I’m pretty much fresh off the plane from Lanzarote, and I’m having one of those head v heart moments. In fact I’ve been having those moments all of the summer. Do I set myself a schedule for the season or do I take it as it comes? I’ve been juggling a few options for several weeks but not yet took the plunge, save for renewing mine and the lad’s Chelsea members cards. I’ve got work to do but lunchtime is fast approaching and the cricket on TV is not looking that inviting. I know Chesterfield’s new ground is just up the road but I really want to make a day of that particular trip.
The head says keep your cash in your pocket and get on with your work. The heart says have a look at anybody playing locally who might be on the ‘up’. Midland Alliance leaders Kirby Muxloe are 20 miles down the road, entertaining former NPL side Willenhall Town. The sun is shining but it’s also raining. The head and heart continue to fight as I make the short drive through the rural lanes of Leicestershire to the ground, which is between Kirby and Ratby.
I’m not actually that fond of Kirby Muxloe FC. My old village team Barrow Town never quite got to win the Leicestershire Senior League before departing for the East Midlands Counties league, their closest attempt thrawted by Kirby a couple of seasons back. Muxloe then endeavoured to pinch some of Barrow’s best players, and the clubs are now a division apart.
Kirby’s clubhouse, accessed from outside the ground, has the welcoming sight of twin handpumps on the bar, and my half of Marston’s Bitter is tip-top. Pedigree is also on sale, as is a tray of filled cobs, from which I select a well-filled cheese & pickle specimen that takes me a quarter of an hour to finish. The bar features several TV screens of various shapes and sizes, and it would appear that live TV footy is on tap.
Kirby enjoyed successive promotions before arriving in the Midland Alliance, and I suspect as the early pace-setters they will be eyeing the dizzy heights of the Northern Premier League, from wence today’s visitors have dropped. Now I’m no expert on ground grading, but I can see several reasons why Ratby Lane might require a considerable amount of upgrade work before meeting the criteria. The only stand for instance – a concrete shell of a structure blessed with a highly individual design – has three rows of twenty or so seats with zero elevation. A man and his dog take up residence along with a group of young women and a baby. Behind one goal is a skeletal construction which affords some cover from above but not from sides and back. Nobody stands in this.
In fact most of the crowd of some 70 or so are content to lean on the touchline barrier and endure a first half of spectacular indifference, punctuated only by a stunning 25-yard strike from the visitors no.7. Willenhall have been good value for their lead and the home side have looked very ordinary. “Second half guys, let’s hit the ground running…!” implores the home captain as his team leaves the field, seemingly clueless. I’m not confident.
Oh me of little faith. Kirby re-emerge a different team. Levelling the game within three minutes, they’re three up within 15 and look likely to score every time they attack. It’s simple but effective stuff and it’s obvious they’re using their heads. At the other end, Willenhall seem to be losing heart. By the close it’s five and you wonder where that result came from.
Head triumphing over heart, perhaps there’s a message in there. In my case, in taking in today’s game I probably let heart triumph over head. Somehow I think it’s going to be a long season.
Floodlight Pylons: 6
Programme: £1 from a booth inside the entrance (I can’t say turnstiles because there aren’t any). Nicely presented but nothing much to read.
Parakeets: None, but a lot of bloody wasps!
Club Shop: You can buy hats and badges in the bar.
Toilets: In the clubhouse but none in the ground. Home substitutes and fans seem to have designated the tree line down one side as the honorary urinal
Tannoy music: There’s a tannoy but no music
Player with the quirkiest name: Willenhall’s Ben ‘i’ Podmore