Sunday, February 09, 2020

From a field to Anfield

This is just a silly football-related blogpost highlighting the extremes of watching football. On Saturday 1 February I was at Coronation Park, off Sloper Road in Cardiff watching Grange Albion of the South Wales Alliance Premier League play Merthyr Saints.

Merthyr set up to defend a corner

It was a decent game played in blustery conditions. Grange scored early then failed to score a number of really good chances. A couple of minutes before the end of the game, they conceded a penalty, which was duly converted, and the game ended in a draw.

Coronation Park is a football pitch next to the bus depot (site of a fun day out in times past!). I've given up making jokes about parking the bus, because my friend Tom who I go with didn't think it was funny the first fifteen times I said it. The rest of the ground backs on to houses and an abandoned playpark where the swings have been removed. I walked across the pitch and it's got daisies growing on it. It is literally a field.

Three days later I was watching Shrewsbury Town play Liverpool in the FA Cup replay at Anfield, one of the most famous grounds in football. There had been some controversy about the game because Liverpool were only going to play their under-23 team. Still, this was the first time Shrewsbury had ever played at Anfield and the universe, for once, conspired in my favour because I had some work booked in North Wales the following day, which had been in my diary for weeks before the fixture was announced. So I had a good reason to be in the vicinity.

It's fair to say Anfield was a bit different to Coronation Park.

A blue and amber huddle in a sea of red

8,000 Shrewsbury fans made the trip to Anfield, packing out the away end. It was the first time Shrewsbury had played with a Video Assisted Referee (VAR) and, as you would expect, after Shrewsbury scored, the officials rewound the tape until they found a reason to disallow the goal. What's the point of having VAR if it doesn't prevent one of the biggest clubs in the country going out of the top cup competition, after all? LiVARpool eventually went on and won the game, thanks to one of the Shrewsbury defenders panicking and heading the ball into his own net.

Shrewsbury will never have a better opportunity to win at Anfield than this game, and to lose it to an own goal is such a quintessentially Shrewsbury Town fan experience it almost beats losing for the fifth time at Wembley.

For me the contrast between where I was watching football on the Saturday and the Tuesday was the most amusing aspect. Football is football, whatever the surroundings look like. The game is still the game; the drama is still the drama; the disappointment is still the disappointment.

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