Carlisle United will be cheered on by a sold-out Brunton Park as they face Premier League side Everton in the FA Cup hoping to lift spirits on and off the pitch.
Cumbria was affected terribly by flooding as storms battered the UK in December, with Brunton Park hit to such an extent that water rose as high as the crossbars and koi carp were found in one of the goalmouths.
Carlisle players and staff have tried to help local people get their lives back on track, taking to the streets to help clear houses of damaged goods, while fans of Sunday’s opponents have also pitched in – Everton fans raising more than £7,000 to help with the relief fund.
And Carlisle fans are set to show their support on Sunday, with Brunton Park set to be near its 18,000 capacity come kick-off.
Having played home games in Blackpool, Blackburn and Preston while their stadium was unusable, Carlisle returned home against York City last weekend – a 1-1 draw played out on a relaid pitch and in front of their biggest crowd of the season so far (7,461).
Club captain Danny Grainger told BBC Sport: “Everyone has been fantastic. Football clubs and fans have looked after us, they really have.
“We’ve been really looked after, so hopefully we’ve repaid them [fans] by getting this glamour tie.
“No Premier League team wants to come to a League Two team in the FA Cup. It’s one of those games where shocks can happen.
“There’s always one in every round. Why can’t it be us? We’ve taken Liverpool to penalties [in the League Cup] and on another night we would have won that game.
“It’s a no-pressure game for us, we get to enjoy it. All the pressure is on Everton. We’ve been through a lot in the last eight weeks and it prepares you well.”
Local boy Grainger will miss the cup tie due to an ankle injury, much to manager Keith Curle’s disappointment.
“He’s a goal threat, a goal scorer and he sets a good example,” Curle said of his captain.
“It’s disappointing for him, but the pleasing thing is I know he will tackle his injury in the same way he’s tackled everything else this season. That’s with his usual levels of determination and enthusiasm.”
Everton’s season may well rest on their FA Cup hopes after they were knocked out of the League Cup by Manchester City at the semi-final stage in midweek, while they are 12th in the Premier League after a run of five games without a win.
“I am not a manager who is going to try and justify a defeat or try to find someone to blame because that will not give us glory at the end of the period,” manager Roberto Martinez said.
“We need a long and well-thought strategy in order to become a winning team again and I will be the one to give my life to trying to work towards that.”
Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy could be given a first start since January 6 and December 28 respectively after calf and groin injuries, while Joel Robles will continue as Martinez’s cup goalkeeper.
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