Saturday, November 27, 2010
An anecdote: It’s Sunday October 24th 1999. I’m in the south eastern Irish town of Waterford, which is famous for its crystal. It’s the birthplace of: Val Doonican, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Jim Beglin and John O’Shea. Twenty five of us are on ‘The Architect’s’ stag do.
It’s the weekend from hell. Sticky Palms is streaming with cold, but just couldn’t miss this gig. We’re stopping in the worst hotel (I use the word hotel loosely) in living memory.
We’ve been made to feel very, very unwelcome. There was friction in the hotel bar on Friday night. It would have been quieter stopping on the Faulds Road in Belfast.
It’s hammered down with rain for two days now. On Saturday eighteen of us braved a local golf course in monsoon conditions. The remaining seven are holed up in a bar, next to a bookies. They gamble and drink themselves into a drunken stupor.
We’re all now gingerly recovering in a cosy seafront bar in the charming town of Wexford. We make our way to the racecourse for an afternoon meeting.
The ‘Magnificent Seven’ from yesterday still have £100 left in the kitty. Their leader is a guy called ‘Wrighty’ – he is a living legend. He bangs the whole wad on a horse in the first race and immediately doubles all their money.
He’s determined to fritter their winnings away and backs another nag at 2/1 which wins by a country mile. Wrighty’s waving £400 notes (punts) in the air now.
A horse called KC Electric has caught his eye on the race card – it’s priced at 4/1. He sticks the lot on. It’s the first time I’ve seen a bookie rub his board and reduce the odds, just because a mate has had a bet.
KC is on the second circuit, three from home. He’s absolutely pissing it. He jumps the second from home like a stag. Wrighty has his hands on his hips and is doing an Irish jig of delight – the locals are lapping it up. The boys are going to drag nearly £2000 – oh my God.
He’s fifteen lengths ahead as the jockey straightens up approaching the final fence. Suddenly KC veers off at a right angle and clatters into the inside rail. He’s had a heart attack and so has Wrighty, as his two grand winnings go up in a puff of smoke. Talk about the luck of the Irish (bookie).
Nothing tickled my fancy on the midweek fixture list. After the floodlight failure at Stone Dominoes the previous week, I’ve took a decision not to venture too far in the evenings until the spring.
I sit in the kitchen on Tuesday evening and tune in to the delightful, veteran commentator Colin Slater, who is broadcasting for Radio Nottingham at Meadow Lane. Lee Hughes leaves it late for the Pies in a 1-0 victory over Swindon.
I pull the curtains open on Saturday morning. I’m surprised to see a dusting of snow on top of the frosty surface. It’s only 7.30am. A few days ago I trooped down the stairs in a state of excited anticipation. It was the first day’s play in the Ashes.
Australian Junior Wood Chopping Champion, Peter Siddle, had cut down to size a cocky and over-confident England side. His 6-54 included a hat-trick on his 26th birthday. I quickly check Sky Sports News – Australia have already racked up over 500.
I save Sticky jnr the bother of riding his bike in the slippery conditions and help him deliver his papers. The Daily Mirror is reporting that Arsene Wenger has ‘popped one in the onion bag’, which is more than can be said for his toothless strike force in Braga on Tuesday evening.
I’m tipped the wink that a kids game is on in West Bridgford. I have a cruise around in Sally Gunnell, dropping in at Rushcliffe Comprehensive, West Park and Regatta Way – all games are postponed.
I arrive home at 11am. Mrs P has that look in her eyes which suggests deployment to a domestic task is imminent. I volunteer to clean the inside windows. It’s probably the most mundane task in the world, readers.
I stick the i-Pod headset into my ears and away I go. A couple of 70s tunes soon get me reminiscing about Youth Club. I remember ‘Disco Night’ on a Tuesday when the DJ played Boney M’s ‘Sunny’ and George McCrae’s ‘Rock You Baby.’ Warrington born Stone Roses lead singer, Ian Brown, brings me back to the modern age with his solo hit ‘Sweet Fantastic.’
Mrs P has shot off with her mum to a retail park In Netherfield. Apparently we need a new toaster and hairdryer. It gives me the chance to have a little skive.
The poor old ‘Skipper’ is sprawled out on the sofa watching Villa play ‘The Arsenal.’ He’s full of cold. Whilst most of the country is covered in snow, Aston Villa sprinkle the playing surface with water prior to the match. I watch Marseille born midfielder, Samir Nasri, put the visitors two to the good.
