Sunday, August 17, 2014
I park up on some scrubland across from the churchyard. I want to pay my respects to one of the greatest talent spotters this country has ever produced. I walk through the gate, up some steps and branch off to the right. It doesn't take long to find his grave. There are no fresh flowers and his headstone is lob-sided. Peter Thomas Taylor is laid to rest here. How Nottingham Forest could with him right now and one of his Non League gems like Garry Birtles or Peter Davenport.
Five days later I walking through a sea of German replica football strips with the names Muller and Klose printed in black lettering on the back of white shirts. I'm in the Majorcan seaside resort of Cala Millor. Clough and Taylor always brought the players out here after to celebrate a League title or European Cup final win.
I don't wake up until 9:00 on Saturday morning. Murphy the Budgie is livid; he's already missed one hour of the Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s Show. I try to make amends by unwrapping a honey bar I bagged from Wilko's in Loughborough for 50p. But the mardy little sod is having none of it and turns his back on me.
I make a pot of tea for one. I lob a Yorkshire Tea teabag (hard water only) into the pot. I have a breakfast for kings - Marmite on toast. I wander down the garden towards Finley the rabbit's crib. It's our favourite time of the week. For 8 years now Finley has had a stab at a Non League score prediction at the game I'm going to.
The bloody A1 is a pain in the arse. There's standing traffic at Junction 34. I pull off onto the M18 and go up the M1. I'm spoilt for choice on the radio today: there's Danny Baker on 5Live, Test Match Special on Radio 4 LW or Patrick Kielty on Radio 2 - the latter plays a Northern Soul classic - 'Do I Love You' by Frank Wilson.
The news is thoroughly depressing though: one man is dead and 31 are seriously ill after illegal immigrants are found in a container at Tilbury Docks. There's been a murder in Urmston in Manchester and a plane has had to make an emergency landing at Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.
I've an FA Cup extra preliminary round match to go to. Tadcaster is a market town in North Yorkshire which lies on the River Wharfe. It has a population of 7000. It is famous for its three breweries: Tower (Coors), John Smith's and Samuel Smith's.
The i2i Stadium is smack next to the John Smith's Brewery - there is no evidence of their sponsorship though. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for the programme which is a very informative and professional read.
I'm taken a back at this beautiful tree-lined ground. With its quirky, steep wooden stand behind the nearest goal and the immaculate playing surface. That ruddy-faced pie-eater from Barlick will be rubbing his huge hands with glee at the thought of a fried chicken wrap or a Yorkshire Pudding wrap filled with beef and drenched in gravy (like my coat).
Barlick took a 5-0 drubbing at Nelson during the week and they are soon behind to a Calum Ward 9th minute goal. Both teams spurn golden chances as Barlick inch their way into the game. The Brewers Josh Greening is light on his feet and has an exquisite touch. His brother Jonathan played for Man Utd, WBA, Fulham and Nottingham Forest.
The smell of yeast and hops drifts across the ground from the brewery. I scroll down my Twitter timeline. Bolton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest are two a piece at the Reebok Stadium. Sticky junior will be jumping up and down in his bedroom.
The Barlick defence has more holes than a string vest in the second half. Carl Stuart bags a hat-trick as Taddy run riot. Amongst the mayhem there is a shining light for Barlick. Their diminutive 11 jacket Joel Melia is worth every penny of the gate money. He ghosts past the home defence with ease. The ball sticks to his boot like glue. He shimmies, drops his shoulder and fizzes a shot just wide of the upright. I'll watch them again, just to see him. His non-stopping running and energy levels are why I watch the beautiful game at this level.
Man of the Match: Joel Melia
Sunday, July 27, 2014
I'm sat with the Mayor of London and Big Bear Baker on the terrace of The Plough in the village of Wysall. It's a place where I will begin to write my book, when I finally get round to it. Earlier in the evening we'd stood aghast as Notts battered Yorkshire into submission in the T20 Blast. James 'Titch' Taylor thumped 'Sideshow' Sidebottom for 18 runs off 4 balls. James 'Aretha' Franklin smashes a six back over Tim Bresnan's head to win the game with 5 balls spare. I celebrate with a pint of 'Right Turn Clyde' from the Blue Monkey brewery.
I roll out of bed at 9:00am. Murphy is swinging on his perch, whistling his little head off to 'You've Lost That Lovin Feeling' by The Righteous Brothers. He's rewarded with some crack cocaine (sprig of millet) and a new chew bar. There's just time to re-fuel Finley the rabbit with some fresh water before dashing out the door. Finley's crap non league tip today is 3-0 to Histon.
