Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ossett Town 1 Ashton United 0

The BMI flight from Faro to East Midlands Airport is taxing the runway. I’ve buried my head into my Kindle for the entire trip, only resurfacing for a cheeky GnT. A small bald-headed fellow, sitting next to me, is reaching up to the overhead luggage compartment. We have not uttered a single word to each other on the entire journey.

I ask him if he has far to go. “Not far lad, Pontefract.” I explain that I intend to visit the West Yorkshire town later this year as part of my groundhopping fix. The guy says I would be made welcome and that he used to be chairman there.

He doesn’t go to watch so much now as he follows his lad, Anthony Lloyd, (ex Huddersfield Town, 43 appearances) who has just signed for Ossett Town. Their ground has been on mine and Trumpy’s radar for some time now. We bid farewell, with a promise from me to catch up with him later in the season.

A pleasurable hour, on Friday evening, is spent holed up in the Lounge of the Plough Inn at Normanton-on-the-Wolds with Mrs P. Mark, the landlord (or ‘Bum’ as we used to call him at school) has the best guest beer on ever. It’s called ‘Hood’ and is from the Lincoln Green brewery.

Later in the evening, following a bottle of Red, I’m sprawled out on the sofa watching Tiger Woods hunched over a putt on the 18th green to halve the match in the Ryder Cup. Murphy is on my shoulder squawking, tweeting and singing in an attempt to put Woods off. It does the trick as Tiger lips out. “Well done Murphy”, I whisper in his ear as I put the wee lad to bed.

I rustle up poached eggs on toast in the morning whilst listening to an old Daft Punk single on Ramone’s 6Music breakfast show. I mull over Friday night’s football scores; one sticks out like a sore thumb: Forest Green Rovers 3 Lincoln City 0. The Club are in a complete and utter mess. There’s even talk of them leaving Sincil Bank. My father will be turning in his grave.

I run a few errands before picking Trumpy up. Murphy needs some sand sheets and Finley requires topping up with hay and sawdust. Finley predicts a 3-1 win to Ashton, with Murphy calling a 1-1 score draw. I spot former European Cup winner Frank Clark popping into Bob Green’s the butcher in our village.

I leave Mrs P ironing whilst watching James Martin Saturday Kitchen and head off up through ‘the Bronx.’ Legend is often an overused word, but Trumpy is right up there with the likes of Cantona and more applicably George Best. He struts down the drive like Miss World on the catwalk. Actually, I’m lying; he’s limping quite badly.

We shake hands and wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’ – I’ve not seen him since March. He rummages around in his Jersey Airport carrier bag for his litre bottle of Bulmers cider. It’s 10.30am and the great man is up and running.

Once again, to explain to any astonished and disbelieving readers, Trumpy’s sole reason for living is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland. Sorry if you have just fainted.

Trips he has made since we last met include: Whitby, Filey, Exmouth and the Scottish Isles. He’s well chuffed to report that he’s visited the remotest pub in Scotland, off Skye. It was a £40 return, 15 mile boat ride.

I’ve accidentally tooned into the Sara Cox show on Radio One; Trumpy despises her, along with Rita Chakrabartri, Graham Norton and Alex Salmond. A car is on fire on the A610 as we approach the M1 North, passing a new Co-op distribution centre at Junction 28.

Trumpy is thumbing his way through the Good Pub Guide. First stop is the Silkstone Lodge Country Inn close to Barnsley. The great man tucks into a pint of bitter, while poor old Sticky settles for a Diet Coke. The barman is a die-hard Barnsley fan who knows his football inside out. He’s impressed how Nottingham-born serial prankster Jacob Mellis is settling in at Oakwell. It’s time to depart when ‘Endless Love’ by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie comes on the jukebox. These Yorkshire lads aren’t arf a load of big soppy apaths.

@BigBearBaker has tipped us the wink on a nice little eatery in Ossett. A feisty Irish barmaid pours the legend real ale at The Mews. I remark that a James Morrison song is being played. Trumpy says that he used to play for Millwall. He’s mixed him up with Steve Morison, bless him. The Irish lass and T Bolton are getting on like a house on fire. She’s asks him what brings him to these parts. He replies: “I’ve come to see you darling.”

We’re directed to the pub of the day called the Brewers Pride on the outskirts of the town, adjacent to the Ossett Brewery. It’s packed to the rafters and has nine real ales on the go. Barmaids serve strawberry beer and chocolate stout. We opt for two pints of Dorothy Goodbody’s from the Wye Valley brewery.