I make a few calls. Anstey Nomads game has fallen victim to the snow and frost. Loughborough Dynamo is just about the only game still on.
Rammers picks me up in the Audi soft top outside the Fairway pub. I thought it was Penelope Pitstop pulling in for a Campari and soda.
It’s a straight forward drive down the A60, past the University, followed by a left hand turn down Water Mead Lane.
Loughborough is a town within the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire; it has a population of over 55,000. Coronation Street’s top train spotter and potential groundhopper, Roy Cropper, (David Neilson) was born in the town.
It’s £7 per man on the gate. The programme is £1.50 and is an absolute must toilet read. There’s controversy just before kick off with a text from Mrs P. There’s been an incident between her and a girl on the tills at Netherfield’s Tesco: Final Score is Tesco’s 1 Mrs P 0 – It’s not a good time to ask if Finley can sleep in the kitchen tonight.
We stand the opposite side to the dug outs. The pitch is coated in snow but perfectly playable. Rammers says hello to the referee – he’s probably sent him to the stands a couple of times in the last 20 years or so.
Both teams are keen to get the ball down and play. Sutton Coldfield have some big lads and look stronger on the ball.
We’ve been joined by an elderly, bubbly gentleman, who’s wearing a Unibond jacket and is wrapped in either a Carlton Town or Mansfield Town gold and blue scarf. He’s jousting with Rammers. Turns out it’s the infamous ‘Evening Post Brian’ who features in ‘Beardy Malc’s’ ‘On the Road’ blog.
Brian hasn’t half got some rattle. I nearly miss the first goal as he reels off yet another anecdote – he’s another character that the Non League throws up from time to time.
The Royals’ Owen and Marshall exchange passes and prise an opening for former Walsall scholar Harry Harris, who places his shot into the corner of the net.
On 23 minutes Sutton Coldfield are awarded the softest of penalties, which fortunately for Dynamo is superbly saved by their ‘keeper Laurie Pearson.
Dynamo enjoy a golden spell. Both full backs bomb down the line. It’s from a Noble cross that Dynamo equalize in the 39th minute with Jay Lee Hodgson nodding home at the far post.
It’s bloody freezing folks. We’re straight into the clubhouse. There’s a huge queue for tea. Rugby from Twickenham is on one TV, whilst there is horse racing from Newbury on the other – I’m interested in neither.
We stroll back to our usual spot. Sadly ‘Evening Post Brian’ hasn’t tagged along –it’s a shame because he didn’t half make me laugh. He’d phoned up ‘Beardy Malc’ in the first half to tell him that Rammers and Sticky will be pledging £20 towards his charity.
Big D has text in from the Darlington v York City FA Cup tie. That bungling fool Roscoe has tipped up an entire cup of Kenco coffee down his designer wind cheater.
There’s a nice flow about the game as both teams search for a winner. There are chances at both ends but The Royals have that little more cutting edge in attack.
The winner comes on 67 minutes. Harry Harris floats a 22 yard free kick over the wall and into the top corner. Dynamo don’t give up without a fight but the Royals just about deserve the win.
I can barely feel the end of my toes. We end up next to a log fire in the Swan and Rushes in Loughborough town centre and finish the day off with a couple of real ales.
Man of the Match: Craig Milligan
Monday, November 22, 2010
It’s Monday November 15th 2010. I’m sat at the back of the Derek Pavis Stand, at Notts County’s Meadow Lane. I’ve wearing five layers of clothing, a pair of gloves and a beanie hat – it’s absolutely freezing.
The pitch is frost-covered. The players that have chosen the incorrect footwear are slipping and sliding about on the crunchy surface.
It’s an FA Youth Cup 2nd round match against Shrewsbury Town. A carrot has been dangled – the winners will meet Liverpool at home in the next round.
‘The Guvnor’ (Paul Ince) is in the building. Shrewsbury Town’s manager, Graham Turner is seated behind the ‘Directors’ Box.’ Just over 300 people have made the effort on a wintry Monday evening.
‘We’ have cobbled this side together in a very short space of time. We currently top the Under 18 League. The Pies coast to a 2-0 victory. The margin should have been much wider.
The boy I brought in from inner city St Anns five years ago is different gravy. His hair is braided. He has a stature and presence on the pitch. The boy snaps in the tackle, closes down space and hounds his opponent.
