Sunday, December 22, 2013
A smirking Zuffler is already quaffing a pint of Shipstone's bitter in the Ned Ludd on Friar Lane. They have a fine selection of premium lagers, rocket fuel ciders and micro-brewed real ales. We trudge up Maid Marian Way towards Canning Circus. Taggart joins us in the Organ Grinder, where we enjoy a couple of Blue Monkey ales. Much of the night is a blare. I recall Taggart clearing one pub, not with his party-piece fart, but by playing B A Robertson's 'Bang Bang' on the jukey.
My head is certainly bang banging on Saturday morning and so is The Zuffler's, who according to Twitter gossip didn't turn in until 02:00am. Mrs P is watching the BBC News. I sit silently on the sofa reading Hope and Glory by the journalist and broadcaster Stuart Maconie on my Kindle. There's a fascinating chapter about 'Thankful Villages.' Fifty one villages in England and Wales have no war memorial because their soldiers sent to war returned home alive. One of these is Wysall, just over a mile from my home.
I scour the Interweb to see where the nearest ground in the Non League Pyramid is, that I've yet to chalk off. Barrowby FC, of the Central Midlands League South, are entertaining Blidworth Welfare from north Notts. I put a call in to the Mayor of London at his Southfork Ranch, just a few miles away from the ground. It's a date.
I abandon the cleaning of the inside windows. "Half-a-job again", remarks Mrs P. Murphy the budgie is swinging on his perch. He's listening to Stevie Wonder's 'Yesterday' on Radio 2's Sound of the 60s show.
I drive past the Stilton cheese creamery and into the village of Colston Bassett. I'm soon pulling into 'Southfork.' 'The Mayor' has just returned from a cricket coaching session at Trent Bridge. I'll be assisting him with running an under 10s side at Keyworth next season.
I'm in 'The Mayor's' study, glancing at his bookcase. He is a True Blue (Tory). He has every Conservative MP's autobiography that has been published since 1725. It makes me weep. He only moved back here from London to be near the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher. We'll probably have to lay some flowers outside her old green grocers in Grantham. I'll lob a lump of coal through the front window, for old times' sake.
As we drive through the village we notice the fire-ravaged remains of the Royal British Legion. "I bet there is a story to tell there", says 'The Mayor.' We pass the White Swan and The Cakehole cafe and deli. The ground is situated on the edge of the village. I'm not saying it's a hike from the visitors' car park to the main pitch, but we considered booking a cab.
We make a detour to the brick-built, Football Foundation funded clubhouse to pay our dues. Today's attendance will just about cover the three officials. It's £3 entranance, including an excellent programme.
'The Mayor' is having a tough induction with Step 7. He lets a ball go through his legs and chases one or two stray ale-house clearances to retrieve the ball. Barrowby are bossing it and are 3-0 up at the break. I bump into my old boss at Notts County Youth, Darren Heyes. He invites us back to the boozer for a swift one. I take a look around the cottage he's bought adjacent to the pub. It'll take more than Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team to put it right.
We have a sweepstake on what the score is going to be as we walk back to the ground. A jockey is riding a racehorse up the street. He stops for a natter. Tommy Hawkins is an 8 year old point to pointer, who races at nearby Garthorpe. He used to live at Jonjo O'Neill's yard.
Barrowby are in a cruise control and have already bagged another goal. Poor old Gouldy. The only thing we can both talk about is the fire, though. New Scotland Yard are going to have to drop the Lucan Case for now, remove Clouseau and Cato and wheel out Hercules Poiroit from retirement in Brussels. Who, if anyone, torched the Royal British Legion?
Attendance: 31 (Head count)
Man of the Match: Ned Ludd
Monday, December 16, 2013
He wanders across to me to ask who will be running the line. I take the flag off him and he remarks to be careful as the black plastic cap keeps falling off it. The game is played and managed badly. He'll be using his pencil sharpener when he gets home. There's no dialogue from me with him during the match. He collects the flag off a parent and marches towards me. The black plastic cap has fallen off and he wants to charge me £10. I burst out laughing. He says he's going to report me to the Notts FA. Where do they get these guys from?
