So back at the height of July 2016, the Counties Podcast team waited with baited breath for the big reveal. Not of the latest celebrity Big Brother Line up, but something way more important – The Counties Podcast Road to Wembley! Here at CP over the last three seasons (yes, this really is our fourth season) we have been keen advocates of the FA Vase and we have followed it all the way through to the final, including the most recent non-league finals day. This season each podcaster was allocated a team by F.I.T.S – aka Fallon’s Independent Team Sorter. The teams we were given at the start were:
Eccleshill United (Gibbo) St Margaretsbury (Mr Langley) Stourport Swifts (Fallon) Highmoor Ibis (Zach)
So, armed with our teams we all promptly scoured Amazon (other online stores are available) for scarves and we kept abreast of our clubs fortunes, taking on the mantle of any team who beat them.
Whilst many of the sides did well at the outset, they all eventually fell by the wayside, indeed with us covering some of the games on the way. Mr Langley got drenched in the process in a memorable day in the semi-final at South Shields and indeed to this day claims he played a part in their ultimate success by hi-fiveing Julio Arca in the warm up and wishing him good luck.
We had followed Hallmark Security League teams too, of course we had, that’s our bread and butter here at Counties Podcast and a number of sides had done ok but it was ultimately Bootle and Atherton Colls who led the way, Bootle put out in the fourth round to eventual finalists, Cleethorpes courtesy of an extra time winner. Colls also went out to the same side in the sixth round in a similar manner, having been two early goals up at one point. A lot is made about the advantages of a certain league having through not promoting but that may well be set to change soon with restructuring proposals but both Bootle and Colls were a whisper away from getting close to Wembley.
For the second season running the FA had put together a Non League finals day package which had done pretty well the previous year, the general idea being the Vase and Trophy finals taking place on the same day at Wembley in a One Ticket two games format for a very reasonable £25 in. There was also good backing this year from tournament sponsors – Buildbase, who had promoted the competitions well and hopefully reaped the rewards for their backing of the grassroots game.
This year we did something different, we recorded almost live and whilst we didn’t apply to stream the game out it is something we may look at in the future. We had five of the new team in the press box as well as a photographer on the day.
We had different runs down to the national stadium, Mr Langley being a public transport kind of guy decided to avoid busy trains and decided to stay the weekend in a Hilton Hotel in Croydon, preferring to avoid the crowds. Your host with the most, Zach Pierce joined the York City supporters bus and was the most dapper man there in his finest suit and brogues, he arrived nice and fresh following 2 hours of constant pro-York chanting surrounded by several trays of Skol. The rest of the team, Martin Stewart, Martin Fallon and Lucy Weir did battle with the motorways, parking up at Watford and heading down via the overground.
So with the Avengers assembled, the team hit the national stadium only to find a 60ft square image of Mr Langley floating across the big screen as part of a twitter hashtag promotion, this seemed perfectly normal to be honest.
Once in the press box, plenty of heyadins’ were exchanged with peers and sound-checks and publicity shots took place. Out came the various notebooks, laptops and recording equipment and we were good to go. Wembley really looks after everyone on a day like this from excellent facilities for supporters, officials and press alike and we had plenty of info to hand as team-sheets were readily provided and information screens on each table always loaded. As we got down to recording what you heard on episode 112, there were two very good games that took place. The Vase final ended up 4-0 to South Shields but it was closer than the score line suggested, South Shields were only one up with eighty minutes on the clock before the Cleethorpes legs went. Shields took full advantage and popped three goals in at the end but had been well in control anyway so it was a fair result.
After catching up with a number of friends in between games and having had a rather interesting bangers and mash combo we headed out to cover the FA Trophy game. York City vs Macclesfield Town, it was a game that many thought would be quite tight but it was anything but with both teams enjoying the large Wembley pitch and good weather. The fans at both ends were in good voice too, bolstered by a number of fans from the Vase Final who had stayed on to enjoy the day. 38,224 people had enjoyed the occasion over the course of the day and they weren’t disappointed.
The Trophy final saw York City clinch a late 3-2 win to raucous chants of “Yorkshire!” To our right and it was the second successive time a relegated club had netted the FA Trophy, they’ll be hoping to emulate fellow Yorkshire Club, Halifax Town in winning the cup and gaining promotion straight back up to the National League.
As we wrapped up our coverage with interviews with players and officials of the clubs, we reflected on what was a great day of football and one of the most interesting episodes of Counties Podcast yet. There isn’t too much time before we all hit the reset button and go again, the opening round of the Vase scheduled to take place in ten weeks time. If you get a chance next May to get to Wembley, it’s a great day out, great facility and up to now, the football has certainly delivered.
Some game stats from the day: BUILDBASE FA VASE LINE-UPS
1 Liam Higton; 2 Tim Lowe, 5 Matt Bloomer, 6 Matty Coleman, 3 Peter Winn; 7 Liam Davis, 4 Liam Dickens, 8 Alex Flett (capt), 11 Jon Oglesby; 9 Marc Cooper, 10 Brody Robertson
Substitutes: 15 Andy Taylor for Cooper 61, 12 Luke Mascall for Coleman 70, 14 Jack Richardson for Davis 73.
Substitutes not used: 16 Gary King, 17 Kieran Wressel
Manager: Marcus Newell
Yellow cards: Davis 19
1 Liam Connell; 12 Alex Nicholson, 5 Dillon Morse, 4 Jon Shaw, 3 Darren Lough; 19 Andrew Stephenson, 6 Julio Arca (capt), 8 Wayne Phillips; 9 Gavin Cogdon, 21 Carl Finnigan, 11 David Foley
Substitutes: 7 Robert Briggs for Stephenson 55, 10 Michael Richardson for Finnigan 70, 17 Barrie Smith for Phillips 83
Substitutes not used: 16 Louis Storey, 20 Darren Holden
Joint-managers: Graham Fenton and Lee Picton
Goals: Finnigan 43 (pen), Morse 80, Foley 86, 89
Yellow cards: Cogdon 69
Referee: Darren England
BUILDBASE FA TROPHY FINAL
22 Scott Flinders; 2 Andy Halls (capt), 4 Neill Byrne, 5 George Pilkington, 3 David Fitzpatrick; 7 Rhys Browne, 14 Kingsley James, 15 Ollie Norburn, 23 Danny Whitaker, 16 Mitch Hancox; 9 Chris Holroyd.
Substitutes: 6 John McCombe on for Byrne 67, 30 Luke Summerfield for Hancox 87, 29 Anthony Dudley on for Norburn 89.
Substitutes not used: 13 Craig Ross, 8 Danny Whitehead.
Manager: John Askey
Goals: Browne 13, Norburn 45
28 Kyle Letheren; 36 Daniel Parslow, 10 Yan Klukowski, 37 Hamza Bencherif; 8 Simon Heslop (capt), 33 Sean Newton, 17 Asa Hall, 35 Danny Holmes, 9 Amari Morgan-Smith; 29 Vadaine Oliver, 31 Jon Parkin.
Substitutes: 34 Adriano Moke on for Klukowski 45, 12 Aidan Connolly on for Hall 69, 2 Shaun Rooney on for Holmes 75.
Substitutes not used: 13 Luke Simpson, 21 Scott Fenwick.
Manager: Gary Mills
Goals: Parkin 8, Oliver 22, Connolly 86