I wake up the following the morning in agony. A huge lump has appeared on my elbow. The doctor diagnoses it as bursitis (fluid on the joint). Colleagues and so-called friends call me Quasimodo for the rest of the day.
I’m in the Jag with the Nuclear Scientist and The Taxman; we’re on our way to Stone Dominoes v Congleton Town. We pull into the car park which is plunged into darkness.
A little old lady walks past our car: “Game off” she cackles, “floodlight failure.” NS is none too chuffed. We stop at the Wysall Plough on the way back for a couple of Timothy Taylor’s.
It’s Friday evening. Mrs P packed her bags eight hours ago – she’s on a girlie weekend up in Manchester.
I crack open a bottle of Jacobs Creek. Sticky junior bursts through the door with a takeaway pizza – it’s a lad’s night in.
The boys slip upstairs and let a bit of steam off on ‘Call of Duty.’ I finish the evening listening to a set by the awe-inspiring Robert Smith of The Cure. It’s from the cult TV show The Tube from 1984. Smith is at his mean and moody best.
Mrs P texts in from the San Carlos restaurant in Manchester city centre – she’s sitting on the next table to Manchester City forward, Mario Balotelli.
Sticky jnr has a lie-in. Poor old Dad is doing the paper round again. The Daily Mail headline is ‘Queen Camilla.’ I’m more interested in the potential Bank Holiday the press are speculating we might be having because of the Royal Wedding.
I rustle up a full English breakfast for the boys and their mates. ‘The Skipper’ jumps in the car with me as we have a scouting mission down at the Highfields University Playing Fields.
Nottingham City Schools are playing South Notts Schools at all age groups. I notice all the Forest scouts in a huddle gassing again. It’s like a sewing circle at the Women’s Institute.
I bump into Big D. His lad, Roscoe, is an accident waiting to happen. He’s the Under 15 goalkeeper across the ‘dark side.’ He’s managed to break not one finger but two, on different hands. Apparently all’s good for texting and the Xbox.
We’re back home for a light bite. ‘The Skipper’ flicks on Sky Sports. ‘The Arsenal’ are pulverising Tottenham Hotspur 2-0. Stoke on-Trent referee, Phil Dowd is having an excellent game.
I pack ‘The Skipper off to his mate’s house – he’s on a sleepover there tonight.
I take a steady drive through the old coal mining village of Cotgrave, where former badminton world champion Nathan Robertson grew up.
I pass the real ale house the Rose and Crown and the Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club. I have a mosy around the village of Radcliffe on-Trent. By the time I’m back in the car Spurs have clawed back Arsenal’s two goal lead.
I rock up at the highly recommended Black Lion pub, in the centre of the village and enter the public bar. The place is crowded, with a sprinkling of Spurs’ fans.
It takes an age to get served. It’s worth the wait as both the beer and barmaid are delightful. The Adnams Broadside is tip top. The pretty, blonde barmaid makes small talk with me about the football on the TV. Her voice is drowned out by the cheers for Younes Kaboul’s late headed winner.
Arsene Wenger hurls a water bottle to the ground and bounces a bottle top off the turf, like a basketball player.
I pull into Wharf Lane at 2.45pm and park adjacent to the skate park and recreation area.
Radcliffe on-Trent is in the borough of Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire. It has a population of 8000 and a cracking Co-op Shop.
Former Nottinghamshire and England cricketer, George Parr, was born and died in the village. The wonderful old stand at Trent Bridge (the Parr Stand) has recently been replaced by an uglier version to accommodate Test status.
You may have also heard of the ‘Radcliffe Road End’ at Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club – this stand backs onto the A52 which leads to the village.
Radcliffe Olympic were founded in 1876. The Club President is former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke.
The Club enjoyed a successful FA Cup run this season. They finally fell victim to West Midlands club Tipton Town in a replay, following a six goal thriller at Wharf Lane, watched by over 500 supporters.
Watford and England goalkeeper, Scott Loach, played two games for Radcliffe Olympic back in 2004.
I’m met at the gate by Radcliffe secretary Michael Bradley. He’s worried about the playing surface – in racing terms it’s heavy going. It’s £5 admission, including a quality programme.
It’s a dark, dank, misty day. The setting is delightful. Trains from Nottingham to Bingham, Grantham and Lincoln run at regular intervals at the far end of the ground.
It’s the third time I’ve seen Nirvana play this season; I love their energy and youth. Their Management are easily distracted and frustrated by officialdom, though.
