FA Cup third round: Inside non-league Marine before their tie with Tottenham


At non-league Marine they are not just rolling out the red carpet for Tottenham’s FA Cup visit, they’re also bringing in the carpet cleaners.

Paul Leary, chairman of the club that plays in the eighth tier of English football, is determined the boardroom floor at the Marine Travel Arena is spotless for Sunday’s third-round tie with the eight-time winners.

While Spurs, fourth in the Premier League, can call on the services of World Cup winner Hugo Lloris and England captain Harry Kane if needed, Northern Premier League Division One North West Marine will feature NHS workers, teachers and a refuse collector.

It is the biggest gulf at this stage of the famous competition’s history.

“It’s like a dream. We were two minutes from going out to Barnoldswick Town in the preliminary round,” says life-long Marine fan Barry Lenton.

“Four months on and we’re getting ready to welcome Tottenham. It’s surreal.”

Although there is an overwhelming sense of sadness that the biggest occasion in Marine’s 127-year history will take place without fans, excitement is building in the town of Crosby, seven miles north of Liverpool city centre, where the Mariners are located.

So what can Jose Mourinho and his players expect when they arrive at the intimate 3,185-capacity Marine Travel Arena, a world away from English football’s top flight?

From wedding party to dressing room
Spurs players are used to stylish down-lighting, leather seats and personalised locker areas to hang their kit in at their £1bn Tottenham Hotspur Stadium home.

This weekend they will get changed in a room which has a bar and, in normal times, is hired out for wedding receptions and birthday parties.

Mourinho will deliver his team talk in the Arriva Suite instead of the away dressing room due to social distancing rules and the size of Tottenham’s travelling contingent.

The function room, which seats up to 150, was closed for most of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Including disco and security, it costs £220 for an all-day wedding in the room.

It has been transformed into a dressing room for the visitors, who could include England midfielder Dele Alli and club-record £55m signing Tanguy Ndombele.

“Marine is a volunteer-run community club full of character and history,” says Leary, a qualified accountant who describes his role at the club as a “labour of love”.

“We will make sure everything is right and proper for Tottenham.”


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