Minnows plan to make irate Arsenal fans turn on their team

Lincoln City's Alan Power, Terry Hawkridge and Jonathan Jack Muldoon celebrating after a match against Burnley on Feb 18.
Lincoln City's Alan Power, Terry Hawkridge and Jonathan Jack Muldoon celebrating after a match against Burnley on Feb 18.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Non-league Lincoln City have enjoyed a fairytale run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and are now dreaming of piling more misery on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal today.

The sides meet at the Emirates Stadium with under-pressure Wenger knowing an unthinkable defeat by fifth-tier opposition would surely spell the end for him in north London.

Lincoln have already seen off Premier League side Burnley, two clubs from the second-tier Championship and one from the third-tier League One in their remarkable run to the last eight.

They are the first non-league club to reach this stage of the competition since 1914, although they are at the very top of the non-league pyramid, sitting top of the National League and on course to return to the Football League after a six-year absence.

Nevertheless, defeating Arsenal would eclipse all else and go down as the greatest ever FA Cup shock.

While Danny Cowley's side appreciate the scale of the challenge, they believe they can use the discontent at the Emirates Stadium in their favour.

 

  • 88
    Number of places between Arsenal and non-league side Lincoln City in the English football pyramid.

"The boss said if we can go there and be in the game after 15 or 20 minutes then the crowd might turn on them and we might have 60,000 supporting us instead of 9,000," said skipper Luke Waterfall.

"You never know, it's one of those situations where they want the manager out, so there might be a lot of Arsenal fans going to that game wishing we can get something out of that game to see the end of the manager. We've got to use it to our advantage.

"The pressure is massively off us this time, all the pressure is on Arsenal. They are only fighting on this front now - the FA Cup is all they've got to play for, so they're going to be trying ridiculously hard to beat us and go on and win the FA Cup."

The contrast between Arsenal's global reach and tiny Lincoln's far more humble ambitions make this the ultimate banana skin for Wenger, who has won the FA Cup six times in his 21-year reign.

Lincoln can join Sutton, Hereford and Wrexham as the FA Cup's most famous giant-killers, former schoolteacher Cowley, whose brother Nicky serves as his assistant manager, said.

"Yeah, we can. It might be one-in-1000 at the Emirates but we can," he said. "We understand that Arsenal could blow us away. We could play our very best and still get beaten 5-0. We're professional and prepared. We might surprise some people."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Minnows plan to make irate Arsenal fans turn on their team'. Print Edition | Subscribe