As FSC opted to show this afternoon’s Leicester City/Tottenham match instead, here’s a tip for your VCR/DVR tomorrow afternoon at 3pm ; the same channel will show the tape of Burton Albion’s remarkable 0-0 tie with Manchester United. The Independent’s Sam Wallace puts the result in some perspective.
He is only seven years old, but when William Clough gets to school this morning, there is a good chance that his class-mates, and most of his teachers, will want to seek out his view on one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of recent history. Sitting next to his father, Nigel, by the dug-out, William was introduced to the rich football tradition of his family in the most thrilling terms imaginable: watching Conference side Burton Albion hold the mighty Manchester United to a goalless draw.
It was not just the imagination of a seven-year-old boy that was fired by the achievement of Nigel Clough’s Burton side, it was the entire home support in a crowd of 6,191 at the Pirelli Stadium who acclaimed a performance of staggering fortitude. On the final whistle, Clough embraced Sir Alex Ferguson and headed down the tunnel with barely a glance towards the pitch. His late father, Brian, may have been fonder of the limelight, for his unassuming 39-year-old son it was a dignified exit on an emotional afternoon.
This was FA Cup football at its most engrossing. A below-strength United side of just seven internationals – albeit one eventually supplemented by substitutes Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo – against Clough’s team of electricians, builders and physiotherapists.
Burton go to Old Trafford on 18 January with “not a prayer” according to their manager but already it feels as if the damage has been done to United’s battered confidence. That Ferguson was prepared to play only a handful of senior players – MikaÃ«l Silvestre, Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Louis Saha among them – seemed dangerous given that, apart from the Carling Cup, this competition represents his only viable opportunity to win a trophy this season.
The United players’ haste to disappear down the tunnel of the Pirelli Stadium meant they were only just behind Clough, who has a few more pressing concerns before he turned his thoughts to Old Trafford in nine days’ time.
There is the small matter of Stourbridge in the Birmingham Senior Cup, which, on balance, is certainly a more winnable tie. For two generations of the Clough family, however, there will be nothing to match what awaits them on 18 January.