2002: St Albans, the worst Rovers team ever, all fur and no knickers

Thursday 31st January 2002

This diary is written a few days late because the day was so busy. We moved house and it was as easy as it could be. Home and Away arrived at 8 and had packed their van by 12. They were brilliant and packed all the glassware on the morning of the move. As usual we then had to sit around for an hour while we waited for notice that we could move in to 30 College Road. We dropped off the keys at 12.45 and arrived at St Albans at 2.They confirmed the move was all ready when we called in to the estate agents in town and they moved stuff in between 2.30 and 5. In the usual moving in style we found the chippy around the corner and cracked open the champagne in the living room at 7. Priority was then making sure the bed was made and the heating working properly.


2001:Rupert Brooke, Monet and PC 4328

Saturday 20th January 2001

One of the easier away trips today. We picked up the car from having its MOT and left at 11. We took our time getting to the Pink and Lily for 12 opening time. Sat in the Rupert Brooke room and had one of those grim puff pastry pies with mashed potato. The pub doesn’t do chips! The beer was good but overall the pub was a bit disappointing given its reputation. We were at the ground for 2 and parked up on their massive car park. We lost 1-0 and the game was a bit dull (2 out of 5). Worst of all was that Jamie Cureton scored for them. We were home to the Albert for 7.30 and we ordered a take away from the Chinese at Stantonbury before we walked home.

Fiona compiled her favourite top ten Rovers players. My top ten is obviously different because we only included players we have watched. Favourite doesn’t necessarily mean the best.


Fiona Rovers XI 4-4-2

 Brian Parkin

Trevor Challis Andy Tillson Steve Yates David Pritchard

Ian Holloway Vitalis Astajevs Justin Skinner Tony Pounder

Marcus Stewart Nathan Ellington


Billy Clark Gary Penrice John Taylor

My Rovers XI 4-4-2

 Nigel Martin

Ian Alexander Stuart Taylor Gary Mabbutt Vaughan Jones

Harold Jarman David Williams Wayne Jones Kenny Stephens

Alan Warboys Marcus Stewart


Steve Yates Ian Holloway Bruce Bannister

2001 was a year when we decided that we no longer needed a large house in Milton Keynes and we could follow the jobs to wherever and whenever. I had already gone to teach in Luton and Fiona was to apply for and get a job in St Albans. At first the move brought with it some complicated transport decisions. We started running two cars separately and on football days I would drive her to work and pick her up en route to the evening game. Then we did a commuter train split. I would drop her off at Harlington Station to get the train on to St Albans and walk the final half mile to work The problem with this was the pick-up in the dark, and frankly miserable, car park at the station on the way home when my time of leaving school was so unpredictable, Eventually there was only one sensible solution and that was to move to St Albans. It may have been sensible but ultimately it was a pretty bad decision to uproot and move to what was an alien and totally contrasting life style in that dreadful commuter town.

The summer holiday was at home and a return to Paris in August. One of the days we tried to recreate the Monet picnic on the Seine. Right location, different time of year, but this was the result.


Monet’s version




Our reconstruction


The Pink and Lily was one of many country pubs that we dropped in to on the way to or from the south of the county. It was a classic “one for your mother in law” pub because it had a good location, interesting history and a good garden. It was definitely not my type of pub, then or now. It had an unwelcome aroma of cooking food as you walked over the threshold. This was usually, no doubt well cooked, fish. We would end up in the garden because most tables would have reservations for Jessica and Oliver types to take their late lunch and talk loudly about the quality of their morning hack. The beers would be standard real ales, often something from Marston’s or the all too available Courage Directors (The Doom Bar of the 90s). It was later to become more of a regular pub for me as our local Bird in Hand Cribbage team would play there at least once a year, the game being given the privilege of free run of the back room. The Rupert Brooke connection is all very interesting and the pub did it well but most pubs in this part of the Chilterns has celebrity punters. I can’t see the Bird in Hand having a Jamiroquai room anytime soon or the Plough in nearby Cadsden having a Cameron child friendly play room.

The Reading experience was all very new and different. We had good experiences when it first opened with a 6-0 thrashing of the Royals being high on the list of memorable games. The old Elm Park ground had very different thoughts to recall. In 1994 we had a long drawn out conversation with the Police Complaints authority over a charge by the Met Police down the terrace that was totally out of control and dangerous.


