Joyce reflects on "dream" FA Cup tie

Almost two weeks after their fairytale FA Cup run came to an end, we caught up with Marine defender James Joyce to reflect on the club’s successful journey.

Neil Young’s side claimed seven wins in the FA Cup, including a first round proper win over Colchester United, and defeating National League South’s Havant & Waterlooville to reach the third round of the prestigious cup competition.

They became only the second team from the eighth tier to reach the third round of the Emirates FA Cup behind Chasetown FC, and when they drew Premier League’s Tottenham in the third round, there was a buzz around the whole fixture.

Jose Mourinho’s side travelled to the Marine Travel Arena on January 10, with the game broadcasted live on the BBC, while being behind-closed-doors due to the national lockdown.

And it was the eight-time winners who claimed the spot in the fourth round, with Carlos Vinicius claiming a first-half hat-trick, while Lucas Moura added a fourth before half-time and 16-year-old substitute Alfie Devine became Tottenham’s youngest ever scoring in the second-half.

Despite the defeat, the FA Cup clash was a huge success for Marine, who feature in the Pitching In Northern Premier League N/West Division, with the non-league and football community coming together to show their support.

“It’s the best experience I’ve had in football so far, I don’t think anything will top the past couple months," said Joyce, who started in all FA Cup proper round fixtures for Marine.

“Just to get to the third round is something I never thought I’d get to being a non-league player, especially in the eighth tier of the pyramid. To draw a top Premier League club like Spurs was a dream come true and something that will never be forgotten.”

Tottenham boss Mourinho talked about respecting their opponents despite the fixture representing the biggest gulf in the cup’s history in the third round, and fielded the likes of Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko while Gareth Bale featured from the bench in the second-half.

And following the game, Joyce was presented with a copy of Tottenham defender Matt Doherty's playing shirt.

“These are the kind of players that you wish and dream about playing against and never think you would get a chance to,” said Joyce.

“To actually get the opportunity to do so is a very surreal moment and one you must make the most of every minute.

“The run we’ve been on has been incredible, especially when you look at how disjointed the season has been with our league being postponed.

“The commitment and professionalism that the team have shown since the start of the season has been first class.”

Marine will be reaping the rewards for years to come following the fixture, with support from all over the football world.

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher stepped in to sponsor the club’s dugouts & pre-match warm up tops through his charity the JC23 Foundation, while the club also sold 30,697 virtual tickets, breaking club records as an “official” attendance.

Joyce added: “The virtual tickets sold is unbelievably generous from everyone who got involved.

“People around the world purchasing tickets knowing they wouldn’t see the game live and knowing they were helping the club claw back some lost revenue.

“This has helped the club be financially comfortable for the future and help with their future plans on and off the field.”

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