A PAIR of football lovers from South Tyneside who are on an epic nine-month journey following every kick of the FA Cup are set for another detour on the long road to Wembley.
Comedian Andy Fury, from Hebburn, and pal Mark Tearney, have already clocked up more than 1,000 miles watching rounds of the famous competition – starting back in August.
While the Premier League giants will get their first taste of the magic of the cup in January – the eagerly-awaited third round stage will see dedicated Andy and Mark taking in their 13th game of a marathon mission.
A trip to championship outfit Birmingham City awaits in the third round – but first the duo face a five-hour drive to see Crawley Town fight out a second round replay with Bristol Rovers next Tuesday.
Their quest – dubbed Cup Runnings – was sparked after the pair watched Hebburn take on Gateshead in a qualifying round two years ago.
The marathon mission is being recorded in a podcast and photo-blog on their website, www.cuprunnings.com, with a book, called Pies, Peas and Dreams, to follow next year.
The pals follow the winner of each tie they attend, until the 737 teams who started out are whittled down to just two in front of a 90,000 crowd at Wembley in May.
Mr Fury, 30, said: “Birmingham is a big club and we already enjoyed being in a crowd of three or four thousand at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
“We expected to be two anonymous faces in the crowd at Bristol Rovers, but they were really friendly and invited us into the boardroom and gave us sandwiches.
“This will be our fourth replay. I think Mark and I used up all our small talk on the trip to Bristol.
“I am downloading some Motown in anticipation for the journey.”
While both Andy and Mark are avid Sunderland fans, they didn’t fancy a visit to the Stadium of Light in the third round draw – even though it would save valuable petrol money.
Mr Fury added: “Mark texted me with the draw a couple of minutes after it was done.
“We started doing this as we wanted to get away from the Premier League atmosphere, so we didn’t really want a tie at Sunderland.
“Though it would be close to home.
“The journey to Crawley won’t be fun at all.
“We did think it would be great to head off to all these random places, but a five-hour drive on a Tuesday night won’t be easy.
“We are taking down a Crawley fan who is a brother of a fan we met at West Auckland (earlier in the cup run), so we are becoming the Crawley Town North East supporters club.”
Andy and Mark have already made lots of new friends during their journeys to the lesser known spots of the footballing world.
They were such a hit at Hednesford Town that they went back their to watch the side in FA Trophy action at Gateshead recently.
They are hoping to make more cup connections at Crawley.
Then they will head off to Birmingham in the New Year.