Regular subscribers to my blog will know that much of my football travelling is undertaken alone. Sometimes I have my son for company, but by-and-large I wander the length and breadth of the land going to fixtures nobody else would be remotely interested in, let alone spend good money trying to get to. Sad though my life so painfully is, I do indeed have the odd friend. Occasionally I get an email from one of them, a certain gentleman called Nick, requesting that I add him to the guest list for a forthcoming foray, which is why there’s two of us travelling to Rocester today.
I first encountered Nick when he rang me out of the blue one day in 1977. Still at school, but with an undoubted anarchic streak, he wanted to put the punk band I managed on at his local village hall, no doubt more to wind up the natives than make a potload of cash. I then discovered he was an avid Forest fan and for the next fifteen years we would go to games home and away in our battered little motors. Times move on and families take over, but every now and again we get together for a chinwag and a beer. Today is one of those days.
We make the 30 mile drive from my gaff to Rocester in good time. A village in every sense of the word, only the looming superstructure of the giant JCB headquarters just across the road indicates who exactly lubricates the local economy. I’ve done a bit of homework and taken note from a fellow blogger the lack of cask ale in the FC clubhouse. We therefore decide to call into the Red Lion, an old, low-beamed inn at the heart of the village. The choice is limited to Marstons Burton Bitter, which I quite like, and we settle into a corner for a chat, although I am a little unnerved by a chap at the bar who seems to have taken a shine to me. I’m tempted to blow him a kiss.
The ground is on the eastern outskirts of the village, tucked away behind an old Arkwright mill now occupied by – you guessed it – a certain digger company. There’s a spacious car park behind the ground, and access is via a couple of turnstiles in the corner. The first thing that grabs our attention is a plaque above some covered terracing which proclaims it to be the ‘Massive Members Stand’. Nick feels it only right and proper that he should stand there. On the pitch there’s a full scale practise game going on and we marvel at the stamina of the players who will need to come out and play a proper match in the not-too-distant future. A quick recce of the clubhouse, accessed from within the ground, confirms the lack of cask beer, although there is a row of bottles on one of the shelves, including Hobgoblin and a Highgate Brewery branded product of dubious vintage (that company having gone out of business). Nick’s a trifle peckish and checks out the snack bar. He gorges himself on something of the flesh. My option is chips and mushy peas which I don’t really fancy so decline the opportunity.
Having already enjoyed 17 goals in my three games so far this season, for some reason I don’t have too much confidence in a high-scoring match today. Visitors Coleshill Town, like their hosts, are mid-table and although boasting a strong defence, are not pulling up any trees. The game is fairly tepid until an ambitious chip brushes through the outstretched fingers of the lanky young home keeper and plops into the corner of the net. A bit of a Robert Green moment. Twenty minutes later he’s scrambling around trying to keep out another hopeful effort and is beaten again. This proves too much for the Rocester manager who promptly subs him. Meanwhile Nick has spotted some chap in the stand taking a keen interest in the referee, and a brief chat confirms him to be a ref’s assessor.
If the man in black was hoping for a glowing report, it won’t have been helped by a flashpoint early in the second half. A coming together of opposing individuals soon develops into a 21-man pushing-and-shoving contest, punctuated by much cussing and earnest promises of a fiesty one-on-one later from several of the combatants. The ref and his assistants take several minutes before selecting the two for the book, whilst the direction of the resulting free kick is then vehemently disputed by the home coaching staff. Ah, the beautiful game!
We have long since decided that Rocester have no individual capable of getting them back into the contest, and a third for Coleshill merely confirms their superiority. It ends 0-3.
Nick has to get back early to his village. Completely rebuilt after of the carnage of that devastating Queen’s Jubilee Year concert, the grateful locals have since elected him Chairman of the Parish Council and are hosting yet another dinner in his honour. No doubt a knighthood will follow. And all resulting from that phone call to me. Hey, that’s what friends are for….
Programme: £1 at the turnstile. Functional.
Floodlight Pylons: 4
Parakeets: Scared off by all the diggers…
Toilets: The ones behind the main stand are boarded up. Use the ones in the bar.
Tannoy music: Silence is golden.
Club shop: No
Players with the quirkiest name: Coleshill’s Mark ‘Swing’ Lowe