Marine manager Neil Young reflects a year on from Marine’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup.
The Mariners provided a fairytale story at the height of dismal times as they overcame multiple non-league opponents and Football League side Colchester United on penalties.
Niall Cummins, immortalised on the side of Rossett Park, scored an extra-time winner against Havant & Waterlooville to book a spot in the third round.
During that time, lockdowns had been enforced with another one in place just days before the biggest match in Marine’s history, scuppering an opportunity for fans to see the Premier League side, managed by Jose Mourinho, in the flesh.
Whilst fans couldn’t make the clash, they could buy virtual tickets to remember the occasion and with the help of Spurs fans they sold over an incredible 32,000 and January 11 will live long in the memory of fans, players and club officials.
“It’s incredible. The whole cup run was an unbelievable experience, probably dampened a little bit by Covid in terms of footballers like to celebrate their victories they didn’t get much chance of that,” Young told Off The Park.
“It’s a great FA Cup run, I was only talking about it the other day and we had the third round FA Cup draw at Marine. When I was growing up obviously watching Liverpool, the third round draw was always the one you sat at the telly to watch, that was at Marine and Tottenham coming to Marine.
“I went to Tottenham on Sunday, to see the size of the club, the stadium, it makes you realise what an achievement last year was.”
In the build-up to the clash there was a media circus due to the magnitude of the David vs Goliath battle, Mourinho’s side ultimately won 5-0, but for the Marine boss the day before and day of the match proved the easiest of the lot.
He explained: “To be honest, the day before and the day was probably a bit more relaxing for me because the run-up, the week leading to it was incredible.
“From a part-time perspective, the experience of all that pressure to do – it wasn’t a couple of interviews – you’re talking probably anything between 80 to 100 interviews in a week at all different times and in some cases different places, different media outlets and companies.
“It was unbelievable, we were everywhere. The day before the game, we trained at Liverpool’s Academy. That was more relaxing for me because that’s when you can start looking forward to what’s coming.
“A year on, just proud of the achievement really, it’s a proud moment, proud time for the football club. When you look back it’s something you can put on your CV and say it’s something we did. It’s up there with the achievements in football over the last 20 years but yeah it was a great occasion.
“We just had a general chit-chat, nothing more than that. He [Mourinho] was a humble guy, he came out to meet us, he complimented us on the pitch, the ground and how good we got to where we got to.”
Young who has won a number of accolades in his managerial career with the likes of Chester, he felt the cup run itself held more of a learning point for him than the 90 minutes against the north London side.
“I think the cup run focused me more on the tactical side, back to where I was years ago. Not so much that game, that game include, but as we got to the latter stages to the Chester’s, Colchester’s, Havant & Waterlooville’s and the prize gets bigger and bigger potentially.
“Going back to the tactical side and how big it is in terms of winning games against usually better opposition and how if you can organise your team and be pragmatic then you can find a way. That’s the biggest that came out the cup run to me personally.”
A year on, Marine sit top of the table and well-versed for a return to the Northern Premier League following relegation a number of seasons ago.
Wrexham extinguished their attempt to remake history their match with the National League outfit brought a narrative of its own.
But for Young, the match with Spurs gave the Mariners a “massive reboot”.
“When I came into the club, we needed a change, it’d been down the bottom echelons of the Northern Premier League and finally got relegated which isn’t good on anyone’s CV or the club.
“But it’s given us a massive reboot, I come in and we’ve put a strategy together on the football side and allowed to implement that over the years. The start of that process was that FA Cup and hopefully we can go on this year and do well again, see where it takes us.”