THE ‘romance of the Cup’ is a cliché that Guiseley manager Paul Cox once took literally.
Not only did the first weekend of 2013 feature both the then Mansfield Town chief’s 41st birthday and a third-round home tie against Liverpool, he also married long-term partner Natasha.
A cheeky pact between the couple was behind the unusual scheduling, Cox having agreed that if the Stags beat Lincoln City in a replay to land the glamour clash with Suarez, Sturridge et al then their summer wedding would be brought forward to the Friday of third-round weekend.
“What were effectively little funny bets with my then partner and now wife had been going on for years,” explains Cox, who is back in Cup action tomorrow when Accrington Stanley tackle his National League outfit at Nethermoor.
“We would do them before big games, starting with little things like, ‘If you win in the Cup, can I have a new pair of shoes?’.
“Things carried on like that, but then we were having a chat with (Mansfield owner) John Radford and his wife Carolyn before we played Lincoln.
We were having a laugh and then one of them asked, ‘So, what is the bet this time?’ Carolyn and ‘Tash basically came up with the suggestion, ‘If we get through and get a big tie in the next round, we’ll get married’. So, we went with that.Paul Cox
“We were having a laugh and then one of them asked, ‘So what is the bet this time?’
“Carolyn and ‘Tash basically came up with the suggestion, ‘If we get through and get a big tie in the next round, we’ll get married’. So we went with that – and when we landed Liverpool, there were mixed emotions.
“No, seriously, it was great, if a little surreal. We had the reception at the club, but it was the ceremony that was most strange.
“Believe it or not, I am quite shy, so when I turned up and there were two camera crews there, it felt odd. It felt even odder when they started following me around. I said to my best man, ‘Who are these fellas?’ All we could do was laugh.”
Forty-eight hours after tieing the knot with Natasha, Cox was in the home dugout at Field Mill as Mansfield, then of the Conference, went mightily close to pulling off one of the great upsets.
Only a blatant handball by Luis Suarez during the build-up to what proved to be the winner and Stags striker Matt Green later having a goalbound effort blocked on the line by a Liverpool hand allowed the Premier League club to go through courtesy of a 2-1 victory.
Running Brendan Rodgers’s men so close earned the Conference outfit, who were 93 places below their opponents in the football pyramid at the time, plenty of plaudits.
It was not, though, the first time Cox had enjoyed an extended run in the Cup against all the odds and nor would it be his last.
As a rookie manager at Eastwood Town, the former Halifax Town defender steered the UniBond Premier League minnows to the third round in 2008-09.
Wycombe Wanderers, who just six months later would be promoted to League One, were one of six sides beaten by the Badgers during a marathon run that had begun in the first qualifying round with a victory over Kidsgrove Athletic.
Cox then completed a hat-trick of third-round appearances with non-League clubs last season, Bristol Rovers being dumped out by Barrow en route to losing 2-0 at home to Rochdale. With such a proud record, it is no surprise the Guiseley manager is an avowed fan of the FA Cup.
“The Cup is the best competition in the world,” adds the Lions’ chief. “The anticipation before the draw is huge and if you land a big tie then everyone is excited.
“I have had bad experiences in the Cup, it hasn’t all been great times. But the adrenalin starts to flow the moment it comes around each year.
“Liverpool is the one most people remember and the day was everything the club had hoped, apart from the result of course.
“Sturridge, Suarez and Coutinho was their forward line that day, which isn’t bad, is it? But we gave them a real scare.
“The great thing about the Cup is that one minute you are on your knees and then the next you are celebrating, the hairs on the back of the neck standing up with all the adrenalin flowing.
“I always think of the first game against Lincoln in the round before Liverpool.
“We were losing (3-2) and going out only for Matt Rhead to pop up and head an equaliser in stoppage-time. Without that, we would never have faced Liverpool.”
Dreams of a potential return clash with the Reds are likely to seem a long way off tomorrow, one of the few even tenuous links between the Premier League club and Guiseley’s first-round opponents being the famous Milk advert from the Eighties that ended with the much-repeated catchphrase, ‘Accrington Stanley? Who are they?’
But, if the Lions can cause an upset then who knows what may lay in store for the club?
Or, for that matter, Cox’s wife Natasha with The Yorkshire Post wondering if a new bet has been struck?
“She hasn’t said anything yet,” laughs the 45-year-old.
“We have two daughters now so it won’t be extravagant, maybe shoes for the girls.
“Mind, if we win, she can have what she wants.”