FA Cup history will be made in January 2021 when Marine FC of the Northern Premier League Division One Northwest take on Premier League stalwarts Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup.
It will be the first time in the competition’s nigh on 150 year history that a club competing in the eighth tier of the football pyramid will face opponents from the top-flight.
Only one other eighth tier club has ever reached the 3rd Round of the FA Cup in 140 campaigns of this famous old competition, to even put themselves in with a chance to face top-flight opposition, but Chasetown in 2008 were paired with second tier Cardiff City. A creditable 3-1 defeat ended the Scholars’ fantastic run that year, and their Welsh opponents went all the way to the Cup final that year to reinforce that respectable performance.
And Marine FC themselves have appeared in the 3rd Round before, back in the 1992/93 season, when they were members of the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League. Back then, that division would have been classed as sixth tier, and Marine also missed out on facing top level opposition when they were drawn at Crewe Alexandra from the fourth tier. And the Mariner’s lost that game 3-1, too. (A first tenuous link as Spurs’ biggest ever FA Cup win was against Crewe Alexandra).
So the mere fact that the club now has the chance to go toe-to-toe with Spurs, top of the Premier League at the time of the draw, is almost a miracle. Marine has had to win through seven rounds just to have the one in three chance of being paired with top level opponents. Tottenham’s last seven FA Cup wins span their last three campaigns.
There is another connection between the two clubs, albeit also a little tenuous, in that the year Marine was formed, in 1894, is also the same year that Tottenham Hotspur first participated in the FA Cup.
Whilst Tottenham were to go on to become the first and only non-league club to lift the FA Cup in 1901, on their way to becoming a Football League club in 1908, and going on to a second FA Cup triumph in 1921, Marine were establishing themselves as a successful I-Zingari League club in Merseyside.
In another link between the two clubs, Marine eventually had their first taste of FA Cup football in that same 1920/21 season that Tottenham went on to lift the Trophy. Spookily, Marine scored 18 goals in that debut campaign in their three victories taking them as far as the 2nd Qualifying Round, the exact same number of goals scored by Spurs en route to being crowned champions.
Marine were promoted to the Liverpool Combination in time for the 1925/26 season, and it was they rather than Spurs who would next appear in a National Cup competition Final. In 1931/32 the Mariners made it all the way to the FA Amateur Cup Final played at the Boleyn ground, home of West Ham United.
Unfortunately, they were on the wrong end of a 7-1 defeat by Dulwich Hamlet, but at least they went much further in that competition than Spurs ever did (2nd round in 1895 their best run).
Meanwhile, Spurs went on to become the first club to win the League and Cup Double in the 20th Century the next time they won the FA Cup in 1961, and then became first club to win their first seven FA Cup Finals, before going on to be one of a handful of ever-present Premier League clubs and a Champions League Finalist.
Marine FC has a footballing record of its own, one that is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Roly Howard took charge of the Mariners in their early days as members of the Cheshire County League (a precursor league to the Northern Premier League), and was still their manager 1,975 matches and 33 years later, winning 30 trophies and he was at the helm as Marine made their first run to the FA Cup 3rd Round in 1992/93.
This season Marine FC are the current top scorers of those clubs still in the FA Cup, netting eleven times in victories over Barnoldswick Town, Frickley Athletic, Runcorn Linnets, Nantwich Town, Chester, Colchester United and Havant & Waterlooville. The last four victories were all against higher level opponents.
The dream of a highly unlikely additional victory against Spurs would put Marine into an exclusive club consisting of those teams that have won eight FA Cup games in a single campaign. Regardless of the outcome, though, Marine are already ensconced in FA Cup folklore.
As that is already the case, they can just go out and enjoy themselves against Spurs, with absolutely nothing to lose.