Though the 3rd round replay between Manchester United and Burton Albion should command plenty of attention, Stoke City’s visit to Tamworth should have words like “minnows” and “plucky” being used far too often. From the Telegraph’s Tim Rich.
When Stoke City’s bus disgorges its occupants this evening, they will be greeted by four little stands, a muddy pitch, Portakabins for dressing rooms – although the roof has been freshly painted to keep out the damp – and, if the Tamworth player-manager has his way, driving heavy rain.
“It is a typical romantic venue for an FA Cup tie,” said Mark Cooper. “They will see The Lamb with 4,000 people screaming and shouting – if they react properly to it, they will win the game. The showers don’t work; well they do but it depends how cold it is and whether the electrics are working – sometimes they don’t.”
Lionel Perez, the former Sunderland goalkeeper now coach of Stevenage, “went crackers” at the state of the facilities recently but, as Cooper reflects: “You could get Stoke to change outside and they should still be too good for us.”
In any other year Tamworth would have been one of the FA Cup’s great stories but the fact that while they have held Stoke to a replay, Burton and Nuneaton will be travelling to Old Trafford and Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium has seen their achievement relegated to something of a sideshow. When the final whistle went on a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium, Cooper ran on to the pitch mimicking a television camera to his chairman – he was, however, to be disappointed.
When the FA Cup means the difference between financial survival and the bailiffs, many at Tamworth resent the fact that neither of these derbies has been chosen for television coverage. A Cup run that has included victories over Bournemouth and Hartlepool away has earned a club, who lie second bottom in the Nationwide Conference, around £150,000 but the presence of the television cameras would have doubled that. Should they win tonight, Tamworth would face either Barnsley or Walsall, a fixture that Sky and the BBC have found quite resistible.
(2010 ADDENDUM : Please check the comments below. Nick Drake was neither a Tamworth native nor resident. I regret the error, almost as much as I wish someone had pointed it out to me within 4 years of the original post -GC)