Marvellous

My recent aborted trip to try to see Keele University play football was also to take in the play ‘Marvellous’ at The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The football reference will come later.

The New Vic theatre deserves a mention because if you are in the area it is well worth a visit to see not only their often locally produced plays but also the facilities it offers. We had opted for an Italian meal in Newcastle which in all respects turned out average and was further put to shame when having a drink in the bar we saw what the theatre had to offer which was a great menu at reasonable prices and seeing the food that was being served a better quality than we had eaten.

This was built in 1986 with a lot of local fund raising and replaced the Victoria Theatre which was a converted cinema. The theatre presents in the round which gives you great views and a closeness to the cast. It is a cultural Centre for the area and is a charity with a partnership between the Arts Council and Local Authorities.

The play is about the life of local lad Neil Baldwin who has a warm spot in most locals heart as well as many others.

The production used seven people to play Neil from being a twinkle in his parents eye until today and the play ended with the spotlight focusing on the real Neil Baldwin as he left the theatre. The play was written by Neil Baldwin and Malcolm Clarke another notable person from the area who could also have a play written about his life story.

We were first drawn to the Neil Baldwin Story when the film ‘Marvellous’ was shown on the BBC in 2015 with Toby Jones ( One of the UK’s all time greats) playing him. The film had us in tears as the human story was moving, funny, inspirational, uplifting and most of all showed the best in mankind.

Neil was born with learning difficulties but did not let that stop him from living an extraordinary life. He had a short career as a Clown in circuses and went on to unofficially act as a maître de to Keele University and as a Kit man for Stoke City Football club. He was appointed Kit man by Lou Macari who once said that ‘it was the best signing he ever made’. He dressed up in many outfits and was a great motivation in lifting team spirit in the dressing room. He was loved by the fans and players as emphasised by Neville Southall giving him the taxi fare to get home from a south coast game when he heard that his mother was ill. Neil also founded Neil Baldwin F.C. at Keele University.

Neil is also famous for turning up for chats and tea with Bishops, politicians and royalty who he soon made friends with.

If you have time make sure you watch the film but also look out for a New Vic production which was truly Marvellous.

It may well be put on again as Covid forced the last four days productions to be cancelled.

Season 2021/22 interim chip League

Football ClubScoreComments
Kiveton Miners Welfare85
Folkestone Invicta85
Belper Town85
Percy Main80
St Albans City80
Heanor Town78
Hucknall Town78
Sherwood Colliery69
Teversal69
Staveley Miners Welfare62
Lancaster City55
Tow Law Town50
Spalding United50
Corby Town40
Spennymoor Town35
Hallam FC0Queue too long
Rossington Main0No Chips, Great pie & Peas
Milton Keynes Dons0No Chips, Pie
Burnley FC0No Chips, disappointing Hollands Pie
Rainworth Miners Welfare0No Chips, average sausage roll

Firstly I must state that the scoring is my subjective view on the day and the time I went to the food kiosks, usually around 20 minutes before kick off for conformity.

Having recently had a series of very poor chips I was contemplating stopping the Chip League but out of deference to all those that have gone before and to continue for purely research reasons I have decided to continue to the end of the season.

I have placed Kiveton Miners Welfare in pole position although they are equal with Folkestone Invicta and Belper Town because where else was I personally served the chips in my seat!

I must this year make a return trip to Shirebrook to give them the chance of regaining their title which they won for two seasons running and were not included in last seasons League table won by Ilkeston Town. Perhaps a visit to Ilkeston as well if I can fit it in.

Extra Time

Extra Time a Derby Theatre production as part of Derby CAN (Derby Creative Arts Network).

Playwright Jamie Thrasivoulou in conjunction with the Derby Theatres Team. Jamie is a poet, playwrite, writer, lyricist and educator who hails from Derby. He is also Derby County Football Clubs official poet.

Having forgone a Football match on Saturday I swapped it for a trip to Derby Theatre to see Extra Time on Sunday, the last day of an 8 day season.

I was not disappointed as the dedicated team acted out poems, chants, songs, dance and words that engaged me and the audience as we were immersed into Derby County.

The whole production was thought through to the nth degree to expertly weave in a Football theme.

