For lovers of sport in Nottingham, the Evening with… nights at the Approach are a guaranteed good night out (unless you lose your wallet and miss the last tram, of course). An opportunity to soak up stories, ask questions, pose for photographs and, if so inclined, purchase memorabilia, they are part homage to the city’s sporting greats, part nostalgic reliving of some of the happiest nights of a sports fan’s life.
Many of the stories will be familiar, many of the replies equally so, as anecdotes that started out funny become polished down the years. However, what really elevates the night is not the set-piece gags so much as the moments during the Q&A when an interesting question prompts a guest to reflect on some less often visited part of their life.
Derek Randall, who occupied the early slot despite having the conference suite at Trent Bridge named after him (which gave an indication of the stature of the man that followed him), thus finished off by reflecting on the one thing he would have changed from his twenty-odd year cricket career with both Notts and England, a poignant moment in which he anguished over a roller-coaster final at Lord’s in 1985, lost to Essex on the last ball having inspired a dead-and-buried Notts back from the brink.
In addition to yarns about his 174 in front of the Queen in Melbourne in the 1977 Centenary Test, the memories of playing with the great Sir Garry Sobers and Sir Richard Hadlee, there were also – as ever – several answers that the unwritten code for this type of thing prevents me from repeating. But there wasn’t a question about how he was coping with the loss of Hopkirk (as had been unhelpfully suggested to me beforehand).
Following him was John Robertson, the man who scored and made Forest’s two European Cup-winning goals, a down-to-earth figure who retains the undying affection of the Garibaldi faithful despite crossing the A52 divide when he left Forest for Derby in 1983 (“the biggest regret of my career – more on how I did it, even though I was sh*t then – because it upset Cloughie, who I loved”).
Robbo had several good Clough stories (again, omertà), many forceful opinions on the state of the game, and was very supportive of his old teammate, Martin O’Neill, with whom he has sat in the dugout at Leicester, Celtic and Villa. Oh, and he hoped for someone to organise a reunion of the European Cup team. LeftLion?
Knitting it all together was Doncaster-born comedian Gary Marshall, who emceed, asked the questions, and conducted the quiz games to decide who’d win signed spot prizes, with proceeds of the charity raffle going to help the evening’s organisers, Notts Unity Casuals Cricket Club, the former club of Outlaws Director of Cricket, Mick Newell.
Marshall was genuinely funny and genial presence throughout, gently chiding Randall – limbs still as restless as a frog in a bucket – for going off at tangents and failing to answer the original question, while later poking fun at Robertson’s reputation as something of a carouser. Many of his best jokes could be filed under one category. So, he told us how much he’d recently enjoyed a threesome he’d been involved in (“although, to be fair, there were a couple of no-shows”) and later how his GP had told him that “masturbating two times a day gives you a 25% reduction in the chances of contracting prostate cancer. So I did the maths …… Turns out I’m immortal”.