Sunday, January 27, 2019
The lads are full of beans having banged in 19 goals in their last two outings. Training is fun, with 90% of the squad attending each week. I really miss my groundhopping, but I'm loving my time with the young guns, and have no plans to retire just yet.
It's Tuesday evening and I'm hurtling down the Nottingham ring road towards the village of Ruddington where 'Our Joe' lives. His brother ('The Keyworth Georgie Best') is on a 12-day bender in Lanzarote. Joe and I have a chippy tea at the Ruddington Fish Bar, on Church Lane, before making the short journey down Green Lane to watch the World famous Clifton All Whites versus one of Sticky's other favourites, Gedling Miners' Welfare.
I scratch my head, Stan Laurel style, as I work out who I'd like to win this Notts Senior Cup tie. Both clubs are dear to my heart, with quality fish 'n chip shops close to both stadia. 'Our Joe' has played at junior and senior level for All Whites. He talks fondly of the time they won the Midland League Cup at Telford United's New Bucks Head ground. I'm really hoping he comes back home to Nottingham, after finishing his degree at university. It would be great to get him back on the pitch, playing 'ball again.
The two teams serve up a classic cup tie encounter. The Miners' are 1-0 up within 40 seconds. With the score being 4-2 to All Whites at half time, many in the crowd feel the game is over. Not Sticky though, as I know Jack Jepson always has a goal in him. I mention to CAW manager James 'Tosh' Turner at the break that they only have to mark one player out of the game - to be honest I'd double mark him, that's how dangerous the boy is.
Clifton fail to heed that warning, with Jepson bagging inside sixty seconds of the restart. Luke Smith restores parity on 52 minutes. Jepson misses a penalty that would have seen them clinch the tie. In extra time Liam Corrigan's header puts the Miners' into the quarter-finals after 120 minutes of breathtaking football. It's great to see Gedling manager Chris Marks back in the dugout and enjoying his football again. I can barely feel my toes as I head back to the car. Captain Scott wouldn't have survived tonight's Arctic conditions.
It's bitterly cold on Wednesday evening as 22 lads rock up for training at South Notts Academy in Radcliffe On Trent. The Club is in a good place right now, with both teams going into Saturday on the back of long unbeaten runs. It's absolutely freezing with the 3G white over with frost. The lads have a good warm up before going into a game - I don't want folk standing around getting cold waiting to do drills.
I've had a cracking week at work, and have proper brought home the bacon. A big deal lands on Thursday. It spurs me on to book a cruise with Royal Caribbean to celebrate Ms Moon's up and coming 50th birthday. It's done and dusted in a 15-minute phone call. Barcelona, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos and Valetta, here we come. I'm feeling rather chipper, as I'm in Budapest for four nights, with the lads, in June, with the annual jolly boys outing to Tenerife in November - I really can't 'arf pick em.
It's Friday evening and I'm driving up 'Millionaire's Row' in the village of Keyworth. I swing the car into a large drive with wrought iron gates. Tommo lines up the 'Gin Palace'. I have three large Whitley Parma Violet gins, neatly decorated with blueberries and raspberries. I get tonked at table tennis by Tommo and 'Lord Geoffrey' before heading down the Keyworth Tavern for the Arsenal v Manchester United FA Cup tie.
I'd secretly hoped to catch some of the 'Baby Squadron' out having a few scoops, but the word on the street is that they're all tucked up, having an early night, ready for the game tomorrow - they're probably all in town, where I can't hunt them all down.
They've finally got a landlord at the Tav' who understands beer and looks after his ales. He has a splendid drop of Moonshine ale on as a guest ale from the Abbeydale Brewery in Sheffield. Six pints later and I'm collapsing onto Lord Geoffrey's couch, with a cup of tea for company, watching England's demise in the First Test in Barbados.
I feel as rough as a badger's arse in the morning. The Big Man is there for me, in my hour of need. He invites me around his crib for a full English. It's just what the doctor's ordered. I wash it down with a mug of tea. I'll see the Big Man later up at Ravenshead, as he loves watching the homegrown youngsters play. I bump into Fod, Lou, Trumpy Bolton and Jayne. They are en route to Ravenshead to go on the sauce and support the lads too. I immediately phone every pub in Ravenshead to ensure fresh barrels are put on.
