Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sandhurst 3 Attenborough 5

Brian Clough anecdote by Ben Robinson, chairman of Burton Albion: When [Clough’s son] Nigel took the player-manager job in October 1998, Brian Clough became a regular visitor to the club. He bought a vice president’s ticket and attended virtually every home match and he also attended some away matches. The fans loved him; for every game he was inundated by people wanting to shake his hand and get his autograph. Lots of fathers would bring their sons to meet him and they’d introduce him as their hero, he was a legend.

Generally he didn’t try to offer too much advice, sometimes he’d shout from the sidelines but usually he just let Nigel get on with it. On one occasion though, when we’d beaten Torquay United away in the FA cup we were travelling back on the coach when Nigel’s mobile phone rang. After a bit he said it was his dad and he wanted a word with me. Brian came on the phone and said, 'You should take a lot of credit for this win,’ I asked why and he explained that he thought it was important that I’d taken the players down to Torquay the night before and prepared them well rather than making them have an arduous journey before the match. I said, 'Well, I think that win proves you’ve now got two geniuses in your family.’

He said, 'When you find the second one let me know.’

It’s been over a month since I last visited a new ground and wrote a blog. I’ve been coaching my team on Saturday afternoons and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Midweeks have been either wet or frozen.

I did take in the Alfreton Town versus Cambridge United fixture at North Street on Tuesday. The standard of play was high and so was the admission; £18 for Conference Football, you are having a laugh.

It’s Friday evening. There’s a howling wind and the sound of rain pitter pattering on the lounge window. I’m so proud of my boys. They abandon their X Box for a night’s dossing on Budgens wall. Top dossing lads; a commitment to the cause.

That bloody Rioja was on offer again; it doesn’t mix well with Stella. I wake up with a thumping headache. I shower and shave and head out to West Bridgford early doors. I park up outside Slades the florist on Melton Road. I collect a winter mixed bouquet of flowers. No, they’re not for Murphy, but for Mrs P, of course.

My Twitter timeline suggests there’s Bob Hope of a game on this afternoon. Please God, no. I’ll settle for anything within a 160 mile round trip. Murphy is whistling his little head off to Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ as I scour the non league fixture list. There seems to be a small micro climate up in the north Notts/Lincolnshire border. Lincoln United and Gainsborough Trinity both confirm that games are on. I’ve already blogged from both.

A tweet from legendary Notts groundhopper Rob Hornby catches my eye. He says that NSL Premier Division side Sandhurst never gets hosed off – not been there, book me in Danno. A quick phone call to Sandhurst Jack-of-all-trades, Bob Crawford, confirms that the game has got the go ahead.

I’m driving the ‘Rolls Royce’ towards the old mining village of Cotgrave. Water gushes down the hill from the village of Clipston on-the-Wolds. They won’t be doing much trade at the award-winning Harker’s Farm Shop.

Wigan versus ‘The Arsenal’ is on the radio. It’s 0-0 ‘in the most exciting league in the World.’ The worst manager in Premiership history – Paul Jewell - is summarising. He’s waxing lyrical about James McCarthy, the Latics one million pound signing from Scottish club Hamilton Academical.

I sweep through Cotgrave and head out towards Stragglethorpe. The roads are flooded and the weather is atrocious. Stuart Pearce once had a lucky escape on this very road when he wrote off his car after colliding with a dustcart.

There are speed cameras all the way up the A614. I don’t think the chuffing things work but decide to stick at 50mph. A police car comes hurtling down the road. Those boys in blue won’t have time for card schools today.

Bloody hell, I haven’t the foggiest idea where the ground is. I turn left at the Carpenter Arms and take a sharp right hand turn. A paperboy, with probably the easiest round in Notts, redirects me back up the road.

Sandhurst play in the village of Walesby, which has a population of just over 1000. It’s famous for its International Scout Camps. I only joined the cubs because they had a football team. I had the athletic prowess of Billy Casper from Kes.

I drive down a flood hit Forest Lane and pull into the car park of the Walesby Village Sports Club. I wind down the window to enquire with a linesman if the game is on. He sarcastically points at his kit and looks out towards the pitch. The car park is submerged in water. But not a drop of water is on the playing surface; it must drain like a sieve. I walk passed a couple of hosepipes laid out on the grass – is someone taking the rise?

Sandhurst are named after a local garden centre that recently closed down. They sponsored the club for over 20 years.

I hook up with Rob Hornby and another Hopper from ‘Sunny Scunny’ called ‘Colpic.’ Rob’s a bubbly character and can talk the hind legs off a donkey. He tells me he was born at Radford’s Selhurst Street ground. I said: “What, at half-time?” Apparently the ground wasn’t built then.

The man in black is Sticky Palms all-time favourite official, Andy Rolph. He stubs out a Winston Churchill cigar before entering the field of play. He doesn’t take any shit off anybody, as the young Sandhurst centre forward finds out to his cost.

I recognise a lot of the Attenborough players. I reckon they are going to be a tough nut to crack for Sandhurst. Tobias Richardson, Wes Burke and Justin Whatmore could comfortably play at a higher level.

Attenborough are managed by Roberto Pietrafort. He has had more clubs than Mark Hughes. If you asked him to name his previous clubs on Twitter, then he would struggle to fit them into the 140 character stipulation. He has more tracksuits in his wardrobe than JJB Sports. Roberto – I sound like David Platt – is always up for banter, we exchange hellos.

