On the morning tickets went on sale for Aldershot Town's Carling Cup tie against Manchester United the manager Dean Holdsworth – yes, that Dean Holdsworth: well-groomed itinerant goal-poacher of the 1990s – could be seen serving tea to the queue of fans already waiting at 8am for the office to open at the EBB Stadium.
It may have been simply a publicity stunt from a man who knows all about the power of underdog self-mythologising from his time at Wimbledon and now as a manager of a Football League club so spectrally thin on finances, fans and history, it almost seems to shimmer before your eyes. But it was at least a good publicity stunt and this is, after all, Aldershot, a community club surfing the finest of margins, whose neat but disintegrating ground is so prominently stationed on this Hampshire town's main street that a blaze over the bar is likely to bring traffic to a halt, and for whom ticket sales in the good times are a matter of budgetary life or death.
Tuesday night's meeting with the Premier League champions, albeit champions who lost their last match 6-1 at home, is by some distance the biggest occasion in the history of a club who folded and reformed 19 years ago and now stand 15th in League Two. It is little wonder Holdsworth appears to be almost indecently excited by the prospect.
"It's huge for the club," he says inside his office in the bowels of the EBB's main corrugated hanger. "It's a phenomenon and we were thrilled and delighted when the draw came out. Being greedy I'd have liked to have gone to Old Trafford. It's a fantastic coliseum of a place. But to have one of the biggest clubs in the world coming to our stadium, it's amazing for everyone involved in getting this club back on its feet."
For Holdsworth there is an added relish in the opportunity to revisit a level familiar from a 22-year playing career that saw him score 218 goals with 16 different clubs, the high point a five-year stint at Wimbledon, for whom he signed in the summer of 1992 as a rapier to John Fashanu's bludgeon. There are perhaps even crumbs of hope here for the Shots, too. Holdsworth does at least know how it feels to beat United, having played in Wimbledon's 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in October 1992 against a team containing Ryan Giggs among the many stalwarts of Sir Alex Ferguson's first great team.
"It was a surreal feeling of going to Old Trafford and winning. You just have to try and stay out there on the pitch as long as you can to take it all in. I always wondered what it must be like to be a Man United player, having that fantastic feeling of playing in that every week. I was in awe of the place as a player. You looked at Man United and you saw men. [Eric] Cantona, Giggs, [David] Beckham, [Andrei] Kanchelskis, Bryan Robson, it just went on. Good players don't turn the tap off. Those players turned it on every time and that comes from a genius, the manager.
"With Wimbledon it was David and Goliath but it shows what can be achieved. Once you cross the line it's about what's inside those players. I will try and motivate, educate and instil a belief in my players that it can be done."
It is tempting to assume Holdsworth's team will emerge on Tuesday night infused with the essence of the Crazy Gang, the disorientating zaniness that embellished Wimbledon's successes. In fact Holdsworth is quite the opposite as a manager: a moderniser and a technophile, inspired by the laptop-toting theorists of the Premier League. "I never thought of becoming a manager until I met Sam Allardyce," he says. "I got on very well with Sam and it was from him that I understood that football was about details and tactics. Sam put two years on a player's career just by making them understand how their body works. That was an education."
Holdsworth maintains the Crazy Gang mystique was essentially a propaganda tool. "I called it the painter and decorator club; we painted a different image to what we were. It was a facade. Here they come, the Crazy Gang, kick it up in the air. But we played some good stuff and we were very respected in the game.
"I loved it, though. [The owner] Sam Hamann would be in the dressing room, banging a broom against the cupboard, turning the stereo up and you went out three or four inches taller. There was many a time players would react to getting their clothes cut up, the legs cut off their trousers. It was a tough place to be. I had players crying in my car on the way home, saying: 'Why don't they like me?' I said: 'It's not about you, they're testing your character.' "
If Holdsworth has any regrets it is not being managed more carefully in his own career and perhaps not reaching the heights he might have at a time of abundant English striking talent. Ian Wright, "a genius of a finisher", was his own favourite and it is salutary to think that with Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler, Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham among his contemporaries, the young Holdsworth – who won one B cap after scoring 16 Premier League goals in a season – would be a likely England squad man now.
As it is he is busy nurturing a palpable hunger to manage. "It will be the proudest moment of my career being in a dugout opposite Sir Alex. I want to win. I've got my job to do. But I want more of it, I want this to be the first of many occasions."