Monday, December 28, 2015
It's Boxing Day morning. Christmas Day was of mixed emotions for me. It was the first time my boys and I had not been together on Christmas Day. I met them in the Pear Tree, in Keyworth on Christmas Eve to exchange presents. There was no decent real ale on. I gave DJ Stag the swerve and headed back into town, before enjoying some beers in the Crafty Crow and Roundhouse.
Ms Moon pilots the Land Rover Freelander over towards my old stomping ground, Keyworth. She's singing along to her new 1980s CD that Santa bought her. We drive through 'The Bronx' and up a cul-de-sac. A ruddy-faced man walks down his drive. His bright orange Slazenger polo shirt lights up the gloomy skies. His Sainsbury's carrier bag is orange too. Trumpy Bolton will be on his best behaviour today, as he is accompanied by his wife, Jayne. He's soon swigging out his litre bottle of cider, having already seen off three tins of ale down the hatch for breakfast. He's certainly in the mood for a bit of kissing and canoodling with Mrs B.
As we breeze down the A50 and up the M6, Trumpy fills us in on his forthcoming 7 day drinking spree in Tunbridge Wells and old London Town, to see the New Year in. We pull into some services at Crewe, so Ms Moon can get her fix of Coffee and a solitary Silk Cut Silver. Trumpy spots a group of Japanese tourists queuing for a McDonalds - Bolton claims they are relatives of the Foxes' Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki.
The counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire are on a state of Red Alert. Many towns are under water. I have watched football, and met so many people in the North of England during my 10 years of groundhopping. I pray to God that they are all safe and okay.
We hit the outskirts of Liverpool in under two hours. Trumpy Bolton has the monk-on as we sail past a Wetherspoons in West Derby. It's £10 to park the car just south of Anfield. Bolton sniffs a pub out up the Anfield Road called the Arkles. He's as light on his feet as 24 year old Leicester winger Riyhad Mahrez as he manoeuvers his way though a crowded bar to shout up the round to a miserable old bat of a barmaid. The bar has the heat of a blast furnace, as we exit outside, there's a huge cheer as Stoke take the lead against United.
I down a couple of pints of Guinness in the Flat Iron up the road, as Bolton moonstomps to 'Nite Klub.' by The Specials. Ms Moon finds a floating fingernail in her glass of Coke. I leave Ms Moon people-watching as I peg it on a circuit of the ground. Redevelopment of the Main Stand has begun. I pay my respects to the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough. I was there that awful day. I also notice a memorial plaque to commemorate the 39 who died at the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1985.
It's our third visit to the city this year. In the summer we took in Southport v Wigan in a pre-season friendly. A few months ago we watched Cammell Laird batter North West Counties League leaders Colne FC 4-0.
I part with £7.50 for a beefburger, fried onions and a tray of chips. Ms Moon wolfs the scran down, as she hasn't eaten all day. It's £47 for the ticket and £3.50 for an excellent programme. I scan the names of Liverpool's 50 man squad, 15 of them are out on loan. The ground is impressive and packed to the rafters. We're reunited with a nervous Mr and Mrs Bolton. 'The Thinkerman' (Claudio Ranieri), as he is now called, has restored the German, Robert Huth to his back-line. An injury-ravaged Liverpool still have a star-studded midfield.
City's 3000 away following have poor banter - they sing 'Feed a Scouser' to the tune of 'Do They Know it's Christmas Time.' It's a sight to behold, as red and white scarves are raised above heads, as Gerry and the Pacemakers is belted out the PA system.
The game is played at a ferocious pace, no quarter is given in the early stages, honours are even. Leicester's stand-out player is the tenacious French midfielder N'Golo Kante. He snaps in the tackle, picks up the seconds and can pick a pass. It's another hat-tip to the City Head of Recruitment for spotting this bargain buy from Caen in the summer.
Wes Morgan and Huth have a cigar on whilst dealing with the lumbering and clumsy Kenyan, Divock Origi. It turns out to be a game-changer when he limps out of the attack on 38 minutes to be replaced by the discarded Belgian, Christian Benteke, who proves to be a bit of a handful.
It's deadlock at the break. The Leicester fans are frustrated and over-expectant of their team. Liverpool swarm all over them in the second half. They're passed off the park by Henderson, Lallana and the wonderful Coutinho. The goal duly arrives on the hour after some wonderful build-up play, with Benteke guiding the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
City have nothing left in the tank. They look leggy and listless. The ineffective Vardy is withdrawn from the attack, little improves, although there is a grandstand finish.
Man of the Match: N'Golo Kante
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Sunday is spent in town, mooching about the place for Christmas presents. I've had to take on more responsibility this year. I snuck into the 'King Billy' on the way home, and sample some of the fine Oakham Ales they have as guest beers this week. I knock up the St Andrews blog, as Steve McClaren's Newcastle United complete a remarkable comeback against a sloppy-looking Spurs, having looked dead in the water at half time.
I notice on Monday lunchtime, on the FA website, that Leicester Nirvana have been drawn away in the final 32 of the FA Vase against hot favourites Hereford FC. We might stop the night in Malvern, and chalk a few pubs off from the Good Pub Guide.
I'm on the road in Suffolk for two days during the week on business. I stay in a Premier Inn that is situated adjacent to the marina in Ipswich. Portman Road is close by. I need to tick-off this ground. Sadly, tonight they are away at Craven Cottage in London.
