Game should be about players, insists Ashes boss ahead of Helston clash

Saltash boss Dane Bunney has played down previous bad blood between himself and his Helston counterpart Steve Massey by insisting Saturday’s Cornwall Senior Cup tie is all about both sets of players, writes Gareth Davies

The mouth-watering last eight tie at Kimberley on Saturday sees the two highest ranking sides left in the competition lock horns. It will be the third time Bunney’s Ashes and Massey’s Blues have faced off in 2021/22 but both league encounters, curiously played in August, ended in draws.

Although Western League honours were shared, the respective bosses have subsequently clashed off the field and they were involved in a public spat over the transfer of midfielder Orlando Anker. The mercurial midfield talent started the campaign at Newquay and had agreed to train with Saltash. But before the former Aldershot under-18 star could take part in a session with the east Cornwall outfit, he had agreed to sign for Helston.

Although the furore caused by Anker’s move to Kellaway Park has abated, could old wounds open up again in Cornwall’s premier knock-out competition? 

“I think the game should be about the players and apart from this interview I am staying pretty quiet in the build-up,” Bunney told Cornwall Sports Media in an exclusive interview.

“I don’t want it to become Dane Bunney v Steve Massey because that’s not what it is. The game is Saltash United v Helston Athletic but of course I want my players to come out on top.

“I want to avoid the obvious narrative although I know people will go down that route because of what has happened in the recent past.

“It is a cup game so there has to be a winner meaning something has to give that didn’t in the two league games. Hopefully we are on the right side of the result but there have been some personnel changes in both squads since the early season draws.”

With bad weather seeing Saltash take to the field just twice in the past six weeks and not since the Boxing Day draw against Millbrook, Bunney backed his players to fire on all cylinders against Helston, despite the Kimberley chief admitting a lack of game time might have left his troops ‘undercooked’. 

He added: “I am really frustrated at the minute because we haven’t been able to build any momentum in terms of league games because the fixtures are very stop start. There is nothing I can do about it because it’s just that time of year and the weather affects things every season.

“We want to get going and play the game. There is a fear that we might be undercooked, but the boys will just roll their sleeves up and crack on.”

Although Bunney and his side, along with Helston, Millbrook and Mousehole, now ply their trade at step five, he says that the Senior Cup is still a competition he wants to win.

However, that desire to lift the trophy for an 11th time is tempered by a plea to county chiefs to make the Senior Cup a mid-week competition. 

“Saltash have a rich recent history in the Cornwall Senior Cup and it is important that we continue that,” he enthused. “It is a vital part of our season and a real goal to win it, but I would really like the Cornwall Football Association to sit down and have a real grown-up conversation with the county’s top clubs about it becoming a mid-week cup.

“The Cornwall FA have moved the Senior Cup to a competition that will only accept clubs from the Peninsula League and above. With all of those clubs having floodlights, the Senior Cup still presents a kind of half-baked situation where both clubs have to agree for a game to go to mid-week.

“If the rule was that all games had to be played md-week, we would see better games in a better competition. You would only be talking about three rounds because the semi-finals are played in mid-week anyway.”

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