Crikey Moses, I've still got last night's clothes on; what a tramp. I grab a quick shower, pack the kit, blow up the balls and fill up the water bottles before jumping back in the car and heading up the A60. I roll into the Ravenshead Leisure Centre car park at 12:45pm. Ravenshead is a village in Nottinghamshire with a population of 5,600. It borders Papplewick, Blidworth and Newstead - it's situated close to Sherwood Forest.
The lads start to arrive in a convoy of cars. They've all got smiles on their faces and can't wait to get in the changing room so they can bang some toons out of the sound system. 'Sizzers' always puts on London Grime artist Cadet, as he thinks I like him. It would break his heart if he found out that I think he's pants. 'Lose Yourself to Dance' by French electronic duo Daft Punk is song of the day - well done 'Sizzers.'
I give the lads a pep talk out on the pitch ten minutes before kick off, warning them of the pitfalls of playing a side they beat 7-0 in the reverse fixture. It was only last week that Ravenshead gained a valuable point away at AFC Clifton on the adjacent pitch to where we were playing. They have our upmost respect.
We are being refereed by a young lady who comes from Melton Mowbray. She addresses the lads before the game, explaining what behaviour is expected of them. Hats off to her, it's the first referee that has the courtesy to do this with the lads. I ask her if she supports Leicester City. She replies in the affirmative. The lads start booing ... lol.
Talking of Leicester I see in the distance Trumpy Bolton. He's crying a river of tears after being told there are no licensed premises in the leisure centre. The Big Man ferries him down to a Shell garage so he can stock up on Strongbow Dark Fruits.
Ravenshead are a physical team, but play within the laws of the game. My lad isn't getting much joy out of their left-back, Josh Brentnall, who is as hard as nails and rapid over the ground. It's 0-0 at the break - Sticky Palms doesn't do 0-0s. I tell the lads to stay calm, collective and together, the goal will come if we are patient.
'Ravo' came more into the game at the fag end of the first half. We are in debt to our 'keeper 'Shirty' who has made some fantastic saves. We don't start the second half very well. I make a quick change on ten minutes, as I can smell a goal for the home side in the air.
You can never rule out our talisman and resident DJ 'Sizzers.' Only minutes after being upended in the box, and having a stonewall penalty turned down, he picks up the ball, twists, turns and dances his way through the defence before firing home a left-foot shot that nestles in the right-hand corner of the net. I punch the air in delight and relief and hug one of my subs. The lads have a massive pile on.
Ravenshead have put a shift in. They've also been good hosts too. We all meet for a drink together at the Sherwood Ranger and watch the results come in on Soccer Saturday.
Man of the Match awarded by the Opposition: Callum Barratt
Thanks to Louise Dixon Photography for the images x
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Back in the changing room 'we' (the lads) crank up the toons. Clapham-born British grime artist Cadet booms out of Sticky junior's' sound system. I enquire as to whether it's 50 Cent and get shot down in flames. The celebrations continue in the clubhouse with close friends of mine who have come down to support and some parents of the 'Baby Squad.' The 'Keyworth Georgie Best' is potting a few pints and furiously smoking his way through a packet of Mayfair cigarettes. I have my one pint of Guinness before leaving the team to celebrate long into the night. I hear Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline being sung by the lads as I head out to my car. My son has bagged a hat-trick, and for that, I have to thank my mate Chris Thompson, who has mentored 'Georgie' over recent weeks. It's never an easy relationship between Dad and Lad, when father manages the team.
Tuesday evening is spent down at Green Lane, home to the famous Clifton All Whites, whose alumni include: Jermaine Jenas, Jermaine Pennant and Darren Huckerby. I've The Taxman for company. We spent a pleasant hour or so at tea time in the Packe Arms on the A60, just a few miles outside Loughborough town centre. Kimberley Miners' Welfare are tonight's visitors. I have a quick chat with KMW legendary secretary Stephen Hobster, before viewing the first half proceedings. The game is played at a face pace. Former Mansfield Town, Sheffield Utd and Blackburn Rovers midfielder, Lee Williamson, is strutting his stuff in the 'Kimbo' midfield. It's 0-0 at the break. The Taxman says he can smell a stalemate - Sticky's slightly more chipper and optimistic than that.
I catch up with a few Clifton folk at the break. My youngest lad played for the Under 19s for a few seasons, so it's a club that I hold dear to my heart. One of my all-time favourite characters on the Non-League scene, James 'Tosh' Turner is striding towards us. 'Tosh' always makes us feel welcome and is grinning from ear to ear. I predict that the final score will be 1-1 as he hurries off into the direction of the dugout.
