AN­FIELD ROAD TRIP

The FLP goes to Liverpool with Ex­eter City for their FA Cup re­play

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

EX­ETER’S play­ers trooped from the An­field tun­nel, eyes as­sailed by a sway­ing sea of red scarves, ears deaf­ened by the roar of 44,000 throats.

And as the strains of You’ll Never Walk Alone pitched to a nerve-tin­gling crescendo, their hearts were be­set by myr­iad emo­tions.

For young­sters like Jor­dan Moore-Tay­lor, it was an as­pi­ra­tional glimpse of what could yet lie ahead. But for old stagers like Clin­ton Mor­ri­son and Danny But­ter­field, it was a last en­core be­fore the cur­tain falls.

“I’d be ly­ing if I said those thoughts don’t go through your head,” said But­ter­field, the 36-yearold for­mer Crys­tal Palace and Southamp­ton de­fender. “I’m un­der no il­lu­sions that my ca­reer is go­ing to last an­other ten years.

Magic

“Did I think I’d play at An­field again? Prob­a­bly not. To get the chance to play in front of that many peo­ple one last time is some­thing I’ll cher­ish and be very proud of when I look back.”

But­ter­field, of course, needs no re­mind­ing about the magic of the FA Cup. Back in 2010, he was play­ing for a Palace side who’d just flogged Vic­tor Moses in a bid to stave off ad­min­is­tra­tion, leav­ing just one fit striker to face Wolves in a fourth round re­play.

“Neil Warnock pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re play­ing up front with Alan Lee’,” re­calls But­ter­field. “It was typ­i­cal Neil – you never knew what he’d do.

“But it proved to be a good de­ci­sion. I scored a six-minute hat-trick – right foot, left foot and a header. A week later he tried it again against New­cas­tle and well… that was the end of my short-lived ca­reer as a striker! Great mem­o­ries though. The Cup has al­ways been good to me.”

Last week’s heroic 2-2 draw at their St James Park home added a few more to the bank, not least for Gre­cians fans more used to watch­ing More­cambe and Mans­field.

Over 6,000 of them trav­elled a col­lec­tive dis­tance of more than three mil­lion miles to reach An­field – enough to make five re­turn trips to the moon.

Sadly, there was no stel­lar per­for­mance to match. The Gre­cians were tidy and dis­ci­plined, com­mit­ted to pass­ing a per­ilous path out of trou­ble that was only ever a poor touch away from catas­tro­phe.

It was an ap­proach that drew plau­dits from Liverpool boss Jur­gen Klopp, no doubt re­lieved that his kids were spared the kind of blood and thun­der bom­bard­ment more prag­matic op­po­nents would have de­ployed.

“Ex­eter was a re­ally good op­po­nent,” said the Ger­man. “They played foot­ball, they built up play, they tried ev­ery­thing to break us down.We had to do a lot of work.

“This was my first im­pres­sion of League Two foot­ball and I know their po­si­tion in the ta­ble is not too good. So it must be a very good league be­cause they had good play­ers.”

Livewire

Yet if Paul Tis­dale’s men pos­sessed prin­ci­ples, pace and pur­pose was lack­ing. Mor­ri­son, But­ter­field and Matt Oak­ley have a com­bined age of 110 (“older than my whole team put to­gether” quipped Klopp) and it showed against the whip­pet-quick boys in red.

Nerves quelled by an early Joe Allen strike, the young Reds dom­i­nated and were even­tu­ally re­warded with fur­ther goals from 18-year-old Seyi Ojo and Por­tuguese livewire Joao Teix­eira.

“It feels a long time since I was as

young and quick and sharp as some of those lads,” added a rue­ful But­ter­field. “But to be quite hon­est, don’t think age played a part in the re­sult.

“We went into the game know­ing we couldn’t gift pos­ses­sion to Liverpool. We need a few wise old heads who could keep it.

“It was a dif­fer­ent sur­face, a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment to the home game.We couldn’t pos­si­bly have gone there and hoped to recre­ate what we did at St James’. We couldn’t have gone all-out at­tack be­cause you saw what hap­pened in the se­cond half.

“The only re­gret is that we started too slowly. We let them get into their rhythm, let them score early and, in the end, we fin­ished the game think­ing we hadn’t given it a proper go.”

For the trav­el­ling army, en­ter­tain­ment was de­rived from else­where. Play­fully wel­comed to An­field by the Worzels’ Cider Drinker blast­ing over the PA, they re­sponded by mock­ing Steven Ger­rard’s fate­ful slip, im­plored a ret­i­cent Klopp for a wave and lam­basted the hap­less Chris­tian Ben­teke as a “waste of money”.

Few on the Kop would dis­agree. As the misses piled up, the £32.5m Bel­gian ap­peared to be try­ing too hard, a marginal im­prove­ment on the first tie when he didn’t try at all.

Re­ward

He took some fear­some stick from the Gre­cians fans, who kept up a wall of noise that was warmly ap­pre­ci­ated by their play­ers at the fi­nal whis­tle.

“I’m very proud of the club,” said Tis­dale. “And the sup­port­ers were fan­tas­tic. There were a cou­ple of hun­dred at More­cambe last Tues­day and it’s a re­ward for the peo­ple like that.”

For Ex­eter, the great­est re­ward was fi­nan­cial, with over £200,000 in TV money sup­ple­mented by 45 per cent of Wed­nes­day’s gate re­ceipts.

Eleven years ago, a bumper FA Cup tie with Manch­ester United saved the club from ex­tinc­tion. Now, owned by fans and a model of pru­dence, the re­wards are more mod­est.

“The away team gets 45 per of the av­er­age ticket price,” said di­rec­tor Ju­lian Tagg. “That av­er­age will be some­thing like £10 or £11, mul­ti­plied by 44,000. In the end, over the two games, we’re prob­a­bly look­ing at some­thing around £600,000.

“One of the things that has re­ally un­der­pinned our suc­cess is the academy. It’s some­thing Paul be­lieves in very strongly and that’s where some of that money will go.

Proud

“And all this week we’ve had to beg, bor­row and steal train­ing fa­cil­i­ties. A rubber crumb pitch is some­thing we’ve planned for a while and this money will al­low us to make it a re­al­ity.”

For But­ter­field and the rest of Ex­eter’s play­ers, it’s sim­ply back to re­al­ity. “For a club of this size to take Liverpool back to An­field is no small achieve­ment,” he said.

“The lads should be very proud. But it’s one to look back on at the end of your ca­reer. Right now, we’ve got League Two to worry about.”

BIG NIGHT OUT: Ex­eter City boss Paul Tis­dale, left, watches on, Joao Teixe

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

eira fires in for Liverpool, above, be­fore an im­pressed Liverpool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp con­grat­u­lates the Gre­cians play­ers on their per­for­mance THIS IS AN­FIELD: Ex­eter meet their Premier League op­po­nents be­fore the game

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