It’s a venue where I’ve chugged up that unforgiving bloody hill and bowled over after over of long hops for nearly 20 years. I stare towards the playing square. The Club is two hundred years old in 2015. They’ve upped sticks and moved to a safer environment on the edge of the village. The wires have been removed and the wicket is grassed over. I feel sad and emotional as I think about the fun I’ve had up here over the years. Maybe my two boys can rediscover their zest for the game and play for the Club that their Dad is so proud to be associated with.
I sleep soundly thanks to a couple of large glasses of Rioja reserve. Mrs P makes a startling admission at the breakfast table. As an eight year old, she once wrote to Jimmy Savile to see if he could fix it for her to be on the Krypton Factor assault course. It’s a skeleton that she has kept in the cupboard for over 35 years.
I check the headlines on the BBC Football website. News is emerging that Hereford United’s players have been told by text that there’ll be no pay packet for April. Murphy Palmer, my green and canary budgie doesn’t seem too concerned. He sinks his beak Suarez style into my ear lobe. He’s odds-on favourite for Gold at the Budgie Pecking Event in Rio 2016.
I head down to the Lenton Lane area of Nottingham to view a game with my boss Mick, who appears pretty chipper despite the cup loss. Two of the top sides at under 15 level in the Midlands battle it out in a cup tie. We’re approached by a dead ringer for Terry Hurlock, to ask if we have permission to be on the ground. He appears miffed that we’ve actually been invited down by the manager of the home team.
I bump into Nottingham Forest diehard fan Jitz Jani. We discuss the opening day of the Nottinghamshire Cricket Premier League season, as hailstones fall from the darkening skies. It’s time to head up to South Yorkshire. I cruise up the M1. I slip on a CD. It’s the 1982 album ‘New Gold Dream’ by Simple Minds. ‘Someone, Somewhere in Summertime’ is the stand-out track.
I have a chuckle at the advertisement for the Michael Jackson tribute act that was on the previous evening. Two old lasses are shuffling towards the door: “Did you go to the ‘Michael Jackson’ concert last night ladies?” enquires The Groundhopper. “Nay lad” remarks one, as they Moonwalk their way to the bar.
I settle for a pint of Stella and a southern fried chicken sandwich. World Championship snooker is on the pub TV sets. The Sat Nav has had a wobble in the middle of what was once a National Coal Board pit estate. A young girl waves her arms in the general direction of Sheerien Park on Ollerton Road.
The DJ reels off three records in a row from Cornershop, Erasure and The Cult. I’ve already fell in love with the place. The ground is fully railed with wooden panels round three sides of the ground, with metal fencing at the far end of the ground. There are two stands, one of which has black, white & brown tip-up seats.
The teams, somewhat bizarrely walk out to the theme tune from ITV’s The Bill. Athersley, sporting Newcastle and Notts County colours, require just one point to gain promotion to the NCEL Premier League.
Pontefract Collieries and Sticky Palms have previous. Their ‘Management’ behaved appallingly following a 3-0 drubbing at Worsbrough Bridge. Six ‘penguins’ are stood behind the goal Athersley are attacking. They are banging two sets of drums. Ringo Starr won’t be having any sleepless nights. I take a gentle stroll around the ground. There are 14 hoodies, 12 flat cappers and 10 bobble hat-wearers.
The game is nervous, fraught and tense. Athersley play without fluidity. They have a succession of corners and have a stonewall penalty turned down. It’s 0-0 at the break with little sign of a goal. Regular readers will know that Sticky doesn’t do 0-0s.
‘The Rec’ DJ continues his good form at the break. ‘All Together Now’ by The Farm and ‘Hush’ by Kula Shaker, comfortably win this guy Non League DJ of the Year. There’s a notice in the wooden green-painted ‘Gents’ of the consequences of taking and dealing drugs. I grab a coffee and position myself next the ‘Ponte Carlo’ dugout to see if them pair are misbehaving. It’s not long before they are haranguing the officials. The ref is “weak” They chew on the lino’s ear more than Murphy the budgie does on mine.
Athersley huff and puff but can find no way past impressive Ponte ‘keeper Sam Andrew. The day ends happily though with rivals Cleethorpes slipping up at Clipstone MW.
Man of the Match: Sam Andrew