Tough Thames-side town Tilbury is full of treats.
Majestic dockland windmills and cranes, two forts and . . . a mural of Frank Sinatra?
Not just Frank. There’s Amy Winehouse, Adam Ant, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, John Lennon and Vera Lynn.
But the particularly impressive one, rather obscurely, is Little Richard, whose autobiography of 1985 is full of hilarious tales of snorting cocaine of the bellies of naked women at orgies and the prodigious endowment of Buddy Holly.
Anyway, moving swiftly on, one of the forts where Queen Elizabeth spoke to her troops in 1588 as they prepared to fight off the scurvy Spaniards is not far away.
What’s next to this amazing fort? You guessed it – a stonkingly ugly coal-fired power station.
So, an interesting wander along the Thames estuary preceded an evening’s football.
Needham Market, somewhere near Ipswich, are doing marvellously in the Ryman League North and either they or Harlow will win it. On this evidence it will be Harlow but Needham went top with this win and have the firepower up front to rip teams apart
Tilbury, ropey early on this season, look safe from the drop and should finish mid-table.
The home side fielded a winger who sounded like a Little Richard song title – by the name of Francis Babalola but he struggled to make an impact being too well policed.
Needham’s best name came courtesy of physio Kirk Denim. Only in their fifth season at this level they now look like they have what it takes to step up again.
The only goal came after about half an hour when a high cross saw a Needham attacker pushed over from behind.
Ex-Leicester player Kem Izzet stroked the penalty home (it’s on the video) and, having gone pretty close several times up to then only to be denied by the excellence of keeper Lamar Johnson (one of six keepers used this season by Tilbury), it seemed the visitors would romp home with the likes of ex-Leeds striker Ian Westlake in the line-up.
Half-time proved the highlight of the day, if not the millennium, as your correspondent won the raffle – a bottle of Vine Country Chenin Blanc (£3.50 in Asda). Nice one, I’ll have to consider taking up drinking again after ten years on the wagon.
Out they came for what looked like more goals and a crunching home defeat and the visitors hit the post with a header from a corner while Tilbury mustered absolutely nothing of consequence. I can’t remember a single shot on goal.
Maybe that fuelled the 65-strong crowd. Oh the bellyaching in the Ryman League. Nearly all games after 60 minutes turn a bit sour.
Can’t work out if the refs are stupid or brave. It’s like watching George Graham’s Arsenal – most refs seem to get a going over either from players or fans who’ve lost it. Or maybe they come along to lose it and get it out of their system.
I call it Ryman rage. Seen about a dozen games at this level now this season and it’s beginning to grate.
Society’s to blame of course. My brother, a rugby ref in South Wales, says he gets ridiculous gyp from dads at under-13 games and I can vouch for league cricket (not all from youngsters, some of the worst offenders are middle-aged) being a different kettle of fish from even 12 years ago, with umpiring frequently requiring supernatural levels of self-discipline.
Well, Tilbury is a dockers’ town so maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise to hear some Tutti Frutti-ness.
Actually this game wasn’t as bad as some I’ve recently attended but when you watch a 12-year-old boy tell the ref as he walks off that he’s a wanker then something is badly amiss.
So, the final word must rest with Saint Aretha whose message has been swiped by the FA for its own campaign.
Only instead of the polyester tie and blazer fuddy-duddy tone she says it with swaggering Sixties soul and charm. It is: