Does the tradition re-start?

I must admit to having felt a bit robbed when the final whistle went after our 1-1 draw with Weston-super-Mare. I think it’s natural to feel this way when you’re just minutes away from the Fourth Qualifying Round and conceded a penalty.

But I think the aggrieved attitude that I have basically points the finger towards the match official, who seemed to be allowing almost anything in the first half in the way of foul play and almost nothing in the second half. As a result, Weston-super-Mare did not have a man sent off in the first half and Kingstonian did have Jerry Puemo sent off in the second half. We were beginning to be on top of our opponents when Jerry got his second yellow card, consequently we had to defend deeper and deeper and eventually in the 90th minute Gus Sow conceded the penalty. The sending off and the penalty were actually correct decisions, the referee got those spot on, but his first half performance gave us the feeling that we had an unfair contest against twelve men and so anything against us in the second half was automatically going to be wrong, even though those two big decisions were right.

Mainly because I’m a wuss and a chicken and have invoked my distate for travelling (especially in midweek), I won’t be at the replay tonight on the Somerset coast. Given my record in recent years of missing away games that we do well in, a record that maybe has re-started in earnest having missed our win at Haringey Borough, we probably have a darn fine chance of winning. And then I will go and ruin the whole thing by turning up in Dartford (and Carshalton Athletic this Saturday) to see us get thoroughly stuffed. It’s been a tradition that I dislike greatly and not one that I want to start again, I don’t particularly like feeling that I am bad luck to the team but sometimes (sod it, it’s quite often) I do think things like that, whether it is stupid or not.

I knew full well that Liverpool would get a let-off from fielding an ineligible player in their League Cup win at Milton Keynes Dons – normal rules and laws often don’t apply to the bigger clubs and, whilst I am happy that Liverpool will move on and play Arsenal in the next round, I don’t feel it’s right. I’ve always been taught that to field an ineligible player, especially in a cup tie, is an open and shut case. You’re done, you’re through, you are out on your ear quicker than a Scotsman who visited the 1986 World Cup can say Nezahualcoyotl. Players and their troubles with international clearance have been in my horizon twice now this season, once with Grays Athletic being prevented from playing Kingstonian in the FA Cup, and now this Liverpool incident. Apart from they being in competitions run by two different organisations, it doesn’t seem to this most ignorant writer that there is too much of a difference. Both teams fielded a player who did not have international clearance, both teams claimed mitigating circumstances – Grays’ man was retrospectively ineligible for two other clubs last season and Liverpool sought assistance from the FA (uh-oh) over the eligiblity of their man.

Grays Athletic have the book thrown at them, thrown out of the FA Cup, they lose their prize money, they don’t even get losers’ prize money, they get given very little time to prepare any type of appeal and, knowing darn well that it would go nowhere anyway, they accept the inevitable and don’t post their appeal. Liverpool get fined £200,000, half of which is suspended, and they get a telling off whilst they can now prepare for Arsenal in the next round. As I said, as regular readers know, I am a Liverpool supporter and am pleased that we’ve moved on to the next round and the home tie with the Arsenal, and if the Reds are good enough to win the trophy I will probably celebrate it quite a bit in the dark corner I would be trembling in, but let’s be honest, Liverpool shouldn’t be playing Arsenal on the 29th October, it should be Milton Keynes Dons. There may well be something in the rules, deep, deep, deep, deep down in the rules that could point out a difference in the two cases other than the size of the club, but overall it’s not a good look on those authorities who want us, the uninitiated, to believe that rules consistency really is the order of the day.

I was going to give The Hundred a chance. I’m not sure why the ECB feels the need to introduce another new format of cricket and why it feels the need to effectively demote their already successful Twenty20 competition practically to second class status, but I was going to give it a chance. I may well watch one or two bits of games to check out the format, but, thanks to something as simple as the names of the teams, I have no team that I want to support. When it comes to cricket, I have always been a Lancashire man. If I’d have been brought up to be a fan of my local team, I would have been part of many more trophy victories over the years, but I was brought up a Lancastrian. Therefore, I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent County Championship season, am delighted to have won the Second Division and am a little worried about the strength of our batting for next season as I don’t particularly want to be relegated again. I used to have a life’s ambition, which was to be alive when Lancashire won the County Championship, we hadn’t won it outright since 1934 and rarely in my lifetime even came close. When we finally did, ironically in a season when most home games were played in Liverpool, it felt rather magical.

So, quite obviously, I wanted to support the team based at Old Trafford, where my beloved Lancashire play. Then came the rumours of team names – most of them were going to be city-based names. Alarm bells rang immediately. How can I, as a person raised by a Liverpudlian family, support a team with “Manchester” in the name? Surely the powers that be wouldn’t alienate a large swathe of people right from the get-go? And so the Manchester Originals are born. Forget the second word in the name, I could have lived with that (only just), but the first word of the name means that, as I see myself as a Scouser (not that you can tell with the accent, unfortunately), I cannot be a fan of this team. Why not support the local team, the Oval Invincibles? Quite simple, there are two mortal enemies in my eyes when it comes to cricket, Yorkshire and Surrey, there’s just no way I can suddenly turn around and cheer on a Surrey team, that’s just the way it is. So I have been discarded by the ECB, I don’t count for anything. I still don’t quite get how for example they expect Gloucestershire and Somerset supporters to cheer on the Welsh Fire or Leicestershire supporters wave Trent Rockets flags – it’s irrelevant if this new format is any good or not, irrelevant if the standard of cricket is as wonderful as promised, the choice of names of the teams alone have ensured that many cricket lovers in England and Wales (and why isn’t there a team in Scotland, last time I looked, Scotland beat England in a one-day international…, and don’t tell me it’s because of the weather, you do realise they try to play cricket in Manchester sometimes?) will not give a single hoot about it, and I am one of them. So thanks a lot, ECB, I love you too.

One final thing to sign off with, I haven’t actually been to a cricket match for years, other things get in the way all too easily, but I do remember being at the Oval watching Lancashire play Surrey, and we had Wasim Akram in our team. Blimey, he was quick. Anyway, some of our supporters, by that time well lubricated (so probably just gone 11.30am then…, just joking…or am I?), started singing to him when he was fielding near us at the boundary. “Wasim for England!” was the cry from the merry Red Rose supporters. Wasim, as polite and eloquent as he always is, turned around to us and said, “I’m sorry, I’m already spoken for.” Wonderful.

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