Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tadcaster Albion 5-0 Barnoldswick Town

I drive up Nottingham Road towards Keyworth village centre. I swing left in The Square onto Selby Lane, one of the most affluent parts of my village. I'm soon breezing through the countryside towards the village of Widmerpool. At first I don't recollect where St Peter's Church is located. Memories flood back of a friend's wedding over 25 years ago.

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 clock the Sportsman's Bar beneath the Cala Millor Park Hotel. I order a bottle of ice cold San Miguel and get chatting to a lass behind the bar from St Helens. There are hundreds of photos of Nottingham Forest players and management. There's folks like Liam O'Kane, Ronnie Fenton, Alan Hill and of course Clough. Sadly there's not one of Peter Taylor, who died in this resort at the age of 62 in 1990.

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.

What the hell are my spectacles doing in Finley's yard? I only had one can of 1664 last night. I don't recall any rough 'n tumble or frolics with my eldest lad. I pick them up and place them in my pocket. Finley says that Taddy will thump Barlick 3-0.

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 roll up into the car park of the Old Sun Inn at Colton in North Yorkshire. It's too overcast and blustery to take a seat on the open terrace. I make myself snug in the bar of this 18th Century watering hole. A pint of Collingham Blonde is accompanied with a warm pork pie, mushy peas and a plant pot full of hand-cut Yorkshire chips. The music from the CD player is varied - we're treated to David Essex, Stevie Wonder and Kinobe - I'm that chilled out, I could have forty winks.

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.

Tadcaster Albion were founded in  1892 (originally named John Smiths) and are nicknamed the Brewers. Today's visitors are Barnoldwick Town from Lancashire. I fell out with a pie-eating Barlick supporter a few seasons ago at Congleton Town. He spat flakes of pastry into my face and spilt gravy down my new coat from Next. I'll be hunting down that halfwit in the snack bar later.

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).

The stadium DJ thumps out some toons from Calvin Harris, Rudimental and Insomnia as the teams line up for the customary handshake.

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

Attendance: 106

Sunday, July 27, 2014

St Ives Town 0-2 Histon FC

It's Friday June 13th. Forty colleagues crowd around me on the Sales floor of Ergo Computing, a place I've worked at for almost 15 years. I'm showered with leaving gifts and asked to say a few words. I'm struggling to keep my emotions. I'm touched by the lengths some folk have gone to, in ensuring I have a great send-off. I quaff a few real ales at the Ruddington Arms and say my farewells. It's time to close this chapter in my working life and move on to pastures new.

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.

I shoot across to Grantham before joining the A1 towards Peterborough. Trumpy Bolton is going to be a bit miffed as he'd earmarked a trip to St Ives a while back. But I can't hang around all season waiting for him to pick and choose.  Anyway, it's a good opportunity to catch up with Histon again.

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.

First port of call is Boots. I snap up a bargain pair of sunglasses at half price. I'll have the ladies of St Ives in all of a flutter once I wear these bad boys. I give the face-painting stall a wide berth. I don't want to get stung like Young Kenny did on the 'Phoenix Nights Open Day.'

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.

I grab a bottle of water from the Refreshment Hut and stroll across to the far side of the ground. I plonk myself in the stand and watch the rigorous warm-ups. Histon manager Brian Page eyes his team watchfully. There's no Gilbert O'Sullivan flat cap today. A guy in my stand annoyingly shouts down his phone like Dom Joly off  Trigger Happy TV. He then proceeds to have a sneezing fit as he downs a pint.

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.

I decide to go and stand on the opposite side as two young lads have cheesed me off all game by getting up and down at regular intervals as well as rattling their packets of Skittles and Haribos every ten seconds.

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

Skegness Town 0-0 Clifton All Whites

I'm in the 'Rolls Royce' driving up Ruddington High Street. At my side is 'The Skipper.' For the last 10 years he has captained his village team on a Saturday. On Sundays he has represented one of the most famous football clubs in our Shire - Clifton All-Whites. Famous players to have donned their all-white strip include: Jermaine Jenas, Jermaine Pennant, Viv Anderson, Darren Huckerby and Garry Birtles.

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.

It's teeming down with rain on Saturday morning. I grab a few bits and bobs together before heading out to the east coast. The A46 is a breeze these days. I turn the radio on. Murphy the budgie will be whistling his little head off at Herman Hermit's on the Sound of the 60s Show on Radio 2.

