sport news Banter with Bale and a full English... Marine's James Joyce lifts the lid on ...

What does a footballer experience in the hours before the biggest game of his life?

Marine AFC took on the greatest mis-match in FA Cup history on Sunday, with Jose Mourinho's Tottenham visiting Rossett Park with 160 places between the two sides in the English football pyramid. 

Marine defender JAMES JOYCE provided Sportsmail with a candid insight into the 48 hours building up to their clash with Spurs, involving WhatsApp messages, roadblocks and a full English breakfast.

Marine FC welcomed Gareth Bale and Co to Rossett Park in an FA Cup clash with Tottenham

Marine FC welcomed Gareth Bale and Co to Rossett Park in an FA Cup clash with Tottenham

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James Joyce (left) played every minute in a dream-come-true for the underdog Marine players

James Joyce (left) played every minute in a dream-come-true for the underdog Marine players

Friday night  

The excitement is building and the team’s WhatsApp group doesn’t stop pinging with messages. 

There is also a serious element to the chat, though, as we are discussing the previous night’s training session when we all got tested for coronavirus.

It was our second round of tests and the idea that we might have picked something up to stop us playing is sickening. It takes me a little bit longer than normal to get to sleep. 

I couldn’t imagine getting this close to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it being taken away from me.

The Marine squad weren't just nervous to face a Premier League side, with Covid test looming

The Marine squad weren't just nervous to face a Premier League side, with Covid test looming 

Saturday morning

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Not surprisingly, I’m up early. My phone has been buzzing for a while and I’m getting plenty of messages about my appearance on the sports pages of the Daily Mail. 

My Dad, Dave, works at the same factory as me, so there are messages from his mates as well as mine. It’s unbelievable, I can’t believe it’s happening.

The best message of all, however, comes around 10am. We get news from the club on WhatsApp that everyone has tested negative. You can’t imagine the relief. 

The non-league side aimed to take the most professional approach possible to the clash

The non-league side aimed to take the most professional approach possible to the clash 

With that taken care of, I get my overnight bag sorted out and I meet Ryan Wignall to get the train into town.

Outside the station, David Raven is waiting to give us a lift to training, which is a godsend. Win, lose or draw, I can have a drink afterwards. 

I had one glass on Boxing Night, after we had beaten City of Liverpool, but since then I’ve sacrificed everything. It’s been well worth it.

Saturday afternoon 

We’d normally train at our stadium but not this time: we arrive at Liverpool’s Academy in Kirkby and the mood among the lads is better than I can ever remember. 

We are spoilt with these facilities and it gives us the feeling of what it must be like for professionals team.   

Marine had a huge swell of support in the build-up to the FA Cup game from across the nation

Marine had a huge swell of support in the build-up to the FA Cup game from across the nation

The first thing the gaffer (Neil Young) does is commend us for the way we have conducted ourselves in relation to Covid-19. 

Nobody has done anything to jeopardise the game. He then tells us about all the goodwill

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