I stand close to the end Nirvana attack. Olympic are a bloody good side but I expect the visitors to dictate the play.
I only have eyes for Nirvana forward, Jordan ‘Bully’ Smith. His touch, pace, power and movement are ridiculous. He pounces on a through ball minutes into the game and is about to pull the trigger when he is upended by the last defender.
A more cast-iron penalty award I’ve yet to see. Referee Chris Stevens and his bungling assistant referee bottle it big time. The visitors’ bench are in uproar.
Smith and Melbourne waste further chances as Nirvana up the tempo. Olympic’s ‘Ginger Makelele’, skipper Craig Anderson, is unhappy with the performance of his highly-rated front trio – Massingham, Epps and Westcarr. He gets stuck into the three of them.
Radcliffe begin to respond. Grant Walton fizzes a shot just wide of the post and a deflected Epps’ effort grazes the crossbar.
The half ends with a Melbourne shot producing a fine block from Radcliffe ‘keeper Jamie Mountain, after being put through on goal.
A die-hard Radcliffe supporter dismisses the penalty claim in the ‘Tuck Shop’ at the break. I ignore his comments and enjoy instead a cracking brew poured from the pot – it’s nearly on par with the Keyworth United Clubhouse. Sticky Palms marks it with an 8.5.
Sticky jnr is on the blower. His team have beaten Southwell 2-1. He’s squealing down the phone that Lewis McGugan has thumped home another long-ranger for the ‘Tricky Trees.’
‘Young Will’, for Thurnby, is playing on the left wing. He’s a dead ringer for Nathan Tyson. The 18 year old leaves the full back for dead and curls in a pinpoint cross that ‘Bully’ somehow heads wide of the target, from point-blank range. ‘Bully’ then flashes a free-kick the wrong side of the post.
Radcliffe up it a gear. Epps smacks a shot from 25 yards out that the keeper tips onto the underside of the woodwork. Olympic take the lead on the hour. A ball is threaded through to Epps who finishes with aplomb.
What a match this is turning out to be. The two sides play a wonderful game in the second half. Even the referee begins to put a shift in.
Epps hits another rip snorting effort from distance. It’s déjà vu as Carter incredibly turns it onto the post. An alert Westcarr steers the rebound into an empty net. It’s harsh on the visitors who have given their all.
Seventeen year old Serbian sub, Samzo Alihodzic, hits a 25 yard pile driver three minutes from time. But Radcliffe manage to hang on for what some would say is a fortunate three points.
Man of the Match: Thurnby Nirvana captain ‘Wes.’
Saturday, November 13, 2010
It’s Sunday afternoon. Sticky Palms is on the front drive hand-washing the ‘Rolls Royce’ and ‘Sally Gunnell.’ Mrs P is in the back garden hoovering up leaves that have fallen from the copper beech and silver birch trees.
Finley Palmer is giving Mum a helping hand. He flicks a leaf up with his right paw, bunny hops and snaffles it up in mid-air. He’s the rabbit world equivalent of Wayne Rooney.
I sidle down the back passage to check on the little fellow. He’s laid out on the grass next to Mrs P, basking in the late autumnal sunshine. Suddenly he’s up on all-fours. He scampers across the lawn and dives under a hedge.
I march down to the bottom of the garden. I’m shouting his name out and whistling. There’s no response. It’s half an hour since I last saw him. I’m beginning to panic now. I’ve checked-out his usual haunts – under the shed, next door’s garden and in the ‘grassy glade’ – nothing, not a sausage.
The sun’s disappeared, the cold and dark is beginning to set in. I’ve knocked on neighbours’ doors, searched their gardens – there’s naff all response, no sightings. I’m flapping readers. Where is he?
Mrs P knocks up some ‘Missing Rabbit’ posters. We deliver them to households close by. I can’t eat my Sunday roast – it’s pork belly on special offer from Marks and Sparks. I take one final look around the garden. I walk past his empty cage. A bowl of half-eaten food sits on the sawdust in his bedroom.
The kids are watching the ‘Strictly’ and X-Factor results. Sticky Palms is in bits. I can hear the howling wind and the pitter-patter of rain on the window. God, I hope he’s alright. What if he’s been cornered by a fox, cat or rat? I hardly sleep a wink.
I’m up at first light. I grab my torch and scour the garden. It looks like he’s gone forever.
