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ENGLISH FA CUP

Liverpool face giant-killers Mansfield Town in FA Cup

Liverpool warned over Mansfield Town's Field Mill ground by World Cup hero Geoff Hurst, who is still smarting from a defeat there 43 years ago

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 2:46am
 

Geoff Hurst may have won the 1966 World Cup for England, but he still smarts from a defeat at lowly Mansfield, who are out to cause another famous FA Cup upset against Liverpool tonight.

The Reds' trip to Field Mill is the third round's stand-out tie, a classic David versus Goliath encounter where the glamour clubs enter the draw and have to slum it with the minnows.

It pitches European and domestic title-laden Liverpool against fifth-tier Mansfield, an unremarkable club relegated from the Football League in 2008 and still struggling to get back out of the Conference National.

They call such encounters the romance of the FA Cup - and there will be plenty of that on hand as Mansfield manager Paul Cox, who celebrates his 41st birthday today, was due to marry his fiancée on the eve of the match.

Last year's finalists Liverpool may give a debut to £12 million (HK$149 million) striker Daniel Sturridge and need to win the FA Cup to salvage a poor season.

But if Reds stars like Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard want to avoid a giant-killing, they might do well to heed the advice of World Cup legend Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in England's 1966 final win against West Germany.

Mansfield's finest hour came on February 26, 1969, when Hurst's West Ham visited Field Mill in a fifth-round tie and lost 3-0. The Stags were a third-tier club who narrowly avoided relegation that season, while West Ham were fourth in the old First Division.

The Hammers featured three World Cup winners - Hurst, England captain Bobby Moore and Martin Peters. Trevor Brooking, Harry Redknapp and Billy Bonds were also on the teamsheet.

The giant-killing left such an impression that Hurst has a chapter in his autobiography entitled Memories of Mansfield.

"Some things stick in your mind, especially people and places," he wrote.

"I'll never forget Pele and Bobby Moore, for instance, nor Wembley, Hampden Park, the Maracana in Rio, the Azteca in Mexico City and the Field Mill ground at Mansfield.

"The good people of Mansfield have never let me forget Field Mill. I have tried."

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has got the message. "They'll be really up for it. It'll be a cup final for them, so we have to treat it as a cup final for us and do the job properly," he said.

Mansfield winger Louis Briscoe said: "They are a huge football club coming to little old Mansfield and it's going to be a tough ride for them.

"It's a chance of a lifetime so you have to grab it with both hands."

Mansfield is a former mining town of 100,000 people in England's east Midlands.

The coal industry's demise in the late 1980s hit hard and the Nottinghamshire town remains ranked among those most vulnerable to the economic downturn.

And Liverpool's stars will find Field Mill a far cry from their plush Anfield fortress.

Three redeveloped sides of the ground were opened in 2001, but Reds manager Brendan Rogers will sit in front of the narrow, condemned Bishop Street Stand, a boarded-up, ramshackle shed wedged up against terraced houses with a big hole in the roof.

The ground has some history though, hosting Britain's first competitive game under floodlights in 1930.

It also hosted English football's first match with the winter yellow ball in November 1998.

Relegated from the Football League amid a bitter, long-running spat between fans and the then-chairman, Mansfield are now in the more stable hands of insurance firm owner John Radford, 46.

He made headlines in 2011 by appointing fashion businesswoman Carolyn Still, 30, as England's youngest football club chief executive in a world where women in the boardroom are rare.

They announced their engagement two weeks later.

The odds of Mansfield winning are 11-1. Do Liverpool have anything to worry about? Perhaps. Ask Hurst.

Agence France-Presse

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