Saturday, April 7, 2012
Cheltenham Town 2 Barnet 0
It’s Thursday evening, I’ve broken up from work for five days. I unlock the back door and race into the lounge to see if Murphy Palmer (baby budgie) is okay. He is having a dicky fit, readers. He’s fluttering and flapping around his crib. He’s squealing and crying. “Calm down son, what’s the matter?” He’s staring at the DAB radio that I leave on for him each day. He loves a bit of Ken Bruce and Jeremy Vine.
This doesn’t sound like Simon Mayo; the DJ is saying ‘safe’ ‘sound’ ‘reem’ and ‘innit.’ What’s going off? I get on all-fours and rummage around in my pocket for my glasses. I stare at display unit on the radio in disbelief. Sticky jnr is summoned downstairs. I tell him that if I find out that he ever upsets Murphy again by switching channels to BBC 1Xtra I’ll stop his pocket money for a week.
I spend the late evening downing a bottle of ‘on offer’ Rioja whilst watching the US Masters on Sky. Local lad, Lee Westwood leads the field.
I’m wide awake by dawn. I make an award-winning brew and treat myself to some fresh pineapple for breakfast. Murphy is whistling and chirping to Donna Summer’s ‘Loves Unkind’ as I waltz out the door.
There’s an appalling start to the day. I switch on the radio to hear Phil Collins and Philip Bailey singing ‘Easy Lover.’ I drive up through ‘the Bronx’ to pick up blog legend Trumpy Bolton. He’s switched carrier bags to an upmarket little orange number from Sainsbury’s. He unearths a litre bottle full of Stella Artois Cidre. Trumpy is sporting a Dunlop t-shirt as a tribute to Lee Westwood.
He’s quickly into his stride with anecdotes and tales from recent trips (weekend benders) to Thame, Lincoln and Leeds. We avoid the motorway and stick to the A46. We’re soon driving through the beautiful scenery and picture postcard villages of the Cotswolds. I spot a sign for Bourton on-the-Water. It’s where Mrs P and I spent our first wedding anniversary.
We start reminiscing about a stag weekend in Amsterdam back in 1990. Trumpy says he has a photo of me in a New Order ‘World in Motion’ t-shirt posing outside a brothel. I must have mistaken it for an art gallery.
Ooh, I recognise that theme tune. It must be time for Trumpy and Sticky to fight it out on Radio 2’s Pop Master. We rack up an easy 28 points. We can’t arf pick em. The winner has ten seconds to name three Bay City Rollers hits. Trumpy and Sticky do it in five seconds: Sad, but true.
It’s just gone 11am as we pull up outside The Hollow Bottom country pub in Guiting Power. It’s the Gloucestershire Dining Pub of the Year. Horse racing from yesterday’s meeting at Ludlow is on TV. We have two pints of a local brew. I tell a lie, Trumpy has two; I didn’t see the first one touch the sides.
The pub was once owned by Peter Scudamore and Nigel Twiston-Davies. It’s like visiting a steeple-chasing museum. The pub is decorated with photos, memorabilia, newspaper clippings, horseshoes and racing silks. Smoke smoulders from some logs on an open fire.
The beer is good and the vibe is fantastic. But the landlord really is a miserable sod. Trumpy tries to strike up a conversation with the guy. He’s more interested in repairing a broken high chair than socialising with a customer.
Next stop is the less impressive, but more customer friendly Half Way House in Kineton. It like God’s waiting room as a group of pensioners huddle around the bar. They are advertising a Disco tonight from 9pm. Looking at the average age I suspect Frank Sinatra may feature quite heavily.
Dinner is good though and the service is brisk. I have a bacon and Stilton baguette with home-cooked chips. Trumpy has another couple of pints. We’re parked up a five minute walk away from Cheltenham’s Whaddon Road ground half an hour later. The legend has sniffed out another pub up the road called the Fox and Hounds. Four Barnet fans are in the back room playing a game of pool.
They have resigned themselves to defeat and relegation. They are unimpressed with former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and would have Martin ‘Mad Dog’ Allen back at the drop of a hat. Allen was also manager at Cheltenham for a short spell.
