Sunday morning 10am and the official England bus arrives at Moor Lane, home of Salford City FC, for the annual Labour MPs v Lobby Press journalists challenge grudge match - with more corporate sponsorship (Mars and National Grid) than the Ammies see in a decade.
Sporting National Grid logos on their blue shirts (not red…sign of the Labour Party times?), the MPs hardly gave the journos a sniff. 1-0 up at the break, the MPs completely dominated the second half, with a nippy Andy Burnham at centre forward, abetted by the gruff Ed Balls alongside.
With language you don't hear on the Front Bench, Ed Balls got well stuck into the press defence and scored two goals, the second a penalty after he was tripped in the area, although it looked suspiciously like a dive. With the MPs cruising, Burnham missed a sitter, clean through on goal, only to waft the ball over the bar.
After the game, Ed Balls was delighted with the MPs' win…
"I thought that was one of the best games we've had as MPs against the lobby for a long time" he told the Salford Star "The team plays quite a lot, although I tend not to be able to go to many of them. But I always come to this one. The first game I played on this Sunday at Labour Party conference would have been 1995 – 17 years and still going!"
Scoring two, surely he was pleased with his performance?
"I'm pleased, yeah…On the odd occasion Andy Burnham passed to me I had a chance, didn't I? He missed a few as well" he said "I scored two but should have had five!"
So how did it feel playing on the hallowed turf of Salford City FC?
"It's always great if you're a very amateur footballer to play on a proper pitch and we're really grateful to Salford City for letting us come and play" he said "It's a lovely pitch, a great atmosphere and when you think of all the great goals scored on this pitch over the years it was good to add a couple myself today."
Will Ed and co get signed up for Salford City FC? Er, no chance, even though they did play some neat passing football. The Arsenal of Westminster…
The MPs stayed for a buffet and then it was back to their Conference for the trivial stuff. Did Ed know that there was about to be a big demo outside GMex against Labour Councils imposing mental health cuts?
"Er, I shall be talking about that in my conference speech tomorrow" he replied. Hopefully, he'll be brandishing a few red cards to Salford's Labour Council…
For details of the Labour Party Conference demo see here
To see how football should be played see match report for Salford City's victory yesterday - click here
Photos by Andrew Goudie and Gareth Lyons