I'm up early doors, by my lazy standards of late, on Saturday morning. Ms Moon is putting in another 12 hour shift. Murphy the budgie is blowing his whistle more loudly than Premiership referee Martin Atkinson to 'The Sound of Silence.' by Simon and Garfunkel. I'll leave the window open for the little fella, as he's flying up the M6 shortly to watch his beloved Norwich City get a tonking at Old Trafford.
I've arranged to stay over at 'our Mark's' up in York. The nearest ground to his house, in the village of Upper Poppleton, which I haven't been to, is Yorkshire Amateur, in the Bracken Edge area of Leeds. I drive down to Newark, and join the A1 at South Muskham. Graham Norton is getting on my wick. I'm desperate for a new car, complete with DAB radio. In the meantime I settle for a game of 'Radio Bingo.' 'Respectable' by Mel and Kim is on Radio Sheffield. I remember them selling out Ritzy in Nottingham back in 1987. Allegedly, Mel and Kim mimed the whole gig - Milli Vanilli style. Mel Appleby tragically died at the age of 23 from cancer.'
Merry Christmas Everyone' by Cardiff's finest, Shakin' Stevens lifts my spirits, as I pull off the A1 onto the A64. I have difficulty wiggling my hips though, as the steering wheel is a major obstruction.
My brother is wrapping some Christmas lights around a tree in the garden as I pitch up outside his crib. We exchange chit-chat over a ham and cheese baguette, kindly made by my sister-in-law, before jumping into his car, and heading out on the A64 towards Leeds. We have York City v Morecambe as back-up, if Yorkshire Amateur are watered off.
We pass a field where the 'Leeds Festival' takes place each August. 'Our Joe' usually gets spangled up here every year. He'll be living in 'Dirty Leeds' soon, if he gets his grades, as he has had an offer from the University of Leeds.
It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a programme. Yorkshire Amateur were founded in 1918, and have played at Bracken Edge for over 93 years. Former Sheffield United and Leeds United striker Brian Deane began his career at the club.
I poke my head into the clubhouse. There are many framed football shirts of ex Premiership players adorned to the wall. Horse-racing is on the wide screen TV. We grab a Yorkshire Tea as we make our customary circuit of a new ground. The changing rooms and a stand in disrepair with blue, brown and pink seats are on the nearside touchline. A steep grass bank dominates the far goal, with standing on the far side and houses behind the nearest goal.
I notice a couple of flags fluttering in the breeze. 'Poey is Innocent', says one. Apparently, it's a reference to an 'innocent miner' being jailed during the Miners' Strike, after an incident in Fitzwilliam, a village where Geoff Boycott was born. Ironically, there's no minute's silence for Kellingley Colliery that became the last deep coal mine in England to close yesterday.
League leaders Hemsworth MW start the game slowly. The 'Ammers' begin brightly. The highlight of the first 20 minutes is when Sticky Palms gets his mucky mitts on the matchball. The pivotal moment of the game happens in the 35th minute. 'The Ammers' striker is wiped out when through on goal. The official waves play on. Hemsworth's Shane Kelsey threads a ball through to Bill Law who has made a diagonal run, he thumps a shot under the 'keeper and into the net. Just as the home team are about to kick off, their 6 jacket is shown a straight red card for something he has said.
4-1 is unjust on Yorkshire Amateur. They have spurned chances of their own, and have played the best part of an hour with 10 men. The day gets better with a visit to The Maltings in York city centre - it's Yorkshire Pub of the Year 2015. I can't arf pick em.
Man of the Match: Yorkshire Amateur 'keeper.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Ms Moon and I jump off the bus on King Street. We're off to Johnny Vegas's Christmas Party at the Just the Tonic Comedy Club in the Cornerhouse complex in Nottingham. We're badly in need of some tucker. I've had nowt to eat since scoffing a bag of jelly beans at the game. We try about a dozen restaurants - there's no room at the inn.
I can hear my stomach rumbling, as I dejectedly queue in the rain to get in the club. They're not serving food until the interval. Vegas is running late. You can only get that disgusting muck called Carling on tap at the bar. I've proper got the face on. Vegas rolls up an hour late. He has no set. He looks dishevelled, and slurs his words. We have a few laughs, and tuck into some chill con carne. We still make it back for Match of the Day. I roar with laughter at Chelsea's defeat to the Cherries of Bournemouth. It's far funnier than anything Vegas put our way. They were 8/1 on the coupon. It was a banker, and a coupon buster, all in one.
The Rudd and Clifton blog gets over 500 hits on Sunday evening. West Bridgford's official twitter account ain't happy with Sticky for calling them 'Big Time Charlies.' They'll shower me with Costa Coffee, when I finally blog from Bread 'n Lard Island. I gave WB manager Chris Marks man of the match for Wollaton back in 2008; so I'm hoping that he forgives me.
I'm down one of my old haunts on Wednesday evening with The Taxman. Keyworth United are entertaining Hucknall Town in the Central Midland Floodlit Cup. Keyworth's a tidy ground now, and a club on the up. In Connor Scott-Parkin, they have one of the League's best prospects I have spotted this season. The game is tremendous. It goes to extra time after a couple of long-range distance goals. Keyworth finally bow out on penalties 4-2. It's been an entertaining evening.
I'm up and out the door at the crack of dawn on Friday morning. I've a business meeting in Colwyn Bay, North Wales at 9:30am. It's a beautiful drive along the A55, with sweeping views of the coastline. I manage to take a sneaky peek at Colwyn Bay's ground. I hope to tick this off later in the season, when the weather is kinder and milder.
