Thursday 01st September 2005

Thanks for making my dream come true, says Deal's Wembley winning skipper Martin

EVEN to this day, four years after Deal Town won the FA Vase beneath the famous twin towers at Wembley Stadium, Tommy Sampson, the club's manager during the club's most successful time in their history, still has nothing but admiration and respect for his captain at the time - Terry Martin, writes Stephen McCartney.

And what a way for any footballer to end his playing career - climbing up those famous steps at Wembley Stadium to receive the FA Vase, following Deal's 1-0 victory over Chippenham Town.

Martin, a central defender, who lives just outside Canterbury, can look back on a wonderful and  successful  playing career, which started with Folkestone Town in the Southern League.

However, it was when he played for Faversham Town, he first tasted success, winning the Kent League championship in 1989.

Under Sampson at Herne Bay, Martin clinched three Kent League titles in 1993, 1997 (when Herne Bay won the treble, consisting of Kent League, Kent League Cup and Kent Senior Trophy) and in 1998.

What is unique about Martin, he is the only player to have won three Kent League titles in three separate decades, having achieved this when Deal were crowned champions in 2000.

And Martin would like to thank everyone at Deal Town Football Club for making his dream come true, as he gives his account on the season that changed his life forever.

He said:  "Well, what a season! For me personally it was the most remarkable and memorable football season in my 17 years of senior non-league football. It even surpassed my treble season at Herne Bay which is also a feat that will live with me long into retirement.

"The ultimate goal for a non-league footballer (until 2000) was to play in a national final at the world-famous Wembley Stadium. Ironically, when I completed my player profile at the beginning of the season my ambition was to play in the FA Vase Final at Wembley before hanging up my boots. Little did I know at that time that I was going to fulfil my ultimate sporting dream.

"It nearly didn't happen at all, nearly going out in the first round at Eastleigh. Going in at half-time 3-1 down lead to an ear-bashing from Tommy and a couple of inspired substitutions. Forty-five minutes later we were trudging back to the dressing room 4-3 victors. Whilst in the showers after the game, Jamie Kempster started whistling the theme tune to the Great Escape. Everyone joined in and ended up as being one of our tunes after each round of the Vase. Somewhere along the road to Wembley we also picked up the theme tune to Spandau Ballet's "Gold", with Jamie being Deal's Tony Hadley!

"It was only when we beat Crook in the 4th round that I started to believe that we could actually go on and win the Vase. Crook had already beaten a couple of Unibond Premier sides in the FA Cup that season and were a big and strong team. However, after weathering the storm (literally) we ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. The atmosphere in the changing room as we progressed further and further in the competition was growing ever more exciting and the tension was beginning to build (the singing after each victory also got louder!).

"During the week before our Quarter-Final with Mossley, one of the players suggested that to lessen the pressure on the day, we should all turn up in women's underwear - can't remember who exactly suggested it. Some of the gear the lads were wearing on match day must have come straight out of Ann Summers or worse! Nevertheless, we all had a laugh and it did seem to ease the tension as we got off to a flyer and scored after only a few minutes. The roar of the 900 plus crowd at the final whistle made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The changing room was awash with celebrations, the singing got even louder and worse, but there we were in the two-legged semi-final of the FA Vase - one round away from that Garden of Eden - Wembley!

"I have never experienced pressure like that faced in the semi-final. The local media (TV and newspapers) wanted interviews and we were talk of the town. All I could think about was that we were one step away from the ultimate goal. It kept creeping back into my mind how I would feel if we went out at that stage. The trip to Newcastle on the Saturday was great, although some of the players fancied one beer in the evening to help them relax. It was my job as Captain to seek permission but was unsuccessful. The players took it well, but looking back I can see Tommy's reasons why he stuck to his guns. The lads seemed to take the build up to the first leg better than me. I spent the whole of Tommy's team talk in the toilets - some will say that I was the lucky one. Even though this was a huge game we put in one of our most solid displays of the season - even eclipsing our performance at Crook - winning 2-0. It was a strange atmosphere in the dressing room afterwards. We weren't sure whether we should celebrate what was a great win in the circumstances as it was only really half-time.

"The build-up to the second leg was even more intense that the first leg. It was the largest crowd ever at Deal Town - thanks go to Roy and his staff, as the ground was absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere was incredible and although we didn't play to our potential we did enough to win the tie 3-1 on aggregate. The scenes at the final whistle were amazing. The sudden realisation of the players and supporters that we were on our way to Wembley was awesome. There were tears everywhere! We soaked up the atmosphere for quite a while after the final whistle and then started preparations for Wembley.

"The whole Wembley experience was pure fantasy. Their we were on Friday having a tour of the stadium, when all the players suddenly got on their mobile phones and started ringing family and friends to tell them that we were standing in the middle of the Wembley pitch. Funnily, on the Friday Wembley seemed smaller than I had imagined. However, on the Saturday it seemed enormous!

"The day of the game will live with me and the rest of the players forever. The police escort from the England hotel where we had been staying to Wembley stadium; seeing all the coaches and fans when we arrived down Wembley way; walking out of the tunnel to the roar of 20,000 Deal and Chippenham fans; singing the National Anthem; the final whistle and walking up those famous steps to receive the FA Vase. We had achieved our ultimate goal!

"It was a wonderful experience for all the players involved, which we still talk about when we meet up. No doubt I will still be sharing my wonderful experience in years to come.

"I would like to thank all the players, manager, chairman, staff and supporters for making my dream come true!"