LONDON: They came, they scored, they certainly didn’t conquer, but tiny Farnborough Town left the home of the English champions with pride intact despite losing 5-1 to Arsenal on Saturday in the FA Cup fourth round.
“We have gone about the job in a way that means everyone is going to have a memory that they can enjoy eternally,” Farnborough manager Graham Westley told reporters after watching his side battle their hearts out at Highbury.
With 102 places separating the two teams in the English football pyramid, it was never going to be much of a contest in the first place.
But once the minor league side conceded two goals in the opening 23 minutes and had defender Chris Lee rightly sent off for pulling back goal-bound striker Francis Jeffers five minutes later the game was up.
Westley, who is team manager, owner, press officer and pretty well everything else at a club that only started playing in 1968, has revelled in the spotlight afforded his team since the draw.
A man with a sharp appreciation of exploiting media coverage, he held court with the national press for 17 minutes after the game, nearly three times as long as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Westley said he did not regret the decision to play the game away from their ramshackle Cherrywood Road ground, even though it hampered their chances of causing the greatest upset in FA Cup history and cost them some live television revenue.
“If you knew about the administrative infrastructure at the club and saw the difficulties that we had even trying to organise the ticketing for today’s game, we just weren’t equipped to do it. We had to be honest about that,” he said.
Farnborough are likely to net around £600,000 in shared gate receipts and programme sales, the latter being generously donated by Arsenal, money Westley said would go towards clearing the club’s debts.
For the past two weeks, Farnborough’s mainly part-time players have trained like a Premier League team, spending time in La Manga, Spain, in preparation for the biggest game of their lives.
“They have loved it. For the first time they have felt like professional footballers,” Westley said. – Reuters
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