I’m not one for ambitions. Not one for self promotion. In fact, even when I know I’m good, I always get a tap on the shoulder from old imposter syndrome. As far as I’m concerned, it’s for other people to recognise any qualities I may have. It’s why I never make a big thing of any of my achievements or experiences. In fact, this blog is about as close I get to expressing who I am and what I’m about. It’s why I keep any ambitious I might have, small and in my eyes, extremely insignificant. Having said all that, this game signalled the completion of one of those few ambitions. I have managed to attend at least one competitive game in each calendar month of 2022. I suppose I can actually thank the World Cup in Qatar for that, as it brought the start of the season forward to July. Coupled with attending the National League Playoff Final at West Ham in June thanks to Jinksy getting me an e-ticket, I’ve been able to complete what I thought was, a near enough impossibility. Not a huge achievement, not even an eyebrow raiser, but I’m quite proud of it. Mainly because I never thought I’d be in the position to do it, without needing to travel round the world, watching games in other countries. Just for the record, I don’t believe for a second that I’m the only one who has taken the opportunity to do it, so it’s a nothing special, nothing to sing and dance about, move along, nothing to see here, kind of thing. Oh, and if I start inappropriately bringing it into the conversation at every possible chance I get, please, please shoot me. Remember, you’ll be doing the world a favour, and you might even end up with a knighthood or something similar like the Nobel Peace Prize. So, why Matlock? The only reason, is now knowing how nice Belper is, and finding out that Matlock is at the end of the same branch line, after doing a little research to discover that the place is every bit as aesthetically pleasing and also as good if not better, for real ale, I was immediately drawn to doing a ground hop/ale trail there. During the week leading up to it, I was alarmed to find out that, although there were still trains running on the branch line, the last service would be leaving Matlock at 17:13. Concerned I would be stranded, I frantically sort out alternatives in terms of another game, or another form of transport. I looked at buses from Matlock back to Derby, and also Mickleover Sports. I was to learn that the easiest way was bus up to Chesterfield, and then the train back down to Brum, and also that Derby were also at home, and both they and Mickleover were now kicking off at 12:30. So why the extraordinary early time of the last train service back from Matlock to Derby? A strike hitting East Midlands Railway. Not the RMT, nor ASLEF, but Unite. It was the engineers who were striking. The state of the economy is solely the fault of our Tory government, and they seem clueless as to how to rectify it. Their house of continued short-term, quick fix, get rich policies, is tumbling down round their ears, and the country is paying the cost. We Minions just can not keep getting squashed. Anyway, enough of the politics, I’ve an account to write. It was then, with trepidation I started off towards Derby. At least it wasn’t raining. The first leg went without a hitch, and at Derby I spotted an EMR employee. Grabbing her, (Don’t panic, I don’t mean literally. That would have just been too weird. I mean, I may be strange, but even I have some decorum. Not much, admittedly, but still some.) I enquired about whether the last service back from Matlock would definitely be running. She assured me the 17:13 would indeed be running. It was the reassurance I needed, and I got the train. I’d be saving Mickleover for another day. So far, everything was going pretty smoothly given the circumstances. Touching down in Matlock, I was immediately impressed with how nice the place is. Looks can be deceiving mind, so I kept an open mind. The Remarkable Hare was first on the itinerary. A big pub, aimed at the food end of the hospitality market. That being said, there was still a good range of ales, it’s that the decor didn’t inspire me enough to bother taking photos. That was until this lot came in.
“And they were playing Christmas songs in there too”
From the Hare, I moved onto Twenty Ten. A micro pub, that was showing York versus Wrexham on the telly. I was tempted to stay and watch it, but not that much.
“It was still close mind”
Even with not playing Christmas songs in there, I moved on. I’d still got more on the itinerary for a start. A place called Pointing Dogs was next. A bar that you didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to guess that it had once been a bank. It was also popular too, climbing the stairs to the mezzanine above, I joined a couple of friends at their table. I was to learn that one remembered it as the Midland Bank (She’d been born in the town, whereas her mate was originally from Lichfield.) After admitting to what I was doing in the town and where I was from, I was to discover the one from Lichfield was a Vile fan from a long line of Vile fans. We did though, have a laugh over it. I still left her with the parting shot of KRO and SOTV, knowing she wouldn’t know what it meant. It will no doubt swim around in her subconscious until she hears it again, and finds out what it means. The next place was a proper gruelling walk up a hill.
“Maybe that’ll give you an idea of how steep the hill is”
Apparently, the Peak District hasn’t any mountains. I’m beginning to beg to differ.
“Yep, I walked all the way up from the bottom”
At Covent Garden underground station, you have too options to get from platform level to street level. One is the lift, the other is a winding staircase that reaches up to just passed the moon. Thankfully, there’s a pub on the moon called the Nag’s Head. If you have just enough energy left after making the mistake of climbing the staircase because you’re just too impatient to wait for the lift, you are drawn to the pub like a magnet for a well earned drink after having a go on the respirators. (There’s no respirators, but there really should be.) The walk from the valley bottom to the Pharmacy, is every bit as much of a killer as that staircase at Covent Garden Station. Once I’d managed to get enough breath back to order my pint, I chatted to the barmaid about the hill. Apparently, locals don’t use it. If you live either at the bottom or the top, that’s where you stay. Believe me, I can perfectly understand that.