With Attenborough playing a high line and squealing for offside, Joe Fletcher gives Sandhurst the lead on 10 minutes. One or two hoppers frantically scribble down the goal times and scorer, they have a full list of starters and subs. Sticky doesn’t buy-in to this strange groundhopping ritual. I’ll nick it all off someone’s blog a bit later.

Ireson restores parity for the visitors. A mazy run and smart finish from the classy Whatmore puts them 2-1 up. Andy Cameron pegs it back to 2-2 on the stroke of half time. I venture into the brick-built clubhouse and despite a large queue, a cup of tea is thrust into my hand. Rob is holding court with a group of hoppers from London and Ipswich who have dropped into the ground on their way home from the Blackpool v Wolves game on Friday evening. They must be potty.

I grab a quick word with Attenborough’s Tobias Richardson, who is still stewing over the equaliser. I tell him that his team will push on in the second half.

Whatmore thumps home a third goal on 47 minutes. The impressive and talkative Wes Burke looks to have put the game beyond Sandhurst’s reach. Refereeing legend Rolph points to the spot to give the home side a chink of light. Wes Burke hits another net rippler with ten minutes to go to put the game beyond doubt.

With dark descending, I walk through the mist back to the car. Watford are beating Forest 2-0. The moaning Minnies fill up my timeline. Some folk are never satisfied.

Rob is doing an NSL Groundhop in April. For more details please visit his blog

Man of the Match: Chris Myton (Unlucky not to score)

Attendance: 30

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Congleton Town 2 Barnoldswick Town 1

Former Nottingham Forest Youth Team Manager, John Perkins, tells a wonderful anecdote about Brian Clough. The young lads were drawn away to Peterborough in the Midland Youth Cup. Cloughie announced on the day of the game for a seat to be saved for him on the coach.

The game was played and Forest were well beaten, but ‘Old Big Ead’ was supportive to the players throughout. On the bus journey home he ordered Albert, the coach driver, to stop off at the nearest chip shop. Nobody had got a brass farthing on them.

The old gal behind the counter was built like a brick outhouse and wore glasses as thick as the bottom of a milk bottle. She was not one to mess with. Clough had to use all the charm and charisma he could muster: ‘Hello Darling, my name is Brian Clough and we would like twenty portions of your finest fish and chips, but there’s a slight problem, I haven’t any money on my person. I’ll send you a cheque in the morning.”

“I’ll trust you, Mr Clough”, replied the lady. The following morning Perkins knocked on Clough’s door: “Gaffer, don’t forget to pay the lady for the fish n chips.” “Oh yes, how much was it pal?" Sixty two pounds” replied Perkins. Clough wrote a cheque out for £90 and accompanied it with a note: “Thank you Darling, treat yourself and be good. Brian Clough” As Perkins walked out the door Clough shouted out: “Hey, next time your team play like that, you can buy your own fish n chips!”

There’s a third off the price on Sticky’s favourite Rioja at Sainsbury’s on Friday evening. It’s a good start to weekend. The same cannot be said for ‘Fizz’ following a breach of health and safety at ‘Underworld’ in Weatherfield. It hardly fills you with confidence that Greater Manchester Police are investigating the incident.

Any plans of a scouting trip to Mansfield in the morning are scuppered by a night of torrential rain. Mrs P deploys me to labouring duties in assembling ‘The Skipper’s’ new bed with ‘The Angler.’ I make an award-winning cup of tea for the two of us. There won’t be a better brew made than that in England today.

Mrs P has an open day up at Sutton-in-Ashfield; it means I can slope off early today. After last week’s near miss, a confident Finley Palmer predicts another goal bonanza, 5-3 to Congleton, he predicts with his paws.

The laugh-out-loud ‘Fighting Talk’ is on Five Live. They’re talking about the time Trevor Chappell, under orders from his brother Greg, bowled an under arm delivery on the final ball in a One Day International versus New Zealand. A year later the Aussies were on tour in Auckland. A partisan crowd of 43,000 heckled skipper Greg Chappell to the wicket as he came out to bat. A wag in the crowd leapt the fence and bowled a Crown Green wood in Chappell’s direction.

I pull in at the Egerton Arms in Astbury, just a few miles south of Congleton. I’m greeted by a cheerful landlord and The Jacksons singing ‘Show You the Way to Go.’ A pub bore announces to all and sundry that West Brom have taken the lead at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.

I select a pint of Robinson’s ‘Dizzy Blonde.’ I’ve not quaffed one of these since a weekend away in Abersoch last September. Plentiful amounts of food are on offer on the menu. Sticky loves his Somerset brie and pickle baguettes though.

The pub looks out onto the pleasant views of the village church. A Roman numerical clock is projected onto the wall. I glance at a free issue of the Cheshire Independent. Green-fingered youngsters are planting flower tubs to give the town a splash of colour over the winter months. It’s headline news in this sleepy town.

I’m anxious to get to the ground though. According to my Twitter timeline, fixtures are falling by the wayside. As I head into Congleton the skies begin to darken; bloody hell it’s starting to rain.

I park the car on a side street, opposite the cricket ground and take a peek around the place. Congleton is a town in Cheshire that lies on the banks of the River Dane, with a population of 25,000. Popular sports in the 17th Century included bear-baiting and cockfighting. Congleton is well-known for its manufacturing of airbags and golf balls. Former Manchester City defender, Ian Brightwell, grew up in the town.

