Morecambe can count on the support of Britain’s most famous sporting giant in a neat twist to the usual David versus Goliath FA Cup clash against Tottenham.
World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury is the town’s best-known resident and the League One players, collectively known as the Shrimps, are used to bumping into him. ‘His gym is actually part of the stadium so you see him quite a bit to be fair,’ explains defender Ryan McLaughlin.
‘I usually start chanting, ‘There’s only one Tyson Fury’ and he gives us the arm raise. I’m sure he’ll be rooting for us against Spurs. He loves Morecambe because he can go out and about without being disturbed, it’s got that feel to it.
Morecambe’s Ryan McLaughlin is relishing the chance of playing Spurs in the FA Cup
‘I watch all his fights. I’m a big boxing fan and have my own podcast, I’ve been lucky enough to have Eddie Hearn and Billy Joe Saunders on as guests. My resolution for 2022 is to get Tyson on my show.’
First, there’s a date on Sunday afternoon at Tottenham’s state-of-the-art stadium. Morecambe have historically been a non-League club but are on the rise and spending this season in the third tier for the first time.
Unlike most of his team-mates, McLaughlin has some previous experience of big games.
McLaughlin is a big boxing fan and has his own podcast on which he interviewed Eddie Hearn
Tyson Fury lives in Morecambe and is often spotted around the Shrimps’ training ground
He started his career at Liverpool with Raheem Sterling and Conor Coady and has won five caps for Northern Ireland, playing against Uruguay and Alexis Sanchez’s Chile.
He won’t be precious if a Morecambe player tries to grab a shirt off Harry Kane or Dele Alli.
‘I played for Liverpool against Roma in a pre-season friendly and thought if I tried to get Francesco Totti’s shirt Jamie Carragher would have called me a fanboy,’ he says. ‘When I thought about it later, I regretted not asking.
McLaughlin regretted not asking Francesco Totti for his shirt after a game with Roma
So he won’t criticise any teammate who tries to get Harry Kane’s shirt on Sunday
‘Obviously, we have to concentrate on the game — we’re not there for an Instagram picture — but it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone to enjoy.
‘You watch Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League and the players on the other team will be asking for his shirt during the game. I wouldn’t be bothered as long as we are focused. We want to look back on the day with pride.
‘My parents are coming over from Belfast with my brother Conor who plays for Fleetwood. It will be a great family moment, the first time my dad, a Tottenham fan, hasn’t wanted Spurs to win!’
Morecambe manager Stephen Robinson will miss the game with Spurs with Covid
Even if Antonio Conte makes changes with next week’s EFL Cup semi-final against Chelsea in mind, Spurs will be big favourites, with internationals Alli, Harry Winks and Steven Bergwijn to call on.
But 27-year-old McLaughlin knows how hard underdogs can make it. He was at Rochdale when they took Manchester United to penalties in the League Cup and in last season’s FA Cup third round they forced Newcastle to a replay.
Though Morecambe are in the lower reaches of the third tier, their general progress as a club is impressive.
Cole Stockton has been in scintillating form for Morecambe so far this season
‘There’s a real buzz about the place,’ says McLaughlin. ‘I know the manager Stephen Robinson from his time as Michael O’Neill’s No2 with Northern Ireland. He’s a hands-on coach.’
Unfortunately, Robinson will miss the trip to Tottenham after testing positive for Covid.
McLaughlin adds: ‘Before the last round at Buxton, we stayed in a hotel overnight to give us the best chance to get a result. It’s nice the club are rewarded by going to a big Premier League side like Tottenham.’
They also have their own Harry Kane in prolific striker Cole Stockton who has scored 18 times this season. ‘His finishing is unbelievable but his hold-up play is very strong as well,’ says McLaughlin.
The striker has scored 18 goals this season and will be key to Morecambe’s chances on Sunday
McLaughlin’s own chances of following his pals Sterling and Coady into the Premier League were thwarted by injury, particularly the manner in which he missed going to Euro 2016.
‘I rolled my ankle in training at Liverpool two hours before Michael O’Neill rang me to say I had been selected to go to France,’ he says. ‘I had to tell him I was in hospital waiting for the results of a scan. It turned out I had ruptured a ligament. I haven’t always had the best of luck but hopefully it evens out over my career.
‘Going to Tottenham is so exciting. I will tell the younger boys to take a leaf out of Luke Matheson’s book. He scored for Rochdale at Old Trafford aged 16. He didn’t show any fear. He embraced the occasion.’