“My kind of chemist. Real ale on prescription? Now you’re talking”
After the Pharmacy, I walked the short distance to another great little micro pub in the shape of The Newsroom. A former Newspaper shop, (Hence the name.)
“Although it made for a great table, I don’t actually think this was the company safe.”
I was glad I’d made the Herculean effort to ascend the hill, and I’ve got to say, I have actually been to a few different towns and cities in the country that have fairly steep hills, but that one in Matlock is the steepest so far. Like my life from birth, it would all be down hill. Gravity took me in a loop down to the Red Lion. The brewery tap for the Moot Brewery, it was pretty bland. By that, I mean the pubs decor, not the beer. The beer was good. From the Red Lion, it was to the main attraction of the day. The reason why I was really there. The completion of the calendar year ambition. Did I tell you I’ve done a competitive game in each month of 2022? Whoa, put the gun down…..
Like Belper Town’s has, Matlock Town’s ground has its own unique features. I suppose I’d better stick the photos I took of it in, hadn’t I? Here you go.
“Yes Sis, that’s the town’s cricket ground. Yes, it’s attached to the football ground”
“Don’t worry, I checked to make sure I wasn’t down as a sub”
“Shame about the new build flats eating into the ground”
“Even got executive boxes overlooking the ground”
Both sides were mid table going into this game, so there was a fair chance it would be a good match up. Matlock took an early lead whilst Radcliffe were still finding their feet. (They’re on the other end of your legs lads.) In a well fought first half, it was a lead that the Gladiators (Yeah, I reckon it’s a strange nickname too.) were to hold on to until the break. I had a quick look in the club shop at halftime, spotting a few boxes of old programmes, I rifled through them. I managed to find one Blues programme from an away game at Sheffield United, that I know I didn’t attend, and an Arsenal v Coventry programme from the late 60s. It was better than nothing. Charged a quid, I doubled it. The vast majority of Non-League clubs need all the financial help they can get, so even a quid will help. It was to be Radcliffe’s turn to start well, as they quickly equalised after the resumption. It was neither harsh on Matlock, nor undeserving for Radcliffe. Both sides were equally playing well. Although engrossed, I didn’t actually know how far the ground was from the train station, as my ale trail had been a circular one to it. With that in mind, I kept a close eye on the time. The last thing I needed was a visit off my horrendous sense of direction. It was a close battle on the pitch. One that the home side (Really doesn’t feel right calling them Gladiators.) managed to get ahead of. Such was the intensity, 2:1 would’ve been a shaky lead whoever had taken it. The rain started as I edged towards the exit. It was end to end stuff with both sides going close with chances. With the game drawing to a close, Radcliffe grabbed an equaliser in what would’ve been added time. (No electronic boards to indicate how much time left, this low down.) With anxiety getting the best of me, I scooted off for the last train.
Had I known how close the station was to the ground, I could’ve stayed to the final whistle, applauded both teams off, took a slow walk back to the station, and still made the train easily, but I wasn’t to know. Better to be safe than sorry I suppose. Touching down in Derby, I headed for The Alex. It looked like I’d timed it right too, as most of the Derby fans who would’ve been in there earlier, had left. Always a good mix of home and away fans, the only problem ever, is getting served as it gets really, really busy in there, especially before a game. I did get chatting to a couple of Derby fans about Krystian Bielik though. I agreed with them that he is a great player, but injury prone. A player that just as a precaution, needs to be gently encased in bubble wrap in between each game. He’s on loan to us from Derby, and even given that he seems to be made of glass, I’d still love to see Blues sign him permanently, but I won’t be holding my breath though. At least we’ve managed to extend John Ruddy’s contract for another year. As the Derby fans drank up and left, I was joined by an Alex regular who turned out to be a doctor. As we talked, I never ever felt out of my depth. In fact, by his own admission, he suffered from a lack of confidence in social situations. A constant wrestle with imposter syndrome. It surprised me that I seemed to be more well adjusted than he was. I definitely think I missed the boat somewhere along the line, but I don’t actually feel bitter about it. No point. I would like to change the mechanics of my life. A totally different, more creative job, better wages, better home, but if I’m being completely honest, I have no idea of how to go about it. All I’ve only ever really been, is a factory bunny. A pliable Minion. This isn’t me advertising myself by the way, I’m just musing. Well it is ‘Musings of an idiot’ after all. Hey, did I tell you that I’ve attended at least one competitive game in each month of 2022?……. I left the doctor with his patience (No, not Patients. He’d been talking to me remember.) and went back to the station to get the train back to Brum. Finding out that Spoons, Jude, Jinksy and Daryl were in the Colemore. I joined them once I’d touched down. Spoons and Jude left soon after, but it was still great to see them. The rest of us caught up with all things football, including old and new Scottish football mobs for some unknown reason. I still really want to get back up to Embra and Tynecastle. We eventually split to go our separate ways. A good end to a good day.