Something of a classic for us football (soccer) romantics on Tuesday evening, with a match between two of the truly great names of the English game, Stalybridge Celtic v Bradford Park Avenue in the National League North, a thriller which ended in a 4 – 3 victory for the hosts – that the visitor’s manager attributed the scoreline and result to his team’s shambolic defensive performance only adds to the glamour of the event.
Alas, the victory represented but one of pitifully few for one of TOoT‘s very favourite clubs (an entirely randomly-assembled collection from down the years) Stalybridge in what increasingly seems likely to be a season ending in relegation – the three points gained at least elevated them a place above rock-bottom in the division – which is a fate also hanging menacingly over what seems to be an unfortunate number of those dear to the old heart this term. Gainsborough Trinity have sunk to also teeter on the precipice in the National North, Marine likewise in the Evo-Stik (Northern) Premier, Mossley and Prescot Cables are struggling in the northern section of the NPL Division One and Hendon are second-bottom of the Ryman League Premier Division, it’s really not pretty or good for the soul. To offer a little balance, Blyth Spartans appear well-set at the top of the Northern Premier and Marlow and Tranmere Rovers are in the play-off places in, respectively, the National League and Division One Central of the Southern League, whilst the mighty Gresford Athletic are an impressive third in the Huws Gray Alliance, having added a goalscoring dimension to their undoubted well-organised teamwork. The less said about the current efforts of Wrexham the better.
Of course, the ideal would be for all or most of our favourites to be pitting themselves against other at the same level, rather in the manner of our much-admired (Fictional) Football Alliance and as in fact a fair few did back in the Eighties heyday of the Northern Prem (also including South Liverpool at that time) in which case Stalybridge and Gainsborough dropping down into the NPL wouldn’t be the end of the world but then we’d need Blyth to forego any hopes of promotion, Marine to stay up and Mossley and Prescot Cables to get their acts together and get on up out of the division below: what a treat that would be.