FA Cup - Tamworth '99.9999%' sure of Everton win
We take a look at the biggest David v Goliath FA Cup clash this weekend, as non-league Tamworth come up against Premier League Everton.
The third round of the Cup is the first time in the season when a true minnow can face a Premier League giant.
While there are four non-league sides in this season’s draw (see the bottom of this article for a full review), only one clash with a Premier League side materialised as Everton host mid-table Blue Square Premier club Tamworth at Goodison Park.
"There’s an element of realism that has to kick in," Tamworth manager Marcus Law told Eurosport-Yahoo! "There’s a 99.9999 per cent chance Everton will win but this sport is loved around the world because the best team doesn’t always win.
"We try to create David and Goliath scenarios like this and there have been plenty of upsets even to get to this stage – we have to hang on to that hope.
"We have to go out and make the club and town very proud of us, keep it as tight as we can and hope the FA Cup gods will look after us."
Law, who is only 36, has risen through non-league after starting his management career when injury halted his playing days early. After impressing with a 66-match unbeaten run with Barwell, Kettering gave him his chance in the Blue Square Premier before Tamworth quickly snapped him up.
This is by far the biggest game for him and most of his players – and arguably in Tamworth’s 78-year history.
"The biggest thing for the club in terms of history was to win promotion to the top tier of non-league (in 2003), and we have also got to the FA Trophy final twice (the Cup for non-league sides). We also reached the FA Cup third round in 2006 and 2007, and lost to Stoke and Norwich – but they were Championship teams back then.
"So in terms of profile and financial gain this match [against Everton at Goodison] is undoubtedly the biggest – a Premier League club, in front of 30,000 or more fans. It will be incredible.
"We’ve got around 5,000 fans having bought tickets but more will travel on the day – I think it will be a case of the last person out of Tamworth will have to turn the lights off!"
Law’s players are also excited to be in the spotlight, with the manager admitting that many are happy to get 15 minutes of fame.
"It’s nice to be the centre of attention for a change! Some players are more receptive to talking to the media than others, but everyone wants their little piece," he added. "It’s understandable so we’ve tried to make things a lot more organised and controlled, while being a bit more understanding to the players who obviously have become the centre of attention.
"We’ve tried to minimise the impact on training, but for the players this is huge – many of them are young lads who didn’t get through the academy systems at league clubs and have something to prove.
"They’re on professional terms – training every day and the rest – but basically on part-time wages. We decided that, with around half the Blue Square teams being professional, we would make that commitment so we can compete at the top end.
"But I tell the players ‘what else would you be doing on your days off? Why not come in and train, stay fit?’ That extra fitness is what has helped us so far."
One player who has plenty of experience of the FA Cup is veteran striker Iyesden Christie, a childhood friend of Law’s who has played for over a dozen clubs in his long career.
Christie started out at Coventry City, then a top-flight side, but he did not make the grade there and has played for clubs in all the lower divisions – but his biggest matches to date were in competitions other than the FA Cup.
"The biggest occasion for me was the 2007 FA Trophy final, for Kidderminster," he said. "We played at the new Wembley – it was the first proper club game there – in front of 60,000.
"But I also played against Bobby Robson’s Newcastle in the League Cup, when I was at Leyton Orient. They had a full house at St James’ Park.
"And probably my best game against a big club was when, also at Orient, we beat Portsmouth 4-1 away in the third round of the FA Cup. I came on as a sub and scored! Hopefully something like that can happen again..."
FA Cup third-round ‘David v Goliath’ clashes this weekend:
Fleetwood Town v Blackpool (Highbury, 3pm Saturday)
Lancashire’s Fleetwood are the side most likely to strike an upset against their local rivals. They narrowly missed out on promotion to the Football League last season and lie second in the Conference behind Wrexham. They are the top-scorers in the division – many think the best team too – and, crucially, have Cup confidence after beating league sides Wycombe and Yeovil in the first and second rounds. Home advantage (their ground is pictured on the left here) and the knowledge that they are this year’s giant-killers makes them a decent tip, although Blackpool are well-managed, have Premier League experience and are just outside the Championship play-off places.
League places between teams: 67
Blackpool’s best FA Cup performance: Winners (once)
Fleetwood’s best FA Cup performance: Third round (this season)
BlueSquareBet’s odds of an upset – 2/1
Brighton v Wrexham (Amex Stadium, 3pm Saturday – Eurosport’s tip)
A glance at the league tables puts this as the best shot for a non-league outfit: former league side Wrexham are top of the Conference, while Brighton are 13th in the Championship after losing form following their bright start. But, while Brighton’s early-campaign table-topping was largely a result of their morale-boosting promotion, boss Gus Poyet has brought in some well-known players, and they gave leaders Southampton a 3-0 hammering the other day. And they are at home. But Eurosport still thinks this is a good tip: Wrexham have incredible giant-killing tendencies, having beaten the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham – not to mention Porto and FC Zurich in the old European Cup Winners’ Cup following their Welsh Cup exploits.
League places between teams: 60
Brighton’s best FA Cup performance: Runners-up (once)
Wrexham’s best FA Cup performance: Quarter-finals (three times)
Odds of an upset – 4/1
Sheffield United v Salisbury (Bramall Lane, 3pm Saturday)
The Blades’ stock has fallen in recent years and the four-times FA Cup winners find themselves in League One (albeit in third place), three divisions above Salisbury, who are 16th in the 22-team Blue Square South (one of two regional divisions below the Premier).
League places between teams: 85
Sheffield’s United FA Cup best performance: Winners (four times)
Salisbury’s FA Cup best performance: Third round (this season)
Odds of an upset – 9/1
Everton v Tamworth (Goodison Park, 3pm, Saturday)
Everton fans may bemoan their relative spending power to local rivals Liverpool (and the Manchester clubs), but they are still a force to be reckoned with, packed with international stars and only a few wins away from a European run. Tamworth’s season in the Blue Square Premier has been so-so, with their resources limited even by Conference standards: they lie 14th. The longest shot by a streak.
League places between teams: 95
Everton’s best FA Cup performance: Winners (five times)
Tamworth’s best FA Cup performance: Third round (three times)
Odds of an upset – 14/1
Follow all the FA Cup action this weekend on Eurosport-Yahoo!, starting with Liverpool-Oldham on Friday night.