I'd hoped to visit a few real ale hostelries in Derby before taking in Mickleover Royal British Legion v Clay Cross in the Central Midlands South. It's leathered it down with rain for most of Saturday morning. Their twitter confirms the game is off. I'm back on the 44 bus into town. I usually like to peg it into town. I'm soaked to the skin just walking to the bus stop. I can't see many games surviving this downpour.
I'm a lazy shopper in town. I usually end up quaffing a couple of real ales in Castle Rock's Keans Head in Hockley or the King Billy in Sneinton. I pick a few bits up, and meet Ms Moon in the Marks and Spencer Food Hall for a Wiltshire Ham and cheese toastie, before pegging it back to Colwick to see what games are on.
The most mouth-watering tie of the FA Vase last 64 teams, is in inner city Leicester, between St Andrews and Leicester Nirvana. Two sides which are revered and feared at youth level in the city. Rammers is on the blower. He fancies Pinxton v Nuneaton Griff, but it's already been hosed off, like many others in Notts and Derbyshire today.
I fill up with petrol and grab a packet of Bassett's Mint Favourites. Rammers has got a 'mansion' in the village of Widmerpool, where former Nottingham Forest assistant manager Peter Taylor is buried in the churchyard. It's like the Lord of the Manor, as I press the buzzer for the black wrought iron gates to open. It would be easier to break into GCHQ.
Rammers is kitted out in his Stags training gear and a Blue Square North managers coat. He knows Leicester city centre like the back of his hand, so offers to drive in. John is pretty much semi-retired now. Although he still keeps his hand in by doing some supply teaching. One of his former pupils is Darren Fletcher from Five Live and BT Sport. The last time I saw John, he was waving goodbye to the Torquay United fans at Sincil Bank following the end of his caretaker manager role and a 2-0 reverse to 'The Lincoln.' (my team).
We pitch up at the ground five minutes before kick off. The car park is full to the brim. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a programme. There's no music on the PA system. I thought they might have knocked up a Kasabian, Mark Morrison and Engelbert Humperdinck medley. We position ourselves to the right of the visitor's dugout, as the teams observe a minutes silence due to the untimely passing of a child of a Nirvana player.
The visitors are 2-0 up within 11 minutes, using their pace to get around the back and deliver. St Andrews pull one back with a towering header from a free kick. It's time to get the mints out. Murphy the budgie won't be happy that Rammers has snaffled up a couple of toffees. He likes to have a good old peck at them.
The bar is choc-a- block with folk. Rammers shouts the teas up. I get chin wagging to a home supporter who says that St Andrews have a few injuries, suspensions and players cup tied. It's like listening to a Manchester United supporter with a list of excuses.
Nirvana are coasting in the second half. They add a further three goals and look good value at 33/1 to lift the Vase, if they can avoid any difficult trips up North.
The game's outstanding player has been Reece Morris. Small in stature, he has lightning pace and a football brain. He covers the ground like a young racehorse. His decision-making is spot-on, He's one for the notebook.
Man of the Match: Reece Morris
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Today is different. I drive out of town, and take a right hand turn into the cemetery. His headstone could be positioned anywhere. Time isn't on my side, I've a meeting in Bollington at 2pm. I spot a parking space, and squeeze the 'Rolls Royce' in. Luck is on my side. I literally step out of the car and walk towards the chapel, before I notice flowers and wrapped CDs placed around the graveside
In the early hours of May 18th 1980, iconic Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis took his own life in the kitchen of 77 Barton Street, Macclesfield. He was aged just 23 years old, and had the world at his feet. New Order were formed from out of the ashes. If there's two things you can do over Christmas, then watch the film Control and read the book Touching From a Distance by his wife Deborah Curtis. Both ooze class.
I've been at death's door. Influenza has wiped me out good and proper. I drag myself from my sickbed and stupidly decide to take a peek at FA Cup giant-killers Salford City away at Grantham Town. I enjoy some craic with manager Anthony Johnson and star midfielder Scott Burton on Twitter.
Esteemed blogger, Uwdi Krugg, from the award-winning 'Where's the Teahut?' blog, tipped me the wink on Scotty when he was turning out for Runcorn Town. I viewed him at Parkgate (where Jive Bunny are from) in Rotherham three years ago, in an FA Cup tie, when he ruled the roost. He'd been plucked from the obscurity of Bolton Sunday League pub football. I passed on my recommendation to the Chief Scout at Notts County. The irony of him winning the BBC Man of the Match award a few weeks back when Salford dumped the Pies out of the FA Cup brought a satisfactory smile to my face.
It's Saturday morning. Ms Moon is having a pre-Christmas spring clean. I decide to stretch my legs. I walk past Nottingham Racecourse, along Daleside Road. Meadow Lane is heaving with folk, as they rock up for the weekly auctions that take place at the Cattle Market. I hang a left onto London Road towards Trent Bridge. Burgeoning brewery Castle Rock have taken over operations at The Embankment, which was the old Boots Social Club, back in the day.
I push the doors open to the Nottingham Forest Club Shop. Rumours are rife about lack of stock and cash flow problems. I find this to the contrary. Sticky jnr will be enjoying their merchandise on Christmas Day morning.
