Thursday 01st September 2005

The Real Deal - Wembley Manuscript
by Tommy Sampson

Chapter 19

Stepping out into the Wembley tunnel at 2.46pm you could plainly hear the announcer whipping the crowd up into a frenzy. 

“The World’s most famous stadium”  

“The last ever F.A. Carlsberg Vase Final”  

"The Venue of Legends”

The tannoy blasted all this out through speakers and the 20,083 fans were about ready to welcome their heroes.

Called to the end of the tunnel by the F.A. official I shook Tommy Saunders’ hand once more and holding the hand of our mascot for the day, Roy Smith’s young daughter Laura, I was instructed to start walking.

The tannoy blared out once again:

“Please welcome Chippenham Town and Deal Town”  

Within seconds I emerged from the end of the canopy out into the open air.  

Two things hit me straight away:   The stifling heat and the noise.  There was a virtual wall of sound. 

I immediately waved to my right where all the Deal supporters had been allocated.   Laura was transfixed for a few moments until I squeezed her hand and said quietly “wave”. She immediately let go of my hand and started waving for all she was worth.  I knew this was going to be a special moment and I was determined to soak it all up. 

Stepping onto the turf we made our way to the halfway line where my team lined up to the right of the Royal Box.   The waving and cheering went on with all of us on the pitch trying to look for familiar faces. Terry Martin was first to be presented to the Guest of Honour, Mr Tony Vaughan, Head of Branch at Carlsberg.

I was very proud of Terry and even in this cauldron of heat and noise his demeanour and eloquence as he introduced his players shone through.  

Once they had left us to cross over to repeat the procedure with our opponents, Terry and I stood together.  What we said  I can’t remember but the feeling of pride and achievement was overwhelming.  

Finally, the National Anthem was sung with a patriotic fervour by players and fans alike as if we were all going off to war to defend our country. 

When at last the formalities were over, I wished every player good luck and made my way to the seated area about 20 yards from the  touchline. 

I immediately exchanged my jacket, shirt and tie for a T-shirt which had been supplied for the players by local radio station “Neptune”.

It was so hot that towels were being supplied to avoid necks getting sunburnt for those of us sitting down.   The view for our position was really quite poor.  Not only was it 20 or so years away for the touchline, there was so much noise and activity to deal with it was very difficult to concentrate on the game. 

We had started well, forcing a couple of corners and throw-ins.   Paul Ribbens has a huge long throw as Newcastle Town had found out to their cost in the semi’s.  Paul was under instructions to launch his first throw as far as he could into the box.  The psychological side of football plays a big part and getting a throw-in launched into the box would have a real unsettling effect on our opponents. 

When Paul got his chance about four minutes in the adrenaline must have been pumping because he threw it fast, flatter and further than he had ever done and their keeper Ian Jones had to claim it off of Steve Marshall’s head right under the crossbar. 

Eight minutes into the game and with us having virtually camped in Chippenham’s half we suffered a massive blow in the form of an injury to David Monteith. 

Chasing back across the halfway line he attempted a tackle and got his studs caught in the tightly knit turf and went down holding his knee. 

Now “Monty” had been plagued by knee problems and had courageously fought back twice after operations.   So when he collapsed holding his knee we feared the worst.  “Daddio” went on to treat him and very gingerly David got to his feet.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief as it appeared he would be able to carry on as normal. 

Sadly it was a false hope.  Within a couple of minutes David collapsed again after trying to kick the ball. The sad sight of him being carried off on a stretcher stretched everyone’s emotions.   I went to him as he laid on a stretcher in the tunnel underneath the Royal Box. 

Mulent, his wife, had come down from her seat and when I reached them the tears were flowing as Dave knew his Wembley dream and possibly his career was over.   I tried to remain calm because we still had three quarters of the game to go and a substitution had to be organised.

It was Fordy who grabbed me and told me that there was nothing I could do for David and to get back to the bench.  

“Monty” had always been a special player to me and as I left him there on a stretcher I had to wipe the tears from my own eyes and get a grip on the reality of re-organising my team.  

Paul Roberts it was who got an early chance of realising his Wembley dream, but even now “Robbo” will tell you whilst grateful for his chance the circumstances of his participation had dealt a cruel blow to one of the team’s most popular players.  

The remainder of that half saw us on the backfoot and at half time we could easily have been a couple of goals down as our re-organisation left us vulnerable.  

In the dressing room at half-time I told the players that “Monty” was in the stadium hospital and they should remember that if the heat and tiredness looked like it was going to take its toll they should all think of where David was and that he would give everything just to be out there feeling as tired as them. 

The heat was as fierce as ever as I took my seat for the second half.  

Within about 10 minutes I replaced Steve Lovell with Phil Turner.   Lovell had run himself into the ground and three months short of his fortieth birthday received the most wonderful reception from both sets of supporters.  With twenty minutes to go I threw Jon Warden for Jason Ash.

On the face of it people probably thought replacing a forward for a defender was very brave of me.  In reality Jason Ash - who has a very fair complexion - was suffering dreadfully in the heat and Jon was very experienced.  He sat in midfield for me during the last quarter of the game.  