Barnoldswick is a town in the Borough of Pendle in Lancashire, just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is the highest town on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. It is home to Silentnight Beds, the UK’s largest manufacturer of beds and mattresses.

A guy on the gate gives me the thumbs up; the game is on. I pay £6 on the turnstile. The programme is good value and an interesting read. Two pieces of trivia catch my eye. There’s a report from a Bedlington Terriers FA Vase game. Former Newcastle United striker Paul Brayson is mentioned. He is the shortest footballer to have ever played in the Premiership.

The programme also reports on the resignation of former Nottingham Forest forward Peter Withe, who was until recently manager of Stockport Sports. Withe scored the winning goal for Aston Villa in the 1982 European Cup Final.

I’ve been tipped off by north-west blog supremo, Uwdi Krugg, to watch out for the Barnoldswick ‘One Man and His Dog’ away day Ultra’s –they target anyone who is not a farmer.

The DJ, who I’d put as late fifties, has already inflicted Queen and Status Quo on the perishing crowd, as I position myself on the far side of the ground, behind the away dugout, sheltering from the rain. I’m taken back at the quality of passing from both teams, particularly the Bears of Congleton.

Sticky Palms is elated on three minutes to get his hands on the match ball. I throw it powerfully into the midriff of a less than impressed visiting defender. On six minutes Congleton take lead with a net buster from the edge of the area by Matthew Worrall. Ten minutes later left back Louis James starts and finishes a fine move.

A game-changing incident takes places just yards from where I’m stood The Congleton 8 jacket goes in two-footed. It’s ankle-high and fortunately takes the ball. It is, in my opinion without malice. A pie-eating Barnoldswick supporter, next to me, begs to differ. He showers me in flaky pastry in a fit of pique. He has the diplomatic skills of I’m a Celebrity star Eric Bristow and is without compromise The visiting manager and the majority of his players try to get the boy sent off. The referee sensibly waves a yellow card at the lad.

The Bears, may regret that their dominance has only left them two to the good. News is filtering through from Guiseley’s Nethermoor Road ground that Sooty is making his debut as the supporters’ mascot.

I stand in the Club Function Room for a wee warm. I grab a cup of piping hot coffee. The lady behind the tea bar is promoting home-made vegetable soup at a bargain £1.30 per cup.

I can’t be bothered to drag my weary body over to the other side of the ground. That pie-eater from Barnoldswick looks in the mood to knock my block off. I think I’ll give him a wide berth. I stand behind the goal at the bottom of the slope, expecting an avalanche of goals from the Bears. How wrong can one be?

Barnoldswick play as if someone has put a firework up their backsides. Chance after chance is spurned, until on 63 minutes Billy Priestley nods in a header at the back stick, following a corner. They can’t turn their second half superiority into goals though. The driving, incessant rain has turned the pitch into a quagmire. The two teams put on a show though. I’ll catch up with both later in the season.

Attendance: 116

Man of the Match: Vegetable Soup

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Real United 4 Holbrook St Michaels 5

I take a final glance at Nethermoor Road as I head out the exit and saunter up towards the High Street. Rammers was bang on the money when he said that Guiseley, on their day, really are the Arsenal of the Conference North. Whitby and their famous Cod have been well and truly battered.

Trumpy is holed up at the White Cross pub, opposite Costcutters. He’s chuffed to bits to have seen 3 out of the 7 goals. I spot the legend stumbling out of the pub front door and staggering towards the ‘Rolls Royce.’

I take my coat off and reach into the pocket to check if Sooty is alright. What a smashing day out the puppet has had. His hometown club have found the back of the net on seven occasions. He’ll be whispering in Sweep’s ear all night about that 30 yard swerver Josh Wilson thumped in.

Hang on a minute, he’s gone. My heart thumps ten to the dozen. Sooty is missing. It’s a long miserable drive home. I don’t care about Sports Report and James Alexander Gordon. Tears stream down my face: Sooty is missing, last seen in the urinals at Guiseley AFC.

I could perhaps phone Guiseley Police Station, but they’ll be too busy dunking their digestive biscuits into their Yorkshire Tea to bother investigating a missing puppet. I break down in a flood of tears when I get home. “How could you lose Sooty; shame on you” says a bitter Sticky Jnr. Murphy’s chirping away; he was never fond of Sooty.

I take one final throw of the dice. I boot up the laptop and register to the Guiseley Fans’ Forum. I begin a thread with a missing puppet plea. By Monday morning it has become a source of interest in the West Yorkshire town. Good news finally arrives. A dressing room attendant has found Sooty in the changing room. They’re going to keep him as a lucky mascot.

I really mustn’t have a big, fat, large wedge of cheese again before bedtime. I wake up on Saturday morning having had the most ridiculous dream. League 2 Barnet were entertaining Accrington Stanley. Former Southampton and Everton striker James Beattie was sent off from the field of play following a high tackle on Dutch international Edgar Davids.

I chuckle to myself at this preposterous scenario as I make a pot of tea for one. England are all at sea in India, the follow-on is inevitable. One or two have lost their hunger.

Mrs P announces that we’re off down to one of those dreadful retail parks. Apparently Sticky Palms needs a new coat for Christmas. I’m up and down the catwalk, glancing in the mirror like Naomi Campbell. I’ll knock the ladies dead in this little £85 number.