I’ve had a few sympathetic texts ranging from ‘have you found the little man yet?’ to ‘has the crafty, devious little so-and-so arrived home yet?
I’m sat at work feeling all sorry for myself when the display panel on my mobile phone lights up – it’s Mrs P with some terrific news. After a night on the tiles Finley has returned home. I breathe a huge sigh of relief and fill up the teapot.
Eight hours later, I walk down the passageway, towards his yard. It’s an emotional reunion. He wraps his paws around me and nibbles my ear – welcome home son.
The rain returns on Tuesday. I scan the web for a local game. Radcliffe Olympic v Bardon Hill tickles my fancy. Olympic run out 4-0 winners at a rain-sodden Wharf Lane. The scoreline flatters them somewhat. It takes two goals in two minutes, early in the second half, to see off the visitors.
I have a quiet night in on my lonesome on Friday evening. Mrs P is on a shindig in Nottingham with the girls. She can’t last the pace these days. I guarantee she’ll be on the 10.30pm bus home.
I’m laid out on the sofa watching Ken Loach’s brilliant 2009 film ‘Looking for Eric.’ I don’t quite make the end. The noise of Mrs P opening the front door stirs me from my slumber.
It’s a full on day (Saturday). I’m back home from helping out with junior’s papers again. I rustle up a couple of poached eggs, before flying out the door towards D H Lawrence country.
I scout a player and offer him a 6 week trial. I’ve had a barren run in the last few weeks; this boy was worth the wait.
I shoot across to the Manor Farm Recreation Ground in Toton. ‘The Skipper’s’ team have a league game. We play against a stiff breeze in the first period and are well below par.
The coach of the team asks if I want to say a few words at the break. It’s not out the FA coaching manual, folks. The boys get a bit of a hair-drying. The penny seems to drop, as we control the game in the second period, running out comfortable 3-1 winners.
‘The Skipper’ and young Garts speed off to The City Ground for the clash between Forest and an unbeaten QPR. Sticky Palms has a date in Spondon that has been on his radar for a few years now.
I’m straight onto the A52 and parked up in Borrowash within 15 minutes. It’s a bit of a one horse town. I’d spotted a Co-op on the corner of the high street. I’m starving Marvin. The doors are locked though; the shop is having a makeover. I’m denied a ‘Meal Deal.’
Seventeen year old Hollywood actress and Nashville born singer, Miley Cyrus, made a surprise visit to neighbouring Spondon on Wednesday. She visited a local school and the Asda superstore, to promote her new range of clothing. Lucky she didn’t try popping into the Borrowash Co-op for a two for a tenner special offer on Jacobs Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dressed in thigh-high leather miniskirt and rock chick biker jacket, Miley sang her hit ‘Best of Both Worlds’ as two pupils joined her on stage – it’s a NO from me.
I finally pull into the car park of the Asterdale Sports Ground at 2.45pm. Borrowash Victoria and Graham Street Prims play within spitting distance of each other. The Vics are entertaining Gedling Miners Welfare.
Graham Street Prims were originally founded in 1904, being formed from a Methodist church.
I came to Borrowash three years ago. I went away without any snaps when my camera malfunctioned. Fate strikes an ugly blow at the turnstile today, when history repeats itself and the battery dies an untimely death.
It’s £5 on the gate, including a well produced programme. I walk past an old, covered stand with black tip up plastic seats behind the goal.I position myself to the right of the Greenwood Meadows technical area. I like to study their manager Nev Silcock.
Prims play in a strip similar to Sunderland, Greenwood are more Plymouth Argyle. The first half is pretty turgid stuff. Prims allow the visitors a ton of possession and seem content to catch them on the break.
A lot of the Greenwood players are familiar to me: Craig Meakin is one I had with me at Notts County when he was 15. He’s still good on the ball but needs to work on his discipline.
The biggest disappointment is striker Alex Haughton who looked the part at Grantham Town earlier in the season, but appears on this outing to look sluggish and lacking match fitness.
Nathan Robinson looks busy in the engine room though. He ends up in a heap on the floor after coasting past three players on a mazy run and is denied a penalty. Both teams have half chances but are poor in the final third.
I give Mrs P a tinkle at the break just to make sure Houdini hasn’t made a break for it from his cage. The good lady informs that the Pies and the Imps are both losing, whilst it’s deadlock at The City Ground.
I strike up a conversation with Danny Prance’s dad. His lad is warming the bench today for Greenwood ,as he continues his rehabilitation from injury. His father is disappointed that the boy hasn’t started the game. He says he is an impact player.
