The Fiver | Sixty-four balls, one velvet bag, a plastic bowl and the truth


What has 64 balls and makes scousers from Crosby sweat? Tonight’s FA Cup third round draw, which fans of Marine will be glued to shortly after 7pm. One of those clubs you might hear one-man stat machine Jeff Stelling mention from time to time on Gillette Soccer Saturday but know precious little about, Merseyside-based Marine play in the eighth tier of the English Football League pyramid, specifically Division One North West of the Northern Premier League.

More used to taking on the unglamorous likes of Runcorn Linnets, Ramsbottom United and Pontefract Collieries during their weekly grind, Marine find themselves in the hat with the Big Boys for only the second time in their history; the other one being way back in 1992-93 when they got the match-up absolutely nobody had been dreaming of except perhaps their opponents, Crewe. This time around they’ll be hoping to get somebody a little more high-profile: Liverpool, perhaps. Or maybe Everton … but any Premier League side will do.

Marine earned their place in the third-round draw the hard way, winning four matches to get this far, the most recent against the combined forces of Havant and Waterlooville with a goal scored in the last minute of extra time. Unaccustomed to such success, their players had no booze with which to celebrate their triumph, a state of affairs which prompted one of their players, Bayleigh Passant, to head for the local Co-op dressed like an orange highlighter pen in full goalkeeper kit and return with a plastic carrier bag of celebratory Tin.

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Having been allotted ball No58 in the official FA tombola, Marine will be joined by fellow non-league sides Stockport County (49) and Chorley (53), as well as one of Canvey or Boreham Wood (60), who will learn their possible fate shortly before lining up to face each other on Jürgen Klopp’s favourite TV channel, BT Sport. Having been rescued from the bizarre weeknight magazine programme that is The One Show, the draw will also take place on BT Sport and will be conducted under the watchful eye of Mark “Chappers” Chapman, the hardest working man in sports broadcasting. Sixty-four balls, one velvet bag, a plastic bowl and the truth – the world’s most famous football competition is about to get very real.


Join Rob Smyth for the FA Cup third-round tombola at 7pm GMT and then hop on over to his minute-by-minute report of West Ham 2-2 Aston Villa at 8pm.


“How do the British people say it? You have to show it on a windy night in Stoke. Today it is not windy and Stuttgart is not Stoke but Stuttgart is a team that plays very well in the last weeks” – Thomas Müller reveals that it takes 12 years for a Staffordshire cliche to land in Germany.

Thomas Müller
Stuttgart, not Stoke. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/Reuters


Football Weekly would like a date with your ears.


“Re: Crystal Palace having never won a top-flight game on a Friday (Friday’s Fiver). I should have read The Fiver before I filled my Friday-night fantasy lineup. Oops” – JJ Zucal.

“Can I ask you PLEASE not to let my dad Tony Crawford win a book this week. It’s far too close to christmas, and he’ll only skim read it before making it my present and I’ve been hoping for a second-hand Ford Fiesta. By the way, he’s been rehearsing his letter all weekend – some trite b011ocks like ‘My, say what you want about this Tory government but boy haven’t they cut down on football hooliganism this season?’. He’s about as funny as toothache, perhaps give it to that nice Noble Francis instead?” – Fin Crawford (aged 18).

“Ever the expert in efficiency, a once Special One then a clearly Not So Special One and now possibly getting back to being a Special One again José Mourinho manages to sum up not only Spurs but also Chelsea and the game itself in just three words …” – Noble Francis.

“Re: the ‘greatest GOAT of all time’ (Friday’s Fiver letters). I was reminded of my old footy captain from college who, without a hint of irony, would begin every half-time blast ‘Right! For your FYI …’” – Marten Allen.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day prize is … Fin Crawford (aged 18), who wins a copy of The Got, Not Got Football Gift Book – Every Fan’s Catalogue of Desires, by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke (postage available to UK only, sorry – Fiver Postal Ed].


Edinson Cavani has apologised for posting a message on social media that may earn him an FA ban. “I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently,” Cavani said. “I would like to sincerely apologise for this.”

Wolves confirmed that Raúl Jiménez had surgery on a fractured skull after a sickening clash of heads with Arsenal’s David Luiz on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, trials of additional permanent substitutes for concussion injuries in the Premier League could begin early in the new year and Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson is supportive of the idea.

Papa Bouba Diop, the former Senegal midfielder who scored the first goal of the 2002 World Cup against France, has died at the age of 42.

José Mourinho echoed the tedium of Chelsea 0-0 Spurs by reaching into his back catalogue of tired metaphors to call his team a “pony” in the title race.

And Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Friday is under threat after Steve Bruce had to cancel training due to an outbreak of Covid-19 among his players and staff.


Köln waited 267 days for a Bundesliga win and when it came it was a big one against Borussia Dortmund, writes Andy Brassell.

Talking points from the Premier League. There’s 10 of them. Count them if you don’t believe us.

Vic Marks crosses the boundary to consider how superstars such as Diego Maradona and former Yeovil defender Ian Botham will always struggle to live up to their youthful exploits.

Napoli gave Maradona a send off in a style he would have approved of, says Nicky Bandini.

Lorenzo Insigne
Lorenzo Insigne celebrates after scoring against Roma. Photograph: Ciro Fusco/EPA

Hatem Ben Arfa: still got it.

Jonathan Wilson’s floating brain in a jar considers how N’Golo Kanté cut off the supply to Harry Kane in Super Sunday’s London derby bore draw.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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