Friday 4 July ~
Now this summer's international tournament has finished there is only transfer news to sustain the football press. The slow trickle of current signings range from the low-key – Crystal Palace yesterday signed Johannes Ertl, a defender released by Austria Vienna at the end of last season, to the ever so slightly higher key – Middlesbrough signing Sparta Rotterdam's Marvin Emnes. But further down the league pyramid the very precise details of next season's FA Cup campaign have just been announced. On Wednesday a triple draw (teams higher up the leagues entering at each stage) for the Extra Preliminary, Preliminary and First Round Qualifying FA Cup rounds was made.
This year a record number of teams, 762 in total, have been accepted by the FA. Looking through the list of team names in the regionalised fixture list is like a geographical tour of England. Racing Club Warwick against Cadbury Athletic brings to mind a toy-town West Midlands while Diss Town against Walsham Le Willows is unmistakeably East Anglian. But it is the North East/Yorkshire area that team names are most telling of the region itself.
Darlington Railway Athletic (drawn against Bishop Auckland), West Allotment Celtic (based in Longbenton, Newcastle and playing Sunderland RCA), Pontefract Collieries (away at Consett) and Glasshoughton Welfare (at home to Billingham Synthonia) are all redolent of times past. Yet at the same time Sunderland Nissan (known as “The Motormen”) and the impressive sounding Team Northumbria (actually the team of Northumbria University) are very new clubs playing in the historic Northern League. There is also the beer derby. The team from Paul Gascoigne's birthplace, Dunston Federation, named after the Federation Brewery, will play Tadcaster Albion, known as “The Brewers” and formed in 1892 as John Smith's Football Club. They first changed their name to Tadcaster Albion briefly in 1923, before settling on it after a merger with another Tadcaster club just after the Second World War, but continue to play home matches behind the brewery.
London teams reveal social make-up too. The first Asian club to play in the FA Cup in 2006, Newham-based London APSA travel to Halstead Town, formed in Essex in 1879. The other London Asian team, Sporting Bengal United, based in Mile End, take on London Colney. The extra-preliminary round takes place on August 16 – the first day of the Premier League season. Stone Dominoes against Walsall Wood would hold a lot more allure for some than Bolton v Stoke.