Trumpy has had a few by now and claims to have spotted a chap sat in the corner with a purple beard; he must be hallucinating. My God, the bloke actually has a purple beard.

Ossett Town’s Stade France - Ingfield ground is only just around the corner. 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 Corro), referee, Bobby Madley, who is to take charge of the Forest v Derby clash tomorrow and the novelist David Peace of the Damned United fame.

There’s bugger all where to park. We sling the ‘Rolls Royce’ in a pay and display, opposite the ground, to the rear of some dingy flats and dodgy take-aways. The legend waltzes into the Social Club, whilst Groundhopper takes a few snaps. It’s £7 on the door and £1.50 for a glossy programme. A friendly official thrusts a team sheet into my hand.

It’s a given where Trumpy will be. He’s already shouted me up a pint of lager. It’s as dead as a doornail in the club. Russian TV are about to show the Fulham v Man City game. Trumpy is already looking cosy, although he complains about being able to see the build-up play from the clubhouse window, but not the goals from where he’s sat.

There’s quite a stiff breeze, but sunny conditions, as the teams swap ends and the whistler blows for the start of the game. Ashton United play a league above but it doesn’t show in the early stages of this FA Trophy tie. Trumpy enquires whether I’ll be asking Ashton’s Oscar-winning actor, Warren Beattie, to sign my programme.

I take my customary stroll around this neat and tidy ground which backs onto housing and a main road. I catch up with Jez the official Ashton United photographer. We have a little chinwag about our pal Smiffy from the award-winning blog Six Tame Sides.

I’m desperately disappointed with the visitors; they don’t seem to have any fire in their bellies. Ossett on the other hand are the spirited underdog. After a spell off pressure they take the lead with a neatly worked goal by Shane Kelsey.

Ashton are absolutely awful in the final third, with impressive Ossett stopper Wesley Milne having a cigar on. Trumpy makes another trip to the bar while I field a few calls. Mrs P texts to tell me that ‘The Skipper’ has headed one in from a corner.

The swirling wind spoils the second half. Ossett look comfortable with their lead and have further chances to increase it. Former Huddersfield Town and Notts County winger Simon Baldry still looks the business at the age of 38.

I manage to catch a word with Anthony Lloyd’s dad, the guy who I met on the BMI flight. His son is having a fine game at full back.

Things begin to warm up a bit when a couple of Ossett Town wags roll up ten minutes from time. I stand with the 20 or so Ashton fans behind the goal for the final few moments. The Ossett keeper’s net is never threatened.

There’s a little dance and jig on the way to the car when Mrs Trumpy phones her beloved to confirm an away win for the Foxes up at Middlesbrough.

Attendance: 88

Man of the Match: Wesley Milne

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Askern Villa 1 AFC Liverpool 3

It’s 1.45pm on the 15th April 1989. I’m stood on the Kop at Hillsborough in Sheffield. Nottingham Forest and Liverpool are set to cross swords in their second consecutive FA Cup semi-final. I stare out towards the Leppings Lane end. The central pens are packed to the rafters, whilst there are huge gaps in the side pens.

Four minutes into the game Peter Beardsley thumps a shot that cannons back off the woodwork. There’s a surge in the central pens. Fans begin to clamber over the ten foot high spiked fences. Nottingham Forest fans start to boo and jeer; suspecting it to be a pitch invasion.

Supporters are being winched up to the upper tier. Something has gone badly wrong. Referee, Ray Lewis, on police advice, stops the game at 3.06pm. The PA system asks for any doctors or paramedics in the ground to make themselves known.

Liverpool fans are applauded by the Forest fans as they break up advertising hoardings to use as makeshift stretchers. The walk back to the car is in silence. We all fear the worst. People crowd around transistor radios in an attempt to gather more information. We stop off at Woodall Services on the M1 and join the huge queue of people phoning home their loved ones.

The Football Association had allowed over 50,000 people to be shoe-horned into a stadium whose safety certificate had expired. Margaret Thatcher and her vile Minister for Sport, Colin Moynihan, played their part in a huge cover up. I still have my “F**k off Moynihan” T-shirt in the loft. Football fans in the Eighties were tarred with the same brush and treated like second class citizens.

Twenty three years later and the truth is out. An independent report has revealed that 41 people had the “potential to survive” after the 3.15pm cut-off time. Evidence was also uncovered of a massive police cover-up. 116 out of 164 police statements were allegedly altered to change comments criticising the South Yorkshire Police.

96 innocent people lost their lives in the Hillsborough Disaster due to a catalogue of errors. It’s a victory for the tireless campaigners and relatives of the deceased. Hopefully the people accountable for that wretched day can be brought before the courts.

