Biggest disparity in FA Cup history

LONDON • English football minnows Marine FC are preparing to host mighty Tottenham Hotspur today in what will be the biggest mismatch in FA Cup history.

Paul Leary, chairman of the eighth-tier club, says he is the most excited non-league chairman in England ahead of the tie against the eight-time winners.

There has never been such a wide disparity in league positions between two teams in the third round of the competition, when the big teams enter the fray.

Spurs are fourth in the Premier League, while Marine ply their trade in the Northern Premier League North/West division.

The club, located in Crosby on the north-west coast of England, near Liverpool, battled their way through seven rounds to reach this stage for just the second time since they were founded in 1894.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will face a team of part-timers including Danny Shaw, a physiotherapist who has been working in a coronavirus recovery ward.

Jose Mourinho’s men will have to prepare for the game in a function room usually used for weddings due to social distancing protocols.

Similarly, for health reasons, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will be served a “five-star lunch box” instead of the traditional buffet.

“There is no doubt it is the most special game in FA Cup history,” Leary told AFP by phone from the 3,185-capacity ground, which will be empty due to lockdown.

“Marine, on step eight of the football system, playing Tottenham Hotspur, one of the best sides in the Premier League. To welcome them is a magical moment.”

Despite losing out on match revenues of around £100,000 (S$179,000) because of the ban on spectators, Marine will receive £75,000 from the BBC, who are showing it live on television.

Tottenham, used to playing in their gleaming £1 billion London stadium, will have to quickly adapt to the more modest surroundings.

The side of the ground that features the dugouts where Mourinho and his opposite number Neil Young will sit, backs onto houses.

“On the mesh fence there are the relevant house numbers,” said Leary. “So if the ball goes over it the ball boy – or why not Harry Kane – can go around and knock on the door, introduce himself and ask for the ball back.”

If not Kane, Gareth Bale can do the job too, with Mourinho confirming the forward could feature today after recovering from a calf injury.

“Gareth would like to play, so, if tomorrow the feelings are positive, he will come,” the Spurs boss said.



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