I grab a Americano at Costa on Bridgford Road, at the heart of Bread 'n Lard Island, despite 'Rupert', 'Sebastian' and 'Tarquin' doing their best to spoil the occasion. West Bridgford FC looked to have wrapped up the NSL title before Christmas, but are now 'choking it.' Two home losses on the spin have brought the Big Time Charlie's down to earth - although one or two have left for pastures new in the revolving world of the NSL.
I've 15 bin bags of clothes and clutter to drop off at the Rushcliffe Recycling Centre before heading off to Ruddington. The olde worldy High Street in the village is closed off to cars due to a Christmas Market. I park outside the Co-op, a place I've frequented most lunchtimes over the last 10 years. Tony Blackburn is playing 'Magic' by Pilot. It sold over a million copies in the USA back in 1975. It's a song the Leicester City fans used to sing about Argentinian midfielder Estebian Cambiasso
They have the best sweet shop in the world next to the chippy on Church Street. I gaze at the jars on the back shelves, as saliva dribbles from the corner of my mouth during an unexpected sugar rush. I snap up a bag of jelly beans for £1.
I park up adjacent to Rushcliffe Country Park. I've somehow worked for three different companies in the space of 18 months on this estate. I head up a snicket into some woodland, before entering a clearing where Ruddington Colts are playing football. Further along the footpath Ruddington Village adults are warming up.
I bump into an old school friend John Featherstone, who has Ruddington connections. I notice in the far corner that part of a tree has fallen victim to 'Hurricane Desmond.'
Ruddington take the lead on 5 minutes, following an omnishambles in Clifton's defence. Goals from Thompson and Richardson put the visitors 2-1 up. The Chalky Whites have rolled up. They're massive Pies fans, and should have been watching County play Hartlepools today. But they waved the white handkerchief up in Salford on a wet and windy night a few Friday's ago.
Barthez has also rocked up from his mansion at Ruddington Grange Golf Club. We get gassing to Clifton skipper 'Tank' who is miffed to be on the bench today, after attending a wedding last week. Tosh is milling around the tea bar at the break. He's usually up for a cup of Bovril, accompanied by a pot of pepper.
Ruddington are hungrier in the early stages of the second half, and restore parity. The goal of the game comes from Thomas who cuts inside from the right, before leathering a left foot shot into the roof of the net. Hardy appears to put the game to bed for Clifton with 10 minutes remaining. The Rudd 7 jacket scores a pearler with 8 minutes to go, before the young, stressed referee calls time with darkness descending.
What an advert for the game. Only a few bookings, and a beautiful game of football played in a good spirit and difficult conditions.
Man of the Match: Connor Hardy
Monday, November 23, 2015
An old guy walks by, chuntering and moaning about the blustery conditions. He has a northern accent. I'm flabbergasted to hear he's a groundhopper who has travelled down here on the train and bus from Preston in Lancashire to take in the game. He's staying overnight in the village at a bed and breakfast. I give him the swerve at the end of the game, as the match has finished 0-0.
The highlight of the week was when we went to Nottingham Broadway Cinema to see Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, starring Dame Maggie Smith. I celebrate the end of the working week with a couple of pints of Harvest Pale Ale at the Bear and Lace (previously Chambers) on Maid Marian way in Nottingham city centre. I constantly scroll around on the BBC Weather app. The outlook looks depressing oop North.
We're on the road to Whitby at 8:00am. Murphy Palmer, my canary and green budgie, is going to be kicking off. I've left Radio 2 on for him. Sara Cox's 80s show is on this evening - we both can't abide her. I leave him pecking away at a millet spray, as we abandon him for the weekend.
Marske United and Guisborough Town have already bit the dust. All our hopes are hanging on the ancient market town of Pickering. The North Yorkshire Moors has succumbed to snow. Cars are wheel spinning their way up the steep gradients, as they fight the extreme weather. A Subaru has taken a corner too quickly and smashed into the barrier.
We finally roll up at the Met apartments on Whitby's West Cliff. The road is shut. A Force 10 gale has seen a 100 year old Victorian shelter topple over. Its remains are strewn all over the road. A stranded motorist's car fights with the high tide, as the waves crash into the harbour wall.
Whitby Town's Turnbull Ground backs onto the flat. I'm saving that for a rainy day. The flat is owned by my late father's solicitor. My spine tingles when I see all my Dad's books lined-up on a shelf in the lounge.
We are blown all the way down to the harbour. We gratefully trudge up the steps into the warmth of the Magpie Cafe, where we tuck into Haddock, chips and mushy peas accompanied with a piping hot mug of tea. A couple of Japanese tourists on the next table are scoffing a cream tea at the same time as mussels, crab and salmon. It's like a Japanese game show that Clive James used to show on ITV.
I snap up a beanie hat in a half price sale at Tog 24 on Church Street. I hang my nose over a nice olive green coat, with a bit of fur on it. It'll have the women of Grantham in all of a lather when it gets its first outing for the visit of FA Cup giant-killers Salford City next week.
Pickering Town are tweeting that they are enjoying uninterrupted sunshine with little wind. We drive back over those bloody Moors again. I bet that bone idle so-and-so Ventriss and his pals PC Rowan and Inspector Blaketon from Heartbeat are putting in a shift today.
Ms Moon parks the Land Rover adjacent to the cricket pitch, where Barton Town OB are warming up. She needs to slap some make-up on. With it being half an hour before kick off, will she have enough time ? I wisely choose not to comment.
