U3A member David Wotherspoon had “a day I will never forget” when Marine, the Crosby team he has followed for over 70 years, took on Tottenham Hotspur in the 3rd round of the FA Cup on January 10th this year. The team lost 0-5 but that was hardly surprising, says David, as Spurs had nine full internationals in their starting line-up.
David was taken to watch Marine as a child by his father who had been a player before the war and then a committee member and later president. “The first game I really remember was also in the FA Cup in 1947 against New Brighton, then in the Football League. We lost 0-4 and I cried all the way home on the ferry”. He lived all of his early life in Crosby; attending Merchant Taylors’ with compulsory rugby on Saturday afternoons meant a rush to get to Marine games.
He joined the Marine committee in the late 1960s and served on it for over 30 years before becoming president himself. “We are the only father and son so far on the presidents’ board. I am very proud of what the club achieved in that period. We had a rundown ground and two wooden sheds. Now we have an excellent stand and terracing all round the ground as well as a large clubroom complex.”
David edited the match programme for over 20 years and wrote the centenary history of Marine “The Mighty Mariners”.
“The Spurs game was undoubtedly the club’s greatest ever. I was fortunate to be able to go as one of the small Marine contingent as Covid forced the game to be played behind closed doors. It was more the tie that caught the imagination and put a smile on faces in this terrible time all around the world. I had messages from people I had not heard from for years and the social media support for the club was amazing.”
Marine lost out through having no crowd but the cup run of eight matches gave them a good income from FA awards and TV rights. “When we learnt it was behind closed doors someone came up with the idea of selling virtual tickets at £10 which would also go in a raffle for a variety of prizes.
“We thought we might get 600 but it quickly passed 6,000 and finished up in five figures. All of that was very welcome as lockdown had virtually ended all our normal sources of income.” The main thrust of that came from Spurs’ supporters and David is full of praise for the Premiership club and their followers. “They treated us with warmth and respect. For example, Covid stopped the normal exchange of shirts after the game but Spurs gave our players a complete new set of kit so each one could have a named shirt as a great souvenir”.
Marine also has a strong community operation which has been involved in delivering meals to pensioners in the lockdown as well as a host of other activities including the players coaching in schools. Various Tottenham groups gave considerable support to these efforts to mark the tie.
David hopes the game and the TV coverage watched by 6.7 million viewers will give people a better idea of what a club like Marine is about. “It is very like u3a with people coming together to enjoy something special. It welcomes families and creates lifelong friendships. It relies on a group effort”
He reckons he has seen around 4,000 Marine games, still travelling away on the team coach until Covid struck. “I suspect the virus has put an end to this season for non-league clubs but the memory of that Sunday will keep me going for a long time to come.”