There was a first and second half of 45 minutes with an interval of 15 minutes. A programme was available and for those attending the non Sunday shows pie and peas were available pre match. The bar area was also regailed with memorabilia, photos of past Derby County highlights and a video showing fans making their way to a match. There was also a replica FA Cup.

The exexperience was based around Derbys’ one and only FA Cup final of 1946 but weaved around it was the history from start to the painfully Administration of today.

Iconic matches, especially derbys against local rivals Nottingham Forest, local heroes, players and managers were all there to fully promote the community that is Derby County and the City of Derby. This play shows a great spirit within both.

The acting was amazing with no one shining out as the star, a true team effort.

Finally the score:

Charlton Athletic 1 Derby County 4 After Extra Time

Derby won the 1946 cup final in extra time 4-1 after it was 1-1 at full time. The City celebrated this fantastic win after it was bombed so heavily in the war but the team have never won it since in the following 75 years.

Derby scored on 85 minutes and thought that the match was over but Charlton immediately levelled a minute later leading to extra time. Derby scored three more goals in Extra Time to make the FA Cup theirs.

There were no chips at the Theatre for me to enter into my League but I did manage a bowl pre match at Plant Cafe & Bar just off the city centre. The menu of this Vegam restaurant described them as:

‘Twice-fried chunky chips sprinkled with rosemary salt.These chips are hand-cut from potatoes grown less than 3 miles from PLANT’

They were definitely spicy and delicious.

I would recomend any football fan to go and see this even if you don’t support Derby as the passion, community. friendship, pain and elation of watching any team comes through. Unfortunately this season is now ended but I noticed that they were filming the production, maybe they will screen it on the football club or the theatres Social Media in the future.

Non- League Club Directory 2021/22

This is the only advert that you will see on this site but as in previous years I’m happy to promote this soft covered book that is nearly 900 pages long.

Mike Williams publishing have again done a great job in getting this encycopaedic tome together with team facts and league tables in what is a momentous change year in the Non League structure.

I am going to revert back to getting my copy for Christmas and spend some of those dark days at that time of year looking up some of the unusually named teams and planning trips to see some of them in the future. This book is available at most of the traditional and on line book shops at just under £20..

Title: Non-League Club Directory 2021/22

Publisher: Mike Williams Publishing

Publication Date: 2021

Pages 880

Aprox £20

Talk to local people to get a real feel of the place you are in.

On holiday in Scotland we were passing Glasgow and had to just visit the old ground of Third Lanark who suddenly went out of business in the 1960’s. Unfortunately I am old enough to remember them as the results came through on the teleprinter.

Third Lanark AC founded in 1872 were one of the founder members of the Scottish F.A. in the same year. They were formed out of the 3rd Lanarkshire Riffle Volunteers and had a successful start to life winning the League in 1890 and the Scottish Cup in 1889 and 1905. Their great achievement was staying in the top flight for most of their existance but it all started to go wrong in the 1960’s. They were relegated in 1965 but found it hard going in the second tier as much influenced by off field problems. The biggest story to hit the local press was that they were going to sell their famous Cathkin Park Ground for housing and move to East Kilbride. Both on and off field performances led to their attendances falling to a tenth of previous seasons. The board now offered the ground to Glasgow Corporation and announced that they were moving to Bishopbriggs north of Glasgow. No satdium was ever built and after finishing second from bottom of the league they played their last game in April 1967. A judge reviwing their financial plight put in place a winding up order on the club and a subsequent Board of Trade enquiry found irregularities regarding the finnances of the club. Although the board were heavilly critisised for their running of Third Lanark no formal charges were ever brought against anyone.

This is only a fraction of the tale and it is Cathkin Park that is the story here. Having read in the past of this ghost ground I wanted to see it myself. We parked in a residential street which at the end of this cul-de-sac was an entrance into a woody park. You initially walk down a path through the woods and through the trees you can see a bright green field shining in the summer sun. Walk further and some old terracing appears with the metal barriers still in position. This is the home of Third Lanark but more is to be revealed by a couple walking their dog. They were not surprised to see people taking it all in but were soon chatting and saying they were not football fans. However they had a pride in the area where they lived and in the park. They told us that when Third Lanark folded the local council took it over with the view to build houses but in the interim sections of the terracimg were dug up by the Parks Department and were used as a tree nursery. The trees were never moved and today their leafy full grown state add to the charm, intriege and myth of the place.

