads of lager are wheeled into the 'Beer Zone.' I listen to a bungling DJ play Rockafella Skank by Fat Boy Slim three times. Trumpy spends the second half looking through his beer goggles counting how many visiting supporters have made the 400-mile round trip. He says there are 72. The PA guy announces 94. "Does that include the team and coaching staff?", chortles Bolton.

I'm chuffed to bits for Morecambe when their skipper Aaron Wildig scores at the death to send the visiting supporters into wild celebrations, which will last long into the night on their long journey home. I think of the little boy and Dad who we saw earlier in the town earlier today. What a memorable day out for Dad and lad.

Attendance: 3,085

Man of the Match: 'Chopper Harris'

No comments: