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Newport County Boss Graham Coughlan Dreams Of Manchester United FA Cup Date

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By Paul Jones

Newport County manager Graham Coughlan hopes to land a glamorous FA Cup tie against Manchester United – 45 years after the Red Devils reduced him to tears by losing the so-called “Five-minute final” to Arsenal.

County stand to make £400,000 if they win their third-round replay at non-league Eastleigh on Tuesday after 12-time cup winners United were drawn to visit the winners on January 28.

Coughlan, a Manchester United supporter growing up in his native Dublin, was only four years old when Arsenal led the 1979 final at Wembley 2-0 and had one hand on the trophy.

Goals from Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy in the final five minutes almost handed United a reprieve, but Arsenal won the cup at the death when Alan Sunderland turned in Graham Rix’s cross and the final went into FA Cup folklore.

“I actually shed a few tears when we got beat in the 1979 FA Cup final,” said Coughlan.

“I was only a little nipper and my dad would tell me. I had to wait until ’83 for the replay against Brighton to see United lift a trophy for the first time.

“Then ’85 and the Norman Whiteside goal against Everton. All those memories, the cup runs and the success they’ve had. That was growing up as a kid.”

Coughlan began his career in England at Blackburn – “I played against the Nevilles, Giggs and Beckham in the reserves when they were coming through the system” – and by his own admission was “not good enough to play in the Premier League”.

The tough-tackling defender played over 500 games for clubs including Plymouth, Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday and Shrewsbury, and arrived at Newport following managerial spells at Bristol Rovers and Mansfield.

With Newport on the brink of being bought by former Swansea owner Huw Jenkins, Coughlan is aware of the massive financial boost that the Sky Bet League Two club will receive from a United tie that will be televised live to the nation.

“Both clubs will want to go on and push on and get into the next round, obviously the prize and finances and the day out that it is,” said Coughlan.

“But let’s concentrate on the game, let’s not start having this pantomime of Man United, finances and all sorts of nonsense.

“It’s a game of football, let’s get our heads around the game of football. It’s 90 minutes, possibly 120, club v club, team v team that is where we are at. Nothing more, nothing less.”

The original tie at Rodney Parade was drawn 1-1 after James Clarke had fired the Exiles ahead against opponents who had been reduced to 10 men.

But Chris Maguire’s late penalty earned Eastleigh, 11th in the National League and 18 places below Newport in the football pyramid, the chance of a crack at Erik ten Hag’s United.

Coughlan said: “I don’t think there is a favourite. You can turn around and say ‘they rested players on Saturday and were able to take their eye off the ball’.

“We didn’t have that luxury, but I didn’t think there were any favourites in the first game.

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