It's £5 on the gate, with £1.50 for a programme, which is right up there with Tony Squires's masterpiece at Heanor Town. It's clearly a labour of love. We get gassing to some friendly folk in the stand before seeking the warmth and shelter of the clubhouse, as it's bitterly cold. Ms Moon shouts up a couple of steaming hot drinks from the Pikes Pantry. I flick through the programme, where I notice that former Blackburn, D***y and Notts County defender Craig Short is the President of Pickering Town. His brother Chris wasn't a bad player either. Neil Warnock bought them both for a song when at Scarborough Town and the Pies.
We position ourselves next to the Barton Town dugout. There's that many folk shoehorned into it, that it resembles the film set from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I viewed Barton the last Good Friday. I was particularly impressed with how their forward Scott Phillips led the line that day. Sadly, he has a long-term injury.
The referee is subjected to a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse from a member of the Barton coaching staff. I'm surprised stronger action isn't taken, with the referees' assessor scribbling away into his notebook in the stand. Manager Dave Anderson chews gum more furiously than Big Sam or King Billy Davies.
The Pikes take the lead on 7 minutes. The visiting 'keeper can only parry a long-range shot from Joe Danby, the rebound is pounced upon by Ryan Cooper, who tucks the ball away into net. Barton equalise on 35 minutes with a cool finish from Ashley Lattimore.
I check the latest scores at the break. Lincoln City are coasting down on the English Riveria. Top Valley goal machine Liam Hearn has bagged again. All the talk is of Jamie Vardy's goal at St James' Park, in Newcastle.
Pickering score a wonderful goal just before the hour. A free kick whipped in from the left is met with a bullet header by centre half Ryan Turnbull. A lunging challenge and retaliation results in an early bath for Pickering's Ward and Barton's Belcher, as the players keep the assessor busy.
I enjoy a post-match pint of Yorkshire Blonde at the Station across the road from the harbour in Whitby. A local in the boozer, who suffers from insomnia, tells me that he heard the shipping forecast in the middle of the night. He said it was the first time he can remember a Force 10 gale being forecast for Whitby. I can't arf pick em.
Man of the Match: Matty Turnbull
Sunday, November 15, 2015
We're walking around the perimeter of Nottingham Racecourse late on Sunday afternoon. It's drizzling with rain, and close to darkness. I'm reflecting on a cracking weekend. A few beverages were downed last night in Canning Circus with 'The Zuffler.' What is at the forefront of my mind, though, is how sporting the Heanor Town supporters were in clapping off a victorious Sporting Khalsa yesterday. In 10 years of groundhopping, it's right up there with moments that have touched me on my journeys around England watching Non League football.
The inclement weather puts paid to any midweek football action. Table-topping Clifton All Whites U19s have a two week break. I notice that Dunkirk FC's twitter account are having some beef with the Mighty All-Whites. Dunkirk were recently beaten 2-0 in the FA Youth Cup by Basford United, who one or two of the Clifton boys play for. Maybe its sour grapes, as on Tuesday evening Basford travelled up to League Two Accrington Stanley in the first round proper.
I meet up with Sticky jnr and The Skipper at the Rancliffe Arms in Bunny for a Monday night carvery. Sticky jnr is salivating over the choice of meats as the chef slices into a huge joint of roast beef. It's good to see my lads. I really miss them.
We're polishing off a bottle of Bordeaux a few hours later at his Southfork Ranch, pissing ourselves at Alan Partridge on Dave, when I'm alerted to breaking news on social networks of acts of terrorism in Paris. We stay riveted to the BBC news channel as the events and shocking images unfold.
I don't sleep well. I think about those poor, innocent people and their families caught up in the bloodshed. I swing into Morrisons at Gamston and collect my suit, as I need it for a two day conference in Birmingham next week. I wolf down a full English, as I'm on the sauce with blog legend Trumpy Bolton today.
Bolton has just polished off some crumpets and cheese, accompanied with a bottle of Brakespear's Gold, as I knock on his front door, it's 9:45am. Graham Norton kicks off with 'Sometimes' by Erasure, as we head towards to town - I immediately turn it off before Trumpy blows a gasket.
The last time I heard from the great man was a few weeks ago at 10:30pm on a Saturday evening, when he phoned me from his Southampton hotel room to tell me after a 12 hour bender that 'Jamie Vardy was having a party.'
Ms Moon is piloting today. Trumpy is introduced to her. As ever, he is the perfect gentleman. He makes a beeline towards Murphy the budgie. They whistle to one another and talk some waffle. We head up towards Junction 29 of the M1. Bolsover Castle is sat on top of a hill in the distance. I'm toing and froing on where to go today. Shaw Lane's FA Trophy game was the original choice, but it's high up in Barnsley, and exposed to the weather. Curzon Ashton, FC United of Manchester and Stockport County act as back up, with Lancashire expecting a battering according to those muppets at the Met Office.
I'm held accountable for us taking a wrong turning, despite clear instructions from the Garmin. Trumpy nicknames me Sat Nav. We pull into the car park of the Elm Tree in Elmton, just south of Clowne. Trumpy downs a couple of Robinson's Dizzy Blondes. Shaw Lane and Matlock fans will be astounded to hear that Trumpy Bolton's sole mission in life is to try and drink in one pub in every town and village in England, Wales and Scotland. He has pursued this hobby for over 35 years. He has a dog-eared old atlas with all place names highlighted off. I've asked him to leave it to me in his will.
