6 min Doherty and Vinicius combine well to tee up Alli, who shoots straight at Passant from 20 yards.
6 min It’s been a reasonable start for Marine. They’ve barely had a kick, but their defence has kept Spurs at arm’s length. The last thing they want to do is concede an early romance-killer.
5 min Harvey White’s free-kick hits the top of the wall and spins to safety.
4 min Gelson Fernandes is hoofed up in the air by Hughes, giving Spurs a free-kick 25 yards from goal.
2 min One of the Marine supporters is already fiddling with a smartphone. I bet that didn’t happen in Ronnie Radford’s day.
The players are out on the field. There’s no official crowd but those who live in the surrounding houses are making plenty of noise. There are big dumb smiles plastered across their faces, and quite right too. This is the game of a lifetime.
The teams in (possible) formation
Marine (5-4-1) Passant; Solomon-Davies, Hughes, Raven, Miley, Joyce; Kengni, Hmami, Kengni, Devine, Barrigan; Cummins.
Substitutes: Doyle, Mendes, Strickland, Wignall, Shaw, Howard, Campbell, Lynch.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1) Hart; Doherty, Alderweireld, Rodon, Davies; Sissoko, White; Fernandes, Alli, Lucas Moura; Vinicius.
Substitutes: Reguilon, Sanchez, Son, Bale, Gazzaniga, Tanganga, Ndombele, Clarke, Devine.
Referee Michael Oliver.
“Hi Rob,” says Gary Naylor. “As a teenager, Marine was my local club. I would watch the team of Roly Howard (he cleaned Kenny Dalglish’s windows – as Granada’s Kick Off would remind us every couple of years or so) on cold weekends. I recall the rain seeping into my shoes once, getting so cold that even the chip shop fare bought opposite the turnstiles failed to warm me.
“Waterloo Rugby Club is nearby and Northern Cricket Club, with championship level golf links stretching up the coast from Blundellsands to Ainsdale, Liverpool’s golden age coinciding with the Victorians’ organising of sports into competitive structures.You can still see their money and confidence 150 years on.
“I took it all for granted with the insouciance of youth – I don’t now.”
There’s already been one appreciable shock today
“Afternoon Rob,” says Guy Hornsby. “I wonder what Gareth Bale is thinking about this afternoon. When he agreed his loan from the Bernabeu, I doubt he thought he’d be on the bench at Marine. The FA Cup is still magical but speaking as a Spurs fan, I’d like to think we’ve had our upset already. It’s such a crying shame there’s no fans in today. Life, eh.”
Hello. Donald Trump? Not interested! Covid-19? Do one! For the next few hours we are all eligible for a spiritual vaccine that will briefly enable us to forget real life and lose ourselves in romance. It’s Marine v Spurs, Marine v Mourinho, or – if you’re into the whole football pyramid thing – 165th v fourth.
Marine are sixth in the Northern Premier League Division One North West, the eighth tier of English football, and the 161 places between the teams is an FA Cup record. Ergo, if Marine win today it will be the greatest shock in FA Cup history.
In truth – here comes the schmaltz, don’t bother trying to fight it – they’ve already won. Even in the festival of goodwill that is FA Cup third round, it’s hard to recall a similar level of nationwide support and enthusiasm for an underdog before the match has even started. Marine surely won’t win the actual football bit, and that’s fine. But just imagine if they do.
Kick off 5pm.