It's sweltering outside and good to have the air con on. John Bishop is standing in for Graham Norton on Radio 2. He plays the 1989 hit 'Can You Dig It?' by Manchester indie band The Mock Turtles.
I pull into a long stay car park as I fancy a mosey around this historic market town. St Ives lies 12 miles north west of Cambridge. It has a population of 16,000. Former heavyweight boxer Joe Bugner and his family lived in the town having fled Hungary in 1956 following the Uprising.
After a bit of a wander around I finally chance upon the Oliver Cromwell public house tucked away in a side street close to the river. I order up a pint of Broadland Sunrise and a smoked salmon baguette. I sit in the courtyard. A chap in the corner sparks up more ciggies than Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.
I wile away an hour or so pottering around the place. If you want your computing fixing, fish 'n chips, a Chinese take-away or a barbers then St Ives is the place to be. I pull into Westwood Road,, home of St Ives Town, in plenty of time. The club was founded in 1887. Striker Conor Washington scored 64 goals in 60 appearances. It earnt him a move to Newport County. He now plays for Peterborough United following a reported £500,000 transfer last season.
Histon will expect a stiffer test today than they did a fortnight ago at Cogenhoe. The first half is played at a pedestrian pace. Neither team look likely to hit the onion bag. Thoughts start to enter my head that there might be another bloody 0-0 on the cards. Ten minutes before half time Histon take the lead through McLaughlin.
There's an extraordinary incident just before the break. St Ives 7 jacket scurries down the byline and whips in a fantastic ball, the keeper comes out and is smashed with the stray boot of an incoming forward. The referee plays on. A woman next to me is incandescent with rage. She's giving the referee pelters and ain't shy in an eff or jeff too. St Ives No.7 tells her to "eff off." It livens up a dull game.
The second half is far more entertaining. The Histon 'keeper is forced into some fine saves. Histon wrap the game up with five minutes remaining with a strike from Relizani. Once again Histon's Peter Clark has caught my eye. His darting runs, change of pace and passing skills will surely find a bigger and better stage than this.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
We swing in through gates of their Green Lane ground. It's the first pre-season training session of the season. The first team manager is James 'Tosh' Turner. This effervescent, bubbly, enthusiastic character and brilliant coach is setting up tonight's drills with his mobile phone glued to his ear. He beckons me across: "Sticky, what yer doing on July 19th ? Fancy Skegness Town away."
It's Friday night. I've had a few quiet beers on the patio. Marouane Fellani pops round to introduce himself to my rabbit, Finley. It's 11:00pm. I laid flat out on the sofa coughing my guts up. I've had the dreaded lurgy all week. I lost my voice for a few days - not great news when you're in the customer services game. Murphy is perched on top of my pillow, plucking all the feathers out.
I'm in 'The Lincoln', birthplace of Sticky Palms. The rain has cleared. Lincoln Cathedral dominates the skyline. The journey through Wragby and Horncastle is painstaking. Reports are coming through that Tosh and the gang have tipped up at Wolfies Wine Bar on the seafront. Tosh allows the boys a few looseners as part of this team-building exercise. It's an old Brian Clough trick.
I decine his kind offer of a 'few sociable scoops' and head towards Gibralter Point Nature Reserve. I walk through the bracken and heather, over the sand dunes and onto the beach. It's a beautiful, peaceful spot to wile an hour away or so.
Skegness is a seaside town in the civil parish of East Lindsey. It lies 43 miles east of Lincoln, with a population just shy of 20,000. Butlins in Ingoldmells was the site of the UK's first holiday camp. Notable people born in Skegness include former Liverpool and England 'keeper Ray Clemence and Rainbow lead singer Graham Bonnet.
Skegness Town were formed in 1946. The black comedian Charlie Williams once played for the Club. His catchphrase was "Me old flower." He used to respond to rascist heckling from punters by saying: "If you don't shut up, I'll come and move in next door to you."
I take my seat in the stand. Five pensioners on the back row are enjoying some banter. I ask if it's okay if I take a photo. "We're Lincolnshire's most wanted" quips one OAP. I look across to the far side. Dressed in all red, including his face, is Tosh's sidekick, Steve Hardie. There has been a reversal in fortune since his arrival. Tosh and Steve led Clifton to the Central Midlands South Division title last season. Steve looks to have spent the close season at the Clifton Kwik Tan Salon.
