Neil Young hopes Marine’s fairytale FA Cup run can help ‘protect the pyramid’ and shine a light on everything that makes the non-league game so special, writes Will Jennings.
The Marine chief is gearing up for a crack against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham today in the FA Cup’s greatest ever mismatch.
A total of 161 places separate Spurs and Young’s Pitching In Northern Premier League Division One North West outfit as Marine carry the hopes and dreams of the non-league nation in front of the BBC cameras.
Non-league clubs are at the heart of local communities and Young, whose team are financially supported by a multi-million pound, multi-year investment programme called Pitching In, hopes national visibility can blaze a trail for change.
Young, 45, said: “Protect the pyramid.
— Pitching In (@PitchingIn_) January 10, 2021
“And also give the FA Cup a little bit more of what it used to have in terms of the romance of it.
“Non-league football is all looking at Marine. We’ve had many messages from all of non-league of how proud they are and that they’re looking forward to watching the game.
“I do think for non-league football this is a massive leg up, to draw Tottenham in this tie. Particularly to have it at home, that’s good as well.
“We’re very disappointed where non-league currently is at the moment, particularly Steps 3 and below.
“These are the lifeblood of many communities. The amount of community work among our club – I see this across the whole of non-league football, when I speak to people in non-league and other managers.”
The Pitching In programme was launched by Entain, owner of Ladbrokes, last year and couples financial investment in the Trident Leagues with an emphasis on community and volunteers.
The partnership helped power Marine to victory over Chester and Colchester as they now prepare to do battle with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Gareth Bale on home soil.
Young’s team are assembled from an eclectic mix of professions and the club has successfully recouped lost gate receipts through an innovative virtual ticketing scheme.
Marine will come up against a team of seasoned Premier League heavyweights but Young insists there’s no room for being starstruck in front of the television camera lights.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) January 10, 2021
“What they’ve done is incredible,” he added.
“We’re a fairly young side apart from three or four experienced lads.
“It’s about going on and enjoying it, but it’s not a day out. We need to make sure that we put a show on as well.
“There’s a lot of people watching and we need to be organised. I know that they’ll run through brick walls for us and give everything they’ve got.
“It’s making sure they don’t freeze on the day. They haven’t so far. The key thing is enjoy it – it’s a football match, 11 v 11, and we want to make sure that we’re giving everything we’ve got to progress to the next round.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. The programme includes a flagship partnership with The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues - collectively known as The Trident League, as well as a partnership with the UK sports charity SportsAid. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/