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The striker named after Niall Quinn and Jamie Carragher's sponsorship all part of Marine's FA Cup miracle

Victory or defeat, today will be a day to remember as minnows take on Spurs

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Arsenal fan Niall Cummins scored against Havant to set up the Spurs tie

Arsenal fan Niall Cummins scored against Havant to set up the Spurs tie

Arsenal fan Niall Cummins scored against Havant to set up the Spurs tie

Maybe there is some magic left in the FA Cup after all.

That would certainly be the sentiment emanating from Marine AFC, as they prepare to welcome Jose Mourinho's Tottenham to their Rossett Park home for an enchanting third-round tie this afternoon.

Three thousand fans should be joyously toasting the great moment in the history of a club operating in the eight-tier of English football, but the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to any such euphoria in our lives long ago.

Support

Yet the outpouring of support for Marine, amid fears that their greatest pay day would pass them by and end up being an expensive nightmare, confirms that football's heartbeat is beating harder than ever in these challenging times.

The £37,500 Marine will get from their appearance on BBC1 today is a huge boost to their finances, but the £100,000 windfall that should have accompanied the fee looked set to slip through their fingers as hopes of having a limited number of fans inside their stadium evaporated last month.

Potential sponsors withdrew their backing for the match as they cut their own costs amid the pandemic, yet some inventive social media activity saw Marine launch a 'virtual ticket' campaign, which has resulted in them selling 6,400 tickets at £10 each.

Liverpool great Jamie Carragher then stepped in to offer additional funding as his JC23 Foundation agreed to sponsor Marine's dugouts and pre-match training kits.

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Jamie Carragher with Marine chairman Paul Leary

Jamie Carragher with Marine chairman Paul Leary

Jamie Carragher with Marine chairman Paul Leary

Even Spurs boss Mourinho is doing his bit to support their cause, as he is buying a raffle ticket from Marine that features prizes that include a chance to manage the club in a pre-season friendly.

Mourinho may not feel as generous when his star-studded side rocks up at Rossett Park, with club officials warning the Premier League club they will struggle to get their luxury coach up the cramped College Road leading to the ground and there is certainly nowhere to park it.

It has also been confirmed that Spurs will be using the club's empty bar to get changed in before the game as Marine struggle to comply with strict Covid-19 restrictions.

This is the FA Cup old style, when the game's biggest names were inconvenienced by trips to venues not fit for their egos or reputations, with the watching world revelling in their discomfort.

Marine will be led by school teacher Niall Cummins, who comes from a staunch Arsenal-supporting family that explains why he was named after former Gunners and Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn.

"My Dad is a big Arsenal fan and a big Pat Jennings fan, so he got me into supporting them when I was a kid," said Cummins. "I am named after Niall Quinn, so you can't get much more Arsenal than that!

"So when Arsenal were not drawn out of the hat, the next best thing was Tottenham so we could get one over on them. There is a lot of history for myself.

Buzz

"Since the game was drawn out there has been a buzz absolutely everywhere from the club and wider to family and friends, people I have never spoken to before coming out of the hatch.

"The whole thing is just amazing. We are an eighth-tier team playing against World Cup winners and Golden Boot winners, you don't get that anywhere else. This doesn't happen to people like us. I'm a teacher in a secondary school in south Manchester.

"Every kid has given me some stick, 'Are you going to do this to this player, are you going to score, whose shirt are you going to ask for?'

"It's been a surreal few weeks, so hopefully we can now go out and turn in a good performance."

This is already a story to cherish for a club that may not play too many more games this season as non-league sides are considering cancelling the seasons as they struggle with the pandemic.

Yet for one afternoon, we should all try to forget the current madness as Tottenham and their celebrity manager go out of their comfort zone on a pitch they would be reluctant to walk their dog on a bitterly cold Merseyside afternoon.

What a joyous story this is.

  • Marine v Tottenham, FA Cup 3rd Round, today, 5.0pm, live on BBC One

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