It's Friday evening and the 11 day detox is complete. No more celery, raw carrots and Greek yoghurt. I sample a couple of Stella's and some red wine. It's an early start on Saturday morning. Murphy the Budgie is squawking and chirping at a reckless shot played by England's Kevin Pietersen, who has once again thrown away his wicket.
I pull into the car park of former FA Trophy finalists Hucknall Town. I bump into an acquaintance. We chatter away as I view the game. I form an opinion quite quickly on the intended target and report in to the Head of Youth.
I've plenty of time to kill, but decide to head up to North Derbyshire as quickly as possible. I join the M1 motorway at Junction 27 and exit at the next turn-off. I skirt through the town of Alfreton, passing its War Memorial as the skies darken and the wind picks up. I'm on the A61 travelling through the village of Shirland. There's a table-top sale at the Village Hall as an alternative if the game is not up to scratch.
I clock the old winding wheels of Parkhouse Colliery in the town of Clay Cross. I park up the Rolls Royce and take a few snaps. There's a memorial for the many men and boys to have died at the mine. Forty five lost their lives in an explosion underground back in 1882.
The town has a population of just under 10,000. In 1969 the coal mine closed. 'The Beast of Bolsover' - Dennis Skinner was born here in 1932. He has been Member of Parliament for Bolsover since 1970.
Tony Blackburn's 'Pick of the Pops' is on Radio 2. I once went to an 'Abba Tribute Night' in a hotel in Nottingham. Blackburn was the compere. He was bragging about huge listening figures on his Gold Breakfast Show. He asked the audience if anyone listened to it. I shouted out "No, it's crap." I wasn't invited back by Mrs P's boss the following year.
I leave the car in the community hall. I can see the players warming-up at the 'I Want Pet Foods' ground on Mill Lane, just a short walk up the road. The club's stadium was re-named 'The Devil Made Me Do It' ground back in July 2012 after a local tattoo studio won a raffle to provide a new name. I can remember this making the headlines on East Midlands Today.
"Enjoy the game" says the gateman. I love the personal touch. I pass a wooden table with boxes full of old programmes. There are badges and Clay Cross merchandise on offer. I buy a 50/50 ticket. Domino's Pizza's are donating some prizes.
The crystal clear PA is banging out Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl's 'Fairytale of New York.' I walk past the ground's one and only covered stand. Housing from the old pit estate backs onto the far goal. The remaining three sides are open, with 'The Tunnel Cafe' tucked away to the left of the main gate.
The pitch is rolled and in immaculate nick for this time of year. Clay Cross Town believe in tender loving care. I do two laps of the ground before settling in my grey tip-up seat, shielding myself from the gusty conditions.
The visitors' goal has led a charmed life, when the Millers finally take the lead following a corner which hangs in the wind and is nodded in at the back stick by the big number nine.
The West Country Cheddar has caused quite a thirst. I shell out £1.10 on a Lucozade Sport at the cafe. Slade are blaring out of the PA. I hook up with a guy in the second half who lives up at New Mills. He has a good geographical knowledge of the Manchester and Cheshire non league scene. He tips me grounds at West Didsbury and Maine Road, which are now on my to-do list.
We're joined by Clay Cross Jack-of-all-trades committee member 'Martin.' His passion for the club is awe-inspiring. I get a run-down of the club's history. He invites me up to the Woodthorpe Inn for some after-match hospitality. What a splendid gesture. We applaud loudly at the stunning second, and what turns out to be, winning goal. What a day out I've had. All for £3.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
He returns moments later in all of a fluster. Smoke is coming out of his ears, readers, but it aint from cigarettes. The lass on the till has challenged his ID and called it fake (it was his 18th birthday a month ago). He's bashing away at the keypad on his phone. I check my timeline on Twitter to read his outrage "Absolutely disgusted with #sainsburys telling me my ID is fake #w***ers." Fair play to Sainsbury's though, they tweet him within seconds to ask if he would like to make a complaint. My boy doesn't want to get the girl in trouble though, so he declines #class.