“I’ll give my new coat an outing this afternoon in Stoke Bardolph, love.” “Not on your Nelly”, replies Mrs P, “You can’t unwrap it until Christmas Day.” Bugger. My phone goes off; it’s Mick Leonard, Head of Youth at Notts County. He’s caught me red-handed, tossing it off at Riverside Retail Park. He re-directs me to a game he wants me to go to.

I race off to watch it and call in at Highfields Hockey Centre, on my way home, where Notts County u15s are entertaining Luton Town. The Hatters are very impressive. I leave with the score at 2-2.

I knock myself up a cheese and onion baguette and catch a few minutes of the north London derby. Former Eastwood Town manager, John Ramshaw, has arranged to pick me up outside the The Fairway pub in Keyworth at 1.15pm. As I waltz out the back door, Finley, our pet rabbit, who is famous for his crap score predictions, announces that he thinks it will be Real Utd 4 Holbrook St Michaels 4. Right oh, Finley.

We drive through the hamlet of Plumtree and turn right down Tollerton Lane, passed Nottingham City Airport. There appears to be a lion on the loose opposite Regatta Way. It turns out to be ex Coventry City FA Cup winning captain, Brian Kilcline, who’s out for a jog with his dog. Rammers remarks that maybe ‘Killer’ lives in one of the nearby caravan parks.

Parking is a bloody nightmare around Sneinton, with the threat of clamping on every street corner. We sling the car outside the pub and cough up a couple quid in the parking meter. You wouldn’t give the King William IV a second glance, with its scruffy exterior and the backdrop of high-rise flats. It had stood idle and boarded-up until 2007, when this Victorian pub re-opened its doors. It’s a hidden gem. The Reaper is propping up the bar. He shouts up two pints of Flying Rat.

Rammers is holding court as Tottenham Hotspur take a trouncing at the Emirates. We‘re treated to a few non- league anecdotes from the legendary Geordie manager. There’s just enough time for a pint of Scarlet Macaw, from Oakham Ales, before making the five minute journey east to Real United’s Stoke Lane home.

Poor old Rammers is having trouble parking again. I tell him to stick his vehicle in the Ferryboat Inn opposite the River Trent. It’s another glorious day as the geese and ducks gather on the banks of the Trent.

A couple of lads wrapped up in Manchester United scarves are on the gate. Rammers bumps into recently appointed manager Nicky Kennerdale. Rammers signed Nicky when he was the gaffer at Hucknall from Northwich Victoria for £5000.

Nicky is full of enthusiasm and is ably assisted by former Grimsby Town centre half Matt McKenzie. Uh, oh, guess who Sticky has just clocked, only a referees’ assessor – the one without a sense of humour. I try to josh with him; he’s having none of it.

Real United Club Director, Roger Henry, emerges from a Portakabin and makes a beeline towards us. Roger is top man and a driving force behind the meteoric rise of this inner city club. He makes Rammers and I very welcome.

Roger has signed a lease on the former Gedling Town ground and has secured a major sponsorship with Mercedes Benz. Former Notts County legend, Michael Johnson, is an Honorary President of the club.

As the referee blows the whistle to start the game, under the watchful eye of the assessor, I decide to do a head count: just 16 folk have bothered to turn out.

I don’t believe it, Jaylee Hodgson is playing up top for Real. He’s had more clubs than Peter Stringfellow. He plays international football for Montserrat, where famously in 1983 Duran Duran recorded one of their albums.

Jaylee poses for the camera, whilst spending five minutes doing his shoelaces up, having swapped his boots with manager Nicky Kennerdale. Holbrook take the lead with a fine solo effort from their big number nine.

Dalton Stephens skilfully turns his man in the box and fires off a shot to restore parity. It’s not long before Jay Lee performs his party piece to put a smile on Roger’s face.

Real’s Chief Scout, Pablo Grossett, has rocked up. Him and Rammers reminisce about how former Hucknall Town manager Bryan Chambers used to reel off his team selection in the changing room off the back of a fag packet.

The second half is a crazy game. Real are cruising at 4-2 when their left winger, Lance, is sent off for a soft challenge on an opponent, accidentally clipping his heel. I bet the assessor was sticking his chest out at that one.

Real United look fagged out; they just can’t keep the ball as Holbrook find their second wind. With minutes remaining the visitors make it 4-4. Finley looks like he’ll be mopping up at Bet Fred. He’ll be ordering his carrots online from Waitrose.

Right at the death a ball is pumped into the area, it skims off the back of the head of a Holbrook player and nestles into the corner of the net. Roger looks devastated, close to tears. But what an entertaining game of football these two sides have laid on for us.

Man of the Match: Holbrook No.9

Attendance: 16

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Guiseley AFC 7 Whitby Town 0

I flop on the sofa after an exhausting afternoon coaching The Skipper’s team. We’ve scraped a 1-0 victory. Sticky isn’t happy though; we haven’t performed as a team. I grab the remote control and begin to channel hop. Horse racing from Wetherby is on Channel 4.

The Charlie Hall Chase is the next race. Memories flood back from 12 years ago; it was Dafty’s 30th. Our clapped-out Sunshine Tours bus pulls into a waterlogged car park. We pile into a private bar. Pint after pint is quaffed. It’s a boys versus girls syndicate. We go through the card. Sticky’s favourite, See More Business, aqua planes down the home straight, at a canter, to win the Charlie Hall.

