Thursday 01st September 2005

The Real Deal - Wembley Manuscript
by Tommy Sampson

Chapter 20 - The FINAL ONE!

David Monteith had returned in a wheelchair just before the end of the game and the players had carried him on to the pitch as part of the celebrations.  When we had finished jumping around, and waving to the crowd we respectfully applauded our opponents as they received their losers’ medals.  Terry Martin was then led by the Wembly official to the steps leading to the Royal Box. 

There are thirty nine steps up the walkway where the would receive the coveted silverware.  The players had decided to carry David Monteith up the stairs to receive his medal and so he was helped to the first step where he insisted he would hobble up despite the pain from the rest of the stairs I was immediately behind David and lost in the line. 

Halfway up a hand reached out for mine and I heard a familiar voice.   It was Phil Miles, who had left the club earlier in the season.

 I can’t remember what we said to each other but I know it was great to see him and whilst he must have been terribly disappointed he was still sharing in our triumph. From halfway up I saw Terry receive the Vase trophy and raise it aloft to the most tumultuous reception. 

I carried on seeing familiar faces on the way up, shaking hands whilst trying to hold back the inevitable tears of joy.   Getting to the top and looking out over the scene was as good as it gets.

I reached upwards to kiss Lynn and Donna Fox, young Laura (Roy’s daughter) Bilie (Roy’s wife) and then gave Roy Smith the most vigorous of handshakes.  The look of elation on his face was just reward for everything he had tried to do for Deal Town Football Club. 

The trophy was being passed down the line as “We are the Champions” was being played over the tannoy.  

Just in front of me David Monteith received a rapturous reception as he raised the Vase above his head.   I was, by now, an emotional wreck and when Monty turned to offer me the trophy with the words “Here you are Boss” I took this most coveted piece of silverware, turned to the Deal support and in time honoured fashion lifted it skywards. 

Within a few seconds Roy had taken the trophy off of me to place it in the hands of probably our oldest supporter, 91 year old Bert Harris. 

I shook hands with everybody and slowly made my way down the steps the other side commiserating with the Chippenham supporters who were now lining the stairway.

The stadium tannoy announcer was still whipping the Deal supporters up and the on field celebration went on for a good twenty five minutes before officials started requesting we retire to our dressing rooms. Having completed the obligatory radio and TV interviews I was ushered down the tunnel and up the stairs to the press conference where all the nationals and local reporters were waiting.

Just before entering I met with my daughter Danielle, who had been looking for me to say well done.  

Entering the press conference I saw Roly and Terry at the end of the room answering questions. I took my place in the middle of them and responded to their quizzing.  A few minutes passed and in walked Tommy Saunders.

Still resplended in Chippenham kit he sat down and we shook hands. The next 10 or 15 minutes must have been difficult for him but the dignity and humour he displayed was a credit to the man.

Back in the dressing room we showered and dressed. Most of the players had long gone to the bar.  Walking round the empty stadium it was after six, Roly had a camera and we took photo’s of each other trying to secure even more memories of our day. 

The bar was very hot and very busy but for the first time I got the chance to talk to the Chippenham players.   Lee Burns, Mark Cutler, Lee Jones and Steve Tweddle among those I managed to chat with and even in their deep disappointment there were no negative thoughts as they wished me well.

The team coach left Wembley at about 7pm followed by the coach-full of relatives and friends.   I had booked the meal back at Burnham Beeches for 8.30pm and everybody ate together before retiring to the bar area’s where contrary to popular belief that we partied the night away everyone just drank and chatted till the early hours. 

The following morning I just couldn’t sleep and seeing the sun shining through the curtain decided to get up and have a wander. 

In one of our Wembley T-shirts and shorts I ordered a pot of tea and made for the beautifully kept lawn area.  

It was there that I met our vice-chairman Graham John’s.  As we sat together at about 6.30am recounting our own memories of the experience we considered how everybody who went to the final and maybe even of the earlier rounds would have the same wonderful memories with their own perspective. 

As we all went our separate ways it wasn’t going to be long before we met again as the first team still had a league fixture to fulfill at Cray Wanderers the following evening. 

On Tuesday  a civic reception and open top bus ride had been planned to celebrate our triumph.  

The Cray game played at Bromley’s Hayes Lane Ground was a surreal evening.   Having performed in front of over 20,000 just forty eight hours earlier we were back to reality as about 120 watched us beat Cray 1-0. 

The following evening was something else again.   Leaving the ground on two open top buses at about 5.30 we were driven to the town centre where about 500 people were waiting to greet us.

Two hours later we left the Town Hall and the crowd had nearly doubled as Roy and I along with police escort walked the Case down the main High Street.

The local radio station Neptune were putting on a live broadcast back at the Charles Sports ground and as we weaved our way around the town taking the plaudits of all along the way the excitement was mounting.  

Turning right into the leafy entrance to the Charles Sports ground I became aware of the size of the crown awaiting us.  

Looking forward to where the pitch was I could hardly see a blade of grass, as what looked like thousands of people congregated to salute the players.  

The atmosphere was electric as this small community, that had been dealt so many blows in recent years with the pits going and the IRA bombing of Deal barracks, were about to honour their heroes.

We were escorted around the back of the coax where the live broadcast was taking place and I was introduced to the crowd by the compeer of the evening Mark Browning.

One by one I introduced the players and committee members to a tumultuous reception ending with the goal scorer himself Roly Graham.  That evening was magnificent highlight in a plethora of memories as everyone partied the night away on the pitch. 

The affection and goodwill everyone felt for each other that evening will long live in the memory and that night at about 11.00 as I walked across the pitch strewn with paper plates, plastic cups, confetti and the like in the company of Jon Warden he hit the nail squarely on the head.

“Drink it in” he said “it will never come around again”.  

He was right, so right and as I looked back over the scene I was only just beginning to understand what had happened here at this small coastal town and the part my football team had played in it.