This weekend four teams will be enjoying the Wembley experience but only two can come away with a trophy for their efforts. The Buildbase FA Vase and Trophy finals come together for Non-League Finals Day with a reported 40,000 tickets sold so far, it promises to be quite a spectacle.
And it can be the kick start to bigger and better things for a lot of clubs. Two years ago Morpeth Town faced a resurgent and re-born Hereford Utd, very much the underdogs despite the dominance of the northern teams over the past 10 years or so, Utd roared on by 19,000 supporters on the day.
After falling behind inside two minutes, it appeared the floodgates would open and Morpeth be flushed away, but the men from the north had other ideas. The turning point on the half hour a goal from 45 year old Chris Swailes, which gave Town the impetus to control the second half and comfortably run out 4-1 winners and send the Vase back up the country once again.
Success didn’t stop there as following on from that Vase win the club finished as runners up in the Northern League two seasons in a row, the latter taking them up into Division One East of the Northern Premier League, very much unchartered waters for the club. It can sometimes take promoted clubs a while to find their footing and in some cases a struggle to stop an immediate return to where they had originally come from. But, no need to worry there as Morpeth, just like Spennymoor Town before them, stormed through their maiden campaign in this division and secured the title just twelve months on from stepping up and into the Premier Division for the first time in their history.
Personally, I think it’s great to see sides stepping out of the regional divisions and making a success of things. The sides in the Northern League were criticised for not wanting to take promotion especially after winning the Vase allowing them another crack at a Wembley appearance and be potentially stronger as they achieve it. I always look at the 2013 final when I saw Spennymoor Town beat Tunbridge Wells 2-1 and where both clubs are today. Spennymoor were 90 minutes away from the National League’s top division last weekend, just six years after that Wembley appearance. Tunbridge Wells on the other hand are still in the Southern Counties East League (Kent League), it’s a game of small margins I know. I’m not for one minute suggesting the Wells would be in exactly the same position as Spennymoor had they won it instead, but it’s definitely been the springboard to their success and why can’t Morpeth follow in their footsteps?
This weekend sees two league champions in Cray Valley and Chertsey Town contesting the Vase Final, one will claim a double but both will be plying their trade one division higher next year, which one will I writing about come Monday?