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FA Cup: Exeter City face Liverpool having lost last season to non-league Warrington


The FA Cup is a great leveller - just ask Exeter City's long serving manager Paul Tisdale. Only Arsene Wenger has managed longer in England's top four divisions and Tisdale has a chance to set the record straight after last season's humiliating 1-0 defeat at the hands of non-league Warrington Town, November 2014.

That game was televised live as will this coming Sunday's fixture with Liverpool. But the roles are reversed with Exeter the underdogs hoping home advantage at St James Park will enable them to cause one of the shocks of round three.

It will be a huge pay-day for Exeter whatever he result. But, turn the clock back 11 years and the Devon club - then in the Conference were saved finacially after a 0-0 draw at old Trafford gave them a lucrative replay at home. Behind the scenes, former Tottenham legend, Steve Perryman, has been director of football since 'retiring' to Devon over 10 years ago, serving as a managerial mentor first to Alex Inglethorpe and now to Tisdale.

A heart-bypass operation three years ago has not diminished his fervour. ‘I love it,’ he says, as he surveys training on a hill-top Astroturf pitch at Exeter University.

Tisdale is approaching his 10th year at Exeter. A well-established figure in the managerial community and a contender for the England Under 21 job in 2013, he recalls a recent conversation with a prominent young Premier League manager.

‘He likes to have his three pitches all set up for training, so you can move quickly from one exercise to the next,’ says Tisdale. ‘It’s not quite like that here.’

According to the Daily Mail, Exeter know how fortunate they are. 'The financial meltdown of 2003 saw the club in administration. A Supporters’ Trust took over as they were relegated to the Conference and fans pledged money to keep them alive.

'Even so, finances were unmanageable until that game against United in 2005. Exeter drew 0-0 at Old Trafford and only lost 2-0 at St James Park, the tie not secure until Rooney’s 87th-minute goal.

'The club had almost £5million of debt when it went into administration in 2003 and, even though that was reduced to £1m by a creditors’ agreement, their future remained precarious.

'‘The rumour was we were very close to the edge again,’ says Perryman. ‘And then we got £1m for the United game.’

Exeter owe their existence to the FA Cup and now the imminent arrival of Jurgen Klopp and his team to the tiny away dressing room at St James Park allows a moment to reflect on that lucky break again.


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