Richard Tigwell takes a look at the First Team’s curtailed 2019-20 season.
That was the season that was, not.
A new season full of new starts, new players, new grounds to visit would sadly end prematurely, swallowed up by a new disease and challenge for all of humanity. Somethings are just bigger than football at the end of the day.
August 17th saw the season opener away to a familiar opponent, Kendal Town. Lloyd Dean’s first half strike was the difference between the sides and got the Pesky Bulls league campaign up and running. This was followed swiftly by a 2-2 draw at home to a Clitheroe side that would be challenging at the top of the table for most of the season.
As familiar faces moved on in the summer, new players arrived to take their place. Josh Gregory arrived in the midfield along with the combative Sean Myler who returned for his second spell at the club. Rodrigo Schmitdinger Mann also joined and became something of a cult hero (with at least one fan anyway, yours truly). Others were less successful in the Amber and Black; Rio Gill, Will Avon, Cameron Moore and Sope Awe all came and went without significant impact, albeit the latter scored a fine header in the 1-1 draw away to Droylsden in September.
The cup competitions were another source of frustration for Cables. From our obligatory August exit from the FA Cup to the utter madness of the Liverpool Senior Cup draw putting us up against, and ultimately losing to, holders Southport in the 1st round. The relevance of the Integro Cup upon an already packed fixture list was further diminished as Cables went out on penalties at Atherton Collieries in a game neither side wanted to win.
The FA Trophy saw the Cables dispatch Clitheroe on their own patch and then Pickering midweek after a replay, as George Hassall took on the goalscoring mantle, grabbing a hat-trick in both games.
However, Runcorn Linnets would dispatch Cables from the competition at Hope Street in November in a replay, after securing a 96th minute equaliser in the initial tie at the Millbank Stadium.
Cables fans have been relatively spoilt in recent years with Cup and League runs so to go into December out of all knockout competitions felt a little underwhelming. Draws at home to Pickering Town and Kendal sandwiched between a nightmare away defeat at Workington FC would further exacerbate this frustration.
The New Year saw further defeats against local rivals Marine and City of Liverpool. However, this was when the tide began to turn. Droylsden were dispatched at the IP Truck Parts Stadium and then the returning MJ Monaghan brought the loudest roar of the season when his winner saw off City of Liverpool to reverse January’s defeat.
By now though, rumours had began to circulate about the invisible enemy that was working its way across the world. By then time of the Annual General Meeting on 31st January, top-flight football was already beginning to be impacted, with players being quarantined if they had come from the Far East. Yet as the new co-operative leadership team of Jamie Weston, Matt Roberts and Joe Gilibru took on the top job at the club, there was little thought about how this would impact life in Non-League.
On the day that news broke of the ongoing situation on-board the Diamond Princess cruise ship regarding the coronavirus, Cables travelled to Pontefract Collieries for a midweek league fixture. Bad traffic meant Cables would start the game with just 9 players. Curious refereeing meant they would finish the game with 10, as Cables went down 3 nil. Still the penny did not drop about what was coming over the horizon.
That would all change at the beginning of March. By now, Europe had been overcome by the newly named COVID-19 virus. Madrid, Rome and Paris were all in lockdown. Premier League fixtures had been postponed, as Arsenal’s manager tested positive for the virus. Things were now serious.
Mossley came to the IP Truck Parts Stadium on 14th March for a league fixture that nobody wanted to play. Social distancing measures were implemented, extra soap and hand sanitizer were issued, people were singing ‘happy birthday’ at the sinks in the gentleman’s toilet. A surreal experience. But as a defensive mistake in the final minutes would cost Cables the game, there was an inescapable feeling that this was the end of the season and perhaps things as we knew them for quite some time. Football no longer mattered, not really.
Soon, the league would be suspended indefinitely and then declared null and void soon after. None of it ever happened. The hat-tricks, the 2am return from Pickering midweek, the endless search for a striker were all scrubbed from the record. In their wisdom, the powers-that-be decided that disciplinary matters – yellow and red cards and suspensions – would continue to stand.
The weekend just gone should have marked the end of another season. A time of celebration and consideration of what might have been and what might be next season. Yet right now it seems like none of that matters. All that matters at the minute is that our loved ones are safe and well. That those of us who work in hospitals, care homes or other key industries stay fit and healthy. That we can continue to provide for our families and getting a delivery slot with our supermarket of choice. Nothing else matters.
The 2019-2020 season, that was the season that was, not.
Stay safe, see you soon.