Thursday 01st September 2005

The Real Deal - Wembley Manuscript
by Tommy Sampson

Chapter 10

The semi-final draw was to be held at Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club and the F.A. were going to put everybody up in a hotel at the back of their Lancaster Gate headquarters.

I made my own way there by car and met Roy who had brought the “entertainment” with him.   Lyn and Donna Fox were secretary and treasurer respectively at Deal Town and were known for their outgoing feisty personalities.  They were also becoming great favourites with the “old tie brigade” of the Football Association.

Both had traveled to previous draws and left an impression on everyone they had mixed with.   Their “hospitality” and “people” skills were of the highest order and half-an-hour in their company left you breathless. 

At this stage everybody who was there for the draw wore blazers, club badges and ties and at one time it looked like a crown green bowls convention. 

I befriended Alvin McDonald, manager of Vauxhall Motors, who had enjoyed that magnificent result at Taunton two days earlier. 

We sat and chatted, although what with his thick scouser’s accent and my cockney drawl I am not sure if we fully understood each other!! 

Tommy Saunders didn’t come to the draw as his Chippenham side still had unfinished business with Bedlington Terriers after drawing in Wiltshire on Saturday.  Also at the draw were representatives of Tiverton Town.  

They didn’t compete in the competition after their elevation into the Dr Martens (Southern) League but attended all the various draws and functions bringing with them the trophy. 

Fifteen months before “Tivvy” had knocked my Deal side out of the Vase and, as holders went on to retain the Vase against Bedlington.  

Martyn Rogers, their manager, also came and during the evening I bent his ear about little things, such as preparations and psychology because here was a man who had won at Wembley not just once but twice.  To miss the chance to pick his brains would have been a neglect of my duty as manager.  

This was the last time the final was to be held at Wembley which I think concentrated people’s minds even more.   I had gone to last year’s final when Tiverton had beaten Bedlington with an injury-time goal. 

I sat transfixed with my friend Martin Fame in the middle of all the west country supporters.  You could not help but get caught up in the day from the players’ warm up and the interaction with the fans to the entrance of the two teams from the tunnel and the unadulterated hero worship shown to the “Tivvy” squared.  

The game was a forgettable affair, nervy, bitty and devoid of adventure.  Yet that moment when the goal went in and the volcanic eruption of hysteria which followed moved me to join in as if I, too, was a fervent west country supporter. 

The celebrations after were over the top but who could deny goalkeeper Paul Edwards, dyed yellow hair and all, his cartwheeling extravaganza.  

I looked at Martin and said “I’ve got to have some of this”.   The coach arrived at 7.00pm to take us across West London to Craven Cottage.  Peter Shilton was doing the honours while Match of the Day television pundit Mark Lawrenson was there to perform the Carlesberg Pub Cup draw.  

We took our seats and twiddled our thumbs while John Christopher, the chairman of the Vase committee, conducted proceedings running through all the formalities until finally the draw was about to be made.

Sat immediately in front of me was the Newcastle Town manager and his assistant.   Manager Roy Walker had played at Port Vale for many years and was frequently tagged the “Glenn Hoddle” of the lower divisions.  Martin Smith, his assistant, was as I was to discover later a surly character. Newcastle, of course, had beaten Jim Ward’s Ramsgate only two days before.  

Again the information pack given to us gave us number three in the draw just as at Liverpool.   I am never sure if the likes of Peter Shilton, an England international and veteran of many Wembley appearances fully appreciated what it means to us non-league people to play there. 

The other sides in the draw were Chippenham or Bedlington, Vauxhall Motors, Newcastle Town and of course ourselves.  

A two-legged semi-final means you really want to hear someone else’s number first because you want to play the second and usually deciding leg at home.  

We only had a fortnight to go until the first leg and wouldn’t have had enough time to install temporary seating to accommodate all the people who would want to see the game.   We had nearly 1,000 for the Mossley game and you couldn’t have got many more in the he ground safely.  So there was also a practical reason for our wish to be away first. 

I didn’t hear the number, all I heard was “Newcastle Town”.   I circled their name on my info sheet.  I knew they didn’t want Vauxhall Motors out of their own North Western Trains League.   Deal Town came the next voice.  I immediately looked to my right to see Roy’s reaction “Yyessss” he said clenching his fist.   I was hoping that our now confirmed opponents hadn’t heard because I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot.  

Preoccupied I missed the remainder of the announcement but heard confirmation of the semi-final draw as “Newcastle Town v Deal Town” “Vauxhall Motors v  Chippenham Town or Bedlington Terriers”.

 “Ties to be played on Saturday the 18th and 25th March.”  

Everybody broke off for the buffet and I tried to engage Ray Walker and Martin Smith, Newcastle’s management duo in conversation.  Understandably it was a bit awkward and after a few short minutes we sought other people’s company.  

On returning to the hotel we sought out a local pub and spending time in the company of the Tiverton officials was very enlightening.   I looked on like a wide-eyed schoolboy as they re-counted their Wembley experience covering administration, ticket sales, merchandising, press and television.  

I started to realise how close we were and yet how far away it all looked.   Wembley was still a dream and I wondered back to the hotel late that night thinking that whatever  we would prepare in the most concentrated and thorough way.  Nothing and no-one would stop us having the best possible crack at winning the ultimate prize ..... a final at Wembley.