On Tuesday 22nd January 2019, Marine and Southport are going head to head at the Merseyrail Community Stadium in the first round of the Liverpool Senior Cup. Apart from the City of Liverpool FC game in 2017, the atmosphere sometimes doesn’t feel right for recent Liverpool Senior Cup games. There’s no ticker tape or fireworks to greet the players, and barely anybody in the ground.
Instead, row upon row of empty seats and terracing glare at two teams as they line up minutes before kick-off. This is the normal build up to a tournament match that has descended from the world’s third oldest Cup competition (Birmingham Senior Cup), sharing more similarities with a behind-closed-doors training session held the night before a big match.
The Merseyrail Community Stadium could potentially be all but empty with the exception of a handful of diehard fans from both sides, who desperately try to rile up some noise to cheer on their heroes. Unfortunately, the sound of nearly 2,000 vacant seats could be far louder.
The competition is steeped in history – if you’re willing to trawl far enough back through the record books, at least. The Liverpool Senior Cup used to be the Liverpool FA’s premier regional knock-out competition and, although it never quite enjoyed the same prestige as its more illustrious predecessors, it was a tournament that held its own special attraction, providing an opportunity to renew local rivalries regardless of league position.
Entered by all member clubs within the Liverpool FA’s vast boundaries, the cup welcomed teams from the surrounding area including parts of Cheshire and West Lancashire. For the Liverpool FA, a regional cup competition was a popular idea, with it being 1 of the 40 copycat Senior Cups subsequently popping up across the country.
Over the decades, interest in regional competition has dipped dramatically. With greater demand for league success and dwindling numbers of first-team outfits turning up, the long-standing Manchester Senior Cup went on a 20-year hiatus in 1979, before returning in the 1990s as a reserve competition for the area’s top six professional clubs.
In fact, one of our region’s biggest club’s Liverpool FC, doesn’t even enter a junior side anymore. That apathy has spread to many of the non-league entrants too, with most naming second-string sides to avoid the extra matches impacting on more important business. Unsurprisingly, this indifference soon spread to the stands. While thousands used to line the edge of pitches to watch the region’s best players back in the competition’s heyday, it’s increasingly difficult to find four-figure attendances nowadays.
But while a similar fate spelled the death knell for other formerly popular trophies – such as the FA Amateur Cup, which drew in vast crowds back as recently as the early 1960s before reforming to become the FA Vase in 1974 – regional competition stoically remains. It’s surprising considering the annual headlines decrying the FA Cup’s demise, which appear as regularly as footage of Ronnie Radford’s thunderous strike for Hereford United is trotted out to celebrate one of the tournament’s most famous giant-killings. Perhaps it’s stubbornness on the part of county FAs or a hope that, one day, this form of knockout football will become relevant again.
With the 1st round looming at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, Marine AFC will show no lack of desire to get through to the next round. For Marine, this contest contains something that can give hope to the club and the fans who have endured an already challenging season. Above all else, what better way to move into Marine AFC’s 125-year anniversary with a trophy in the cabinet. Maybe there’s some romance left in the old trophy yet.
Please note Southport FC operate cashless turnstiles so tickets can be bought online via the ticket portal to save time or will be available in Club Shop before going to the turnstile.
Tickets can be purchased here: https://southportfc.ktckts.com/brand/match-tickets