It's been almost a month since I last ticked a ground off. I've not been myself recently, the strain of running two football teams is taking its toll, as is also a 10 day detox programme I'm putting myself through. I'm in desperate need of a football fix.
I leave the office just before noon. There's a dreadful beginning to my half day's holiday, when I switch the radio on to hear the 'Greatest Love of All' by Whitney Houston. I skip down the drive, through the back door and immediately make a beeline towards his cage. Murphy Palmer, the budgie, and Norwich City's number one fan is two years old today. I unwrap a 45p treat I've bought from Wilko's in Clifton: I like to spoil the little fella.
He's still sulking about The Zuffler's remark on Facebook. He reckoned that WBA chants of "You Fat Bastard" during the Canaries 2-0 win at The Hawthorns, were directed at the wee man. I've got to admit he has put a bit of timber on. It's his winter coat.
The ruddy face and faithful plastic litre bottle of dry cider are on his person. He enquires whether we have got tickets for the Carlton end. He's proud to announce he can now put his own pants on, without Mrs Trumpy having to give him a helping hand. He tested his new hip out on Lincoln's notorious Steep Hill. He passed with flying colours, having had a tipple or two at the many hostelries in the City.
Trumpy has been up since the crack of dawn waiting for the BT engineer to bring him into the 21st Century. His late arrival scuppered any chance of a lunchtime session at the Keyworth Tavern. He waxes lyrical about the weekend in Brighton. He chanced upon Mr and Mrs Nugent, the parents of Leicester star striker David Nugent. "What a charming and down to earth couple they were" he remarks between large swigs of cider.
We've soon spotted signs to the ground of Newcastle Town, which is actually situated in Clayton. Newcastle under-Lyme is a market town in the county of Staffordshire, with a population of 73,000. Cricketer Dominic Cork and footballer Robbie Earle are one of their own. The town, back in the day, was well known for hat-making, silk, cotton mills, coal mining and brick manufacturing.
We can see the well lit ground, with the stand-out feature being the velodrome, in the distance. After doing a couple of laps we finally chance upon a turning into the ground.
I leave Trumpy watching Munich v City as I start to make my own enquiries. Carlton manager Les McJannet says that kick off will be delayed by half an hour. The ground is gobsmacking, with its panoramic views and quirky stands. It looks even better under the lights.
Bolton staggers out the bar as the teams kick off, I've already walked the circuit once. If I'd bought my bike I could have cycled the velodrome. He scans the teamsheet and enquires where Shearer and Ginola are. I have to explain it's Newcastle Town and not United we're watching.
He starts chatting to an elderly gentleman from Nottingham, who bless him, has forgot to put his teeth in. Neither of them can understand a word they are saying. Newcastle (Town) take the lead with a cleverly executed goal. A corner is played back towards the full back, who smashes his shot through an army of players and past an unsighted 'keeper. Sticky and Trumpy don't do 0-0s.
We watch in disbelief as City overturn a two nil deficit with a James Milner winner. "This is taking the match-fixing saga a bit too far" remarks a sozzled Trumpy. Newcastle score early doors in the second half and also see a penalty attempt screwed horribly wide. Carlton continue to look lacklustre. Their best attempt, from former Notts County scholar Alex Troke, is beaten away by the home 'keeper.
Trumpy has caused quite a commotion amongst the home officials when enquiring about the purchase of a hot pie. The blazers start to squabble with one another on why they have run out. We sneak out with five minutes to go, as Carlton are never going to trouble the scorers this evening.
Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton