Talk About the Passion

MANCHESTER CITY 4 PORT VALE 1

FA Challenge Cup 3rd Round

I have in my past seen these two teams play each other twice. On both occasions the side playing away from home were victorious. Things have changed a bit since the previous matches. Surely, Port Vale could not give me the hat-trick.

The first occasion was in 1996, 10 September to be precise. Memory serves me it was a mild evening as a recently relegated City travelled an hour south to Burslem. Their side that included such names as Kinkladze, Rosler, Lomas and Clough ran out deserved 2-0 winners with goals from Dickov and Rosler. City were adjusting to life outside the Premiership under the temporary charge of Asa Hartford following Alan Ball leaving the club.

John Rudge was in charge for both games for The Valiants. Memory tells me he was in charge for about 70 years. He certainly served the club well for a number of years.

After seeing Vale finish 8th in the 96/97 season Rudge repeated his side’s victory at Maine Road the following season with a 3-2 win. City twice took the lead in the first half through Wiekens and Dickov, the visitors levelled through Snijders and Talbot before Tony Naylor netted the winner early in the second half. My over-riding memory of this game was the run-in Summerbee had wit hthe City fans who were also vociferous in their dislike for the current state of the club, chanting “We’re shit and we’re sick of it” and “You’re not fit to wear those shirts”. Vale thoroughly deserved their victory.

Fast forward over 20 years and the clubs were meeting again in my presence. 8,000 fans from the north side of Stoke-on-Trent were in the top two tiers of the South Stand. It was back in those days under Rudge when they last averaged this many fans for a season; these days it is just over half the travelling numbers. If only they would show at Vale Park.

The fans had their moment though as Pope headed in a cross after 35 minutes. The noise they made throughout was brilliant and it is a day that I am sure most will not forget.

City won at a canter. VAR played its part. I got to sit in the posh padded seats.

Attendance: 52,433

Moment of the Match: Pope’s header just about beats the VAR check on a disallowed goal. This was overruled and a goal given. Different way of doing it.

Match Tunes: Murmur – REM

Wanderers in the Cup

BOLTON WANDERERS 0 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1

FA Challenge Cup 1st Round

The romance of the cup. Does it ever sound more romantic that a tie of ‘Wanderers v Argyle’? It sounds like the early days of the FA Cup. It sounds like the kind of tie that brings mystique, romance and memories. So, on a very cold and occasionally wet I set off from my warm and cosy home to head off to Bolton for this tie.

The train from Manchester drops me within a short stroll of the now named ‘The University of Bolton Stadium’ home of Bolton Wanderers. Bolton’s recent problems have been well documented and hopefully the worst days are behind this club which has such a rich history, especially in this competition.

Their opponents Plymouth, whilst not having the history of Bolton in terms of success, have had their moments, a semi-final in the 1980’s losing to Watford and a set of fans I think most other fans admire for the amount of travelling and commitment they show for any away game, until Torquay return to the Football League, their nearest opponents are nearly an hour’s drive away. Nearest! Today’s trip was just shy of 300 miles one way.

I found my seat, #13, next to #4, a little strange. This once proud home is in need of those who came in the recent good times to come back again.

This tie was decided after 10 minutes when McFadzean struck a firm effort into the roof of the net following a neat Argyle move. The goal came as Bolton were looking the better side and continued a pattern that was to last most of the afternoon. Wanderers having most of the ball, looking to create and for the most part failing, Argyle putting some neat passes together to stretch the hosts defence and looking the more likely to actually add to the scoreline.

Whilst I am sure it is coming together, it was clear that this Bolton side is in its infancy and players are still getting to know each other. It will come. Argyle can cause sides a lot higher than them in the league problems on their day. I will try and get to see them again soon.

As this cold old man left for home, I was glad that I didn’t have 300 miles to go before I was in my front door, hat off to you Argyle fans.

Attendance: 6,992

Moment of the Match: A half-time penalty taken for a music video, no idea who’s, but on the first attempt the lad put it wide in his immaculate Bolton kit. Summed up their day really.