FA Cup Merseyside club are the lowest ranked team to meet a Premier League side
With England being hard hit by a new strain of the coronavirus, it’s hard to come across feel-good stories, but Marine AFC‘s is certainly that, as the modest side prepare to face the might of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in the FA Cup.
Marine are the great outsiders in this year’s competition, and all eyes will be on their 18:00 kick off (CET) as they host Spurs.
“What an amazing game,” said coach Neil Young. “We can’t wait. It’s a wonderful reward to everyone who works around this team to keep it going.
“We’ll plan as best we can. We’ve won seven rounds to get here. It’s fantastic to have Jose Mourinho at Marine.”
? Marine Football Club (@MarineAFC) December 23, 2020
Marine, who play in the eighth tier, are the first side of their level to face Premier League opposition, and just the second to make it this far, following Chasetown in 2007/08, when they fell 3-1 to Cardiff City of the Championship.
Marine are a 127-year-old club from a seaside town of 50,000 people at the mouth of the Mersey, just outside Liverpool. Now, they’ll have Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Sergio Reguilon and Mourinho visiting their charming Rossett Park, which hosts 3,185 people in non-coronavirus times.
Fans unfortunately won’t be allowed attend, but the club have managed to break records by selling 6,000 virtual tickets at 10 pound – around 11 euros – each, thanks in part to Spurs fans.
“It’s the most important match in our long and proud history,” said president Paul Leary. “It’s on another level in every way. It’s a unique time that may never be repeated.”
Despite fans not being let in, the club’s neighbours will be able to watch the game from the comfort of their own houses and gardens. Only a fence separated the stadium from some houses, and there are even numbers placed on those fences so that the club know which house to knock at to go in search of lost balls.
Spurs won’t be able to get changed in the dressing room due to COVID-19 protocols, and will instead use one of the bars at the stadium.
“I’ll invite Mourinho for a glass of wine after the game, if possible,” said Everton coach Carlo Ancelotti “He won’t be far from my house.
“I’ll have to talk to him about the beach and about how beautiful Crosby is.”
The fencing at Marines ground is marked with numbers so the club knows which house to knock on if the ball goes in the back garden.
Imagine Harry Kane knocking on your door to ask for his ball back pic.twitter.com/DeyOhVnZKh
– SPORTbible (@sportbible) December 1, 2020
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher is also contributing, and his JC23 foundation, based close to the club, will sponsor Marine’s warm-up kit ahead of the game.
Billy Morrey, Wayne Rooney’s uncle, is one of their greatest ever players, and they found themselves on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football after an injection of 91,000 euros from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund allowed them to remodel and build offices on their 125th anniversary.
“I’m a huge Arsenal fan, so I cannot wait to play Tottenham,” said captain Neil Cummins, who scored the winning goal against Havant & Waterlooville of the sixth tier, turning the ball home with his back to clinch their place in the third round.
“It’s one of the worst goals I’ve ever scored, but probably the most important.”
After that game, goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant was spotted out in his kit buying some beers in celebration.
“We always said ‘imagine if we win…’,” he said. “The moment came, the whistle blew, and we were in the dressing room so we said ‘let’s go and get some beers’.”
? the90 (@the90_podcast) November 29, 2020