Marine have not played since Boxing Day, train twice a week and celebrated reaching the FA Cup third round with a full kit dash to the co-op for drinks… but the world is now watching to see if they can stun Spurs with a ‘million to one’ giant killing
- Marine will host Tottenham Hotspur in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday
- The eighth tier side landed dream draw with the Premier League outfit
- Media from around the world have contacted the club over the Cup tie
- The club based in the village of Crosby in Liverpool hope to cause a huge upset
- Players admit ‘million to one’ chance but are still hopeful of pulling off shock
Siberia might seem an unusual destination to begin a story of FA Cup romance but, on this occasion, there is no place more fitting.
Marine against Tottenham is the football match that has grabbed a nation’s attention.
Excitement in Crosby, the leafy village seven miles from Liverpool city centre where this proud little club are based, has reached fever pitch but interest in this tie has gone global.
Marine striker Niall Cummins (left) and manager Neil Young hold the FA Cup trophy ahead of their highly anticipated third round clash with Tottenham Hotspur
Such was the fascination with the third-round draw that Marine chairman Paul Leary — whose association with the club dates back to 1978 when he became treasurer — was interviewed on an Australian chat show shortly after it was confirmed that Jose Mourinho was coming to town.
The request from Down Under, though, was not a one-off.
Soon the club’s email basket was bulging with correspondence from Qatar, the United States, Spain, Finland and Denmark but it was the bid for an interview from the depths of Russia that hammered home how far the tale had spread.
‘Someone said to me that this wasn’t just an FA Cup tie — this was the FA Cup,’ said Leary, whose car registration ends with the letters MFC. ‘It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? What a wonderful time for our club.’
Young fans hold half-half scarves ahead of the game scheduled for Sunday evening
The past 38 days have been a blur for all involved and the opportunities have effectively provided security for the club’s future.
Jamie Carragher, for example, stepped in earlier this week with a donation to sponsor the dugouts and training tops the squad will wear to warm up in.
Carragher, who lives a short distance away from Rossett Park, regularly watched Marine with his son, James, when gaps in the calendar enabled him to attend.
When he heard they had been let down for sponsorship by a different company, the Liverpool legend moved in to help.
The impact of such contributions cannot be overstated. Marine’s clubhouse, in normal circumstances, is a thriving venture but it has been closed since last March due to the impact of the pandemic and the staff who work there are on furlough.
Marine are an eighth tier side who play in the Northern Counties Premier League
But despite their ‘million to one’ chance of beating Spurs they are looking to pull off what would be one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time
They have lost a huge amount of revenue and were denied the chance to play in front of 500 fans (though 6,000 have bought virtual tickets). This week there was another huge setback when the club shop was forced to close.
Business beforehand had been brisk and the ‘half and half’ scarves, created for the game, had been selling well.
So, too, were copies of the match programme that has been printed and would have sold out before Sunday’s kick-off. The area around the stadium itself would have been bouncing, not least The Edinburgh, a pub, across the road from Rossett Park, which is known locally as ‘The Bug’.
There will be no opportunity for Neil Young’s squad to go over afterwards and take on some refreshment but post-match drinks will still be on hand and that is down to the exploits of goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant.
The club have had a beer fridge delivered to them by Budweiser, after goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant (left, with Cummins) celebrated their second round win by dashing to a shop in full kit to buy the team celebratory drinks
To celebrate the round-two win over Havant & Waterlooville, the 20-year-old picked up his debit card and dashed over to the local co-op on College Road to pick up some beers for the dressing-room celebrations.
The thing that made this shopping expedition unusual was the fact he was still in his full kit!
It struck a chord with Budweiser and on Thursday the brewer provided a fully-stocked fridge and they will be supplied with Budweiser until the end of the year. They will also be providing beer for Marine fans who are watching the tie on TV.
‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we’re determined to make the most of it to try to get a result,’ said Niall Cummins, the striker whose last-gasp goal saw off Havant.
‘Even if the odds of pulling off a result are a million to one, we have to remember that we could be the one.’
The Liverpool based club are doing all they can to make the surface is playable for the game
It must be stressed too that while this is the equivalent of a lottery win, none of the playing squad are treating the match with anything other than maximum respect.
The message was rammed home to them by manager Young during training on December 22.
Marine, who are in the Northern Counties Premier League, train every Tuesday and Thursday night and, in the final session before their Boxing Day fixture at City of Liverpool, Young reminded them firmly of their responsibilities to be safe — and act sensibly.
They have not played a game since December 26 (which they won 2-1) but each player has behaved responsibly and made sacrifices to ensure nothing has put the tie in jeopardy.
They have been tested for Covid-19 regularly over the last 10 days and all had returned negative.
Young, whose day job is working for Merseyrail, has told everyone within the club that this is a moment to embrace. They know the eyes of the world are on them. You can be sure they will enjoy it.
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