I’m steaming readers; it’s the final race. My bleary, bloodshot eyes scan the racecard. Bottom weight is a horse called Truckers Tavern. Bloody hell; we all drink in The Tavern in Keyworth. Every person on the bus has a punt on ‘Truckers’, who jumps like a stag and wins by a distance at 7/1.

Meeky is on the PA on the bus telling gags like a nightclub comedian. We’ve hired the basement of a picture postcard North Yorkshire village pub. We are raucous and noisy during our celebration. We’re on the Havana cigars. The bill runs into four figures. We pay in cash and stump up a large tip as an apology for our rowdy behaviour. I don’t want the day to end.

I’m up at the crack of dawn, researching the West Yorkshire town of Guiseley. I wash and valet the ‘Rolls Royce’ – royalty are aboard today (Sooty & Trumpy).

I reverse up Trumpy’s drive. The legend is limping like Darren Anderton. He spots Sooty strapped up in the back of car on his booster seat. He asks the puppet if he wants to sit in the front.

We have the brilliant Danny Baker Show for company. He cans the popular ‘Coach Poker’ slot following transmission problems. Baker is on tremendous form following his recent sacking from BBC Radio London.

We drive through the Bronx. Sticky jnr is doing what he does better – dossing on a park bench with his homies. Trumpy winds down the window and hurls some football-related banter at the troubled teenager. Leicester City and Nottingham Forest commence battle in a couple of hours time.

“What’s that Sooty, you’re feeling travel sick, bloody hell, we’re not even out of Keyworth yet.” Trumpy has already necked a Greene King IPA and a bottle of Tanglefoot, as he untwists the cap off his litre bottle of Bulmers.

Mrs Trumpy has been left to spring clean his crib. She’s unearthed his 1991 diary. Entries include four day benders in Whitley Bay and Scarborough, followed by a couple of sickies.

We sail up the M1 and pull off at Junction 41. First port of call is the Bay Horse in Morley. It’s 11.50am; we’ve ten minutes to kill before opening time. The doors are unbolted and opened at smack on midday. Trumpy tucks into a pint of Tetley’s, Sticky has a diet Coke, Sooty plumps for half a cider and is challenged for his ID.

There are pictures hung up on the wall of the late Gary Speed, Brian Close and the ‘Dirty Dirty Leeds’ team of the seventies. Some awful satellite TV music channel is churning out Westlife’s dreadful version of the Jimmy Ruffin classic, ‘What Becomes of a Broken Hearted.’

Trumpy is still bitter about James Taylor’s move from Leicestershire CCC to Nottinghamshire CCC. He claims to have seen him stacking shelves in Asda recently, following his omission from the tour of India.

Sooty is fagged out after his half a cider. He has a wee siesta, while we have a spot of lunch at the Stone Trough in the leafy suburb of Rawdon. I wash down my 7oz gammon with a pint of Leeds Pale Ale. Trumpy doesn’t show a flicker of emotion as Liverpool-born striker David Nugent edges Leicester ahead in the East Midlands derby. Paul Weller’s ‘Wild Wood’ is piped through the speakers.

We drive up the bustling high street in Guiseley. The traffic is nose to tail due to those annoying, soulless, endless out of town retail parks. We drive passed Guiseley’s Nethermoor Park ground before having a swift one in the excellent Ings. It’s a traditional back street boozer. Copper Dragon is the best ale on view. Edwin Starr and Shakin Stevens provide the entertainment.

Parking is a bit tricky around the ground; we’re advised to leave the car in the nearby Costcutters. Trumpy clocks the White Cross pub opposite.

Guiseley is a small town in West Yorkshire with a population of just over 20,000. Crompton Parkinson and Silver Cross prams were once major employers in the town. Harry Ramsden traded in a small shed next to the tram stop in White Cross. It was later to become the largest chippy in the world, seating 250 people and having a million customers a year.

Children’s entertainer, Harry Corbett, was the nephew of Harry Ramsden. He used to play piano in the chip shop. Whilst on his holidays in Blackpool, Corbett bought Sooty the puppet for 37 pence. He later teamed-up with Sweep the dog. Sticky Palms once saw them at a gig at the Lincoln Drill Hall. Harry died in his sleep in 1989 at the age of 71, following a performance in front of a capacity audience at Weymouth Pavilion. His son, Matthew, took over puppet master duties.

Former England and Yorkshire Cricket Club captain, Brian Close, also used to live in the town. He was a charismatic and colourful character, who often courted controversy during his illustrious playing career.

The legend pays me in for £10 on the gate and treats me to a belter of a programme for £2. Security is lax. I smuggle Sooty in under my coat. I take my customary stroll around this neat and tidy ground. Supergrass are blasting out the ground’s PA system. I notice Bolton has already sniffed out the bar. I find him downing a pint of Blonde beer, staring out the window at the adjoining cricket pitch.

I leave him to it and join the crowd in remembering our armed forces who have lost their lives fighting for their country. Nethermoor Park is bathed in glorious sun-kissed skies. Whitby have brought a decent following. Their supporters sing a few amusing ditties: “It’s full of fish, chips and seagulls, oh Whitby is full of fun.”

Their joy is short-lived as Guiseley take the lead with a low drive from Kevin Holsgrove. Whitby are lightening on the break. Fresh-faced left midfielder Ashley Corker is light on his feet and has pace to burn. The Seasiders force smart saves from the home ‘keeper Drench.

