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I'm loving Cables instead

Well, I was hoping to be going to a play off final this weekend, and I am. I’m zipping up my boots and going back to my roots.

Prescot Cables started life as Prescot FC in 1884. Over the years, they’ve been known as Prescot Athletic and Prescot Town, but took on the name Cables after British Insulated Callender’s Cables donated a 1000 seater stand to the club in 1928. Their plant in the town closed in 1991, which was devastating. Being a teenager in a town whose landscape was dominated by a massive derelict factory was grim.

Prescot’s a very different place nowadays, undergoing a reinvention as the Stratford of the North with the award-winning Shakespeare North Playhouse opening in 2022. The town centre’s all hipster restaurants and bars hosting spoken word nights now. It’s a far cry from the days when 20-year-old me asked for a gin and orange in the Fusilier and was told “sorry, love, we don’t do cocktails”. I thought he was joking, but he genuinely refused to serve me it.

Cables have also gone from strength to strength in recent years, winning the Liverpool Senior Cup in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 final made the national news when a video of the fence collapsing in the celebrations went viral. The club were last in the play offs in 2018, when they lost 1-0 to Bamber Bridge in the final on the same day that Latics got relegated from League One. God that was a crap day. Attendances at what I refuse to call Valerie Park (it’ll always be Hope Street to me) have been very impressive – 1025 v Trafford in November, 1160 for the 10A derby v Bootle on New Year’s Day, 1230 v Runcorn Linnets on Easter Monday. In the 8th tier. Ridiculous. Some have travelled further than others to Hope Street, with American defender Nathan Koehler’s family making the 4000 mile journey from Augusta, Georgia to cheer him on.

Koehler has been nominated for both Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season in the Non-League Bible End of Season Awards, with Mitch Allen being nominated for Goalkeeper of the Season after what’s been a successful campaign for Cables. Losing twice to eventual champions Leek Town ended their title hopes, but they can be pleased with finishing 3rd, and, as a fan-owned volunteer-run club, they should be proud of how the club is thriving after a difficult few years.

In 2018, the club faced expulsion from the league when their landlords refused to extend their lease on the ground. Knowsley Council bought the ground and granted the club a 99 year lease, and designated the ground a community asset in 2020, meaning that the community would have the right to bid for the ground if the council ever decided to sell it. The council stepped in again in 2021 when, like many clubs, Cables were hit hard by lockdown, and a £15k grant helped to secure the club’s future. It was a wise investment – having hundreds of people regularly coming into your town centre to watch the match and eating and drinking in your fancy new (and less fancy old) bars and restaurants can only be a good thing. Long may it continue.

I’ve got a personal connection with the club – my dad was club secretary in the 1980s, and my mum washed their kits. She never let my dad forget the Christmas Day she spent washing and drying 14 muddy kits after they played on Christmas Eve and were playing again on Boxing Day. We had to buy a new washing machine every year because they kept breaking.

When my dad died in 2005, Cables published a beautiful tribute to him in the programme and held a minute’s silence before the game vs Whitby Town, two days after his funeral. The day before the match, George Best died, and the FA announced that there would be a minute’s silence for him before all games that weekend. We joked that they’d better still have the minute’s silence for my dad. What actually happened at Cables was that there was lovely announcement paying tribute to my dad and the work he did for the club, concluding with “so please join us in a minute’s silence for Tony Finnigan”. Then, after a couple of seconds’ pause, “oh, and for Georgie Best”. It was probably hugely inappropriate that me and my brother were giggling during a minute’s silence for our own dad, but come on, upstaging George Best was funny.

I couldn't make it to the semi final against local rivals Bootle on Tuesday, so I listened to the online commentary on Mixlr. There's a sentence that would have been bewildering when I was helping my mum wash the kit in 1988. It was a nervy, frantic clash, in front of a massive crowd of 2035, with Mitch Allen making a string of saves to keep Cables in it in the first half.

Manager Ste Daley clearly gave them a rocket up their arses at half time. Tony Thompson was denied by a superb save, Liam Hollett had a shot cleared off the line, and it felt like the game was destined to go to penalties. Both sides were tiring in extra time, so perhaps it was fitting that the game was decided by goalmouth scramble from a corner. Hollett's overhead kick rebounded off the bar to Kyle Sambor, who buried it from close range.

Cables held out for what felt like about three quarters of an hour to set up a final clash with another local rival, City of Liverpool FC. They call themselves The Purps, and if that's not enough of a reason for the neutrals to want them to lose, I don't know what is.

I was lucky to get a ticket for today’s match. The club put 1400 tickets for sale online on Wednesday, with the intention of allowing 600 to pay on the day, and they sold out in 17 minutes. They had to put out a statement on Thursday announcing that they’d be contacting season ticket holders who hadn’t managed to get a ticket, before releasing the remaining tickets online. The match has now sold out. Switching it to Goodison, if it had been feasible, wouldn’t have been the worst idea; moving it to Wembley might have been a bit much.

So, Cables are 90 (hopefully, my nerves can’t take another bout of extra time) minutes away from the 7th tier. Latics are in the 5th. So, we’re one simultaneous promotion and relegation away from them being in the same league next year. What a terrifying prospect.

We mustn’t forget, of course, that Latics are being represented at Wembley on Sunday by St Herbert’s Primary School, who are playing in the final of the National League Trust Cup. Imagine being 10, 11 years old and playing at Wembley. You’ve already done us proud, kids. The very best of luck to you and enjoy your day.

📷 Oldham Athletic

It would have been nice if we’d all been there to cheer them on, but I’ll settle for standing on the terrace where my dad used to take notes nearly 40 years ago, cheering on my hometown team, and feeling sorry for whoever has to wash the kit nowadays. COYC. KTMFF.

Written by Arlene Finnigan

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