This was our reply from the Superintendant Hanks Next up the command chain was a Chief Superintendent Howlett – Bolton. A quick look at his profile on the internet reveals his classic appointment as the Assistant Grand Master of Berkshire Freemasons. No real surprise then that we were fobbed off by this one then. PC 4328 has no doubt had a long career following orders with his camera and aggressive manner.

Overzealous policing of football matches is thankfully less common nowadays but there is still plenty of examples of visiting police units drawn from outside  the local area justifying their expenses claims by going native. In this case the result was a “no case to answer” apology and support for the valiant chaps in riot gear and their camera and baton wielding thugs. These events have, over the years eroded my initially unshakeable belief that the Police were basically good guys. Now I have an innate mistrust of their motives and tactics when Football matches are in their charge. I go to games armed with my list of questions for every policeman who might decide to give me a hard time.

The basic kit is:-

  1. Name and number of policeman I am talking with.
  2. Name of commanding officer of the day and his / her location at the time of conversation.
  3. Basis for conversation.
  4. Agreed notes of conversation to be made. Ask for permission for another to make notes.
  5. Agree whether photos are being taken. Offer copies to police for evidence should they be needed.
  6. If head camera being used ask for reference to gain access at a later date.
  7. Take notes / photos.

The compilation of top ten favourite teams are ones of nuance. Only last week we were doing something similar for Rovers best wingers this top 10 popped out

  • Harold Jarman
  • Muzzy Carayol
  • Kenny Stephens
  • Colin Dobson
  • Phil Purnell
  • Micky Barrett
  • Ray Graydon
  • Stewart Barrowclough
  • Mark Walters
  • Josh Low

My Best Rovers XI as of 7. 1 2017 (4-3-3) was:-

Nigel Martin

Phil Roberts Stuart Taylor Gary Mabbutt Vaughan Jones

Vitalis Astafjevs Frankie Prince David Williams

Nathan Ellington Rickie Lambert Marcus Stewart


Steve Yates Wayne Jones Bruce Bannister

 I might do the team again tomorrow and come up with a totally different eleven. This one was dependent on playing in a 4-3-3 system so Frankie Prince had to play to allow for David Williams and Vitalis to do their thing. Drop Frankie and play 4-4-2 and in comes Wayne Jones and a luxury wide player like Harold for Nathan Ellington.


1996       Carlisle H 1-1

2001       Reading A 0-1

2007       Chester H 0-0

1998: American holidays, walking and avoidance tactics

Monday 21st December 1998


It is the first day of our Christmas holidays and what do we do? Book up an MOT and service for the Primera for 8 o’clock. So it was a walk home from Stacey Bushes for me as Fiona had the deserved lie in.  Back by nine with bacon rolls from the bakers shop at Heelands. What was she doing when I got back? First day of the holiday and she is marking. Apparently she couldn’t sleep in, so decided to get some out of the way. So much for romantic gestures of breakfast in bed then. As she had started she wanted a clear run of a few hours or so. I might as well go in the Micra and get some Christmas shopping done. Bottles for family, Fiona stuff bought but not written here just in case. Fi has sorted out presents for MIL and her side of family. All done within two hours and back when phone call comes through with results of MOT. All ok, just service costs and two new tyres. Fiona dropped me off and I drove it back for 3.

We have a few days before we head off to Tunbridge Wells. Nipped down to Albert at 6 for an hour or so with Ray and Andy. University Challenge at 8.30. Finished writing out cards for people we forgot and for posting tomorrow.


1995:Wendover House, Fish and Sponsorship

Tuesday 28th November 1995


Separate travel today because I needed the car for a day long visit to Wendover House. It was interesting, if a bit nerve wracking to see the place in action. It is one of the good things in teaching that I am able to visit a new place of work well before starting my new job. The staff have some peculiarities that will take some getting used to. I’m not so sure about the rather strict use of Sir and Miss for staff. There is a lot of routines for meals and break times that are obviously in place for a reason but will need some practice, so as to not stand out. What is obvious already is the high quality of staff and support workers. One often sees the comment on an application that a   G.S.O.H. is essential. This lot have it in bucket loads but are deadly earnest when working and talking about the pupils. I joined in a P.E. lesson with Andy Morrell and Jez Yelland. They had a big chap taking some of the game. It turns out it’s only the ex Wolves Centre Back Floyd Streete. Resisted the temptation to shout fat arse to him but Jess and Andy had no such hesitation when I confirmed the favoured comments used when we watched him in games  past. I had a chance to support both Jan Morris and Jenny Cook. Both are good teachers with different but equally effective ways of getting what they wanted from what are, by labelling, boys with emotional AND behavioural difficulties. Break-time was somewhat different as there was some  updating from last night’s dormitory events. The boy that went missing while I was visiting the  sessions was back in school but required some closer supervision. That ended when the police arrived with his parents and he was led away to explain to them his joy riding extra-curricular activities in Aylesbury.