Respected journalist and Hillsborough campaigner, David Conn, recently tweeted: “Reading the Hillsborough Independent Panel report in detail. Construction of the Leppings Lane “pens” 1981-1987 reads like building a prison.” Any comment Mr Moynihan?

It’s Friday lunchtime. I’ve abandoned the ‘Rolls Royce’ on Farmer Street in the village of Bradmore, in South Notts. I spot a red Number 9 Premier bus in the distance. I hop on and pay my £4 return fare to Loughborough. It’s Part Three of the ‘Real Ale Trail.’

Seven hours later I’m staggering through the gates of Plumtree Cricket Club for ‘The Skipper’s Presentation Evening. We’ve pounded the streets of Loughborough and drank the town dry. The Swan and Rushes and the newly opened Blue Monkey pub, the Organ Grinder, are the pick of the pubs. I manage a Diet Coke and a few slurred conversations with folk. I recall a pot of tea for one accompanied by the Million Pound Drop before hitting the sack.

I’ve a big day out planned today. My junior football team have no game and I intend to make hay. Mrs P kindly drops me off in Bradmore to collect my car. I shoot into West Bridgford to pick a few presents up for Mrs P’s birthday.

Radio 5 are reporting that Manchester United’s Scottish international Darren Fletcher may play his first game for over 9 months following his battle with colitis. Sadder news on the horizon though is that it’s the final ever ‘Sausage Sandwich’ game on the Danny Baker Show.

I hit the A60 and head up towards Mansfield. I’m hooking up with my man in the North, Mickey Gould. I’ve arranged to meet him at the John Fretwell Centre, close to the old mining village of Warsop. The reception on Five Live is bloody awful. I tune into Radio Nottingham. It’s a big mistake readers; they’re playing the awful ‘What a Feeling’ by Irene Cara.

I spend an hour viewing a game with Mickey. The tight sod hasn’t brought any ‘tuffees’ with him. I treat the owd codger to a cup of coffee in the plush clubhouse. It’s just gone 11am and already a young couple are tucking into a couple of pints of lager. I say cheerio to Mickey and drive towards the A1, ironically passing through the village of Spion Kop. I notice a few billboard posters advertising that 70s punk band Sham 69 are to play in the area.

The traffic on the A1 is horrendous. There are lengthy queues between Junction 35 and 38. I’m going to miss my lunchtime pint at this rate. A wooden sign in a field off the hard shoulder says ‘Prepare to Meet God.’ I could do with him right now, to disperse all this traffic.

I finally chance upon a decent boozer in the village of Owton. I find a vacant picnic table in the sun-drenched beer garden and wash down a cheese and pickle sandwich with a pint of Kronenbourg 1664.

I pull into Welfare car park of Askern Villa FC shortly before 3pm. Askern is a village in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster with a population of over 5000. It was a victim of the Conservative Party’s vendetta against the mining community. The coal mine closed in 1991. Askern’s Sports Ground has been vandalised four times in the last 12 months. Copper piping has been ripped out and the kitchen burnt down. Over £40,000 damage has been caused. It breaks your heart.

A group of young lads wearing Doncaster Rovers and a Wales strip are playing three-and-in outside the Welfare. I walk past what must be the final cricket game of the season. I pay £4 on the gate. Unfortunately they’ve run out of programmes.

The ground is railed or fenced off on all four sides. The nearest touchline to the entrance has a small seated stand. A covered terrace on the opposite side splits the two dug outs. The pitch looks in very good condition.

AFC Liverpool was formed in 2008 by fans disillusioned with the Premiership ticket pricing structure and the so-called ‘39th game’, in which Premier League games would be played in different parts of the world. The Club adopt the same colours as Liverpool FC and play in the NWCL Premier Division.

I stand on the furthest side of the ground. Each Liverpool player has the number 96 printed below the back collar with 15.04.89. After 6 minutes of frenetic action their supporters burst into two minute applause. The visitors are well on top and attack with pace and speed. The Villa ‘keeper is kept a busy bee. Totally against the run of play Askern take the lead through Jay Rollins, after some poor defending.

I’ve serious concerns for the health and well-being of Liverpool manager Paul Moore and particularly his assistant Stuart Humphreys. They are both at bursting point. James Buckley increases their blood pressure by thumping an effort that bounces back off the foot of the post.

Parity is restored on 20 minutes. The impressive former Liverpool Academy player, John Lawless, wriggles his way down the left hand side before brilliantly crossing the ball to the back stick to leave Ryan Wilkinson the simple task of heading home.