He manages to scoff his way through an entire packet of Minstrels. Poor old Sticky Palms doesn’t get a whiff of one. Finley and I often share a chocolate drop.
I manage to grab a quick chat with Nev. I suggest they pop a few more shots off. He has a calm exterior and seems confident that they will win the game.
It’s all Greenwood. You sense that they are minutes away from opening their account for the day. Haughton hits the post. Prance and Lee Day are thrown on by Nev. They have an immediate effect on the game. Day plays Prance in; he unleashes a shot which bounces off the frame of the goal.
Prance plays with some fire in his belly, as if he has a point to prove. His father is a nervous wreck whenever his son gets on the ball. Maybe they weren’t Minstrels he was eating after all.
Danny Boy puts a header over the bar and sees a shot trickle the wrong side of the post. The home side seems content with a point. They even play out a short corner in stoppage time, just to run down the clock.
Prims give Greenwood way too much respect. After all the visitors have an average age of just 21 years old.
Man of the Match: Finley Palmer
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Tomorrow is his debut. Football is a matter of life and death to him. He’s been in training for over a year now. He never misses a session.
He stays overnight in accommodation that’s close to the venue of the match. He flatly refuses to watch ‘Strictly’ or the X-Factor. He wants to remain focused on the job in hand. He turns his nose up at a fish and chip supper and climbs the wooden hill, instead, to bed.
He’s up at the crack of dawn. That extra hour on the clock means he’s left kicking his heels. The youngster kills a bit of time by watching a double episode of Drake and Josh on the Nickelodeon channel. Granny makes him sausage and beans for breakfast. He washes it down with a glass of semi-skimmed milk.
He arrives at the ground an hour before kick-off and changes into the famous green and black striped kit. He gently massages his V05 styling gel (firm hold) into his tiny scalp. Not a hair is out of place.
Scouts from all over the Midlands will be scrambling for his signature next season. His team mates play piggy backs, blow bubble gum and chase around. He coolly plays keepy uppy with a size 3 ball.
The referee blows the whistle to begin the game. He breezes down the right wing, ghosts past the full back, cuts inside and pulls the trigger. The ball sails into the top left hand corner of the net. It’s a dream start for the youngster.
His pace is frightening. Once again he breaks away, he coolly draws the ‘keeper off his line and rolls the ball into the corner of the net. He smokes an imaginary cigar.
Minutes are remaining when the youngster is pole axed in the box. It’s a cast iron penalty and a chance to claim the match ball. He places the ball on the spot and winks at the ‘keeper. He calmly steps forward and blasts the ball towards goal; the keeper tips it around the post.
Well played Gangsta, (aged 6). It’s an early lesson in life for the youngster, that the English are crap at taking penalties.
It’s Thursday November 4th, 7am, 15 years to the day since Sticky jnr arrived in this world. I hear him slam the backdoor, take his shoes off and dash up the stairs. He’s out of breath and in a flap.
He explains that the police have shut two roads on his paper round. It means 118, 120, 127 & 137 will have to fetch their own Daily Telegraph this morning.
I surf the Nottingham Evening Post website. ‘Breaking News’ reports that two roads have been closed as police investigate an ‘overnight incident.’ It later transpires that there has been a kidnapping. Some poor sod has been swept off the street and bundled into a van.
I’m wracked with guilt for the rest of the day. Tonight I’m attending an FA Talent Identification Course at the Don Masson Suite at Notts County’s Meadow Lane. Sticky jnr, ‘The Skipper’ and Mrs P are going out for a meal to celebrate junior’s birthday. I should be there but have to lead by example.
Shifty, my mate at work, tries to cheer me up by playing Swindon DJ producer, Para’s latest album, from the Breakin Bread record label. He throws a few shapes in the Warehouse and brings a smile back to my face.
Former Wigan Athletic full back, Barry Knowles, is running the course. He has a dry northern wit and plenty of anecdotes from his career in football. He tells of the time Everton released a 14 year old player from their Academy. Wigan took a punt on him and the boy developed. The Latics sold him back to the Toffees for £6 million, 7 years later. The lad’s name was Leighton Baines.
We spend Friday night at a firework display at the Griffin Inn in the hamlet of Plumtree. Gangsta is with us. He doesn’t want to talk about his penalty miss last Sunday. His brother, Will, is pretty chipper though, his side kept a clean sheet at the weekend.
