For many City fans, the weekend would involve three key ingredients, a relaxing ’few’ beers to wash away the grit and grime from a week’s work, a trip to the sacred Carra or further afield with the y’army in hope of climbing the table and the final piece of the jigsaw being the excitement of getting a pair of football boots on and representing your pub or work’s football team on a Sunday morning.
Lockdown has instigated many unusual activities, including getting round to starting jobs that had been put off for years, gardening, talking a stroll in the neighbourhood or even having a conversation with your partner to a name just a few. One such activity is a group of lads who ended their football careers over 20 years ago started to reminisce about their playing days through social media.
Before mobile phones and when the Pink’un was a pink broadsheet paper, these boys were meeting up in a car park in Norwich before a drive out to the Hainford Chequers pub. They would then change in a dirt-floored cow shed in anticipation of turning out for the mighty Tricentrol FC, a side that knocked about in division two and one of the Norwich Crusader League.
The club would later move onto the Diamond H pitch behind the factory off Vulcan Road. Both venues no longer offer recreational facilities, unfortunately.
Tricentrol had a car dealership in Norwich selling the Vauxhall brand. It employed a salesman and budding football manager Malcolm Watling, a mini John Bond who would roll up in a top of the range Vauxhall Carlton sporting a cigar and sheepskin coat. Malcolm was able to use his silky tongue to acquire a Luton Town kit for the lads to play in using the Vauxhall professional shirt sponsor connection.
The social headquarters were provided by co-sponsor the Blue Boar pub in Sprowston, where players would be sourced and post-match games picked apart, while scratch cards added to club funds and Norwich bitter and Scampi Fries were consumed. There was also a generous mix of Norwich Union and Woodside pub to make up the squad members.
The ‘boys’ now well into their 50’s can still cast their minds back to a 4-0 away win at Hethersett, another away victory, this time to Metamac, a group who fancied themselves. The boys were one time mauled 17-1, the memory failing to recall the opposition. The arch-rivals were fellow car dealers Norwich VW Centre which often involved altercation throughout the 90 minutes. Gould Builders were always guaranteed to provide feisty entertainment for the one man and his dog watching from the sideline.
The team contained the usual mix of lads keen for fresh air and exercise after a heavy night in the City. Poser Gary Bailey fancied flick ups and diagonal cross-field passes, aggression was dished out with over the top tackles from Nigel Norman and Paddy Howard, frustrated cage fighter David Smith was always up for a fight. Stephen Websdale hugged the flank like a good old fashioned winger whilst Drakie, Andy Bailey and Graham Gifford provided the glue. You had the complete finisher in Paul Barnes who could score from all angles and the guys with more tricks than Paul Daniels, were provided by Peter Norman and Steve Rushbroke, boys take a bow. Ray Howe was on hand in the changing room to dish out comedic entertainment. As with every Sunday team, there has to be a gobby twat who winds up the opposition and the referee, Gary Bailey fitted the bill perfectly.
The one-piece of ‘silverware’ secured by the club was as division two runners up. The celebration involved collecting medals at The Talk of the East in Oak Street. Jimmy Jones was the comedian on stage and Malcolm was keen that players joined him in a celebratory cigar. Teetotaller Nick Munton getting pissed and parading around the club with a women’s handbag should not go unmentioned.
Players with hangovers, putting up the nets, no warm-up, fags at halftime, these were the ingredients of old school pub football. Malcolm’s sales skills were eventually poached by Robinson’s. Tricentrol were keen not to be associated with the football team and the side were later to be renamed The Woodside, a pub raised to the ground which now hosts half a dozen houses. Time moves on.