Can Mark Robins go from Fergie's saviour to Tottenham tormentor?

Robins plotting another rescue act at Coventry City – and victory at Spurs would help

In snooker they call it the shot to nothing, a risk-free pot from which no damage accrues. Thus does the third round of the FA Cup present Mark Robins and his Coventry team with a giant shot to nothing at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Few gave Coventry a hope when the teams last met in the competition 26 years ago at Wembley. On that sky blue day, when Coventry won 3-2 after extra-time, at least they walked beneath the Twin Towers shoulder to shoulder with Spurs in the top tier of the English game. Tomorrow they travel with the threat of a winding-up order hanging over their heads, the result of the calamitous circumstances surrounding their tenancy at the Ricoh Arena.

With more than £1 million owing in rent, and the 2 January date passed by which time an agreement with the stadium owners, ACL, had to be reached, uncertainty nibbles at the future of the club. Delivering in the face of adversity through the agency of the FA Cup is where it all began for Robins. He has already worked a miracle at Coventry, propelling them from the foot of League One on his appointment as manager in September to the cusp of the play-off places.

Every day is a negotiation with one loan player or another about lengthening his stay or persuading him to give the club a go. His marksmanship at this very stage 23 years ago to give Manchester United a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest is said to have kept Sir Alex Ferguson in work at Old Trafford. Were he to fashion from the dugout a Coventry victory tomorrow, the consequences for the club might be considered equally auspicious, not that global domination is likely to follow.

"I was 20 years of age. I had just broken through and the Cup gave me a foothold in and around the squad. I remember it being a Sunday, being busy, the cameras were there. It was on TV. I remember there being a lot of media attention, which is usual for the United games against Forest. They were flying.

"Big things were being made of Brian Clough not winning the FA Cup, this could be the year. We were having a bit of a wobble in the league and it was seen as the only chance of silverware that season. There was certainly pressure. We had a lot of injuries and the manager did not have many options.

"We ended up going through 1-0. I remember the ball in the box and the goal, and all the comments since. For me it was big time. I was young, my first taste of first-team football. It was brilliant, but the enormity of it only sinks in years later because as a player you are just doing your job."

Robins also scored in the semi-final replay victory over Oldham, his home town club, and was on the bench for the final against Crystal Palace, which United also won after a replay. "We managed to grind out a 1-0 win. That was Sir Alex's first trophy and set him up for his dynasty."

There was no special thank you from Ferguson to Robins after his pivotal intervention at the City Ground. He was not expecting any. And there is no great relationship today, though Robins knows any call made would be taken. "He is always there at the end of the phone and goes to great lengths to help people. I haven't generally taken him up on that, though I have spoken to him on a few occasions. He is always supportive of people in management because he knows how difficult it is, though he makes it look easy and the rest of us amateurish."

Such modesty. Any kind of result at Spurs would elevate Robins to messiah status in Coventry, if he is not there already after six away wins on the spin. "It is a great occasion for the players and supporters and we are relishing it. No-one gives us a chance of coming through this tie. We have to go there to a big stadium and enjoy it. If we can give our best that is all we can ask."

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game