Neil Young’s FA Cup campaign began on opening day in September when he went to Darwen to spy on Marine AFC’s preliminary round opponent Barnoldswick.
Management research almost failed. Barnoldswick led the 10-man Marine 1-0 with three minutes remaining until Ryan Wignall and Josh Hmami scored a goal to begin an unprecedented journey.
“To this day, we’re not sure if the winning free kick crossed the line, but the flag went up to signal a goal,” said Young, who won six more draws and is about to take up his regular job at Merseyrail to swap his wits against Jose Mourinho.
Neil Young prepares his navy team for the biggest game in non-league club history
So who are marines?
- The non-league club founded in 1894 and based in Crosby, Merseyside.
- Sixth in the Northern Premier League Division One North-West in the eighth division of English football.
- Only their previous appearance in the third round of the FA Cup ended in 1993 with a 3-1 defeat at Crewe.
- They received £ 83,000 to upgrade their Rossett Park floor for their 125th anniversary in 2019.
- They were three minutes from losing their FA Cup preliminary round to Barnoldswick.
- Captain and gym teacher Niall Cummins wanted Spurs in the draw – as he supports Arsenal.
- Goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant bought drinks in full gear at a co-op to celebrate round three.
- Wayne Rooney’s uncle Billy Morrey is one of the greatest strikers in Marine history.
- Roly Howard, Kenny Dalglish’s window cleaner, was a marine manager for 33 years.
- They wear black and gold and are nicknamed The Mariners.
The eighth Navy of Northern Premier League Division One North-West will be the greatest underdog in the history of the competition when they welcome the Premier League Tottenham to Rossett Park next Sunday. The only sadness is that there will be no fans inside to watch.
The managers’ résumés couldn’t be more different, Cammell Laird compared to Real Madrid, but Mourinho will appreciate Young’s commitment to making his dream come true.
“If you had to give me a label, it could be hardworking,” says the bald-headed and bearded 45-year-old marine chief. ‘My career as a player ended because of a recurring shoulder injury. So when I was 24 I took my first managerial job at Queen’s Park in the Birkenhead Sunday League.
“Since then, few people would say someone was working harder. I like being part of a team and that team is part of me.
“I was an assistant at Rhyl when we pulled Viking Stavanger in the Intertoto Cup. Roy Hodgson was their manager and took us to town after flying to Norway to explore. There was I, a young fellow, chatting soccer with this very famous manager. It gave me an idea of what could be possible.
“I became a manager myself. At Chester FC we had no floors, no players, no equipment, no balls or bibs when I was appointed. We won three promotions in a row as champions, the first time that it was ever done.
“As a manager, you know that you always get more S *** as bouquets. When I resigned at Altrincham in 2016, I wasn’t in a good place and thought I’d call it an in-game day.
“But then football is like a drug. If your on the go you miss it. I was involved in scouting in Halifax, my mojo returned and I became a manager at Marine again in 2018-19. ‘
Aside from planning how to stop Harry Kane, Young spent his Christmas celebrations making sure the stations around Liverpool were properly set up.
“I’ve been with Merseyrail for 28 years,” he says. “They supported me and the skills I learned helped with football. As a facility manager, I deal with employees and stakeholders – it’s about how you deal with people and these relationships. At Marine, I interact with players, directors, volunteers, and communities. It’s about building and this cup run will move us forward. ‘
Marines are sixth in their division. Covid has severely interrupted the league program, which is currently closed again. In these circumstances, the FA Cup has proven to be a financial lifesaver.
The eighth division Minnows welcome Premier League club Tottenham to the third round of the FA Cup
The clash behind closed doors is a reward for a remarkable journey for the lower league
While the part-time workers aren’t big donors – the total wage bill is £ 1,750 a week – 2020 was bleak as players and staff on vacation and off vacation and backers were forced to run fundraisers.
That cup run, including a win over League One Colchester, could fetch £ 300,000. In addition to prize money and TV revenue, Spurs fans helped by purchasing marine merchandise and virtual playing cards. Young, who lives near Tranmeres Prenton Park, admits, “It’s scary to think where we would be without the FA Cup. Our earnings are usually through the gate and at the bar.
‘There are fantastic clubs on our level, Salt of the Earth, unsure if they’ll be there in six months. I am frustrated
‘Our trading partners stuck with us, but first and foremost the cup money was the only income we had. We could pay wages. ‘
And Young (right) is excited about the prospect of using his wits against Jose Mourinho (left).
Young, a railroad worker, has described himself as “the hardworking” versus “the special one”.
Young describes soccer as his “drug” who worked at Halifax, Altrincham and Chester FC
162 places lower!
There are eight divisions and 162 seats between Tottenham, third in the Premier League, and Marine, sixth in the Northern Premier League Division One North West. This is the eighth level of the football pyramid.
3rd Tottenham 3rd in PL
17 – Premier League
24 – championship
24 – League One
24 – League Two
23 – National League
22 – National League North
22 – Northern Premier League – Premier Division
6th Marine in NPL Division One North West
Notably, Marine had 22 days without play between the first and second rounds in November, but defeated Havant & Waterlooville 1-0 in the last minute of extra time with a goal from veteran skipper Niall Cummins, a professional instructor. You will be inactive for 15 days when you face off against Spurs. The league closed again after Boxing Day.
Your cast will be a mix of youth and experience. 35-year-old David Raven once scored a Scottish Cup semi-final winner for Inverness Caledonian Thistle against Virgil van Dijks Celtic and there are promising young players too. Young has high hopes for right-back Josh Solomon-Davies, who plays for St. Lucia.
‘He has good feet and is quick. He has a great chance of playing higher, ”says the manager. ‘Hmami is very good technically, he has taken six or seven free kicks this year. James Barrigan was a professional at Wigan and has steadily improved since moving to central midfield. ‘
Like his teammates, Barrigan needs an outside job to pay the bills and works as a garbage collector.
Covid disorders gave Young an additional headache. Three loanee players who have been an integral part of their Cup run so far – Alex Doyle, Mo Touray (both Salford) and Adam Hughes (TNS) – have returned to their clubs. He’s trying to re-sign them but it’s complicated because the Spurs tie may be Marine’s only game this month.
Marine’s remarkable FA Cup trip has helped the club massively during a difficult year
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