The Thursday Preview: Carlisle United Vs Tipton Town
Hillside views above industrial towns are a staple of Football Focus on an FA Cup Match Day, with Hovis music thrown into the mix and images shown of flat capped oldsters swinging rattles for all they are worth in crowds of 80,000. Ronny Radford will fire in that goal again as parkas swamp the pitch, minnows will feature cobblers and tinkers amidst their ranks and the manager will always be mowing the turf and manning the ticket booth and booking diners in at the Happy Eater next door.
Ridley Scott famously directed that bread advert in the decidedly non-footballing climes of Shaftesbury, Dorset and there is an incongruous Hollywood angle to tomorrow’s archetypal FA Cup mismatch. With Tipton Town of the Midland Football Alliance appearing at this stage for the first time for 62 years, their opponents Carlisle United have re-emphasized the gulf in class by signing Tom Cruise!
Thomas Cruise to be exact: and wouldn’t you alter your name if you shared a moniker with the man who espouses the creed of Scientology and graced Austin Powers in Goldmember? For it’s the Arsenal kid, with one Champions League appearance versus Olympiakos to his name who has shown up at Brunton Park on loan: an attempt to refuel a season that has spluttered after a sparkly start and on the face of it, no risky business.
Carlisle has potential as a football city. Cumbrian rivals Workington and Barrow have long ago exited the league and if the Blue Army joined them in the non-league ranks for a single season back in 2003-4, their geographical isolation across the Pennines from the nearest big draw affords them a breathing space that should have seen them achieve more over the years.
This Guardian Football League blog post by John Ashdown recently took the temperature of Carlisle and pronounced a generally robust bill of health. A couple of shaky seasons brought on by a devastating post-season slump in 2008 appear to have been corrected and Greg Abbott’s charges have begun this campaign as play off challengers. The manager did good business in the Summer and Frankie Simek in particular looked a prime acquisition. A 2-0 win over Tranmere, albeit after the lowly Wirral side had flunked a penalty, has steadied nerves.
As for Tipton, their arrival at this stage after a win over the league’s oldest club, Sheffield in the Fourth Qualifying Round will hearten romantics and there can be few places in the country where the locals are better able to look after themselves. Steve Bull will doubtless be wheeled out by the media despite leaving the club when he was an early teenager: he has also praised the Tipton “set up”, whatever that means. But will it be a case of Lions for Lambs? 5-0 Carlisle I’m afraid.