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.

I drop into the Bateman's Brewery at nearby Wainfleet. I neck a pint of 'Yella Belly' and enjoy a spot of lunch. I roll up at Skegness Town's  Burgh Road ground in plenty of time for kick off. The first person I bump into is Sean. He's managed my boy for the last five years and is passionate about the Club. I scour the room and note that their are lots of families from Clifton who have made the trip.

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 a customary stroll around the ground. It's a health hazard to the right of the clubhouse as I attempt to reach the only seated area. The grass is knee-high full of nettles and thistles. Planks of wood and broken fencing are strewn about the place. I'm going to have to put a call in to Tommy Walsh off Ground Force.

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.

Sean shouts me up a cider at the break as I start to think the unthinkable. This could be a 0-0. Tosh makes a few changes. Ben Clark, with his brilliant first touch and gifted footballing brain is replaced by former Nuneaton striker Nicky Kennerdale.

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.

Tosh throws on a couple of 16 year old kids with 30 minutes remaining. It's a managerial masterstroke. Clifton get the ball wide to their young guns. The Skegness defence is peppered with crosses. Only an outstretched leg prevents young Ross from opening the scoring.

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

Cogenhoe United 1-8 Histon FC

It's Thursday July 10th. I'm piloting the 'Rolls Royce'  through the picturesque village of Widmerpool in south Nottinghamshire.  Buried in the churchyard of St Peter's is the former assistant manager of Nottingham Forest, Peter Taylor. He died in the Majorcan resort of Cala Millor, where I'm off on my hols in a few weeks. I haven't got time to pay my respects right now, as I'm picking up Big Bear Baker, the Mayor of London and Mad Dog from Willoughby.

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 been an eventful few months since my last groundhop. I've lots to share with you all: a new job, retirement from youth football and a real ale trail in Nottingham. I'd been looking at a game the previous weekend. Potential fixtures fell by the wayside as teams either double-booked fixtures or failed to raise a team. Thorne Colliery and Winsford United will have to wait until later in the season.

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.

I love the Stag's Head at Great Doddington. The village has some beautiful stone buildings, decorated with glorious hanging baskets.  I enjoy a refreshing pint of Kronenbourg 1664 and a brie and bacon ciabatta, whilst basking in the lunchtime sunshine.

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 rather pricey £6 on the gate. The programme is £1 and is sadly without squad names or player profiles. We are treated to seven pages of United Counties League news, which is copied and pasted from Press releases. I should be okay for a signal as a Talk Talk phone mast is fitted to one of the floodlight pylons.

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.

Looking at the size of the Cogenhoe team I can't see them lasting much longer than an hour in this baking heat. The pitch is well manicured and in perfect nick. Histon are managed by Brian Page, who I know has done very well at youth level for the Club. It's great to see him given a chance with the first team. Not sure about his choice of headgear today - he wears a flat cap. I thought it was the 70s Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan for a moment.

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

Ossett Albion 0-3 Padiham FC

I was reminded by Fod that I'd forgotten to mention Too Tall Tony's virtuoso performance on the recent Hull to Rotterdam stag weekend. He hit the sauce at breakfast time on Day 1 and I'm not talking tomato or brown, folks.  He ended up in the Guinness Book of Records for falling asleep in the most pubs in England and the Netherlands on a 24 hour bender . He left his party piece for the early hours of Sunday morning. So sozzled, was our Tony, that boat security had to wheel him back to his cabin, Sandy Richardson style - more like 'Too Tired Tony.'

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 budgie has got it on him this morning (Saturday) I've tuned into Mary Ann Hobbs on 6Music rather than Brian Matthew's 60s show on Radio 2. She plays Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel's 'White Lines' which reminds me of a hazy, lazy two weeks in Ibiza. Murphy cheers up when she plays 'Twenty Five Miles' by Northern Soul sensation Edwin Starr - he was found dead in the bath at his home near Nottingham in 2003.

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?

I have to give 'Howard Webb' a lift down to Dunkirk, as he's reffing an U12 title decider. I'm impressed with what's on view and make a mental note to follow up. The 50mph speed limit on the northern stretch of the M1 is an irritant.

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.

