THE much-anticipated showdown between Swindon Town and Manchester City tonight will not only help the home club’s finances but it is also a welcome boost for the hospitality sector in a typically dry January period.

The Merlin, a popular football pub, is already fully booked from 4pm onwards and the County Ground Hotel is expecting around 40 per cent more punters to walk through the doors than for a typical Town game.

The Merlin is screening the game for fans without tickets but the managers are also expecting fans attending the match to come in before and after the fixture.

General manager Robbie Duffy said: “We will be packed and it will be non-stop, go go go from early evening.

“It’s a great week to have it. It’s known in the industry that this week is notoriously quiet. Everyone has got Christmas and New Year out the way.

“Anything big event in January is a plus so it’s come at the best time and we’re really chuffed.

“Some people are still not coming out so it’s great that we’ve got a reason for people to come out to the pub.

“A lot of pubs in Swindon will benefit. It’s a real event and there’s a buzz around the town.

“Even the atmosphere of the draw where people were cheering was great.

“I would love to see an upset. One of the joys of the FA cup is the glimmer of an underdog story so it would be great to see a shock.”

The Merlin, unlike the County Ground Hotel, welcomes away fans and a few Man City fans have already phoned up to book a place at the venue. 

There will be security on the doors until the pub closes at 12.30am to make sure there aren’t any problems.

There were concerns potential new Covid restrictions after New Year’s Eve would put a spanner in the works.

Another manager, Matt Evans, said: “We’re really looking forward to tonight.

“We were getting a bit cautious last week ahead of Boris’s announcements wondering if the game was going to go ahead or if it was going to be played behind closed doors with no audience.

“We were so happy when we found out it was still going ahead with fans inside.”