Guiseley miss a hatful of chances in a very entertaining half, before Holsgrove and the impressive Walshaw put the game beyond Whitby’s reach. Trumpy is watching the half-times rolling in. He lets it slip that Mrs Trumpy has a secret crush on Sky Sports reporter Johnny Phillips.

The Lions enjoy the luxury of a couple of early substitutions. They play a beautiful game and move the ball very quickly. 6-0 up with half an hour to go, a proper trouncing looks on the cards. Former Sunderland midfielder Darren Williams is the gaffer at Whitby. He looks like his head is going to explode. It’s not a good time for Trumpy to sing “You’re getting sacked in the morning.” Or for Sooty to ask for his autograph.

Bolton has sloped off to the White Cross for a crafty one after consoling a Whitby supporter he has chanced upon. He tells the guy every pub he’s visited in Whitby and warns him not to throw himself into the estuary off the harbour wall.

I meet him back at the car and remove my coat. My heart begins to beat ten to the dozen, as I rummage in my coat pocket. I’ve only gone and lost Sooty. Who’s going to tell Sweep?

Attendance: 506

Man of the Match: Whitby supporters (never lost their humour)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Liversedge 1 Parkgate 1

It’s January 5th 2002. Ten of us are holed-up in a back street boozer about 20 minutes away from Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground. The pub doors suddenly burst open and in march the notorious South Yorkshire Police Force. We’re told to sup up and leave. We’re frog-marched to the ground.

I’m livid, raging. We stop at another hostelry, where more Forest fans are turfed out onto the streets. I’m giving a copper on horse-back a hard time. I question their motives and reasons for this aggressive behaviour. “Have any lessons been learnt from Hillsborough?” I enquire.

The idiot is not interested with anything I have to say. The game is awful; Paul Hart’s team fail to put a shift in. We have a restricted view; it’s probably for the best. Forest are dumped out of the FA Cup. Oh well, at least we’ll get an escort back to the train station by the boys in blue.

There’s not a copper in sight. We’re left to fend for ourselves. All the Blades’ ‘spotters’ are out in force. It’s an intimidating trawl across wasteland and through a subway. We’re greeted by 30 or 40 riot police at the railway station entrance. Helmets hide their faces; their batons are raised, shields are at the ready. “Do you think I’m going to bash you on the head with my programme?”

I’m still fuming as I down a few more pints in Fellows, Morton and Clayton, on Canal Street in Nottingham, before jumping on a Barton’s bus back home. Mrs P asks if I’ve had a nice time, as I boot up the desktop computer in our hallway. “Not particularly love”, as I Google the South Yorkshire Police.

I send a ranting email in my drunken stupor. “No wonder it took you 8 years to catch the Yorkshire Ripper” was one of the lines I recall. I mention the Hillsborough Disaster and the Miners’ Strike before hitting the ‘send’ button.

I wake up at 3am in a fever-type sweat. I’m waiting for the inevitable knock at the door from Plod. I re-read the email. Oooh heck readers, I could be in trouble here. The following day Cardiff and Leeds fans clash at Ninian Park. On the Monday I receive a three page reply from the Matchday Inspector of South Yorks Police. He apologises for their heavy-handed tactics and then quotes events from the Cardiff game the day before. Phew, it’s a close shave. At least they had the courtesy to reply.

I think of that day as I drive passed the ‘Steel City’ on my way to Liversedge FC. I’ve spent the morning with Mrs P in ‘Bread and Lard Island’ – West Bridgford. We nip into the travel agents to pick up some holiday brochures. Mrs P fancies a dabble at a Greek Island, Sticky prefers mainland Spain. It’s looking like Puerto Pollensa in Majorca folks.

I flick my way through the Backpass football magazine, in Central News, whilst Mrs P picks up a couple of birthday cards. Brian Clough’s son owns the shop. He is a very polite young man. ‘Cloughie’ often used to serve behind the counter. There’s time for a quick Americano at the snug Copper cafe bar, before hitting the M1 North.

Danny Baker has just finished his radio show. He plugged his book ‘Going to Sea in a Sieve’ last night on the One Show. Britain’s first Million pound footballer, Trevor Francis, was the guest on his ‘Sausage Sandwich Game’ this morning.

Sat Nav takes me down the M62 off Junction 42, when AA route planner had indicated that Junction 40 was an alternative route. I had earmarked the Gray Ox at Hartshead, but plump instead for the New Pack Horse in Cleckheaton.

Smooth FM is being piped through the flat screen TV as I order a pint of Saltaire Blonde with a Cajun chicken sandwich for company. The barmaid is chatty; I’m pretty much the only customer in this recently refurbished pub. McFadden & Whitehead and Chaka Khan ensure an early exit for The Groundhopper.

Liversedge’s Quaker Lane ground is a ¼ mile down the road. Cleckheaton is an old mill town in the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees, with a population of 15,000. In 1903 Lion Confectionary made a fruit sweet called the Midget Gem. When I was a kid I used to buy a 1/4lb bag of them every Saturday from my local sweet shop, before watching Noel Edmonds on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop.

Mr Men and Little Missy author, Roger Hargreaves was born in the town, as was former Everton centre forward Danny Cadamarteri. Yorkshire CC captain, Andrew Gale, used to play for Cleckheaton Cricket Club.

I squeeze the car down a tight private road and park up in the ground. I can hear Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does it Better’ on the Clayborn sound system as I part with £5 entrance fee and £1.50 for a programme.