The guy in the Askern nets is having a torrid time; he couldn’t catch a cold today. He fumbles, parries and drops the ball from numerous attempts on goal. Liverpool’s Francis Barry smashes a shot off the upright as the visitors go in at half time wondering how this FA Vase tie has not been put to bed.

The cricketers have gone in for tea, so I decide to take a mosey around this old pit village. I’m chased out the ground by the raffle ticket seller who asks me for my numbers. After rifling through my pockets in a desperate attempt to find the winning strip I find that I’m one number out.

I amble past a guy sporting a black eye, sparking up a cigarette. I nip into the Welfare for a nosey. One or two blokes are propping up the bar as the half-times come rolling in. Mad Dog’s Gillingham have started like a house on fire against the Pirates of Bristol. The main room in the Welfare has two full sized snooker tables, a pool table and some gaming machines.

I look up the road towards the local Londis. I think I’ll give it the swerve, as a huge gang is congregated outside the shop. I get chatting to the guy with the black eye, on the way back into the ground. Turns out he’s the first choice ‘keeper who suffered an eye injury during a game in midweek. He’s an affable chap, who very kindly walks back to the changing room to pick me up a programme that’s lying around.

AFC Liverpool soon take the lead. The Askern ‘keeper is cleaning windows as a corner comes sailing in; their huge Number 4 Anthony Brown smashes home a loose ball into the roof of the net. Askern have an effort cleared off the line and also strike the woodwork.

John Lawless wraps up the game with a coolly taken spot kick on 84 mins.

 “L-I-V-E-R-P-O-O-L    A-F-C” sing the amusing away supporters.

Man of the Match: John Lawless

Attendance: 72

Monday, September 3, 2012

Llanrug United 4 Llangefni Town 1

I’m stood out on the patio in the gorgeous, manicured, established gardens of the listed Grade 2 stone built Halfryn House, in Abersoch. I’m with the Crazy Gang on our second tour of duty. It’s been a long, dark harrowing night.

I was awoken at 3am with a loud rumble. The foundations of the 100 year old house were shaking. Jesus Christ, Abersoch (or more importantly our bedroom) appears to be the epicentre of an earthquake. I roll out of bed and fumble for the light switch. It’s then that I notice him, sprawled out in his pit, with his Notts County shorts on, snoring his blooming head off. I shout at White Van Man to roll onto his side.

I punch out Mrs P’s telephone number and yawn out loudly, as I admire the breath-taking view of boats bobbing in the Irish Sea, early on Saturday morning. I break down in a flood of tears as Mrs P answers the call. “Are you missing me darling?” she enquires. “It’s not that love, I can hear Murphy (my budgie) tweeting and chirping in the background, can you put him on the phone for a quick chat?” Oh dear, the line’s gone dead. My signal appears fine. There must be a problem at Mrs P’s end.

I walk back in the house. Half full cans of Stella 4% are strewn all over the lounge. That shirker, ‘Bruiser’ has never been a drinker readers. White Van Man is rustling up a full English breakfast for our group. He’s cheered up having caught up on Emmerdale on his iPad. Holly, ‘H’ from Steps and Nick arrive back at the house after their early morning swim.

I think back to yesterday. White Van Man hared up the M6, M56 & and the North Wales Expressway into Snowdonia National Park. Bruiser was on the money during the ‘Golden Hour.’ I washed down a succulent, locally-produced gammon with Snowdonia real ales at the Groes Inn.

We were fleeced for £8 at the Conwy Valley Garden Maze. Farmer Jones must have seen us coming a mile off. It’s no Hampton Court readers. We didn’t even get lost. Its outstanding feature is the waterfall. Pete tells his girlfriend, Charlotte, that they turn it off at dusk. Bless her; she falls for it hook, line and sinker.

I’m still recovering from the previous night’s news that the best ever concert WVM has seen was Lionel Ritchie. I nearly choked on my burger and blue cheese when the big man dropped that little gem out at the Zinc Bar in town.

We nipped into St Tudwals Inn for a pint of Robinson’s ‘Dizzy Blonde.’ Michael Owen was dining in here last year with his family. I hope he didn’t stub his toe on a stone on the beach. Perhaps he’ll pop back for chicken in a basket to celebrate his proposed move to the Potteries.

Saturday morning is spent in the bustling market town of Caernarfon. I notice on a newspaper stand that The Sun’s front page splash is reporting the earth shattering news that ‘Caribbean Queen’, Rihanna has smashed a table in a London restaurant. We explore Caernarfon Castle. Prince Charles investiture took place in the castle grounds on July 1st 1969.

