November 5 2018: Vase deflowered

The FA Vase draw seems as iniquitous as ever. The last 64 of a national competition and four of the six surviving Ebac Northern League clubs have been drawn together.

The regional pool, by the look of it, was just 12 teams. What if we’d had eight or nine representatives?

Stockton, finalists last season, had to beat four fellow ENL sides – Whickham, Consett, West Auckland and Marske United – on the way to Wembley. Memory suggests a similarly restrictive route for other clubs. Little wonder that the early and mid-stages of the Vase increasingly resemble a glorified Northern League Cup.

None of our clubs wants it that way. It’s unlikely that the North West Counties and Northern Counties East leagues do, either, since their record against Northern League opposition isn’t great.

What if from the third round, maybe the second, there was simply a north/south split? Extra travel costs would be minimal, increased interest – and enjoyment – substantial.

Admittedly ENL clubs may seem like big fish in a geographically small pool, but big fish are there to be hooked not to eat one another. The FA seems wholly unwilling to address the situation.

I wonder why.

*The blog’s destination on December 1 will be Avro, hitherto unheard of, against West Auckland. They’re from Oldham, though preliminary googling fails to explain the name. Any suggestions?

Oldham stirs memories. Shildon hosted Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup first round in 1959, losing after a replay, then two years later drew them again at the same stage – this time in Lancashire.

It was November 4 1961, we scored early but lost 5-2. Since folk remembered the Sabbath in those days, the Saturday was effectively Guy Fawkes night – a brilliant fireworks display as the coach headed back over the Pennines, followed by fish and chips in Leeds – much too young to drink.

The last visit was four or five years ago when Benfield played Chadderton at the third round stage – a dreich December day and a pretty miserable match, the day best remembered for a couple of pints of Rocking Rudolph, or some such.

Benfield lost. It’s greatly to be hoped that West Auckland make the run-up to Christmas more jolly.

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