Jubilant Hucknall Town lent a new meaning to the well-worn football phrase ‘hospital pass’ after winning their first major trophy for 11 years last Sunday.
Normally, after a 3-0 victory over Clifton All Whites that clinched the Central Midlands League (CML) Cup, the players would have been off down the pub or back to the Talk Of Town social club at The Yellows’ Watnall Road ground.
But not this Town crew. Instead they diverted the team bus and made Nottingham City Hospital their first post-match port of call. And lying in wait for them there was the club’s popular kitman, 71-year-old Colin Corbett.
Corbett is recovering from the kind of serious stroke that has also afflicted England legend Jimmy Greaves this week. So imagine how overwhelmed he must have been when the players swarmed into his hospital ward, plonked the cup on his bed and told him: “We won this for you.”
“Colin was very emotional at first, but he handled it all brilliantly and had photos taken,” said Town manager Andy Graves. “The first thing the lads said after the game was: let’s go to the hospital.”
Not so long ago, Town themselves were the sick patient after tumbling down the non-league pyramid, riddled with debt. But now they hope that Sunday’s cup final success is the first step back on the long road to recovery.
“This makes all the effort, made by our very small band of helpers and volunteers to keep the club alive worthwhile,” said Graves. “The cup is the icing on the cake and, hopefully, we can now move forward.”
The Yellows were helped by the sending-off of Clifton’s captain, Craig Anderson, after only two minutes. “But you can only play what’s put in front of you and we did a professional job,” said Graves. “Nobody can argue with the result. The lads deserved it.”
Equally good news is that those lads look likely to hang around Watnall Road next season when Town will be gunning for the CML, South Division title, having finished fourth this term. Even Niall Thompson, snapped up from Conference club Torquay United two months ago, may well stay, even though it originally looked as if his move was just a stop-gap measure in his professional career.
“All the players have said they want to be a part of it, and there’s a chance Niall will be one of them,” said Graves. “In all the time he has been a pro, that’s the first time he’s played in a cup final. He’s enjoying every minute with us and has got his confidence back.
“Promotion is what we are planning for now. We won’t be bringing loads of players in this summer, but there are a couple of areas we want to strengthen.”
For now, though, it’s all about celebrating. Not just for the boss and his players but also for Town’s long-suffering fans, on whom Graves lavished praise.
“The support at the final was fantastic, as it has been all season,” said Graves. “The players really appreciated it, and it was nice to give them something in return. I saw a few new faces, so hopefully they liked what they saw and they will be back next season.”