In my last column, I described our remaining fixtures as ‘Cup Finals’ due to their importance in terms of the club’s destiny. After all, this is the time of year when clubs at all levels, all over the land, get to play at prestigious venues for trophies of all kinds.
In some areas, the local professional clubs make their stadia available to the County FA and the grassroots leagues on their patch. In others, the local governing body hosts the bulk of the County Cup Finals at their own venue, moving the most prestigious prizes to the best ground they can find. This was, to an extent, the model deployed by the Liverpool County FA prior to the pandemic.
However, the ‘jungle drums’ of social media are already beating, alive with rumours that many of this season’s local Cup Finals will be played at grounds already familiar to the players because they’re regularly used for League matches. It’s been suggested that even the Liverpool County FA’s headquarters at Walton Hall Park will be less available – even for LCFA’s Finals – than has historically been the case, due to its new role as the home ground for Everton Women.
Of course, the County FA has taken over the old Civil Service Club in Drummond Road, Crosby, so has pitches at its disposal there and there’s the Jericho Lane Sports Hub too, which is the home of South Liverpool and which the Association helped to develop.
There’s nothing wrong with Drummond Road or Jericho Lane as places to play, but do they have the right level of pizazz for Cup Finals? After all, this part of the world boasts both Anfield and the world’s first purpose-built football stadium in Goodison Park. Both venues used to regularly host Finals of all kinds but particularly those of the County competitions.
No more, it seems.
That’s not automatically a criticism of the ‘big two’ – after all, the Premier League doesn’t finish until 22nd May – but given how relatively lightly the grounds are used, particularly compared to community venues like Lower Breck, or the city’s Football Hubs, it does seem a shame. Even Walton Hall Park ought to be free for some of the County Cup Finals, given that Everton Women only have two home fixtures left.
It seems that other County FAs have managed to secure Premier League or EFL stadia for their Finals – Norwich City are hosting the Norfolk Senior Cup Final (as they do most years) while the Sheffield & Hallamshire FA are staging all their adult Cup Finals at Doncaster Rovers.
So, what’s the issue on Merseyside? Is it financial? It can’t be the case that the region’s biggest clubs have become completely detached from the game’s roots because both have provided support and the use of their training grounds for youth tournaments, particularly in schools’ football.
Perhaps the pandemic has caused something to shift in local football. After all, the Liverpool Senior Cup never even started this season, but the County FA has never made any sort of public statement as to why. Not that the County even makes much of an effort when it does stage what is supposed to be its flagship tournament.
Famously, Cables reached four consecutive Senior Cup Finals, hosting three. All of the work – producing the programme, taking the gate, stewarding and everything else – fell to the home side’s volunteers. On each occasion, the top brass brought the trophy to the ground, handed out the medals and then promptly took the Cup back to Walton Hall Park at the end of each Final, along with a third of the gate receipts.
The Pesky Bulls have three games left and our Step 4 status isn’t yet assured, despite the fact that our points tally would place us in mid-table in most other divisions at this level. So, we’re going to have to treat today’s game like a Cup Final and not just because we were robbed of a chance to get to an actual Cup Final.