I've had the thumbs up from Shaw Lane on twitter, the game is confirmed as on. It will save a trip up to Manchester. I clock a boozer in the Good Pub Guide on the outskirts of Barnsley, close to the Trans Pennine Trail. The Strafford Arms is a pretty stone built pub, with a roaring log fire. We plump for Farmer's Blonde with some rump steak and beef sandwiches. Shalamar's 'I Can Make You Feel Good' is on the jukebox.
We're soon turning into Shaw Lane. The Club were only formed in 2012, and have had a meteoric rise up the Non League Pyramid. I notice a van parked up with Aquaforce Plumbing Services emblazoned on it. I saw Shaw Lane put a shift in at Walsall Wood on their FA Vase run last season. Notable people from Barnsley include: Michael Parkinson, Dickie Bird, Seth Armstrong and a boat load of footballers including John Stones and Mick McCarthy.
Trumpy pays us in on the gate at £5 per pop. The programme is a cracker for £1. He is cringing a few moments later, ducking behind his programme, when Sticky Palms has his photo taken with the Duck mascot. The Rolling Stones are on the PA system, 'Paint it Black' is the song of the day.
Bolton is soon tucking into a few cans of Strongbow dark fruit cider. Ms Moon and I opt for a Nescafe coffee. The bar, set up on trestle tables, is doing a roaring trade in pasties and sausage rolls. The Gladiators of Matlock have brought a large following with them. The players emerge from the dressing room to 'Let's Go' by Calvin Harris.
An impeccable one minutes silence is held in driving rain, beneath slate-grey skies. for the victims of the atrocities in Paris last night. The first half is bloody awful. Both sides persist in long range passing on a squelching surface. Neither 'keeper is tested in the dullest half I've seen in ages, as Bolton begins his shuttle run to and from the bar. Shaw Lane's captain is former Nottingham Forest and Hibernian midfielder Matt Thornhill. He played over 30 times for the Reds, but somehow finds himself playing at this level at the age of 27 years old.
I'm moody and morose at the break, this game has 0-0 written all over it. Sticky P doesn't do 0-0s. I've not seen one in four years. Ms Moon and Trumpy Bolton taunt me that I'll be walking home if the game ends goalless. Trumpy confides to Ms Moon and I that he once had the hots for Rita Fairclough, back in the day in Coronation Street.
The second half is a classic, as both teams up their game. Matlock have clearly had a rollicking in the changing room. They score a beautifully executed goal through the game's best player Nicky Travis, who has been immense in the Gladiator's engine room.
Shaw Lane rattle the woodwork, before Steven Istead smashes home an equaliser. Trumpy is boogying with the 'Shaw Lane Baby Squad' to the Real Thing's 'Can You Feel the Force' as the PA guy ups the ante. Back come Matlock. Skipper, Danny Holland restores their lead on the hour. There has been a goal blitz, three in eight minutes to be precise. There's no sign of Bolton. He's necking his fifth tin of cider in the warmth of the clubhouse. Trumpy is wobbling a bit now. He claims to have spotted Jeremy Corbyn amongst the crowd of over 200.
Matlock rattle the upright, before the referee finally calls time. There is a sense of relief from the visitors.
Man of the Match: Nicky Travis
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Those tossers, Green Flag, are saying they are going to be two hours. Darkness descends on Stoke Lane. Taxis refuse to pick us up, as they need an address. A man and wife are walking up the lane with a German Shepherd dog, and three English Pointers. He very kindly hooks up a tow-rope. We nervously negotiate a ten minute terror ride up the Colwick Road. The guy won't accept a gift from me. What a lovely bloke he is. Piers' Halloween Party is a resounding success. Boy, does he know how to put on a show. It all gets messy, later, in the Riverbank Bar, where we party into the early hours.
I'm without a car for three days. I have to cancel business meetings in Ipswich and Cambridge. This wouldn't have happened when I had 'Sally Gunnell' (Citroen Saxa) - she might not have been much to look at, but what a bloody good runner.
Both clubs from Nottingham are involved in prime-time televised games on Friday evening. The performances are contrasting. Forest play D***y off the park. Notts County put in a gutless performance at Northern Premier League team Salford City.
I sleep like a baby on Friday evening. Murphy the budgie turns his back on me in the morning, as I flick the kettle on for a brew. The mardy little sod asks for the radio to be turned on. It's gone 10:00am. He's missed Brian Matthew's 60s show. He gets a rollicking off Sticky, as he's gnawed his way through half his Wilko's honey bar. I only put it in his cage last night, they're meant to last a week, the greedy little sod.
I've had my beady eye on a top of the table clash in the West Midlands Regional League between Cradley Town and Shawbury. The weather chart has been a sea of blue all week over Birmingham. The game is hosed off later in the morning.
Ms Moon is piloting the Freelander out towards Junction 26 of the M1. I have a pub to chalk off in the village of Awsworth. The Gate Inn is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac. It's a friendly red bricked Victorian free house, with a cosy bar and coal fire. A welcoming youth from behind the bar pulls me a pint of Pretender. He knocks me up a massive cheese and onion cob. Ms Moon says she wont be talking to me for the rest of the day, as my breath stinks. She mentions this when inhaling on a Silk Cut Silver cigarette.
Heanor sits on the Notts and Derbyshire border in bandit country. I guess the PA guy is a Tricky Tree fan, as he plays 'Hi Ho We Hate D***y' and 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling.' Nigel Clough and Nigel Pearson have both represented the club.
