If you know your history, you know that West Germany’s shock victory in the 1954 World Cup final – over a Hungary team that hadn’t lost in four and a half years and had beaten the German amateurs 8-3 earlier in the tournament – was immediately proclaimed the Miracle of Berne. Fifty-one years later, the Swiss capital has served up another phenomenal feat, one that Arsenal fans can, but probably won’t, pay tribute to tonight when tiny FC Thun visit Highbury for what looks like the starkest mismatch since new-fangled Big Cup was introduced in 1992-93.
Thun, whom the Fiver would nickname FC Thaumaturgy if it didn’t sound so bloody pretentious, were part-timers till nine years ago and only reached the Swiss top flight in 2002. Their annual budget is £2m – three times less than Thierry Henry earns per year at Arsenal, the sixth richest club on the planet. No Thun player has an annual salary of more than £50,000. Their stadium boasts 878 seats. Are they daunted? Is there any easy way to eat Toblerone?
“We’re a small club with not much money, but so what?” rabble-roused Thun defender Jose Goncalves. “We haven’t forgotten that football is about humans and that though Arsenal’s players are great, they’ve only got two legs like us. What’s more, we have solidarity.” Which possibly makes them wealthier than the Gunners right now, what with Ashley Cole whining about the lack of big-name signings, Sol Campbell stewing on the sidelines and Robin van Persie cursing team-mate Emmanuel Eboue for chopping him down in training and making him a doubt for tonight’s game.
Thun cultivate a one-for-all, all-for-one type of solidarity that recently led them to take the admittedly about-as-difficult-as-taking-a-leek-after-20-beers decision to reject the advances of podgy Brazilian mercenary Mario Jardel, who got in touch when they beat Dynamo Kiev to reach the group stages and let it be known that he’s available and, of course, absurdly expensive.
Which brings us neatly to the MU Glazerbucks, who find themselves heading into unchartered territory – a difficult away tie in the group stages – without captain Roy Keane, who’s out for – depending on whjo you believe – two, three or four weeks with a hamstring injury. Villarreal will instead be tested, and quite possibly amused, by the Emmerdale Eminem, Alan Smith (above, right).
The results :
From the Championship on Tuesday, QPR 1, Luton Town 0, courtesy of a Lee Cook free kick in the 58th minute.