If “a week is a long time in politics”, as the saying goes, then it must be an eternity in football. This time last week, I was writing my notes for Saturday’s programme and trying to skirt around the fact that I had no idea who our new manager might be, or when they might be appointed.
Fast forward to tonight and (if you’re reading this before kick-off) I’m up in the Press Box, preparing for a one-night-only return to Announcer duties and having watched our new gaffer’s first match in charge.
Going out of the FA Trophy is never an event to be celebrated but given the short gap between Kevin Lynch’s appointment and Saturday’s match against Frickley Athletic, the result isn’t one that can be viewed harshly. As an aside, some bloke called Brian Richardson got battered 5-1 in his first game as Cables’ manager and I think he went on to do alright?
As a fan, I took a lot of positives from Saturday’s game, despite the defeat to Frickley. It was an even contest, in which two individual errors cost Cables dearly, but had a 61st minute “goal” by captain Lloyd Dean not been mysteriously disallowed, the result could have been very different. The team showed a solidity and a purpose that hasn’t always been there this season and played some decent football at times. So, yes, it was a loss, but not one that hurt quite as badly as the defeats against Colne or Kendal.
There are losses, especially away from the football pitch, which hurt far, far more than going out of a cup and this column is about to take a massive handbrake turn to discuss some of them.
You might have noticed some of the Prescot Cables U10 squad rattling buckets as you came into the ground and if you haven’t seen them yet, they’re probably heading your way. They’re collecting for the Honeysuckle Team at Liverpool Women’s Hospital because tonight’s match coincides with Baby Loss Awareness Week.
Baby Loss – whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or a pre-natal health condition – is much more common that many people realise, because it’s so difficult to talk about. No-one wants to ask the ‘wrong’ question, for fear of making a bad situation worse and when you’re a parent grieving the loss of a child, that can be incredibly hard to articulate; especially if it happens prior to the stages where a birth certificate is automatically issued.
Last November, my wife and I went to the 20-week scan looking forward to finding out the gender of our third child. We learned much more that that; the scan picked up that our youngest daughter, Josie Jean, had an extremely rare condition which meant that, if we had allowed the pregnancy to go to term, she would have died almost immediately, but in a lot of pain. We couldn’t let that happen and she was born sleeping the following Saturday, following intervention from the Fetal Medicine Unit.
Both before and after the birth, my wife and I were supported by the Honeysuckle Team, in person and by phone and email. Although I don’t use Facebook myself anymore, I know they have closed groups there for families affected by Baby Loss, with one specifically for Dads, but you don’t have to join them.
The Honeysuckle Team at the Women’s Hospital comprises three wonderful specialist midwives; I have no idea how they manage to do what they do given how small their team is, especially during a pandemic. But I am enormously glad that they do it.
The last eleven months have been (and continue to be) enormously tough for our whole family, but without the help of the Honeysuckle Team, they would have been tougher still. It’s for that reason that I’m incredibly grateful to the club for organising tonight’s collection, and to the youth players and their parents who are making it happen. If you’ve got a coin or two you can spare in your pocket, please consider chucking it into a bucket. It could make all the difference to a family like mine – or yours.
Bill Shankly was, of course, joking when he said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” But, like so many jokes, there was a kernel of truth to it; having something to immerse yourself in can help people cope with all kinds of stresses. I’ve certainly thrown myself into my footballing roles at times of crisis, especially if I needed a distraction.
On what is a big night for both clubs, I hope supporters of both Prescot Cables and Widnes can support the Women’s Hospital. My heartfelt thanks go to the club, everyone collecting tonight and everyone who drops a coin – no matter how small – into a bucket this evening.