Proper football

Andy Munro goes back to his roots with Blues.

I had the pleasure of sampling a bit of grass roots football as I went to watch Blues development squad take on Solihull Moors.

It was a step back in time before money ruined our national game. A friendly gateman, free parking, and a £1.50 match day programme with a fair few young lads spotted kitted out in the Moors’ fetching yellow and blue kit. There was not a junior ManUre replica shirt in sight so they were obviously being brought up ‘proper’ by their parents

The loudspeaker crackled a bit and half-time was a paper cup of tea with a Twix. However this enabled me to renew an acquaintance with the guy behind the tea bar, who used to referee sides I played for over thirty years ago. He told me he still refereed in the Festival League and had been helping the Moors out for years. He’s the sort of guy on which the reputation of our game was first built and maybe some of today’s spoilt players should spend a few days shadowing him.

The game itself was characterised by a strong and physical Solihull side being dangerous at set pieces and, in fairness they had already beaten both Swindon Town and Mansfield in friendlies. They hit the woodwork once as did Blues, several times.

Blues youngsters unsurprisingly moved the ball around better but sometimes found the physical differences hard to nullify. A one-all draw was about right with Blues equaliser being an absolute cracker from Wes McDonald. Blues keeper Nick Townsend, while not the tallest, was very impressive, as was the clever ex-Baggie centre forward Alex Jones.

On the wing, the highly-rated Vivien Soloman-Otabor was at times like Rehman Sterling on acid (not literally, of course) but his final ball was sometimes lacking.

Generally, the players performed well and the full backs also showed potential along with midfielders Alfie Crooks and George O’Neill although Blues much vaunted defender Wes Harding was a bit crude and disappointing. Either way, nice to smell the liniment again.