Ossett is a market town in the metropolitan district of Wakefield in West Yorkshire, with a population of just over 20,000.  The town is mentioned in the song ‘It’s Grim up North’ by cult alternative techno group KLF. Famous folk from the Ossett include: Stan Barstow, Black Lace, Helen Worth (Gail off Corrie) and the novelist David Peace of the Damned United fame.

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.

I like the rugged look of the ground. It has soul and character. I stand on the far side close to the goal that Ossett will attack. Behind me are sweeping views out towards Emley, with it's big tower of a transmitter dominating the skyline.

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've got some guy next to me with a headphone in one ear who repeatedly shouts out 'bloody hell' like Dave off the Royle Family. On my other side are two referee assessors. They won't have much to report as the young man in the middle is brilliant.

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

Attendance: 227

Quiz answer: Stuart McCall

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lutterworth Athletic 2-3 Irchester United

It's 8:45 on a Saturday morning. I'm stood chinwagging to White Van Man in the Keyworth Tavern car park. A ruddy-faced gentleman emerges from a car. He's wearing a navy blue Berghaus coat, a blue and yellow-striped polo shirt and tracksuit bottoms. Tucked under his arm are four cans of Tanglefoot ale from the Badger Brewery. He's probably already necked a can of McEwans and had pate on toast for breakfast.

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.

We're holed up in another Wetherspoons. The boys are happy though, racing from Aintree is on the big screen. There's complete and utter silence as Pineau De Re romps home in the National. The pub floor is decorated in ripped up betting slips.

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.

We watch 'The Arsenal' suffer a 3-0 drubbing at Goodison Park in a tidy little Irish Bar in the drinking quarter of the city. The trip home is less eventful but just as enjoyable as Fod and Trumpy come to the party. I retire to my pit at 2:00pm back in Nottingham after a few sherberts enroute home. I'm too old for this.

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.

It's a short drive to Lutterworth Athletic's Hall Park complex. Lutterworth is a market town in the Harborough district of Leicestershire, with a population of 8,000. In the days of the stagecoach Lutterworth was a stopping place on the road from Leicester to Oxford and London.

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.

The turnstile operator is on good form though. "I'd have sent you down Costa Coffee in town if I'd know you were going to drink that muck they serve in the Clubhouse." Big Clem sends me a message to see if I'm popping down to the NSL Groundhop Day at Keyworth United. 370 hoppers have rocked up at Platt Lane.

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

Hallam 0-2 Shirebrook Town

An invitation to the Wedding of the Year popped through the letterbox this week. Blog legend Trumpy Bolton will be tying the knot in May. The ceremony will take place at the Rothley Court Hotel in Leicestershire. It's a place that former England Test captain was allegedly caught with his pants down. The chambermaid left his room tidy.

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.

It's Sunday afternoon. I've had a miserable morning up in D H Lawrence territory. I went to watch a lad play who quit the club the week before. It's a no show from him and Sticky ain't happy. I get the lawn mower out, well actually it's Finley Palmer the rabbit, who doubles-up as the worst non league pundit this country has ever seen.

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.

I've Simon Mayo and his Radio 2  'Confessions' for comfort. He plays Southern Soul Memphis band Booker T and the MG's 1962 smash hit 'Green Onions.' Bloody hell, who's responsible for the road system in Sheffield. It doesn't help matters that I've not updated my Tom Tom for six years. After what seems an eternity a rather grumpy and stressed out Groundhopper arrives in the leafy, middle-class suburb of Crosspool (population 7000) in Sheffield. Olympic athlete Sebastian Coe was brought up in the area.

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.

It's £5 on the gate. In 2010 a supporter of the Club, Roger Bell, left hundreds of thousands of pounds in his will to Hallam FC. They have spent the money wisely. There's a beautiful, brick-built clubhouse as you enter the ground. The main stand, with its blue and white tip-up seats, provides a birds-eye view of the surrounding countryside and neighbouring cricket club. I grab a sausage roll from the tea hut as I amble around the ground. I stand at the bottom of the vicious slope and admire the beauty and charm of this glorious old ground.

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.

There's certainly no love lost between the two sides as the tackles fly in. Referee Daniel Bennett from West Yorkshire is dishing out more cards than Clintons. Both sides return to the dressing room with the full compliment of players.

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.

Attendance: 45

Man of the Match: The Walker Brothers