Non-league Marine’s FA Cup run has been a “lifesaver” for the part-time club, says boss Neil Young.
The Mariners, who play in England’s eighth tier, produced a spirited show in losing 5-0 to a strong Tottenham side in the third round on Sunday.
Marine play in the Northern Premier League Division One North West, which is step four of the English non-league system, and is currently suspended.
“There has been no help for teams in step three and below,” added Young.
All football below the sixth tier – step two of the non-league system – is suspended because of Covid-19 restrictions in England, meaning that Sunday’s match was Marine’s first since 26 December. They have played only seven league fixtures this season.
No fans were allowed inside the 3,185-capacity Marine Travel Arena for Sunday’s tie, as coronavirus rules state that people must stay at home and only go out for essential reasons.
With Spurs sitting 160 places above the Merseyside club in the football pyramid, this was the biggest gulf between two teams in a tie at this stage of the famous competition’s history.
To recoup some of the potential losses – up to £100,000, according to the club – from having no fans present and lost sponsorship, Marine put on sale £10 virtual tickets which included a raffle with a prize of becoming the team’s manager for one game.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho was among the 30,697 who purchased a ticket.
Having started at the preliminary round stage, Marine’s eight-match FA Cup run earned them more than £80,000 in prize money from the Football Association, while they picked up another £75,000 in television revenue for the Spurs tie alone, which was shown live on BBC One.
“It is past our wildest dreams to bring Tottenham to Marine,” added Young, who had to request extra time off work from his day job as a facility manager at Merseyrail to prepare for Spurs’ visit.
“The cup run has been a lifesaver for us financially for where we are in non-league.”
‘This could be our last game of the season’
While Spurs return to Premier League action on Wednesday away to Aston Villa, Marine are unsure when they will play another match.
Young added: “This could be our last game of the season.
“I wanted to get all the lads in. We don’t know what is coming next, and I just wanted to make sure we had a huddle and told them how well they have done.”
Before the tie, Marine’s chief executive James Leary was quoted telling The Athletic the players would be furloughed from Monday as the league is suspended.
Marine’s players, who include NHS workers, teachers and a refuse collector, earn a maximum £300 per week.
After the tie, they were provided with souvenir fresh shirts from Tottenham as both sets of players were unable to swap tops because of Covid-19 protocols.