At the moment, it looks pretty grim for plucky third-tier Burton Albion after they went down 9-0 away to Man City in the Charabanc Cup semi-final first leg.
Some observers would suggest the tie is done and dusted, but we disagree. Burton, in fact, have City exactly where they want them: lulled into a false sense of security, ready to be viciously taken apart at the Pirelli Stadium.
Here’s how they can do it.
Dodgy lasagne for the lads
Back in 2006, several members of Martin Jol’s Tottenham Hotspur side were stricken with illness prior to a vital Premier League match against West Ham.
Spurs had checked-in to the Marriott hotel, where a “sprawling buffet” left at least ten of the squad sprawling their buffets all over the previously pristine Marriott bathroom floors. Jol’s boys lost 2-1 and were eliminated from the Champions League qualification race by Arsenal.
Burton isn’t particularly far from Manchester, so we’re not sure the Cityzens will feel the need to check in to a local hotel. But that doesn’t mean the Brewers shouldn’t look to “liven up” their opponent’s pre-match meal, however possible.
Maybe that will be a trip to Nando’s in the Arndale? If so, a few hundred millilitres of Colax in the peri-peri will really get things flowing. This may require one of the Burton players or coaches to go undercover on the staff.
‘Forget’ to cut the grass
There’s been a lot of talk about Naughty Pep allowing the grass at the Etihad to grow in order to hamper Liverpool during the two sides’ Premier League fixture earlier this month.
Whether or not City actually did so, there’s no rule against a little bit of growth. So why shouldn’t Burton do the same?
We reckon about eight inches should do the job, although to be fair to Burton’s groundsman, he may have to ship in a few extra blades as it’s unlikely he’ll be able to encourage that much natural photosynthesis in such a short space of time.
This will completely negate City’s passing game, and allow Burton’s more physical approach to triumph.
Narrow the pitch
Turning the playing surface into something that resembles the American savanna may not be enough in itself, so Burton should also “bring in” the touchlines.
About twenty feet either side should be fine. You want each member of your back four to be sufficiently close – at all times -to read the text of each other’s tattoos without having to squint. If the fullback can’t throw the ball to the opposite sideline, then it’s not narrow enough.
This is a classic Tony Pulis tactic, so there’s no reason for Nigel Clough not to give it a bang. Sure, Stoke is only down the road anyway.
If Clough can convince Thomas Gronnemark to give his players a few tips, even better.
Send the City team bus on a wild goose chase
What easier way to win than if your opponent simply doesn’t – or can’t – show up?
The best way to ensure this is to re-label the signposts on the way into Burton. Local wayward youths can surely be convinced to help out by graffiti-ing the signs accordingly, thus allowing Albion to enhance their place in the community and possibly even claim some National Lottery funding.
You wouldn’t want City to be led too far astray, but if their bus can end up somewhere between 100-150 miles away from the stadium with five minutes to go before kick-off, that would be ideal.
Just make sure it doesn’t go anywhere near Anfield.
Just get a lot better at football in a really short space of time
As anyone who has watched heart-warming sports films will know, this is best accomplished via a snappily cut training montage.
A few shots of players running up stadium steps here; a few clips of coaches screaming loudly at exhausted goalkeepers doing sit-ups there; and bingo – your team has miraculously improved and just in time to win a vital match at the last moment.
This is tricky to pull off, so should only be attempted if each option above has been ruled out. It’s hard to make this work, but when it does, it can’t be stopped.