1992: Change, very much not by design.

Sunday 1st November 1992

Sunday evening Last day of a fairly typical half term holiday. Not particularly enamoured with life at the moment. We have moved in to Denbigh’s new site but I am getting more and more disgruntled with my life within it. The change has meant we no longer have the Lord Grey pupils supporting our sixth form groups and Scrivener’s carpings are endless and in my mind pretty pointless. There is only so much research in to the transfer market of the last ten years can do to give me another outlet. Jon is doing a good job in getting our team to work together and I hope I am being as supportive as possible and not just groaning on about the job.


1989: Times of change, maybe not.

Wednesday 4th October 1989

A rather run of the mill day today. Fiona had a Harvest Festival at school so it was a car load of guitars and tin cans this morning. She also had a school P.T.A. A.G.M at 8 so I decided to nip down the Albert while she was out. No one in particular was there so was home again by 9. Call from David re Saturday. Refereeing at Wycombe. Again Wycombe Vets V Aylesbury Vets. Not sure that this will last long as don’t seem able to shake off the old boys asking for me to do their game. Fiona back at 10.30.


1976: Norman no mates, work and a poem

Saturday 19th June 1976

Worked at Jefferies in the morning. Easy deliveries until 11 and then sweeping up and saw dusting the boards. We got the news that cricket was rained off when we arrived at the ground to get lifts to the game. We are playing tomorrow at Patchway and at least the forecast is good for that. What to do instead? The cricket at Lords was off as well so couldn’t even watch it in the T.V. Golf at Ashton Court? By the time we got there it would be time to come home again, and would be wet anyway.

Decided to go home and watch some television. My God Severn Beach is boring when it rains. We planned to meet up at the Cross Hands at 7. Studs went to see if ICI were playing. When I got back to the beach the train was just coming in so I told Mum I was out for the afternoon and jumped on it to go into town. Here I was again, bored and on my own and on this flipping train to nowhere. We screeched as usual around the bend at Avonmouth. What are the chances of meeting anyone in town? No chance, that’s what. Got off at Clifton Down, walked along Whiteladies road and went in to the Victoria Rooms to see what was on. Nothing was on, that’s what, not even a poxy model railway exhibition. It was empty and closed. Next stop the Museum. There is only so much of Alfred one can take so did a quick tour around and on to Park Street. Went up Brandon Hill and back down to the Library. I fancied a beer so risked it by going in the Hatchet. Didn’t stay long. Didn’t even buy a beer. It is always a bit threatening in there. Went along to Christmas Steps and down to King Street. Had a beer in the Old Duke. A pint of Courage Best.

Sat in the Corner and wrote this:-

 old duke bristol poem

Old Duke Bristol June 7


Bristol, home of ships and Pirates looking out to see,

What have you found and kept for me?

Lines of history that are closed,

Streets of value shut firmly against my age,

Houses of doubtful virtue, open to those who want,

Shops of welcome to those who cannot afford,

Like dripping rainfall from a holy canopy,

You promise refreshment from your uncomfortable touch,

But when drops hit my head, all I get is wet,

And a look of laughter from your knowing face.

Bristol, now home of tramps, human not steam

I can’t wait to go, to leave and be gone.

You have nothing for me to keep or believe.


Richard E Stedman


On to Temple Meads and a train home for 6. Bike up to Northwick for 7. No one in the White Horse, not even Studs. Had a pint, Oops, wrong pub, race to the Cross Hands, too late, they had all gone. Home by 9.

Bored, Bored, Bored.


On Jefferies the Butchers: I had a job in this family butchers in Meadow Street in Avonmouth.  It was a short term holiday job. I had to do some of the following. Slicing bacon; making up delivery orders; helping Mel with the deliveries around the docks or Avonmouth plus general cleaning of the shop. I was too young for serving customers but not too young to be shut in the cold store with the hanging meat as a joke at least once a day. On Saturdays it was just house deliveries. I liked the days when we went to all the canteens on the docks dropping off tons of bacon and sausages. The worst part was sorting out chitterlings and other offal.