The couple then explained that Cathkin Park with its 50000 capacity was the second Hampden, home to the Scotland national team and the place where the first one stood was at the bowling green just outside the park over the railway bridge.

First however they told me the ground is used by a youth team of the Jimmy Johnston Accademy. They said the grass had been cut 3 times recently and now lined out for its first match post Covid. Standing in the middle of the pitch I felt good to think that a youth team would be playing here amongst the ghosts of football’s past. What an inspiration for them. But there was more, a plaque on the ground I was told I must see but taking a photo I had no idea of the relevance and still don’t.

Being mid morning I asked for the nearest cafe and they directed us to Salamagundi on the Cathcart Road via the first Hampden.

We walked out of the park past the Youth teams club house and out onto the railway bridge. Now we were lost with roadworks disorienting us.

Help was at hand as a man in t shirt, shorts and Celtic socks and carrying a pair of trainers exited a car and walked across the road towards us. Realising he must be a Football fan I asked where the first Hampden was, which turned out to be just down the road. He explained the scoreline of the first International and I countered that I was at Wembley for the 9-3 game, good football banter. However his recollection was listening to it on the radio and his the hero, goalkeeper Frank Haffey having a night mare. At the end of church the next day he said he used some colourful language about his hero in front of the priest and was dragged off by the ear to be chastised later.

To have remembered the game I realised he must be about my age so I asked if he had been playing walking football. He indignantly replied no proper football and immediately put me to shame and made me feel very inferior. I put my foot in it there. He explained that the first Hampden now a bowling green had been built by Queens Park F.C . My new found friend said that recently an archaeological group had been excavating around parts of the Bowling Green.

We walked on and found the site of the first Hampden where a painted memorial facing the railway line tells of Scotlands 5-1 win over England and the involvement of Andrew Watson the first black footballer to play for Scotland.

Queens Park had to move because a railway company wanted to build a line right through Hampden. Hence the move to Cathkin Park which suited their needs until they again they moved to the current Hampden Park as we know it today. But it does not stop there as as recently as 2020 Queens Park F.C . decided to end their amateur status which they had kept since 1875 and agreed a sale of Hampden Park to the Scottish FA. Queens Park are now getting Little Hampden which is next door up to League standard and hope to get it licenced and move there in the next 12 months. If I had known this on the day of my visit I would have gone there too. Oh well a future adventure beckons.

Again Mary Queen of Scots seems to come into view of everything, it is understood that her army passed through Cathkin Park in South Glasgow on the way to the Battle of Langside where she was defeated and effectively ended any hope of regaining her rule over the country

How much of this is urban myth and how much reality I don’t mind. I just find it fascinating, enjoyable and amazing the impact that football has on people and the pride people having in talking about their space.

Of Course we did make it to the cafe, Salmagundi (a mixture, an assortment) and it lived up to its name and reputation. Described by the local people I met as a bit Boho the menu would be able to cater for all. I had vegetarian haggis with portobello mushrooms and an egg based pattie in a brioche bun with brown sauce. Delicious and obviously a well used place with a constant stream of sit ins and take aways. Thanks for the recomendation.

Was Mary Queen of Scots a Football fan

If you live in the North of England you will most probably come across a plaque on a building that says Mary Queen of Scots slept here.

This is because she exiled herself in England hoping her half sister Elizabeth would welcome her. Elizabeth did not want her at court in London because she could be seen as a rival to the throne and kept her very much in the North of England and for much of the time under the control of Bess of Hardwick also one of the most powerful women of the time. Bess too was kept out of court with her new arduous task and had to use some of her wealth to achieve her goal

Bess was reputed to be one of the richest women in England only second to the queen herself and had amassed a large property portfolio in which to keep Mary.

Mary was continually moved to wear her down and reduce the chances of her plotting against the state. However she never met her sister and met an untimely end.

On a recent holiday to Scotland we visited Linlithgow Palace the birth place of Mary. Unfortunately the now ruins were closed but this is still an imposing building on a site that makes it even more majestic.

You must be wandering why this is on a Football site for the curious. Well Mary Queen of Scots was a sports woman and sports fan and at 5 feet 10 inches tall (1.8 mtrs) an imposing figure for the age.