Clifton are wearing a rather fetching red strip. It was donated to the Club by QPR'S Jermaine Jenas. There's nowt doing in the first period as both teams struggle with the stifling heat. The linesman on the far side is having a 'Weston Super-Mare.' A spectator remarks that the 'lino' once cost him a year's ban. I enquire why. "I threatened to knock him out at my lad's game." Oh dear.
The entertaining Jaylee Hodgson has a cigar on at the back. He's had more clubs than Peter Stringfellow. He never wastes a ball, working in tandem with the impressive Jake Richardson.
The final whistle goes. It's my first 0-0 since Jan 2012. Bloody hell, all those so-called mates of mine will be terrorizing me on the social networks this evening. It'll be the usual suspects - White Van Man , Bruiser and The Zuffler.
Tosh has a pub crawl lined-up for the lads. I'll catch up with him again on Tuesday when they travel to Gedling Miners' Welfare.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
We jump on a bus to Trent Bridge; it's the second day of the First Test v India. It's the usual roll call in the Southbank Bar. We bolt down a big breakfast; with a pot of coffee and not real ale. Prime seats are taken in the middle section of the Radcliffe Road End .
If only the cricket was as good as the banter. England won't bowl at the stumps and India won't put out the rod. We sink a few in the NFFC Supporters' Club at lunch. The most exciting part of the day is when India lose a flurry of wickets. The last wicket stand is painstaking and productive. We get to see England bat for an hour before piling into the Larwood and Voce and the Stratford Haven for some post match real ales. I stumble into a taxi with Barthez at nine bells. I've work in the morning. I can't be hanging.
It's the usual drill on Friday evening. I sit on the patio, sinking a bottle of Beaujolais, kindly bought by a parent from the team I used to run. I watch the sunset, chuckling away at the endless anecdotes in Danny Baker's 'Going to Sea in a Sieve.'
I'm dispatched down the garden early doors on Saturday morning. There's lots of chopping, huffing and puffing. I have a quick wash. What the hell is the theme tune of Eastenders blaring out the bedroom door of 'The Skipper' for ? The lazy sod is watching it on catch-up. 'The Skipper' is making his debut for Clifton All-Whites Ressies. I drop him off at the ground and wish him good luck. I hook up with Phil as we take the familiar route down the M1 South.
The village of Cogenhoe (pronounced Cook-nuh) lies 5 miles east of Northampton. It has a population of 1500. Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves once lived in the Old Rectory in the village. I never knew he had it off with Valerie Singleton - a Blue Peter badge for that one kid.
It's all kicking off near their Compton Park complex. The village fete is taking place today, with a car boot on Sunday. It's busy in the car park as there is also a cricket match in play.
It's a tidy enough ground. I prefer them to be in the heart of the community, like they are in the old mining towns. The cricket match next door provides some noise and cheers. A batsman is dismissed; a fielder pipes up with the Billy Smart's Circus theme tune.
I've no idea if this is the Histon first team, as they look a little fresh-faced and young. The under 21s had played a little earlier. I've always admired Histon who are also a village team. I'm a big fan of their former striker Dan Holman, who signed for Colchester United on Friday from Braintree Town.
There's no pattern to the game in its early stages until Histon striker Franklin Mensah lampoons a shot over the 'keeper into the roof of the net. The youngsters gain confidence and are 4-0 up by the break, with one or two smart finishes.
Cogenhoe boss Andy Marks tells his players to get tighter to the two runners in midfield who are bossing the game. I give 'The Skipper' a call; he's as happy as Larry with a 4-0 victory over Newark Town stiffs. The second half is a non event. Cogenhoe manage to bag one, a further four from the Stutes gives Sticky Palms a good start on the goal front this season.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Easter weekend is spent in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. It's a treat from Mrs P for my 50th. I use the Friday as an excuse to chalk off a few real ale pubs from out of the Good Pub Guide. The Café Royal is the crème de la crème, tucked away in a corner of West Registry Street. The weather is kind to us. We sunbathe in the delightful surroundings of Princes Park.
I'm back in rainy Nottingham and football is at the forefront of my mind. For my sins, this season, I've volunteered to coach two youth football teams. The season seems never ending. My eldest lad, Sticky jnr, has been known to run off at the mouth at referees and officials during a game. One drunken Stella Sunday I foolishly said that I would cough up £100 if he went the whole season without a yellow card. As it stands, with one game remaining, he has yet to receive a caution -GULP.