We arrive home. I immediately scour the Net for the FC United of Manchester v Rochdale final score. Michael Norton’s stoppage time goal puts the Rebels into the 2nd round. Oh for a third round draw against Manchester United.
It’s Saturday morning and I’m filling in for Sticky junior on his paper round again, as he’s had a fireworks sleepover. The news headlines are interesting. Apparently Gunners’ gaffer Arsene Wenger has been ‘playing away from home’ which is more than can be said of his team during their 2-1 defeat in the Ukraine at Shakhtar Donetsk.
I pull back Finley’s curtains on his cage and check the wee man is okay after a fun-filled night of rockets, fire crackers and Roman Candles. I can tell he’s had an uncomfortable evening: his bowl is full of sawdust and he’s been donkey-kicking his door all night, because he was frightened. I let him scamper around the garden for half an hour or so.
The Skipper’s team are playing a crack outfit from the New Newark League in a Notts FA Shield tie. They’ve won seven on the spin. It would be rude not to check them out. It’s champagne soccer from Keyworth United Under 13s Green. The opposition are passed off the park. We score five goals and continue our good cup run.
The Nuclear Scientist knocks on the door at just gone 2pm. It’s a straight forward run down the A46.
Thurnby Nirvana play on Daykin Road, to the east of Leicester city centre. Thurnby Rangers and Leicester Nirvana have merged to provide a pathway from the junior ranks, where over half a dozen ex players now ply their trade in the professional game.
I park Sally Gunnell adjacent to the ground. The Bulgarian, Martin Petrov has just put Bolton Wanderers out of sight against Tottenham’s fancy Dan’s in Five Live’s lunchtime kick off.
The Nuclear Scientist pays the £4 entry which includes a programme. The ground is situated in a dip. It’s tree-lined, with a beautiful autumnal setting. Behind one goal at the top of a grass bank is a small stand. There is concrete hard-standing down both sides.
The clubhouse is small, cosy and welcoming. An obliging, bearded Indian gentleman pours a cup of tea from a stainless teapot. We mark it with 8 out of 10. Had it been piping hot it would have gained another mark. The Nuclear Scientist bags a cheese cob and a Chunky Kit Kat
We position ourselves to the left of the Gedling MW dugout. Thurnby play in green the visitors sport an all red strip. The two sides clashed in the cup last week, with Nirvana running out 5-2 winners.
I saw Nirvana back in August. They demolished the then league leaders Ellistown 5-0. Jordan Smith bagged four goals that day. I’m rubbing my hands with excitement at the thought of watching him play today.
The first half is an even contest, with flowing football from both sides. There’s a desperate challenge on Smith, who’s about to pull the trigger. The resulting, in swinging corner hits the base of the far post, with Gedling ‘keeper Ross Cherry, a former Lincoln City scholar, floundering.
The referee is a young Asian guy, who I’ve already seen this season. He allows the game to flow and should be proud of his performance, despite the unwarranted stick he gets from the sidelines.
There’s some great contests all over the pitch. Gedling MW forward, the likeable ‘Westy’ locks horns with the Nirvana skipper and Nijah Frank and Craig Boulton battle it out on the visitors’ left flank. Right on half time Boulton flashes a 20 yard free kick the wrong side of the upright.
They’ve got the nauseating Adrian Durham on Talk Sport in the clubhouse. We slurp another fine brew. NS shouts out if anyone knows the ‘Forest’ score. It’s a tumbleweed moment. All eyes in the room are on us. NS has no understanding of the parochial dislike for the ‘Tricky Trees’ – after all he’s Berkshire born and bred.
Gedling begin to tire as the game becomes stretched. Anton Amoo takes a stranglehold of the midfield and begins to spray passes all over the park. Jordan Smith doesn’t disappoint, giving Nirvana the lead from close range, with the visitors appealing for offside.
Gedling manager, Graham Walker, makes a few changes, as his side up the tempo. Time is running out when young striker Stephen Cox, who I remember watching for Carlton Town Under 15s, picks the ball up 35 yards out, with very little back lift he smacks a shot which arrows into the roof of the net.
With the clock ticking Gedling have a corner. The ball is floated in only for their substitute ‘Frosty’ to head over a gilt-edged chance. A draw is a fair result.
Man of the Match: Anton Amoo, although the Gedling MW centre backs were superb.
Attendance: 35, including a charming old groundhopper from Evesham.