Old Trafford trip revives broken dream for Crawley star Rusk
Sergio Torres, one of the iconic names of this season's FA Cup, was out shopping in Brighton when the fifth-round draw was made. The Argentinian was tracking events on his mobile phone when the signal went dead.
Thinking quickly, a trait already seen in knocking Derby County out in the third round, the Crawley Town midfielder dashed across the road to an electrical shop with banks of televisions on display.
"I asked the shopkeeper if there was any chance of switching channels so I could follow the draw," recalled Torres.
"He gave me a funny look and clearly didn't have a clue who I was. But when I explained I played for Crawley he was very helpful.
"When we came out of the hat with Manchester United, I was celebrating like a madman, jumping around all over his shop. Fortunately the shopkeeper thought it was very funny."
The story sums up the FA Cup: a non-leaguer's passion for a competition that affords glorious opportunity and the shopkeeper's appreciation of the draw's importance. Today's tie is screened live in Argentina as well as here.
Crawley's players provide eloquent testimony that the annual collision of upstairs and downstairs continues to seize the imagination.
Dreams can come true. Take Simon Rusk. The midfielder dropped out of football for 18 months with a serious knee injury.
"Soon after I packed up I went to Old Trafford with my dad to watch United play a Champions League game against Celtic," Rusk said. "I remember turning round to my dad and saying, 'my chance of ever playing here has gone forever'. It hurt." That hurt ends today.
Ben Smith began in distinguished surroundings.
"I'd gone straight from school to training with the Arsenal first team," reminisced the midfielder.
"I was as nervous as a kitten. Somebody headed the ball and Dennis Bergkamp caught the ball on his foot, and flicked it back up brilliantly. I was speechless.
"I thought I'd play in the Premier League. I thought being technically good was enough. But it's about attitude. Pat Rice was my youth-team manager. He advised me but I felt invincible. I didn't listen. I didn't have the dedication. If I fancied some junk food, I ate it."
Crawley are home to many human-interest stories. Yet they have a bad name in non-league circles, partly because of their wealth. "All other clubs would love what we've got but I sort of understand the jealousy," said Smith.
With a trip to Old Trafford today, the green-eyed monster is only going to roar louder. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Manchester Utd v Crawley Town,
Live, ITV1, Setanta Sports 1, 5.30