As the game reached its final stages it was patently obvious we were lasting better than our opponents.  However, the prospect of extra time was looming and both sides were struggling in the heat. 

We’d forced a couple of corners late on and were definitely in the ascendancy but a goal looked unlikely.  

Then, after 86 minutes,  we won a corner on the far side and Roly trotted over to the take it.  

The next ninety seconds were without doubt the most definitive moments in all our footballing lives.   Roly’s corner was struck well but was confidently claimed by keeper Ian Jones. Allowing everyone to clear the penalty area Jones threw the ball left handed to his full-back Shane Andrews.  Andrews proceeded to jog unchallenged to and across the halfway line looking for a pass. 

I was still screaming at Steve Best to close him down when Andrews prodded the ball forward to Steve Tweddle, Chippenham’s very dangerous central striker. 

Tweddle attempted to flick the ball inside but only proceeded to gift possession to Jamie Kempster.  

It would have been so easy for Jamie to have just lumped the ball forward considering how long there was left in the game but thankfully he steadied himself and rolled the ball forward to Steve Marshall on the halfway line.  

Marshall’s great asset is his pace and for almost the first time in the game had the opportunity to run at Chippenham’s defenders. 

Lee Burns, the inspirational Chippenham captain, made a desperate attempt to win the ball but Marshall side-stepped him and headed for the corner of the penalty area. 

With Steve bearing down on goal the Chippenham defenders tried to struggle across but it was all in vain.  

As Steve crossed the 18 yard line he looked up and there he saw Phil Turner and, coming in from a bit deeper, was Roly Graham, who only sixty second before had been on that side of the pitch taking a corner.  

From where I sat it looked like we had a spare man over and all it needed was a quality ball in to set up a chance of sorts.  

In that second after looking up Marshall clipped a teasing ball into the path of the oncoming Graham.   To me it looked like Roly had time to control the ball and measure his shot at goal, but Roly had decided in that split second to volley the ball first time. 

Volleying the ball on the run is one of the most difficult stalls a player can attempt, even in training.   But in a major national cup final at Wembley with three minutes to go and physically at your limit it requires the utmost belief in your ability and a certain amount of arrogance. 

Only the day before I had presented Roly with a trophy commemorating the hundred goals he had scored for me and here he was tearing in at the far post with a chance of scoring the most important goal of his life.  

The roar from my left told me that Roly had scored, as sweet a right-foot volley as you could wish for.   Everybody jumped up, I ran to the touchline and lifted Jamie Kempster into the air.

It was Jamie who started the move originally and our celebration was joyous to say the least.  

Roly had run almost half the length of the pitch before he disappeared under a sea of black and white hooped shirts.  

When I finally came out of celebratory mode I donned my manager’s hat again and started issuing instructions to everyone.

The stadium clock said 87 minutes and I knew that whatever else those three minutes plus whatever stoppage time would determine these players and the club’s status in non-league football history.  

This game is full of hard luck stories and I was praying that we would not be added to that long list.   To concede a late equaliser and lose in extra time would destroy all the good memories we had accumulated along the way.  

The elation we had all felt wining through to Wembley would be forever buried in the thought of losing the final in dramatic circumstances. 

Tommy Saunders made two quick substitutions and the flow of the game was being constantly interrupted.  

The scoreboard clock stopped at ninety minutes.   There was unbelievable tension on the bench as we willed every Chippenham attach to break down.  Three minutes was the guide shown on the electronic board held up by the fourth official.  Three minutes that would last an eternity.  

A break in play saw Daddio, Colin and myself handing out water bottles.  I was bellowing at Besty and Terry. 

 “Two minutes” “Two minutes”

At the same time I was pointing at the furthest corner flags knowing that they would understand that was where I wanted the ball played to at every possible opportunity.   Besty was smiling back at me holding up two fingers in Churchillian style. I later discovered from him that he was “taking the piss” out of me and they were all really fully in control of the situation. 

Play restarted and the ball was played up the line to Steve Marshall who won a throw-in.  

We were now in the last seconds and Kevin Smart my reserve team manager who was sitting directly behind me wrapped his arms around my neck saying over and over again :“You’ve done it” You’ve done it” “You’ve done it” .

For the first time that afternoon I thought  “Yes, I’ve done it”

We had kept the ball in the Chippenham half for a good 30 seconds now and the referee was poised to blow for full time.   A long throw down the line was headed straight up on the air by Jamie Kempster and that was that. 

A long shrill of Mr Law’s whistle meant it was all over ....................... Deal Town had won the Vase.  

Pandemonium broke out, players ran towards the pitch, coming past me at a rate of  knots.  

I sat for a second and then got up and walked the three or four paces across the concrete path to where Tommy Saunders was sat.   I leant over him and kissed him on the top of his head and said “There are no losers today only winners, me and you will be friends for life”

With that I walked on to the pitch to embrace my captain Terry Martin and whoever else I could find.   I also made a point of seeking out Chippenham captain Lee Burns.

We shook hands and embraced for a moment and I offered “hard luck you didn’t deserve that” and I remember him saying “great goal, if you’re gonna lose that’s the way to do it”.

We parted and in that moment I knew how much our winning meant.