A Game Of Four Halves

Preseason madness in Shropshire this weekend. With Tranmere playing but a bus-ride away in Mansfield, it made perfect sense for me to drive two hours to watch teams I have no affinity for. And, truth be told, if they hadn't been charging £10 at Field Mill, I might have been tempted. But really, £10?? For a friendly?In which the "big side" is Tranmere? Go away.

Welcome to afc telford
Welcome to Telford

So instead an early start saw The BoneShaker wend its cheerful way across country. Tunes this week including Mark Lanegan, Pretty Lights and Little Angels (who were from Scarborough, as it happens. And you thought I threw this shit together). Diverse, that's me.

afc telford FCUM
As a mere waif of a chap, as opposed to the more rounded figure who sits in front of the laptop today, I spent my University career in Wolverhampton. Or Dudley to be precise. And remember fondly the joy I felt on discovering the shopping centre in Telford. Nearly twenty years on, I have no idea why this might have been. It's still essentially a jumped up roundabout. And I can report that you really don't expect a place like Telford to be quite so sprawling. I'm not convinced they could have put the New Bucks Head stadium any further from the heaving metropolis.

Following a quick trawl round the charity shops of neighbouring Wellington, more of which in a subsequent post, it was off to the ground. At this juncture I should point out that at 9am, the weather in Mansfield was set fair. The gurning loon on the TV had said that it was likely to stay that way over much of the country for the rest of the day. So shorts and flip flops were the order of the day. As of 1pm in Telford, skies were overcast and it was trying to rain. Your correspondent looked conspicuous.

packed terraces
Oh yeah, I can do arty with the best of 'em
It occurs to me I haven't actually explained what was going on here today. In a sort of Lidl version of the Charity Shield, Supporters Direct have corralled organised fan-owned clubs from all corners of the footballing pyramid to a two-tier double header. The support act was to be Scarborough Athletic v Merthyr Town, preceded, oddly, by the headline offering of AFC Telford v FCUM. If this is to be an ongoing venture, it might be wise to swap these fixtures round. You know, the way that everyone else does it. Still, just a thought. And with that, to the football.

AFC Telford 2 FC United Manchester 0

Supporters Direct Cup

Whisper it, but FCUM aren't really all that good. Oh, I know it's only a PSF, regardless of whether there is some artificially created silverware on offer. And I know also that they have bigger fish to fry in regards to where they apportion their money right now. But they may be in for a tricky season this year, and unfortunately this will give fodder to all the clueless Man Utd-lite haters out there. On this display, albeit it against superior opposition, they looked lightweight and too short. They are crying out for a lump upfront who can hold up the ball and feed Michael Norton. And without Carlos Rocca on the flanks, they look bereft of creativity (yes, "bereft". I thank you). Telford on the other hand played like a good Conference outfit, and should be in with a shout this season. The ground is up for it, the support is there. And they may have the team this season.

Scarborough Athletic 2 Merthyr Town 0

Supporters Direct Shield

It was VERY yellow
Very much after the Lord Mayor's Show this one, and a shame, because it was a much more enjoyable game.  Like an old-fashioned European game, it really was a trip in to the unknown in terms of standards. It was also a good two hours away from the pie shop, which must have been traumatic for the Merthyr front two.

In a break from the usual lazy racist stereotypes, I can report that young Welsh lads don't think Green Street is a documentary, can hold their alcohol, and won't let anything distract them from the game of football they have travelled many a mile in the name of.

A couple of local Rhodes Scholars had hung around in the hope of engaging in a lengthy debate on the current fiscal climate, but unfortunately for both parties, the plentiful stewarding meant they were forced to express their opinions via a series of complicated hand gestures and contemporary dance moves. Neither of which served to fully express their frustrations I fear.

It's a shame so few turned out from the big two sides. And even more of a shame that only a handful of them hung around for the second course. In the past this Cup has been contested solely between FC and AFC Wimbledon, so opening it up to the ever expanding number of fan-owned clubs is a good thing. But it really needs more thought given to it. And why did it need to be held at Telford? Let Merthyr or Scarborough host it. They need whatever money it'd produce.

Now, since you've sat through all of this, head over to Fancy Dan Boots for the reason there are so few action shots in this report.
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