Sun, Jan 09, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Inglethorpe says he likes the odds


Manchester United's Darren Fletcher, left, tussles with Middlesbrough's Stuart Downing during their match at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium, England on Jan. 1.


Exeter manager Alex Inglethorpe has reason to be optimistic going into today's FA Cup mismatch at Manchester United.

Exeter is "only" a 5,000-1 underdog against, arguably, the most famous team in world soccer. That's the same as Scunthorpe vs. Chelsea. However, it's much better than Yeading FC, which in 20,000-1 to beat Newcastle.

Exeter, Yeading and Scunthorpe are among the 64 teams with the biggest dreams in the third round of the world's oldest knockout tournament. They're also realistic.

"We are going to have to be well organized and live off the scraps that might come our way," Inglethrope said.

In other words: play for respect, don't get embarrassed and keep the score down.

"As games go, this is certainly one that will keep you awake at night and thinking about how to go about it," Inglethrope said.

Exeter was relegated to the Nationwide Conference two years ago from England's old third-division, meaning it ranks about 100 teams below defending FA Cup champion Manchester United.

Yeading plays in a league that's two more levels below Exeter, and averages only 132 fans for home games.

This is the charm of the FA Cup, which allows an indebted team like Exeter to balance its books in a single match with a worldwide TV audience watching and a 67,000 sellout expected at Manchester United.

In the Chelsea game, the Blues come in with a team valued at 185 million pounds (US$348 million). Scunthorpe is made up of free transfers.

The weekend of inevitable surprises always places in stark relief the narrow difference between stardom and disappointment.

Almost three years ago, midfielder Andy Taylor was released by Manchester United after a shattered left knee was slow to mend. Instead of moving up from United's under-17 and under-19 teams -- like teammate Darren Fletcher did -- Taylor returned to his hometown of Exeter.

"I was gutted and depressed to be told at that age that my career might be over," Taylor said. "Sir Alex Ferguson told me it's never over. Roy Keane was another to tell me just to believe I could come back."

Taylor will be back at Old Trafford -- at least for one Saturday in January.

"My ultimate ambition is to play at the highest level," he said. "That was what I strived for as a young player and that is what I am striving for now."

To prepare for the big afternoon, Exeter will train at Bolton -- a short drive from Manchester United. Inglethorpe and director of football Steve Perryman also arranged a special day out: a trip to Old Trafford.

"It is important the players get a feel for the place before the game," Inglethorpe said. "We will have a look at the pitch and the dressing rooms, that's all. Not the trophy room."

Liverpool's FA Cup clash with Burnley was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch on Friday.

The third-round tie at League Championship side Burnley's Turf Moor ground was called off by referee Mark Clattenberg after torrential rain in the area made it impossible to play on the pitch.

Player loaned to Bremen

Egyptian international Mohamed Zidan was loaned out Friday to Bundesliga champion Werder Bremen, which hopes the 23-year-old forward can replace departed Euro 2004 star Angelos Charisteas.

FIFA organizes charity

Soccer's world and European governing bodies are organizing a charity soccer match to raise funds for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, FIFA said Friday.

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