The final match of the season, is upon us; Cables’ 50th in all competitions during the campaign. And what a way to bring up the half-century; a local derby which is a winner-takes-all showdown with promotion at stake.

Everywhere you look, there is a story, just waiting to be written. Will Prescot’s legendary Physio, Alan Cross, be ending his thirty years of magic sponge wielding with a victory, or will the Purps reach Step 3 before the end of their first decade of operation? Is Josh Gregory destined to make a telling contribution to the Play-Off Final, having made an unexpected return to the squad for the semi-final against Bootle, or will Elliott Morris continue his goalscoring form, having scored both City of Liverpool’s goals at Runcorn Linnets in midweek?

Certainly, the visitors will arrive at the Joseph Russell Stadium in confident mood. The Purps have lost just once in their last ten League and play-off matches and defeated Linnets away from home in front of a sell-out crowd, so a similar spectacle this afternoon is unlikely to phase Paul McNally’s men. On the other hand, both this season’s League matches between the clubs ended in victories for Cables, who are unbeaten in their last four meetings with the Purps.

Today’s game is a bit different, of course. While the crowd this afternoon will only be about a quarter of the all-time record attendance here at Hope Street (set back in the 1930s when the Main Stand was even bigger than the one we have now and no-one had heard of Health and Safety), those who are present will witness one of the most significant fixtures ever played on the ground. Pitting arguably the oldest non-League club in the Liverpool City Region against the youngest, it also brings together two passionate sets of fans whose Saturday afternoon entertainment is made possible by teams of dedicated volunteers.

There have been ‘bumps in the road’ in the lead-up to this Final, but these could also be filed under ‘nice problems to have’. When you’re used to dealing with the full-time ticket office staff of professional clubs, it’s easy to argue certain provisions should have been put in place. And in an ideal world, the home club probably would run a phased ticket sale or allocate a fixed number of tickets to the visitors. When you only have three days to put all the arrangements in place, a day job to do, a family to look after and other commitments as well, sometimes that’s not possible.

Plus, occasionally events just take an unexpected turn. For the play-off semi-final here against Bootle, a little under 1,200 tickets were sold online in 48 hours at an average of roughly 25 tickets per hour. That’s not what happened on Wednesday night. I’ve been involved with football at this level or just above for 34 of my 44 years and I’ve never seen ANYTHING like the ticket sale on Wednesday night.

“The demand was known” said more than one person on social media after the fact and while it’s true that a sell-out wasn’t that difficult to predict, the speed with which it happened in the initial sale was truly unprecedented. The first 1,400 tickets were sold in seventeen minutes. That’s an average of 83 tickets, every 60 seconds. To put that into perspective, another Step 4 club – Redbridge of the Isthmian League North – only had six home matches this season which had more than 83 people in attendance! Today’s game is not your typical non-League match.

It is to the club’s credit that, having seen what happened when the first batch of tickets went on sale, they used the remaining tickets to provide an allocation to City of Liverpool and an opportunity for Cables season ticket holders to secure their place at this afternoon’s game. In this respect, at least it can be argued that the 600 tickets initially kept in reserve for supporters who can’t or don’t buy online or who were unable to get tickets in the initial phase have been used to ensure regular supporters of the two clubs were able to be here today.

This week, Cables are genuinely the “hottest ticket in town”. Local pubs and bars have announced drinks promotions or earlier opening hours to cater for the huge crowd which will be walking down Hope Street this afternoon. This game – and the midweek tie with Bootle – placed the Pesky Bulls at the heart of life in Prescot in a way that hasn’t happened for decades. Students in local schools have been badgering Cables-supporting teachers for tickets. The club is a focal point for the town in normal times; this week, it has probably been THE focal point.

This excitement has been made possible by an outstanding squad of players, superbly coached. But all of that achievement on the park has been made possible by the volunteers who keep things going when the matches are over and the ground is empty. Who litter pick around the stadium, or wash the kit, who mark the pitch, compile the programmes or even set up the online ticketing platform. Everything those volunteers do and have done this season has been with the best interest of the club and its supporters in mind. This “team behind the team” is as magnificent as the squad Ste Daley has assembled and I celebrate them with the same fervour I will salute our team at the end of today’s game, whatever the score. This season’s been special and I thank everyone who made it so from the bottom of my heart.