Murphy, 'The Skipper' and Groundhopper are queuing up in the kitchen for a bacon sandwich. Mrs P drops the grill pan on the floor. Six rashers of bacon and a river of grease are on sitting on a floor tile. I remark it's a child protection issue when Mrs P swears in front of Murphy.
I firm up a date for the next Real Ale Trail around Nottingham with The Zuffler. It's on FA Cup final day, with a 1pm kick off in the Cock and Hoop. There was a good question on the Colin Murray Show yesterday: Who was the last player-manager to pick himself in the Premier League?
Destination is Crofton, in West Yorkshire, home to Nostell Miners' Welfare and an area where the Bronte sisters were educated. I can't find a decent pub in the guide so opt for a re-visit to the Brewers Pride in Ossett, adjacent to the Ossett Brewery. It has olde worldy charm about it and has a bustling main bar. I grab a pint of Durham Citra Nova and a steak baguette.
I'm scrolling down the Evostik Division One North fixtures when I notice that Ossett Albion are playing Padiham from Burnley in Lancashire. Ooh, I've never seen those two teams before. I'll put Nostell MW on the back-burner. Murphy will be cross as he's predicted a 4-0 win for the visitors Pickering Town.
The drive to Dimple Wells Road is a breeze. Adjacent to the football ground a cricket match is taking place. A ring rusty batsman fails to keep a low delivery out, as the bails go flying up in the air.
It's £7 on the gate and £2 for the programme. That Durham Citra Nova has done for me, it's time for a toilet inspection. It's a good start, they have Armitage Shanks but they could do with Sticky Palms Cleaning Services as they are filthy.
It's a bloody nightmare trying to jot the teams down as the PA guy has a Norman Collier faulty microphone moment. I'm sure he says that Benjamin Britton is on the subs bench, so at least we'll be good for a tune at half-time.
Ossett play with the wind behind them and enjoy the lion's share of possession. Padiham have pace and technique in their locker. Kieran Pickup thumps a half volley from miles out, only to see it bounce back off the crossbar.
I bump into Zac a 5 year old Springer Spaniel at the break. He supports the Albion. Not missed a game home or away for two seasons, apart from Lancaster City, where dogs are banned. His owners' lad plays left back. I say lad; he's 42.
Ossett's 19 year old loan 'keeper from Rotherham is caught napping as a 40 yard free-kick catches the wind and sails over his head to give Padiham the lead. On the hour Mark Sharples doubles their lead with a smart finish, following good work down the left.
The best player on view, Kieran Pickup, puts the game to bed in the dying embers. I check the score from Nostell as I exit the ground. It's 4-0 to Pickering. "Bloody Hell, Finley."
Man of the Match: Referee, Luke Watson
Quiz answer: Stuart McCall
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The chap's name is Trumpy Bolton. He has dominated the pages of this blog for over six years. Today is his stag weekend. We're off to Hull, via Goole, final destination: Rotterdam. The banter is flying about on the mini bus, as Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2 is piped out the speakers. I'm already pining for Murphy the budgie. We're seldom apart.
We mull over the morning papers during a breakfast stop at the City and County 'Spoons' in Goole. Everyone has a tip or two for the Grand National. We have the race covered off. Next stop is the port of Hull. Famous Hullensians include: William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson, Sir Tom Courtenay, Maureen Lipman, Paul Heaton of The Housemartins, John Prescott, Dean Windass and Nicky Barmby.
It's carnage on the ferry to Rotterdam. Over 100 Dutch marines mob the casino and main bar area. Little Clem breakdances and spins on his head. A Dutch marine matches him pound for pound. Mr Moonshine, fresh from the National, shows his behind through the stage curtains. Boat security guards whisk our man away to a standing ovation from both the Dutch and English contingent. Thankfully all the kids are in bed.
Eight sore heads make their way to Rotterdam by coach. Big and Little Clem tip up 2 hours later in a rickshaw, having been booted out their cabin by 'our friends' from Security. Highlight of the day is seeing 'White Van Man' forking out out nearly 8 Euros for a vodka.
It's Saturday morning and I'm down on the banks of the River Trent at Dunkirk FC's Lenton Lane ground. 'The Skipper' is refereeing a top of the table junior football game. It's an absolute cracker and has the lot. Unfortunately it ends 0-0. Sticky Palms doesn't do 0-0s. I'm flipping fuming. The last one I saw was Hinckley v Luton in the FA Trophy. Andre Gray skinned the Hatters alive that night. He signed for Luton for £20,000 the following day. He's leading scorer in the Conference Premier. Wonder what he's worth now?
