20 October 2015

There was no Stephen McNulty at the Checkatrade.com Stadium. Stephen McNulty was in Tranmere.

It's lost its novelty value hasn't it, walking for miles through unglamorous suburban woodland, via a concrete underpass to a football ground named after a corporate website?

The Checkatrade.com Stadium sounds like a shabby modern football monolith in a northern industrial town, inhabited by locally accented oligarchs in surprisingly expensive suits and soldiered on the pitch by millionaire egos from football's mercenary heartlands.

But it's not. It's a perfectly southern and, on Saturday, frustratingly dull non league ground, home for one day only to a band of footballers with less ideas than the Luton supporters had patience for the endless snaking queue for a Bovril and a burger.

There was no Steve McNulty at the Checkatrade.com Stadium. Steve was in Tranmere, at least that's what people had said in the pub before kick off.

Steve McNulty looks like an old school Sunday league football monolith from a northern industrial town with the touch of your grandma and the pace of her too, inhabited by a desperate need to clear his lines should any football dare to take place in his presence.

But he's not. He's a perfectly intelligent and talented footballer with the calm distribution of a Monte Carlo croupier and a Cruyff Turn that could make the Oak Road blush.

We were to learn on Monday that the rumours were true, and The McNulty Years no more.

Macca goes back to Merseyside with the respect of thousands of our cynical townsfolk, having created some of the moments of the decade at Luton Town and it's a shame that real life might have got in the way of a few more. We wish him and his family well.

The McNulty-less Crawley game was a grim reminder that without creative, passing defenders to occasionally and tenderly build from the back, football at this level can be the most boring way to get whiplash, as balls sail back and forth into channels clogged by giant defenders who have despatched more defensive headers than *you* said McNulty had had hot dinners. You philistine.

I suppose it can't all be rapping midfielders, headless Harrys and Steve McNulty Selfies at the bar. And if silverware's all you're after you'd already have swapped your season ticket for a Man City TV subscription. Presumably that's a thing.

Tuesday night rolled around too quickly and I didn't go again, though I wanted to. The best remedy for a stinking hangover of a football match like Crawley Away is a hair of the dog that bit you as soon as you can stomach it. With the draw against Orient fresh in the mind I hope that Saturday isn't too far away for you to dust yourself down, pull up a stool at the unforgiving bar of supporting Luton Town FC and go-again.

Up the Town.

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