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The Delightful Story Of How Tony Cascarino Saved An English League Club

By Conor Neville
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It's two and a half years now since Emmet Malone became a celebrity in Cyprus. Aside from Steve Staunton and Paddy Kenny, no Irishman has done more for Cypriot football than Emmet Malone.

After Fenerbache were disqualified from the 2013/14 Europa League for their involvement in match-fixing, Gianni Infantino sought the assistance of a neutral journalist to draw their replacement. All the Irish clubs had been knocked out. The UEFA Head of Communications, an Irishman David Farrelly, asked Emmet if he'd do the honours.

It's possible (though this might be doing him a disservice) that he didn't at first realise the scenes of joy he had sparked in the Cypriot capital when he drew then name of Apoel Nicosia from the bowl.

A quick glance of his twitter feed revealed that the online population of Nicosia were pouring their heart out in gratitude to the Irish Times journalist.

He had a banner unveiled in his honour, and there was even talk of a pub being named after him. Fans bought jerseys with his (full) name stitched into the back. New born kids in Nicosia were suddenly being called Emmet.

Interestingly, wikipedia (where I do very little of my research) has written that Malone's 'popularity has suddenly risen in Cyprus', a formulation which makes it sound like Malone's popularity in Cyprus had already been polled before the draw.


Exeter City's answer to Emmet Malone is a former Irish striker.


In today's London Times, Alyson Rudd recalls how her colleague Tony Cascarino rescued the financially crippled Exeter City when he drew them out of the hat to face Manchester United in the FA Cup. They met on this day eleven years ago.

Exeter had debts of £4.5 million and there were mushrooms growing in the changing rooms. A previous chairman, John Russell would be jailed for fraud five years later.

The club were in a dire position. 500 supporters donated £500 each to try and save the club.


The chairwoman of the Exeter City supporters trust Denise Watts puts it plainly. Had Cascarino not pulled their name out of the hat to play Manchester United, the club would not exist today.

We wouldn’t have a club had Tony not drawn us out the hat. We would have been in CVA [a company voluntary arrangement] for ever, struggling for money.

Cascarino wrote in his own column that he had no notion of the significance of the no.64 ball.


Very quickly though, I felt like some kind of messiah. The club thanked me, called me their patron saint. By scooping up their number, I had given them a lottery win that saved them from possible extinction. Exeter’s story illustrates why the FA Cup matters. It can distribute wealth as well as provide romance for the neutral.

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