The group splits at lunchtime. The majority head towards the island of Anglesey for a pre-booked ‘Rib Ride’ around the bay. ‘Bruiser’, WVM and Sticky barge our way through the door of Joe Corals and soon fritter away £20 in bets.

If they handed out Gold Medals for sniffing out chip shops then WVM would have accumulated Olympic world records. He weighs in with a tray piled high with fishcake, chips and curry sauce. A blackcurrant and soda is thrown down his hatch at a chain pub close to the castle.

West Ham United are dishing out a 3-0 thumping to Fulham. Llanrug is a short five mile drive away. Those pair of Muppets are threatening to make me walk home if the game ends 0-0. Regular readers know that ‘Hopper’ doesn’t do no score draws. I keep an eye out for suitable bed and breakfasts, just in case, as we cruise around the village.

We’re redirected back up the hill to the car park of the Glyntwrog. WVM has a power nap. Sticky and Bruiser have another pre-match pint, eventually, after an unnecessary five minute wait. I have my first Hoegaarden Belgian wheat beer in donkey’s years.

We chance upon an Everton fan who points us in the general direction of the ground. WVM skilfully jay-walks over the A4086 as if he is negotiating traffic on Nottingham’s Upper Parliament Street.

The views looking out to the Snowdonia National Park are jaw-dropping. I must have visited over 500 grounds but nothing can compare with the backdrop that Eithin Duon offers. It’s a ridiculous £3 on the gate. I snap up the last programme. What a labour of love programme editor Gareth Hughes has produced. It’s stuffed with over 70 pages of facts, figures and news: a massive hat-tip to you Sir.

Pierluigi Collina has come out of retirement for the day as Llanrug elect to kick with the wind. The first moment of controversy comes after two minutes when I happen to put my foot through a bunch of thistles, much to the amusement of my pals.

‘Bruiser’ is already giving me grief, so I decide to take my customary stroll around the ground. Dugouts are unusually on both sides of the ground. The changing rooms are at the far end. Stone walls are a wonderful and usual feature at a non league ground.

I bump into a guy who’s wearing a bandana and sunglasses. It turns out to be the coach driver of Llangefni Town, who goes by the name from his CB radio days of ‘Red Onion.’ What an engaging chap ‘Onion’ turns out to be. He talks about the demise of the team and even digs out a couple of programmes for me from out of his rucksack.

Suddenly my phone goes off. Perhaps Mrs P has her signal back. Oh bloody hell it’s WVM, what the heck does he want. He’s roaring down the phone that there is a piece in the programme about our visit today. What a lovely touch.

I’m jumping up and down and waving across the pitch at those two clowns when Llanrug open the scoring on 14 minutes through Ian Burgees – no relation to The Charlatans lead singer Tim Burgess. The gulf in class is evident by half time as the visitors struggle to cope with the stiff breeze and sloping pitch.

Their heads are bowed as they troop off to the dressing room 3-0 down. I bump into ‘Bruiser’ in the toilets (this is not a usual occurrence). He shares out his Kit Kat bar (not in the toilet). I introduce myself to the Club officials at the green-painted wooden tea hut.

What a charming and engaging bunch of chaps they are. They treat me to tea and a complimentary tray of chips. I promise to file my match report later in the week. I stand with the lads for the final twenty minutes. A ball catches the wind and heads towards WVM. He sticks out his Winfield trainers from Woolworths, the ball cannons off his foot and hits a lady official straight in her chest. That’s going to hurt in the morning.

Llanrug score the goal of the game on 72 minutes through Gareth Eiffon Jones. The visitors deservedly score a late consolation goal three minutes from time. WVM is crying like a baby that Collina has played 4 minutes injury-time; he knows ‘Hopper’ won’t leave until the final whistle.

I take one final look at that stunning view. WVM tells tales, on the journey home, of getting whiplash in Riga from looking at all the totty and how he once applied for a job as a window cleaner in Amsterdam.

The night is spent on Abersoch Beach. We set up our own disco and are joined by vodka swilling underage drinkers from Pwlhelli. It’s not a pretty sight watching ‘Hopper’ dancing to ‘Crank That’ by Soulja Boy. I turn in for bed at 2.30am; tonight I’m the one snoring.

Sunday is spent on an all day bender under sun drenched blue skies. On Monday we visit the delightful surroundings of Harlech Castle and the quaint little seaside town of Barmouth.

Piers Allen: “you can’t half pick em son."

Attendance: 110

Man of the Match: Leroy Rosenior (private joke)