Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  

FA Cup preview
Bet on Scarborough!

Elvis is more likely to be found alive than Scarborough are to win the FA Cup.

At least that is the view taken by Britain's bookmakers, who offer odds of 5,000-1 against the non-league side going all the way to the Millennium Stadium in May, compared with only 1,000-1 against a confirmed sighting of the king of rock and roll. A bit hard on the club known as the Seadogs perhaps. But the vagaries of odds setting do give a realistic indication of the scale of the task facing the Nationwide Conference club as they prepare to entertain Chelsea in the fourth round of the tournament on Saturday.

The club that manager Russell Slade has guided to the last 32 of the world's oldest tournament for the first time in its 125-year history has twice been on the verge of financial extinction in the last two years.

Claudio Ranieri's squad cost 150 million pounds (280 million dollars) to put together. Slade's was assembled for the grand total of 2,000 pounds, less than some Chelsea players earn for a morning's work.

The one thing Scraborough do have on their side is a little bit of history.

The last time Chelsea visited Scarborough's tiny McCain stadium they went away as losers, beaten 3-2 in the second leg of a League Cup tie to go out of the tournament 4-3 on aggregate.

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Scarborough will have had a season to remember. The 500,000-pound windfall they will earn, largely as a result of the lunchtime tie being televised live, has secured the cash-strapped club's immediate future and will help smooth a planned move to a new stadium.

Scarborough are one of two non-league sides who have made it to the fourth round.

The other, Telford, look to have a more winnable clash against first division Millwall.

The pick of Saturday's ties is Liverpool's Anfield clash with Newcastle in a match that could have a significant psychological edge in what most people expect to be a battle between them for fourth place in the league, and the final Champions League place available to English clubs.

Another all-Premiership clash on Saturday pits Cup holders Arsenal against Middlesbrough in the third of the four meetings between the two clubs this month.

Arsenal won the first encounter, a league match, 4-1, but paid the price for fielding a second string side as Boro won 1-0 in the League Cup semi-final first leg in midweek.

It may not be the most glamorous of Saturday's clashes -- but there is no doubt that Burnley's meeting with fellow first division side Gillingham has the most riding on its outcome.

Burnley need to raise more than 500,000 pounds by the end of next month to avoid financial collapse and everyone at the club is keenly aware that the Cup could prove to be their salvation.

The pick of Sunday's ties is a rerun of the 1981 final between Manchester City and Tottenham, which Spurs won in a replay thanks to Ricky Villa's famous winning goal.