Its my third visit to the Town Ground. They're proper folk up here. I love them to bits. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for the programme of the season. It's brilliantly put together by editor Tony Squires. I snap up a couple of raffle tickets. Ms Moon treats herself to steak pie, mushy peas and gravy. We stroll around the ground, before deciding to position ourselves towards the end to the 18 yard box that Sporting Khalsa will attack.
Khalsa's manager is giving the referee and linesman dog's abuse. He calls them both cowards, as decisions don't go his way. I ask the Khalsa fans if he has gone 'Big Time' following the Cup run - "No, he's always like that" is the reply. The Heanor fans take the rise. There's no flies on them.
There's a bit of a commotion on 20 minutes when I chase an alehouse clearance that has bounced over the advertising hoardings. I've scuffed my dog-shit coloured best shoes from Dolcis on the concrete. Folk tell you straight up here. A wag in the crowd shouts at the Heanor winger: " You're not Barca Fecking Lona, get the ball into the box."
In the second half, Khalsa's Craig Bannister is sent racing away down the right wing, he pings a cross to the back stick, where middleweight boxer Matt Martin sends a bullet header into the roof of the net. Heanor score a consolation goal with five minutes remaining, which causes a few anxious moments in the Khalsa defence. They manage to hang on for a deserved win.
As we exit the ground the players are entering the tunnel. To a man, the Heanor supporters applaud the visitors off the pitch. I'm not ashamed to admit that it brings a tear to my eye, as it does now, as I write this. Non League; I bloody love it.
Man of the Match: Tim Jackson (Khalsa 3 Jacket)
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Oh where to go on Saturday ? I miss my friend Finley the rabbit. He's holed up in his hutch in Keyworth. He was nine years old on August 28th. I still snigger at his crap score predictions over the years. I ring him up for a natter. We chuckle about the time he predicted a 4-4 draw for Real United v Holbrook St Michael's a few seasons ago.. I promised him a huge bag of carrots, that day, from Londis, if he was on the money. The visitors made it 5-4 in the 95th minute of the game. Finley's blinds were shut early that night. I decide to re-visit Real United again this Saturday. They're taking on the legendary Clifton All Whites, where so many Premiership stars first started out in junior football.
The Taxman and I call in on Greenwich Avenue on Tuesday evening to watch Basford United v Newcastle Town. Chances are few and far between. We have some banter with former Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year, Neil Swift. I spot a blade of grass missing on his billiard table playing surface. Clifton Under 19s are battered by a team from Rotherham two days later. Sometimes I really hate football.
I can't wait for the weekend to begin. I meet Ms Moon for a drinky poo in the Cross Keys on Weekday Cross in Nottingham city centre, before strolling up to Edin's Deli Cafe on Broad Street, opposite the Broadway Cinema. We're at a Halloween Party in Stanley Road, West Bridgford tomorrow. I have to be back for a 6:00pm appoinment with a make-up artist.
It's been a long week. I don't rise until 9:45am on Saturday. Murphy is crying like a little baby, because he's still got the towel draped over his cage, and has missed most of the Brian Matthew's 60s radio show. A bit of the Four Seasons cheers up my feathered friend. He's soon sinking back into a deep depression when that bungling fool Graham Norton spins Olly Murs new single. Murphy and Murs have previous.
We give the house a Mrs Doubtfire two hour once-over, before retiring for lunch up at the Elwes Arms in Bakersfield. It's an old haunt of mine, that I used to visit when following the Keyworth Tavern pool team, back in the day. Marvin Gaye's Motown classic 'What's Going On' is on Tony Blackburn's Pick of the Pops. I shed a tear that Murphy will be riding on his swing listening to it, crystal clear on his new DAB radio.
Team news has been leaked to me from the Clifton camp. Sweeping changes have been made, as this is a game they can ill-afford to lose in a somewhat disappointing campaign so far. We pull up in a nature reserve car park in the village of Stoke Bardolph, on the banks of the River Trent. It's a beautiful day for messing around on the river.
Real United's Stoke Lane ground is adjacent to one of those dreadful two meals for £10 Fayre and Square pubs. I quite fancy half an hour in the ball pit of the Wacky Warehouse, though. We troop up a narrow path which leads up to the ground. The NSL is Step 7 in the football pyramid. In 10 years of groundhopping, I've never had to part with cash to watch this League. "£3 each" says a chirpy chap on the gate. I don't mind, of course, but do quibble it. "Take it up with Roger," is what I'm told.
Roger Henry is the Executive Officer at Real United. I remember him starting the club up in the corner of the Forest Recreation Ground (Goose Fair Site) a few years ago, when I worked for the Pies. He's a good lad, Roger is, and he's bigger than me, so I don't mention the admission charge. Roger received a Point of Light award, in the summer, from the Prime Minister, for his work in the community.
We bump into South Normanton groundhopper Scott Ward. There's plenty of craic about the Midlands football scene. Clifton manager James 'Tosh' Turner walks across the pitch to greet us. I was going to tick-off West Bridgford today, but thought that WB might struggle to raise a side as all the players would be with their wives in the Marks and Spencer Food Hall, or the endless cafes on the Avenue in Bread 'n Lard Island.
The game has a great tempo to begin with, as both teams look to attack. I notice some fool at the gate with shorts on. He is going to be unhappy at coughing up £3 - it's White Van Man. He's got a runny nose, and is a tad under the weather.