Recent research into old records has thrown up some interesting new ideas. There are mentions in official doccuments, up to 350 years ago, that a game using a small ball was played in royal castles and when Stirling Castle was restored in the 1970’s a leather ball with a pigs bladder was found behind a false wall in Mary’s living quarters.

Recent research found old diaries of Sir Francis Knollis who was keeping Mary under suveilance at Carlisle Castle and in them he wrote of a game played for Mary using a ball in which the players only used their feet.

So when we sing ‘Football’s Coming Home’s we may have to wait for Scotland to win the world cup for this to be true. We may also need to acknowledge Mary Queen of Scots as an early patron of the game, a true fan.

Finding Jack Charlton

Finding Jack Charlton, Doccumentary, released on 6th Decemvber 2020

DirectorsGabriel ClarkePete Thomas

Music composed byJames Copperthwaite

Executive producerAndy Townsend

ProducersJohn McKennaTorquil Jones

I wouldn’t advise you to watch this doccumentary I would suggest you watch it twice or more.

Although it explores Jack Charlton’s life and a final battle with alzheimer’s (Like his brother and many other footballers and sports peolple) it concentrates mainly on his phenominal decade long career as Manager of The Republic of Ireland’s national football team.

Having had a fantastic playing career with Leeds and England, winning the World Cup in 1966, he went on into football management initially with Middlesborough and in 1985 was invited to be the Irish national Manager. His initial lack of response gave no indication of the succees in two World Cups and a EUropean Championship that would follow. The matches are all doccumented with some great clips but it is the special relationship that Jack developed with the Irish people that shines through. It is so sad that in his later years he could not remember this.

Past Presidents and Taoiseach’s praise him for his raising the moral and spirit of the country but it falls to clips of Larry Mullen, drummer with U2 to put in context of how Jack Charlton’s success with the team amazinly increased the belief of the peolple of Ireland that they were as a country able to stand up to and with any other country on earth. This new belief was at a time of great troubles and decline and paved the way for the new self confident Ireland of today.

Jack Charlton chose and worked with a band of British Isles born footballers with Irish ancestors who also caught the mood and took their chance to prove themselves. Niall Quinn and Parick Bonner give great background stories, David O’Leary explains why he was overlooked but was there to slot home a World Cup second round penalty shoot out deciding goal. Andy Townsend (Executive Producer of the doccumentary) reads out some of the notes that Jack Charlton kept throughout his career that are cleverly shown on a 3D board throughout the 97 minutes.

But it is the story and relationship with Paul McGrath that gives me the tingling moments. Paul explains what it was to be different in Ireland and how you had to fight to overcome the predjudice in a very closed society which was felt by many and led to some of the emigration. Having watched Paul in his Aston Villa career I already admired a man who was a top footballer despite his demons, no wander he is idolised wherever he played.

The Charlton family raidiate love for Jack, his wife and son and the rest of the family show that in their support and care for him.

On a personal note I did not realise that I watched the end of his Republic of Ireland career on 13th December 1995 when I was able to get two tickets for the European Championship play off between the Republic of Ireland and The Netherlands at Anfield for my son and I. The Netherlands won two nil in what I remember as a one sided game. Having found a parking space near the ground we were intrigued to watch a black Mercedes pull up opposite us and four men get out, go round to the boot, change out of their very good clothes into orange t shirts, boiler suits with orange hard hats and march off to the ground. I was also aske inside the gound by a Dutchman ‘what is this Bovril’, how do you exlpain! Jack Charlton resigned the next day.

This is a great doccumentary which transformed my undestanding of a great man, deffinately in the same class as Bobby Robson. Jack’s wife asks why didn’t he become a ‘Sir’ and I have to say, a complete mystery.

Football curios unlocked and hopefully not forgotten.

Brent council have arranged for some of the tiled murals facing the pedestrian subway between Wembley Park Stadium and Olympic Way at Bobby Moore Bridge to be on view from 10th to 28th March.

They have been hidden behind some advertising hoardings and depict sporting events that were held during the Second World War including Ice Hockey and American Football. They were unveiled in 1993 in honour of Bobby Moore who as captain of England’s victorious football team lifted the World Cup in 1966. They were covered up in 2013 and as recently as 2019 a company was awarded permission to cover them with advertising for ten years.

Some councillors and local historians are campaigning for them to be on view during the European Championships in June and July this year and beyond. It seems pointless to have the tiles on view when we are in lockdown and we are told not to travel! A few lucky locals will be able to see them but not the wider public.

