Tuesday, 7 November 2017


Heanor Town  1  Borrowash Victoria  0

Derbyshire Senior Cup – Second Round

In 1963 5,529 babies were given the name Nigel, in 2016 that figure had dropped to anything between zero and two, according to the Office of National Statistics.

So the name Nigel will at some point in the future become extinct, which is a shame, because in the esteemed history of Derby County Football Club, two of their most recent managers have been called Nigel, Messrs Pearson and Clough.

But, those with knowledge of football in the East Midlands may also be aware that both of these men started their playing careers at Heanor Town, before moving into the professional game.

Where Nigel's Played
Pearson was a centre half for the Lions in the early Eighties, before moving onto Shrewsbury Town, and of course locally he will be remembered for two things. One of which was the time at Derby when he decided enough was enough after owner Mel Morris’s interference became too great, ‘allegedly’ taking matters into his own hands, quite literally. His departure was clearly going to be swift.

He will probably also be remembered along the following lines in years to come when an inquisitive child asks his Father…

“So, tell me how Leicester City managed to win the Premier League all those years ago Dad?”

“Well son, it all started when Nigel Pearson’s lad started to abuse some women in a Thai brothel….”

I’ve never met Nigel Pearson, but I have met Nigel Clough, however firstly, I want to recall a game from May 1984.

Heanor Town were at home to Winterton Rangers and I’d gone with my Dad, we were sat on the cricket field side and watched a 16 year old Clough rip Winterton apart, scoring a hat-trick. One of the goals I can see now, he picked the ball up in the inside left channel, took on a defender on the outside, went past him and then fired a rocket shot low past the goalkeeper.

Lest We Forget
Within a couple of weeks he’d signed a professional contract at Nottingham Forest, and the rest was history.  Nigel’s love for non-league football has never gone away, taking over as Manager at Burton Albion as a 32 year old, he got the club through the Northern Premier League and then the Conference. A bigger job was always going to happen and in maybe what was seen as sentimental move he got the job at Pride Park. In my opinion he did a very good job, the job that was asked of him, keep the club up, reduce the wage bill and get rid of those that don’t want to play for the Rams.

Unfortunately though, he wasn’t deemed the man to take the club forward to the next level according to Mr Morris, he wasn’t sexy enough, so he had to go. Sheffield United beckoned and then a return to the Brewers where he has again performed minor miracles. But, you see him around the locality watching games, at places like Belper, Mickleover and Alfreton, but one game at Belper Town where the Rams Reserves were playing at home to Port Vale stands out.

I found myself sat next to Nigel, and he was quite openly discussing who from the reserve team that night would be making the first team squad the following Saturday, with one of his Assistants, Johnny Metgod. Lee Croft was looking good for a call up, until he did something he shouldn’t have done, right in front of Nigel…

“Crofty, for ***** sake, how many ******* times” screamed Nigel

“Right, he’s out, forget him for Saturday!” he said with a lowered tone

And that was it, Croft never actually made another first team appearance for Derby!

The second time was a bit unusual, I was driving home from work one night when Mrs Hatt called me to inquire how far away I was, she told me that she was in the New Inn and how quickly could I get to them, only they were about to order some food and did I want any?

Looking Towards The Wilmot Street End
Fair enough, with a Hunters Chicken on order I screeched into the car park in Milford, shot up the steps, barged past the hostess who was about to ask me if I had a reservation before bursting into the restaurant.

No sign of Mrs Hatt, just a startled looking family sat on their own having a meal. I immediately spotted Nigel, just about to take a gulp out of a pint of lager, he didn’t look best impressed at my noisy intrusion, I made my apologies and left. She was in the New Inn at Little Eaton…

So that’s the two Nigel’s and Heanor Town, but what of Heanor Town the football club?

A big club, in fact I would go as far as to say they are a sleeping giant. In the Sixties and Seventies they were a major player in the East Midlands, certainly on a par with the likes of Ilkeston, Alfreton and Matlock, but the crunch came in 1986 when they took the gamble of leaving the football pyramid to join the Central Midlands League. It took until 2008 for them to finally get back to Step 6 football, and in that time the likes of Matlock, Alfreton, Ilkeston, Belper, Mickleover Sports, Gresley and Long Eaton were all at least one if not more steps above the level they had only just got into. For many, that was time that had arguably had been wasted. They did win the league in that period, but promotion, for a variety of reasons, never materialised.

Four years later Step 6 became Step 5, and for a period they did look like they could have made the jump to Step 4, but the bottleneck to get to that level is significant, and over the years they’ve had to contend with the likes of Basford, Hereford and Alvechurch, who were always going to be very strong and difficult to finish ahead of.

The Town Ground - Steeped In History
Right now, while still a top six side, I would suggest they are probably not promotion material, which is a shame because the ground remains a very tidy arena, the pitch is excellent, but what they also have is very good support. 490 saw a recent League Cup tie against Ilkeston, whereas 130-150 is the norm. If they were challenging then I would say 250 would be easily the norm if not more.

It’s a club crying out for success, and in my humble opinion Step 4 for should be a shoe in, in fact if Mickleover Sports can sustain a Step 3 side, then I see no reason why Heanor Town can’t.

But as it was, tonight was a Derbyshire Senior Cup tie against Borrowash Victoria, and if we are being honest, it wasn’t the greatest spectacle. A number of familiar faces were on show, and I spent much of the evening with fellow blogger and self-publicist Martin Roberts, who managed to free load a lift back to Ripley!

In terms of the game, Heanor were always the better team, but Borrowach showed some great battling qualities without really threatening to score. Penalties looked inevitable until the very last minute when Elliott Reeves was felled in the box, and the same player got up to despatch the spot kick.

Chesterfield away beckons now for Heanor Town, and that should be a memorable night for the loyal Town Ground faithful, given the way the Spireites are playing, you’d have to fancy them!

Heanor didn’t have any players called Nigel in their side tonight, but then neither did Borrowash, so I guess the stats are right, Nigel’s are a dying breed. That said, maybe on that basis the future managers of our football clubs are probably called Idris, Kyle or Ollie. Herbert Chapman and Bill Shankly are probably turning in their graves as we speak.

The Keith Costello Stand

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