Real attack at break-neck speed. Clifton are left short at the back, a slide-rule cross from the right is swept home by the impressive 10 jacket. Clifton equalize on half-time with a looping header from Martin Ball.
We're in Rolie's Tea Hut at the break. Roger is rustling up some coffee, which Ms Moon marks with a 7 out of 10. I can hear Real manager Gary Hayward blow-torching paint off the dressing room walls. The language is colourful, to say the least. I don't understand his aggression, as his team have shaded an entertaining first half.
Sam Leggitt bags what appears to be a consolation goal. Martin Ball rifles home a free-kick with a minute remaining. Sensationally Danny Blanchard blasts home an equalizer, with effectively the last kick of the game. Tosh 'n Steve do the Highland Fling. Hayward can't look them in the eye, as he sportingly shakes their hands. He'll be hurling more stray football boots than Sir Alex Ferguson.
Man of the Match: Real United 10 jacket.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
The visitor's manager is a tall, blonde-haired fella called Ian Rowe. He stands with his head in hands, wallowing in self pity, as Dunkirk hit the back of the onion bag three times in 10 minutes. The game has gone for Sporting Khalsa. I make a mental note to check them out again. I can't forget that spell-binding 30 minutes of beautiful football. I clock the result of the return fixture on Twitter at their joint. They win comfortably 4-0. I'm not in the least surprised.
Fast forward to the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round draw on Colin Murray's TalkSPORT radio show. The pundits eugolise over some mouth-watering ties that have been pulled out of the famous velvet bag. I check to see who are the lowest ranked team left in the Cup. I can't believe my eyes when I see who it is, and who they are playing: Sporting Khalsa v FC United of Manchester. Book me in Danno.
The week has been a whirlwind. I've been in Stockport and Birmingham on business for most of it. There's some light entertainment on Thursday evening. Dafty and I watch stand-up Mancunian comedian Justin Moorhouse. in Loughborough Town Hall. There are less in attendance than your average Midland League game. He has us in stitches, though. On Friday evening, I have a few swift jars in the Royal Children, the Bear and Lace and the Crafty Crow, near to Nottingham Castle.
It's Saturday morning, and I can already hear my little lad (Murphy) whistling his head off to 'For Your Love' by The Yardbirds on the Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2. Murphy loves Brian. He even sent him an 87th birthday card in September.
We're soon sailing down the A38 on our way to Willenhall, in the Black Country, as the dark clouds roll in from the west. The Four Tops and Frankie Valli are on Smooth Radio. It's tipping it down with rain as we park outside the Aspray Arena. Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke of 'Dirty Leeds' was born in Willenhall. He is the second ever worst manager of my team, Lincoln City. Only to be topped by that buffoon Chris Sutton.
Sporting Khalsa emerged from a group of Sikh lads who used to have a kick-around on the local park in Willenhall They have left no stone unturned on their big day. Both sets of supporters have fan zones with huge marquees erected. It's £8 on the gate and £2 for a programme. They usually print 20 programmes for home games, today they will sell 1000. I notice a trestle table, tucked away in the corner of the Khalsa marquee, selling memorabilia, T-Shirts and scarves. £12,500 is up for grabs for today's winners. Both teams have turned down the chance for this game to be shown on a BBC football app.
Everyone is so friendly and obliging. I have a bottle of a cider, Ms Moon has a Kenco coffee. We both wolf down a portion of homemade curry and rice at a bargain £3 a pop. We've two hours to kill, as I wanted to witness the build up. We squeeze past a dozing security guard and sneak into the FC United end. Their marquee is packed to the rafters with folk.
Suddenly there's a commotion near the players' tunnel. Youths begin to clash. Punches are thrown and dustbins hurled. The scenes are ugly and alien to the Non League game I adore. A couple of guys the size of Cee Lo Green and Wes Morgan restore order. Some of the youths were masked and hooded. Rumours sweep around the ground that they are infiltrators from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
FC United are a club that fascinate me. They have made a stand against the Glazer family, who have made watching Manchester United unaffordable to the working classes. I get gassing to an FC fan who is draped in a red, white and black scarf. He actually lives ten minutes down the road in Brownhills near Walsall. He watches FC home and away.
Drummers lead both teams onto the pitch. The atmosphere is electric. It's something you rarely encounter in Non League. The crowd has swelled to over 2000. It would have been probably been more had Wolves and Walsall not been at home today.
Nerves get the better of Khalsa in the early stages, as they let FC bully them and boss the game. I love the Khalsa 10 jacket Marvin Nisbett. He was the stand-out player at Dunkirk, and looks the business today. He has a deft touch, low sense of gravity, a spring in his step and covers the ground like a gazelle.
FC are showboating in the second half. Khalsa have a never say die attitude. The game turns on its head with two substitutions. Khalsa manager Ian Rowe shows tactical nous. The ineffective 7 jacket is replaced by No.14, who looks a unit. My man Marvin is moved down the middle, and plays on the shoulder.
FC fail to clear a corner, Robinson sweeps home the loose ball. It leads to a wonderful grand finale. Khalsa can't get on the end of some dangerous crosses. FC break and former Liverpool youth player Craig Lindfield put the game to bed, and FC United into the live draw on BBC 2 on Monday evening.
It's been a wonderful spectatcle, superbly organised by the good folk of community supported Sporting Khalsa. I'll be back to watch both. For now I'll draw breath on another exciting day in Non League football.