I am old enough to recollect seeing some buildings/remains of what I think were left from the British Empire Exhibition 1924 when visiting the old Wembley 60 years ago. I think one item was some stone lions but these all seem to have gone now but a few iconic pieces would have been good to keep.

GINGA – The Soul of Brazilian Football

GINGA – The Soul of Brazilian Football

DVD format released by Mr Bongo Essential World Football, 2014

Produced by Fernando Meirelles 

Directed by Marcelo Machado, Hank Levine and Tocha Alves.

Yes a DVD!, I have been saving them for some bad weather days when there would be no football and they have come in useful in these depressing times. As like so many of my book reviews they are charity Shop finds for anywhere up to £1, this one 20p.

This is a documentary about why Brazilian Football is regarded as one of the best and most fluent in the world. Seven young footballers from all over the country, from diverse social, gender, disability and ethnic back grounds are followed as they try to use their amazing skills to break into football at the highest level. Some express a view about Ginga that it is the, rhythm, music and movement that gives them an indefinable quality to be able to take technique with the ball and movement of their body to a level that is difficult for others to contend with. One person even proposes that it is now within the Brazilian DNA.

Certainly the ball control skill shown is breath-taking not least by the two females that take part.

But the undoubted ball skills are not enough as a coach in Sao Paolo says that technique is 30% but strength is 70%.

All of those who are followed seem desperate and driven to succeed and are fully supported by their families. More than once it’s said that they want to be successful to provide for their family which may be as big a factor as Ginga. Games are played on the beach, in the street, on waste land or in homes but most striking is ‘Court Football’. Court football is played inside in Brazil and there are leagues for all ages and genders everywhere. Leagues start at an early age up to senior level where you can earn a living. Because of the smaller size of pitch, ball control and quick decision making are needed to shine. I would suggest that these two factors go hand in hand with Ginga to fashion the outstanding players and teams that have thrilled the world.

The DVD is in Portuguese with sub titles, changes shot very quickly and has a continual music background that does make it hard to follow. No substitute for a real game but worthwhile viewing.

BOBBY ROBSON-more than a Manager

Bobby Robson; More than a Manager

Presented by NoahX, a Noah Media Group Production.

Written by Gabriel Clarke, Produced by Torquil Jones, John McKenna, Victoria Harrell

Released 4th June 2018

This British film documentary is a sympathetical commentary on a man Gary Lineka says was “the best English Manager of all time” and who would argue against that. It is superbly put together and captures your attention.

Although the film starts with the diagnosis and subsequent surgery for cancer in 1995 and Bobby Robson’s time as Manager of Barcelona it flashes back and forwards to highlight his playing, managerial and fund raising career.

Born in County Durham in 1933 he remained faithful to his roots and stayed anchored to the area until his death in in 2009.

It is a poignant but heart warming film for such dire times. Bobby Robsons humanity, drive, passion, integrity, dignity, honesty and love of football shine through and is honoured by the people he was close to.

Alan Shearer, “He saved my career.”

Pep Guardiolo, “After working with Bobby I wanted to be a manager”. He also wrote to Bobby offering to come and help him at Newcastle. “Nicest person he met in his life.”

Jose Mourinho (who worked as his assistant at Barcelona) talking of Bobby. “a man only dies when the last man who knows him dies.”

Ronaldo said, “I had a lot more to learn from him”, when Barca sold me to Inter Milan. Ronaldo loved Bobby because he trusted him to just go and play and bought him when young, risking his own career.

Terry Butcher, ” I’d go through hell and high water for him.”

Paul Gascoigne and Bobby Robson had a special relationship and it was Bobby who said of Gascoigne that he was “Daft as a Brush”. Gascoigne said of Bobby he was ” On a par with Mohamed Ali in football terms.”

Alex Ferguson, “Helped me when I was a young coach”.

Such comments by football people of the highest calibre say it all.

When you see his achievements, played for England, Managed Ipswich to European glory, England to a world Cup semi final, PSV to cup and league high spots, managed two teams in Potugal, Barcelona to a trebble and revitslised Newcastle you realise he was special.

Watch this film for motivation but be prepared to have a pack of tissues at hand and remember he always said, “Believe in yourself.”