The second half is scrappy and disjointed. The KMW bench get angry with the referee, quite why, I don't really know, as it's Clifton who are reduced to ten men after a wild challenge is deemed a red card. Incredibly, Clifton take the lead on 88 minutes, only to be pegged back deep into stoppage time. I'll collect my correct score winnings off Lord Turner of West Bridgford the next time I see him.
Thursday night is the highlight of the week (sorry Tosh). I'm drumming my fingers on the coffee table contemplating what to do next when I hear a familiar tune strike up on BBC One. It's Series 8 of the popular light entertainment show Death in Paradise. My old budgie Murphy Palmer used to love whistling the theme tune - God rest his soul. I end the evening watching a few re-runs of the cult BBC Two situation comedy Early Doors -"crime won't crack itself."
We're on the road by 10:am. I see a Nottingham City bus advertising the Capital FM Breakfast Show. They play the same six records all day, on this excuse of a radio station. One of them is 'Don't You Worry Child' by Swedish House Mafia - I've written better lyrics on the toilet. If I find out that any of the football team, I manage, listen to Capital, I'll boot them out of the team!
We drive past the oldest Football League club in the World (Notts County). They have a massive six-pointer versus Colin Calderwood's Cambridge United today. God help them if they lose, as it will edge them closer to the trap door and into the murky waters of the Conference.
Sat Nav takes us down the M42, M6 and M54. Trumpy Bolton's favourite DJ, Graham Norton, is on flames today. He gets my toe tapping to 'Get Out of Your Lazy Bed', by Brighton-based Latin flavoured jazz band Matt Bianco.
I've booked us into a snazzy boutique hotel called Darwin's Kitchen, and have managed to negotiate a £30 discount - all that sales training hasn't gone to waste. We check-in before heading to a riverside pub called The Armoury that was recommended by 'Our Kid.' It doesn't disappoint as we both get stuck into a rump steak sandwich. Mine is accompanied by a superb pint of pale ale from the Salopian Brewery.
We take a stroll down the banks of the River Severn in an effort to walk off lunch. We jump into a taxi to save the hassle of catching a bus. The ground is a good hour's walk away from the town centre.
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire, with a population of just over 70,000. It lies on the River Severn and has over 600 listed buildings. It suffered very little from bombings in the Second World War, so many of its medieval buildings remain intact. Notable people born in Shrewsbury include the biologist and evolutionary thinker Charles Darwin, Burnley and England 'keeper Joe Hart, Sheffield Wednesday and Scotland striker Steven Fletcher, the golfer Sandy Lyle who is a former British Open champion and US Masters winner. The broadcaster and gardener Percy Thrower used to live in the town.
Shrewsbury Town Football Club were formed in 1886. For 97 years they were based at their Gay Meadow ground, on the banks of the River Severn. Notable former players include: David Moyes, Nigel Pearson, David Pleat, John McGinlay and Neville Southall.
I collect our tickets and wander around the perimeter of the ground taking a few snaps whilst Ms Moon slopes off to Starbucks for another latte. It's £20 to enter the West Stand and £3 for a programme. The out-of-town Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium lacks character. It reminds me of so many of the new builds such as Colchester United.
Ms Moon and I are as snug as a bug in rug on the back row of the stand out of the swirling wind. The Shrews are hovering in the nether regions of League One, and have, in my opinion, taken the harsh decision to sack John Askey. Relative novice Sam Ricketts has been swiftly recruited from nearby Wrexham.
High-flying Charlton are managed by Lee Bowyer. They have two of the hottest strikers in the League, in Lyle Taylor and Karlan Grant. The game has a brilliant ebb and flow about it, which is particularly pleasing on the eye for the neutral supporter. I'm sat next to a lovely, old, knowledgable gentleman, who gives me the heads up on Shrewsbury.
The Addicks are kept at bay by a virtuoso performance by Shrewsbury 'keeper Steve Arnold. Darren Pratley seizes on a mistake by former Lincoln City skipper Luke Waterfall, before smashing a shot into the top corner of the net. The industrious Grant dusts himself down, after being felled in the penalty area, to strike home the spot-kick and finally put the game to bed.
We exit the ground with five minutes remaining as we have a taxi booked so we can enjoy a few drinky poos in the town centre.
Attendance: 5,995 (518 from Charlton)
Man of the Match: Steve Arnold and Matt Bianco