The ride to Lutterworth is a piece of cake. We exit at Junction 20. Mrs P has nicked the Tom Tom. I've scribbled down a route to a pub called the Grey Goose in the village of Gilmorton. It has a lavish bar and open fire. I grab a sandwich and a pint of San Miguel.
Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, developed some of the world's first jet engines at the British Thomson Houston works in Lutterworth. The Brightwell brothers, David and Ian, were born in the town.
I can hear Sky's signature tune 'Alive and Kicking' by Simple Minds as I part with £5 on the gate. The programme is £1 and frankly a waste of money. It's a typical out of town ground; soulless and characterless. Although they do have the Mark English Stand on the far side of the ground. The grass could do with cutting too.
Lutterworth look like they been told to turn up and they'll win. Irchester take the lead early on and look sharp in the final third. To be fair Finley my rabbit and Murphy the budgie could run rings around the 'Atho' back four. Irchester don't look like a side with no wins in 12 games, while you'd be shocked to hear that Lutterworth are in the top three. The visitors take a well deserved 3-1 scoreline into the break with them.
The wind drops leaving cotton wool shaped clouds and blue skies. The visitors fail to put the game to bed as the missed chances stack up. Lutterworth pull one back, leaving Irchester's nerves jangling for the final 20 minutes.
Attendance: 30 (head count)
Man of the Match: Big Clem & Little Clem
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Plans were afoot for a stag weekend in the Isle of Man. I quite fancied a night in Liverpool, followed by a trip on the ferry and a stop-over in Douglas. We'd even been invited to attend a game in the Isle of Man Premier League by a chairman of a club. Imagine my horror on discovering that we now face a day In Hull, two nights on a North Sea ferry and eight hours in Rotterdam. Trumpy can't half pick em.
The weekend is a quiet one on the football front. My under 16s nick a point off Radcliffe Olympic. I celebrate in the Rancliffe Arms, in the village of Bunny, with a homemade steak and kidney pie washed down with a couple of pints of Jennings Lakeland Stunner.
I mow my back lawn up and down for over half an hour. I catch the little monkey scampering down to the bottom of the garden and diving under the shed. He remains there for over three hours. I entice the Bolt out with a carrot.
Hallam FC's Sandygate Lane is the 'Oldest Ground in the World.' Quite how I've failed to chalk it off in eight years of groundhopping remains a mystery. The M1 is a pain in the arse with its long stretches of two lane carriageway with 50mph speed limits.
Hallam FC were formed in 1860 and are the second oldest football club in the world. Former Owls and 'Dirty Leeds' manager Howard Wilkinson once played for the club. In 2010 well known local referee Uriah Rennie was unveiled as Club President.
I pull into the car park of a tired-looking Plough Inn, opposite the ground. I could do with a bite to eat but the barman says that they don't serve food on a Monday and Tuesday. The place is as dead as doornail. The classic tune 'Take it Easy' by the Walker Brothers is followed up by Thin Lizzy's 'Killer on the Loose' on the pub's i-Pod shuffle. I quaff a pint of Farmer Blonde from the Bradfield Brewery in Sheffield. It's a beauty, to be fair. And so is the ground across the road.
Shirebrook Town, from north Nottinghamshire are warming-up behind the far goal. It's the birthplace of Elephant Man actor John Hurt. I take note of their accuracy in the shooting drill prior to the game. They take an early lead in the fourth minute with Aaron Pride blasting the ball into the net.
I notice former Nottingham Forest striker Tom Mullen is playing up top for the visitors. He trialled for Rangers after being released by the Tricky Trees, but suffered a serious knee injury.
I reckon the Hallam PA guy has been on the Farmer Blonde. The sound system is spewing out Billy Ocean's 'Red Light Spells Danger.' Surely referee Bennett will be marching up to the Press Box to brandish a red card for this off-the-ball incident.
Shirebrook 'keeper Sam Andrew has been impressive in the first period. His communication and distribution are first-class. A neighbouring fan remarks how he's a dead ringer for Westlife 'singer' Brian McFadden.
Shirebrook put the game to bed with a close range finish by the unfortunately named Steven Wankiewicz. I exit the main stand and walk past a proper hopper, whose programme sits neatly in a plastic cover, whilst mine is scrunched up in my back pocket.
Man of the Match: The Walker Brothers