The ground is a belter. Uwdi Krugg, from my favourite ever football blog, Where’s the Tea Hut, tipped me the wink on this one. The clubhouse is perched on top of a bank to the left of the nearest goal. The Stuart Silverwood Stand runs along one side of the ground. The far end is open. On the opposite touchline are the dugouts. A brick-built terrace with a wooden roof is behind the nearest goal.

I take a seat on one of the many benches situated near the changing rooms and look out at the sweeping views of Dewsbury in the distance. My oh my, what a ground we have here. It goes straight into the top ten.

The cotton wool coloured clouds and biting wind are replaced with glorious blue skies and bright sunshine as these two mid-table sides emerge from the dressing rooms. The pitch looks a tad heavy. Liversedge and Heanor Town played out a thrilling 4-4 draw last Tuesday evening.

The visitors have a couple of plodders up top; they’re more like Grand National runners than 6 furlong sprinters. Both can hold the ball up though. On 11 minutes Outram is played in on the right hand side, he makes no mistake, to put the visitors one to the good.

I grab a cup of coffee (£1) from the ‘Half Timers’ tea hut. The mushy peas and mint sauce is very tempting. A chocolate-coloured Labrador is on his tod in the queue. He’s licking his lips and eyeing up the hot dogs. His sad eyes secure a free sausage. Two bites and its gone.

On the half hour Liversedge restore parity. Left back James Rothel drives forward and strikes a shot which bounces awkwardly in front of the ‘keeper who can only watch the ball loop up over him and into the net. It doesn’t help matters that he’s chosen not to don a cap, with the sun shining directly into his eyes.

Players from both sides are dropping like flies; I thought they were as hard as nails up here. There are a few stoppages and enforced substitutions.

I’m cheered up by a joke from The Comedian at the break. “I woke up with a big smile on my face this morning, thanks to my girlfriend. She just loves those felt tips I bought her.”

I check the latest scores and note that former Tricky Tree, Marlon Harewood, has bagged for Barnsley just down the road against his old employers. Forest are 3-1 up.

The second half is awful, with neither side looking like gaining an advantage. One thing that the Liversedge players are brilliant at, though, is swearing, and so are their management team. The referee receives dog’s abuse. He’s called “an embarrassment”, “a joke” and “a disgrace.” It transmits to the players.

There’s a flurry of yellow cards. The management are fortunate not to be sent to the stands. Their behaviour is unnecessary and unacceptable.

Attendance: 92

Man of the Match: The Labrador

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blackpool 2 Nottingham Forest 2

1974-2012. Aged 38. Its death has been the talk of Twitter. My old faithful friend Ceefax was finally laid to rest this week. My favourite pages included 302 (Football) 312 (Football in Brief) and 390 (Regional Sport). I used to spend Saturday afternoons, when the kids were bairns, slouched on the sofa repeatedly pressing the latest score buttons on my TV remote console.

Soccer Saturday, the internet and social networking have contributed towards its demise. My father, shortly before his death, became particularly bad-tempered one day, when punching in 199 for the sports headlines, the numbers just kept looping around and around. It took a phone-call to the BBC complaints department to resolve the issue.

It was on the coach journey back from Fleetwood that I noticed that Forest were to travel to the north-west again during the October half-term. Sticky jnr didn’t need asking twice. He’s well and truly hooked on watching Nottingham Forest FC. Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road ground is on my to-do list, as I home-in on completing ‘the 92.’

It’s Tuesday morning, the day of the game. Mrs P has gone swanning off shopping to Meadowhall, in Sheffield. I’m left to rustle up one of my legendary fry-ups for the kids. I crack the eggs into a sizzling pan. The fat is spitting more viciously than Leeds United’s El Hadji Diouf.

Fully fed and watered, I bundle Sticky jnr and ‘Chambo’ into the car and head off to Tollerton to pick up ‘Lil Louis.’ His Dad, JK, is away on business; I’ve promised to look after the wee man. We leave the ‘Rolls Royce’ in the Brian Clough car park and hop onto the No.2 supporters’ coach.

I’m comfortably the oldest person on here. It’s like spending the night at Bulwell Youth Club. Two seats are spare to the rear. A gang of 16 year old lads from Top Valley are bossing it on the back seat. There are reports circulating of lingering fog in the Blackpool area. Bloody hell, that mist is going to be hard to shift, if it rolls in from the Irish Sea.

Despite the average age of the bus being about 18, the coach driver decides to stick on Gem 106. It’s one shit song after another. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, Westlife and Phil Collins have the coach passengers keeping an eye on Sticky Palms for any suicidal tendencies. There’s a huge cheer in Stoke when we lose reception.

Sticky jnr is sat with his headphones on. He’s wolfed down a family-sized pack of Rowntree’s wine gums and is now flicking through the pictures in The Sun. There’s a brief toilet stop at Knutsford Services, so all the kids can re-fuel on testosterone.

The coach driver has been fiddling about with his radio again. Blackpool-born singer-guitarist, Robert Smith, of The Cure is belting out his 1983 hit ‘Love Cats.’ We pull into the car park at Bloomfield Road at just before 5pm.

Sticky jnr and’Chambo’ are let loose on this historical seaside resort, which in its heyday was visited by over 17 million holiday-makers each year. Blackpool has a population of 140,000. It is well known for its Tower and Illuminations.

