Long gone are the bricklayers, giant-killing is a full-time job

 

The last time a top-flight side were knocked out of the FA Cup by non-League opposition, it was a bricklayer who scored the winning goal.

Sutton Town's Matt Hanlon, who despatched Coventry City in 1989, was following a distinguished tradition featuring a geography teacher, Mickey Mahon, who scored Wimbledon's goal against Burnley in 1975, while Ronnie Radford, a Hereford United hero against Newcastle in 1972, was a carpenter.

Those days are long gone. The non-League team which runs out at Goodison Park today includes a former colleague of David Beckham at Los Angeles Galaxy and a one-time England Under-17 team-mate of Jack Wilshere. Tamworth may have little pedigree in the game, but their players are full-time professionals, either winding down from a career in the Football League's lower reaches or hoping to return to the top levels.

The other non-League survivors in this weekend's third round, Fleetwood, Wrexham and Salisbury, are also full-time. Fitness should thus not be the telling factor today, nor, in many respects, technique. Many of these players have been in the academy system. These days the main difference between a Conference player and one in the Football League is the ability to perform consistently, and to cope with the game's pressures and insecurities.

Having lost five times at home this season, Everton's manager David Moyes will therefore be taking nothing for granted, especially with Phil Jagielka joining Leon Osman, Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell on the injured list, with Marouane Fellaini probably out too. Everton have never lost to a non-League side, at least not since 1913 when the Football League only had two divisions and they were defeated by Swindon Town, of the then-powerful Southern League. However, Everton needed a replay to beat Altrincham in 1975 after being held at home and, eight years ago, went out to a Shrewsbury Town side soon to be relegated from the League.

Marcus Law, the Tamworth manager, said: "We will prepare and hope, and if it comes our way hopefully pounce. If we can just go and embrace it, enjoy the occasion and understand what the game can throw up, then we'll let the FA Cup gods look after the fixture."

At Highbury ambitious Fleetwood, the only team at home of the quartet, will be pinning their hopes on much-coveted striker Jamie Vardy as manager Micky Mellon faces his mentor, Ian Holloway.

In-form Wrexham, whose most famous giant-killing was as a struggling Fourth Division club in 1992, when Mickey Thomas's free-kick beat the then-champions Arsenal, will travel with confidence to Brighton. Salisbury, the lowest surviving club, go to Sheffield United with player-manager Darrell Clarke pondering whether to pick himself.

Hopefuls: Non-league survivors

Everton v Tamworth

Premier League / Division / Conference

33,407 / Average attendance this season / 1,084

£15m (Marouane Fellaini, Sep 2008) / Record transfer fee paid / £7,500 (Tony Hemmings, 2000)

DWDWL / Form (all competitions) / LLLLD

Winners, five times / FA Cup best / R3, three times

Everton: Times knocked out by non-League opposition* - 0

Tamworth: Giant-killings: 4

Brighton v Wrexham

Championship / Division / Conference

18,595 / Average attendance this season / 3,791

£2.5m (Craig Mackail-Smith, Jul 2011)/ Record transfer fee paid / £212,000 (Joey Jones, Oct 1978)

LLLLW / Form (all competitions) / WLWWW

Runners-up, 1983 / FA Cup best / Q-final, three times

Brighton: Times knocked out by non-League opposition: 6

Wrexham: Giant-killings: 1

Fleetwood v Blackpool

Conference / Division / Championship

1,781 / Average attendance this season / 12,622

£50,000 (George Donnelly, Jan 2011) / Record transfer fee paid / £1.25m (DJ Campbell, Aug 2010)

WWWDW / Form (all competitions) / DDWLW

3rd round, 2012 / FA Cup best / Winners, 1953

Blackpool: Times knocked out by non-League opposition: 5

Fleetwood: Giant-killings: 2

Sheffield United v Salisbury City

League One / Division / Conference South

18,559 / Average attendance this season / 760

£4m (James Beattie, Aug 2007) / Record transfer fee paid / £15,000 (Craig Davis, 2003)

WWWWL / Form (all competitions) / WWLWL

Winners, four times / FA Cup best / 3rd round, 2012

Sheffield: Times knocked out by non-League opposition: 1

Salisbury City: Giant-killings 0

*Since FA Cup was reorganised in 1925

† Giant-killings are non-League clubs beating League teams – Wrexham became non-League in 2008

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