Last football blog for a while, promise.
Town play in the second round of the League Cup tonight. After a 1-0 win at Carlisle a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Jordan Rhodes' 90th minute strike, we drew Premier League side Everton away. Initial feelings of 'great draw, we can win that' have drifted away over the past couple of weeks to being a feeling of 'we're going to get hammered'. Anything other than a 5-0 walloping will be celebrated like we won the World Cup. With Kevin Sharp in the team.
I'm looking forward to the trip over, if I'm honest. Goodison Park is a ground I haven't been to yet, and, by my reckoning, will be the 45th ground I'll have seen a match at. By all accounts, it's a proper old ground, creaking and full of character. It's no Saltergate, seeing as it hosts Premier League football week in week out, but it's probably the only ground around to have a church in one corner.
I like grounds with character, or at least with something different. St James' Park, Newcastle, is a brilliant ground for being something different, modern as it is. The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, is on the opposite end of the scale, being an identikit stadium. You can change the colour of the seats and be in the Walkers, the Keepmoat, the Liberty Stadium, the Cardiff City Stadium... You get the point.
Our own ground, the Galpharm, is nothing like the above, thankfully. It's been imitated, but never bettered. The Galpharm can legitimately lay claim to be one of the most important grounds in football history, as it dragged ground architecture away from the post-Hillsborough depression and into the 21st century. At least, until whoever decided to build the Riverside made it a soulless bowl that everyone would copy. The arches on the roofs of the stands are iconic at the Mac (as I still call it), and the way the stands are shaped like segments of orange makes it instantly recognisable.
Going back a year or two (or 16 and a bit, seeing as that's when the last match was played there), Leeds Road was the first ground I ever took in a match. Town played Plymouth Argyle. We won 1-0, courtesy of a man I would see score a few times more: Andy Booth. The ground itself was, by that point, falling down. It had virtually none of the splendour that had seen it become one of the leading grounds in the country. It was still an awesome arena in its size; apart from a roof over the East Terrace, it was essentially still the same ground that 67,037 had crammed into in the early 30s to watch a Cup match between Town and Arsenal (Town suffered the usual big crowd nerves, and went down 1-0). But only 6,000 were in the ground on this day, making the terraces quiet. If I had one wish, it would be to see Leeds Road at its best, when 40,000 would regularly go through the turnstiles and when the East Terrace was somewhere the noise would be unreal (according to my dad, Simon Inglis, and the Old Grounds website). The first night of the Denis Law lights, v champions Wolves, would be a good one to pick.
Anyhow, moving back on to this evening's match. Everton are a good team. In fact, Everton are a very good team. They're the highest-ranked side in the competition at this point, and Town have our work cut out just to not get hammered. On the other hand, we have a strong spine and have enough in the tank to cause an upset. Gary Naysmith's return from a ban will balance the back four. Roberts will most likely return to the left wing. We can cause an upset if we believe it.
I'm setting off at 4.30 for the 8pm kick-off. With me will be food, an iPod, and Old Man's War. See, I linked it to writing (sort of).