‘Lil Louis’ and Groundhopper head towards Blackpool Tower. This iconic attraction is nearly 120 years old and stands at 518 feet high. Its building was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The list of well known celebrity born in Blackpool include: Zoe Ball, Robert Smith (The Cure), Cynthia Lennon (ex-wife of Beatle, John), Syd Little, Chris Lowe (Pet Shop Boys), Dave Ball (Soft Cell) and Ricky Tomlinson.

A few little-known facts about Blackpool include: In 1964, following a riot at a concert at the Empress Ballroom, the Rolling Stones were banned from playing in the town. This ban was not lifted until 44 years later in 2008.

Former England cricketer, ‘Bodyline’ fast bowler, Harold Larwood, ran a sweet shop in Caunce Street in the town from 1946-1949, before emigrating to Australia.

We stroll a mile or so down the seafront, passed the Central Pier, Madame Tussauds, Coral Island, Yates’s Wine Lodge, North Pier, the Bier Keller and the Albert and Lion Wetherspoons pub. The sea is 40 metres out. Seagulls wade in the pools of water left by the tide. Apart from the Tower, it’s a fairly unremarkable and characterless place. Everyone looks so miserable and downcast. Mind you, two wins in the last eight games; I can hardly blame them.

We dive into the Captain’s Table for a fish n chip tea. The cod melts in your mouth. We bump into Sticky jnr opposite the Central Pier. He says he wants to live here, loves the place. I ask him if he’s been having a sniff of the barmaid’s apron. I watch the illuminations spring into action, before heading back up to the ground for the 8pm kick off.

The away turnstile is tucked away in the corner of the ground. There’s no body search or aggressive stewardings; the welcome is warm, friendly and northern. It’s £25 for my match ticket and £3 for a glossy 80 page programme. We’re told we can take a pew wherever we want.

Blackpool were founded in 1887 and are nicknamed The Seasiders or The Tangerines. Recent well-known managers include: Stan Ternent, Simon Grayson, Sam Allardyce, Colin Hendry & Steve McMahon. Largest transfer paid is: £1,250,000 for DJ Campbell from Leicester City. Record transfer fee received is £7 million for Charlie Adam from Liverpool. Most League appearances made is by Jimmy Armfield (569).

Forest fans are pouring through the turnstile as Dave Clark Five’s 1964 hit ‘Glad it’s all Over’ rings around the ground. The teams emerge from the tunnel to Zoe Ball’s husband’s ‘Right Here, Right Now.’

The kids are holed up at the back of the stand with the ‘Singing Section.’ It means I can enjoy the game in peace. Blackpool nearly upset the apple cart in the opening moments. Former Leeds and Southampton defender, Stephen Crainey, plays a give-and-go and thumps a shot that smacks off the upright.

Forest pour forward in an exciting start to the game, Cohen is hauled the ground, with both officials waving away claims for a penalty. The Tricky Trees enjoy a golden spell of possession football, played at a furious pace. Both Cox and the industrious Sharp waste gilt-edged chances.

Sharp gets a second bite of the cherry in the 25th minute, steering a shot into the net following a corner. He peels away to celebrate with the travelling faithful, appearing to take a bite of a supporter’s hot dog.

The Seasiders have pace to burn down the wings, with Phillips and Ince keeping Harding and Halford busy. Crosses aren’t converted, often nobody will have a pop at goal, as they overdo the passing. Ince reminds me of his dad, Paul, with his constant bleating and appealing.

I was hoping for a game of bingo at the break. The PA man could shout out to the crowd the numbers. We are treated to 10 minutes of keepy-uppies by the Blackpool Centre of Excellence lads. Paul Hart is wheeled out the Hospitality Suite to perform the half-time draw He receives a standing ovation from both sets of supporters.

Forest replace the out-of-sorts Ayala, who has struggled in possession, with the Irishman, Brendan Moloney. Halford slots in to partner the excellent former Vauxhall Motors and Chester City defender, Danny Collins.

The visitors sit back and allow The Tangerines to come onto them. The Tricky Trees appear to be coping. Simon Gillet is ratting, but the front two can’t get on the ball. Holloway throws on Grandin, Dicko and Nathan Delfouneso. They have the pace of the Jamaican relay team and rattle the Reds immediately.

Phillips whips a ball in from the right, Camp’s decision-making is appalling, no-one picks up the runner, and Grandin heads the ball into the roof of the net. Minutes later, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, a player lifted from Leyton Orient Reserves by Keith Alexander many moons ago, scuffs a shot into Camp’s bottom right corner, with the unsighted ‘keeper going down in instalments.

The visiting support is stunned into silence. They’re not asking ‘Campy’ “what’s the score?”, anymore. The Blackpool fans are though. O’Driscoll plays his trump card. Prodigal son Jermaine Jenas enters the field of play. His fifteen minutes of footwork, dazzlery and passing are worth the £25 admission.

He bamboozles, wrong-foots and leaves the Blackpool midfield for dead. The man is a genius. Camp thumps a clearance downfield, Blackstock flicks it on, only for Billy Sharp to slice horribly wide.

I feel sick to the stomach that Forest won’t take anything from this. Suddenly former Blackpool loanee, Andy Reid, produces some wizardry out on the left, leaving Dexter Blackstock the chance to equalise seconds from time.

There’s utter pandemonium in the away end. I look up towards the back. Sticky jnr is uncontrollable with his wild celebrations. I just hope he hasn’t lost his ‘I am a T**t’ lighter that he bought earlier in the day.

Attendance: 13,228

Man of the Match: Danny Collins