If the FA Cup is the stuff of dreams it is also, to some clubs, undeniably the stuff of survival. The Cheshire town of Macclesfield has been abuzz ever since the Third Division team drew West Ham United in this week's third round, and it only takes a visit to their stadium, the Moss Rose Ground, to know what an injection of TV cash from this match will mean.
Attempts to interview Macclesfield's top scorer, Lee Glover, in some kind of warmth and comfort being frustrated because of locked doors and a lighting failure, we ended up parking ourselves on a bench in the away dressing- room, eyeing a heap of four crumpled lager cans and two banana skins in the middle of the floor. Halifax were the last visitors and, you thought, no wonder they are bottom of the League if that's an example of their dietary habits.
Glover, of course, has known better clubs and more salubrious dressing-rooms than this, having spent eight years with Nottingham Forest after joining as a trainee straight from school, before a descent through the Nationwide's three divisions with Port Vale, Rotherham and now Macclesfield. The 31-year-old striker played for Forest in the 1991 Wembley defeat by Spurs, known ever since as the Gazza Final because of the bizarre behaviour of an overenthusiastic Paul Gascoigne, who ended up departing on a stretcher having injured himself attempting an extravagant foul.
That match, as far as Glover is concerned, was a long way from being a highlight of his time at Forest. "People always remember that final because of Gazza, but I never talk about that. We were just unfortunate to lose it in extra time. There were better things to remem-ber. Winning the semi-final 4-0 against West Ham was a great game to be involved in and altogether it was a good time at Forest under Brian Clough. The team had some great players – Roy Keane, Des Walker, Stuart Pearce, Nigel Clough.
"They had a superb record for a small club. The gaffer had done a great job. Off the pitch and around the club it was a good atmosphere, the whole place was buzzing. Cloughie could get things across quickly and in plain English, whereas other managers might take a while longer. He'd do it in a sentence, leaving no doubt as to what was wanted."
Glover's time at Forest was plagued by injury. Five minutes into his Scotland Under- 21 debut he ruptured knee ligaments. "That put me out for most of the season, and after a year back I broke my tibia and fibula, then badly damaged my ankle ligaments, which was another four months out. In that time I was grateful for Brian Clough's loyalty to me and other injured players. He made sure we knew we would get a contract and would be looked after. That type of loyalty deserves repayment and I was disappointed I didn't score many goals under him."
The total, in 76 starts, was nine, one of which helped to defeat Tottenham in the 1992 League Cup semi-final before, for the second straight year, Forest lost at Wembley, 1-0 to Manchester United, with Glover looking on from the bench. Clough's successor, Frank Clark, sold Lee for £200,000 in 1994 to Port Vale, where 52 games yielded seven goals. In 1996 Glover went to Rotherham, managed by one of his old Forest mentors, Archie Gemmill, for a club record of £150,000.
It was at Rotherham that Glover suffered his worst injury. "I badly tore a hamstring but it took them 12 months to diagnose it properly. When I had the operation the specialist found the ligament was 80 per cent torn and would never have repaired itself. In those 12 months I had gone from being club captain and top scorer to being out of the picture."
Still, first under Gemmill and then Ronnie Moore, Glover managed a goal every other game with Rotherham, 29 in 59 starts. Out of contract in the summer of 2000, he joined another ex-Forest colleague, Peter Davenport, on a free at Macclesfield, though that threatened to turn sour, too. "Peter got the sack last Christmas when we were middle table-ish, the most surprising decision I've come across." Though sometimes alternating a left-sided midfield role with his favourite position of striker, Glover still ended last season as top scorer with 10. This season, restored to the front, he has already claimed 12 goals.
"This season has been a lot better for me," he said. "After all my injuries I just want to play as many games as I can. My contract is up at the end of the season but I feel I have another two, three, playing years in me. Then I would like to go into management."
In pursuit of this, he has been doing coaching badges and a sports science degree. Meantime, West Ham await. "It would be great to score against them," he said. Glover is adamant that Wembley day won't be mentioned, at least by him, in the dressing room beforehand. It gets frequent, jesting airings among his mates at Macclesfield. Lee Glover has never minded taking a bit of stick, though it would have been more bearable had Forest been able to remember it for something other than Gazza.