Former England internationals Ray Parlour and John Barnes must have been delighted to get the call to host the first-round draw for the 2019/20 Carabao Cup.
After all, previous draws have taken place in such far-flung destinations as Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
So where would Carabao, the Thai energy drink company which has sponsored the League Cup since 2017, be sending its high-profile representatives this time around – Myanmar or Laos, perhaps?
Instead, Barnes – who lifted the League Cup in 1995 and Parlour, with a winners’ medal from two years earlier, came together at Morrison’s in Colindale – almost close enough to Wembley Stadium to be in the shadow of the arch.
Previous Carabao Cup draws became notoriously unreliable – with teams shown as playing in two ties or in the wrong matches – as well as facing criticism for taking place at 04:15am BST or being pre-recorded.
This one, however, at least involved plenty of supporters who were able to have their photographs with Barnes, Parlour and the three-handled League Cup trophy just in front of the hot food stand.
Barnes even got down to some serious work, putting out a call over the shop’s public address system to promote Carabao and get “Ray the Romford Pele Parlour” to the front of the store.
The scene felt like something staged for an ill-conceived television show recorded onto the Dictaphone of Alan Partridge as he stumbled for a new idea to rival ‘Inner-City Sumo’ or a millennium barn dance at Yeovil aerodrome, hosted by Jet from Gladiators.
Surrounded by shoppers and free samples the event also resembled an advertising campaign for which Barnes and Parlour would be well-paid but forever ribbed by their friends for taking part.
And so, after one angry shopper had demanded to know why she could not leave by her usual exit, the draw took place behind a partition screen, at the correct time and with no glitches in the matrix, giving weight to the claims of Barnes and the organisers that this draw was for the good of the fans.
Almost every ball was cheered or booed by those who had gathered to watch, with the number of Liverpool shirts on show suggesting Barnes was a bigger attraction than the draw itself – even if some tasty ties came out of the pot.
Salford, playing in the competition for the first time following their promotion to Sky Bet League Two were drawn against Championship heavyweights Leeds.
The fact Salford are part-owned by Manchester United’s fabled Class of ’92 only adding intrigue, a fact Gary Neville was quick to pick up on, tweeting he had not seen his old foes for 15 years.
With the draw split into a northern and southern section to lower travel times, the pick of the south ties came with Wally Downes’ AFC Wimbledon drawn to face bitter rivals MK Dons, such matches proving there were more reasons to host the draw at Morrison’s.
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