The Remarkable Story Behind Marine AFC
Henry Hood looks at some of the numbers behind the biggest mismatch in FA Cup history.
Marine AFC made history recently by being on the short end of the FA Cup’s biggest mismatch in its history. Their game against Tottenham Hotspur meant a team from the very top and very bottom of English football faced off, with Premier League stars such as Gareth Bale, Joe Hart, Toby Aldeweireld and Dele Alli (to name a few) gracing the mighty Marine Travel Arena. Although the match did inevitably end in defeat with a 5-0 loss, countless stories remain about this small side’s unexpected run through this year’s FA Cup.
The statistics behind this matchup are always amusing, especially when focusing on finances. Gareth Bale’s £600k a week contract meant the Welsh winger earnt more in a week than the £500k Marine AFC earnt from their whole FA Cup run. Equally, Spurs’ Tanguy Ndombele’s record signing fee of £55m massively dwarfed the price of Marine’s most expensive player: David Raven, a 35 year-old defender worth a mere £270 (according to Transfermarkt). In fact, since almost every Marine player was signed on a free transfer, Transfermarkt can only offer Marine AFC a total club value of £338; this figure looks utterly miniscule compared to the £663m club value estimate of Tottenham.
Other interesting facts include the fielded Tottenham team having over 400 international caps, a number higher than the seated capacity of Marine’s home ground, 389, (with admittedly space for an extra 2,800 standing). The list could go on forever on the quirky statistics proving how mismatched the two sides are but, there is perhaps a more interesting side to the story when looking at Marine AFC’s past.
Marine AFC in their 126-year history boast an impressive stat of only ever getting relegated once, winning 40 cups, 17 divisions and four shields along the way. They also hold the record for longest-serving manager in post-war English football, with Roly Howard amassing 1,975 games for the club across a 30-year span from 1972 to 2005. And in terms of the FA Cup, they’ve reached the third round once before, losing 3-1 to Crewe Alexandra back in the ’92-’93 season. Considering Spurs’ infamous reputation as a club who struggle to win silverware, it seems Marine AFC are somewhat more acquainted with winning.
Their squad also tells countless stories, with their players treating football as a part-time job alongside their day-to-day professions. Their front three of James Barrigan, Niall Cummins and Neil Kengni are strikers on the weekend, but in the week would make up a trio of a bin man, teacher, and plumber respectively. And while all of Marine’s players are semi-professional, a smattering of players have history in lucrative professional club academies. David Raven, their 35-year-old veteran defender, boasts the most impressive past career, starting with the Liverpool and England youth setups, along with one Premier League start for Liverpool back in 2004. His peripheral involvement in the senior team technically means he has a Champions League Winner’s Medal after that famous win in Istanbul in 2005, although admittedly his only contribution in Europe was sitting on the bench in Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Last 16. Other players have filtered down from the Premier League like David Lynch (midfielder) who once was in Burnley’s U23 squad and Kenny Strickland (right back) who bounced between Man United and Chelsea’s U18 system before Marine AFC.
The FA Cup, as ever, has shone a light on football below the sparkling Premier League. While the financial disparities between the Marine AFC and Tottenham are immense, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the ex-academy players of Marine AFC finally get their game in the spotlight. After all, these David vs Goliath matches are what really make the magic of the cup.