We weave our way through a residential area. Trumpy has one of his legendary sneezing fits, caused by gating his final pint. We’re soon outside the Abbey Business Stadium. Cheltenham, also known as Cheltenham Spa, is on the edge of the Cotswolds. The borough has a population of over 115,000 people.
Notable folk born in Cheltenham include: the golfer Paul Casey, Killing Joke lead singer Jaz Coleman, Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cotterill, ‘ski jumper’ Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, actors Robert Hardy and Sir Ralph Richardson, composer Gustav Holst, presenter and writer Richard O’Brien and former X-Factor host Kate Thornton.
I must have been to the Gold Cup at Cheltenham Racecourse six or seven times. I’ve some happy memories and bulging pockets. Trumpy has been with me a few times too, but he remembers very little of the day (cider binge drinking).
Cheltenham Town were founded in 1887. They are managed by the highly-rated Mark Yates. Former managers of note include: Steve Cotterill, Bobby Gould, John Ward and Martin Allen. Record transfer received is £400,000 from Colchester United for Steven Gillespie. Record transfer laid out is £60,000 for Aldershot’s Jermaine McGlashan.I grab an excellent programme for £3. It’s £20 to sit in the Main Stand. Trumpy remarks he pays that to watch Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
The legend sinks a few more in the Club bar as we watch Reading and Leeds players rolling around on the floor faking injury. We take our seats to the rear of the stand. I’ve had more leg room on a Ryanair flight. I sit at 90 degrees.
The views are breathtaking. In the distance is Cleeve Hill and Cheltenham Racecourse. The Club DJ plays a Ska track that gets Trumpy tapping his feet. The players emerge from the tunnel to ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless.
The Robins haven’t scored for nearly 10 hours and Barnet only have one win in fourteen games. But remember folks, Trumpy and Sticky don’t do 0-0’s. (very often).
I’m impressed with the touch and movement of both teams. Having watched so much non league football, it’s almost become alien to me. Trumpy has befriended a scout from Colchester, who lives in Stamford. He’s a lovely chap but he probably hadn’t planned on Trumpy chewing on his ear for 45 minutes.
19 year old Jack Butland is in the nets for Cheltenham. The England under 21 international is on loan from Birmingham City. He’s kept busy in the first period, producing fine saves from the former Nottingham Forest Dublin-born midfielder Mark Byrne and the impressive, impish left winger Ricky Holmes.
‘Big Ben Burgees’, on loan from Notts County, is toiling away up top for Cheltenham. He has aerial supremacy and a terrific first touch. He is no danger to the goal though. His strike partner Darryl Duffy is short on confidence. He dithers and dilly-dallies on the ball. Duffy couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel.
Barnet play some beautiful passing football. It mocks their lowly position. Holmes hugs the touchline and 22 goal leading scorer Izale McLeod is a handful. They hit the post on half time from a header by Kamdjo.
T Bolton scurries off back down to the bar, a relieved ‘Colchester scout’ retreats to the back row for more ‘leg room’ Bolton has bored the poor bloke to death. A freestyler does football skills in the centre circle. Eric Prydz ‘Call on Me’ booms out of the PA system.
Barnet can’t get going in the second half. Cheltenham play at a higher tempo. A dreadlocked-haired Jermaine McGlashan is introduced on the hour. Trumpy is back from the bar. “Is this Terence Trent D’Arby coming on?” quips the legend.
Sanchez looks disinterested and disheartened. There’s no encouragement, pats on the back or camaraderie with his staff. The Barnet fans salute his assistant ‘Grazioli’ throughout the game.
Butland makes an instinctive, brilliant one-handed save from McLeod. Yates’ final throw of the dice is a double substitution with 15 minutes to go. Mohamed and Spencer form a three man attack. It pays dividends immediately.
McGlashan plays a give and go with Mohamed, he leaves the full back for dead, the cross is inch perfect, Mohamed buries his shot into the roof of the net. It’s a moment of brilliance. Trumpy and I stand to applaud. Bolton disappears to the bar for a final pint.
Moments later its game set and match to Cheltenham with substitute Spencer seizing upon a Burgess flick-on to finish emphatically.
Barnet have played some neat and tidy football, with little reward. They are dropping like a stone, just like Lincoln City were last season.
Attendance: 3319 (173 from Barnet)
Man of the Match: Sam Deering (Barnet)