Other Holiday jobs 1976 – 1980 were:-

In no particular order:-

BAC Sports ground at Filton: Groundsman responsibilities. Painting Rugby posts, cutting outfields, painting lines, sweeping changing rooms. Clocking Southmead Les and Shane in and out when they were late or wanted to leave early. Laughing at their jokes, the same jokes every day.  Pretending to see the girl who stripped every day at 4 for Shane and Les in the house opposite the tennis courts. Brushing those courts. There was strictly no cutting of wickets or bowls greens. Apparently this was far too responsible.

Builders mate: Working for a local building team with Denzil Roylance. I helped do the following. Tiling a new roof on a house in Old Down; renovating a barn in Olveston; replacing a flat roof on a chalet in Woodlands Park in Patchway; and rounding up sheep in a field without a sheepdog in Olveston. In this case I was the sheep dog being whistled at, because I was the quickest at running around the field.

Plymouth Chemicals in Portsishead; Loading Lorries with Chemicals for Don Baker and Colin Reeves to drive all around the South West. Sometimes navigating and being a driver’s mate, i.e. getting the cakes and bacon butties en route. Filling Carboys with acids. Usually Sulphuric acid or a mix of Hydrochloric for use in swimming pools. Being the butt of their posh boy jokes. I deliberately brought in the Times to read, just to wind them up when they read the sun in tea break times.

Plant Hire Firm: Next door to Plymouth Chemicals in another year: Cleaning cement mixers when they were returned after hire. This was a grim job because there was not established method of chipping away at cement in a mixer with needle guns, chisels, whatever would work, and then cleaning them with high pressure hoses. If I was lucky I could have a go at cleaning a larger dumper truck.

How did we get by in in the days before mobile phones? Looking at this example, I didn’t. The piece of doggerel hasn’t seen the light of day and deserved really to stay unearthed. I am however, writing this in the spirit of opening up thoughts, good and bad so perhaps it fits with my then 17 year old self. In those days I did carry around scraps of paper and a notebook just to record thoughts. How very pretentious but there we go. Poetry was there somewhere but, not to be exposed to the world in these pre-punk, self-conscious teenage days. I didn’t help myself much by going off on my own like that without any real plan. Bristol in 1976 was a depressing city. The docks were a downright dangerous place to just stroll around. There was always a risk of walking around the wrong corner to meet up with some rampant football fan looking for some fun at your expense. Getting a beer was never a problem. At 6 foot 4 tall I could get a beer in most pubs, no I.D. was needed, only a bit of self-confidence. Not that solitary drinking was much fun though.

The White Horse was my favourite local pub at the time. I had my 18th Birthday celebration there. I say that but in fact we were “barred” when I said it was my 18th, as I had been going in there for the last two years or so. We would play darts sometimes but usually just talk about things, the usual teenage stuff, of football and cricket. We later had occasional female company in the form of Belinda or “Fi-Fi” Hignell. I can safely say that I was not the focus of their attentions. It was the younger Malpass who caused their fandom to our little group. In the Cross Hands we would more likely meet up with other members of the cricket team but it was often the older players who would just as well cope without our company. Strangely enough, in the land of the ever present skittle alley, I never once rolled a ball in anger. I did some sporadic “sticking up” for the Black and Tans in the league but playing was left to others. In later years Studs and Neil had a car to get us out of the village. Neil has a Triumph of some sort (TR7), with an aluminium exhaust of which he was very proud. Studs was more likely the one to get us to a pub in his car. The usual destination a year later would be somewhere like the White Hart at Littleton. My only form of transport was my hated Puch Grand Prix Moped. It saw the roads of the Severn valley a few months after this post. It provided a form of independence in getting to school or work. It died a death, as I almost did, when I rounded the bend at March Common one evening, over cooked the corner, and took an option to drive into the ditch rather than the headlights and front bumper of Celia Kilminster’s Dad’s car.  My parents never did get the full details of why I stopped riding my super moped. It did however, get sold in 1982 when I wanted the deposit of £100 for my first house. For that it was very useful.


Of the weather: This day was to be the last wet day of the summer. The summer of 76 that had drought, bank fires, swarms of ladybirds, stand pipes in the street and late night conversations about loves and futures. There was very little to bore me from that day on in this summer.

1978       Geography Staff V Stoneham W

1993       Wolverton Town H L 0

1994       Linslade A L 42

1996       Russia v Czech Republic ANFIELD

2005       Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire Stowe School

2009       Middlesex

2010       Hampshire

2015       Essex