Tommy Sampson: From The Den to Wembley

Friday 26th January 2024

FORMER Deal Town manager Tommy Sampson is launching a book in March to reflect upon his footballing career.

From The Den to Wembley, published by Victor Publishing at just £9.99, has taken Sampson five years to complete and he said tonight that he is feeling very proud of finishing his second book.

Sampson guided Deal Town to Wembley glory as THAT late goal from Roly Graham sealed a 1-0 win over Chippenham Town underneath the iconic Twin Towers back in 2000.

Deal Town are the only Kent side to win The FA Vase, although Tunbridge Wells and Cray Valley have returned to Wembley Stadium since and lost to Spennymoor Town and Chertsey Town respectively.

Chippenham Town have since progressed to the National League South (the sixth-tier of English football), while Deal Town have remained in the ninth-tier, the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division, or the Kent League in old money.

“This is about my young football career and my non-league career and how I finished at Wembley, in my last game virtually,” said Sampson.

“The book is called From The Den to Wembley and it’s a good read, so I’m told and people like Alan Walker and Steve Lovell have contributed, two great friends of mine and people who know me well.

“The book answers a few questions, going back a long time, what happened at Herne Bay when I went to Deal.  There’s a lot of misconceptions that I walked away from Herne Bay to Deal for money and that’s not true.

“I tell you that story in the book. When I left Kent to go and manage Boreham Wood and came back to manage Dartford, very difficult times.

“I’m so proud of myself that I managed to write it because I’m suffering, as you know, the (result) of a stroke.

“I started writing just before Covid and as soon as the restrictions were lifted it gave me the enthusiasm to carry on.  There were two or three occasions when I thought it was too much. It was a little bit too much to chew than I could handle but it was more like therapy in a way, talking to old friends and writing about Wembley.

“It gave me a lift because I’ve been under terrible pressure through my health but people are always kind to me. Whenever I go to Deal, I’m treated like a king, which is lovely and I wouldn’t expect anything else to be honest.

“The book is available on line.  £9.99, very fair price. I’m not in it to make money. It was a therapeutic thing for me to do.

“A book full of little stories, little antidotes and it will probably write a few wrongs what people through about me.

“I’m launching it at Millwall on Good Friday  and there will be a lot of ex-players there, lads who used to play with me when I was 16 or 17. It will be a good day and it’s aimed at Millwall supporters and particularly supporters of Kent non-league football.

“It’s a good read. Alan Walker did my forward and Steve Lovell did my last word and they were two really fantastic contributions, very touching. They know the book is out and they’re so pleased for me and I’m very proud of myself.

“It’s taken five years and Victor Publishing have been absolutely brilliant and guided me through how to chapter it, where to put the photographs. There’s 50-60 photos in there.

“The book starts at Millwall and ends at Wembley, because that was my achievement. That is what I’ve been known for and I’m quite happy about that.”

This website – – was launched in 2003 and Sampson was the second football manager that it’s editor (Stephen McCartney) interviewed, while he was the manager of then Dr Martens League Eastern Division club Dartford.

Bromley beat Dartford 3-2 in a Kent Senior Cup First Round tie on Tuesday 7 October 2003 and included in the Dartford squad that night were Tommy Osborne and Matt Longhurst, who have followed Sampson in the world of football management.

“It’s a struggle every day and it’s been a long time,” added Sampson, when asked how he is feeling today.

“I do remember the days when you were speaking to me and asking me questions and those days are long gone – 17 years – it’s been too long.

“I’m still a football manager at heart. I’m a football person and I love Kent non-league football, I always have had.

“I don’t see many games because some of the facilities don’t suit a wheelchair.

“I went to Deal a couple of weeks ago, it was so exciting. It was so cold. I was struggling to open the programme to read it as my fingers were so cold!”

The Deal Town class of 2024 –  managed by Steve King – have reached the last 16 of The FA Vase and travel to Somerset to play Bridgwater United on Saturday 10 February – a match that will be covered by this website.

“I’m going to Bridgwater, I’m staying overnight and so looking forward to it,” added Sampson.

“I keep saying to these lads when I go in the dressing room before the game, you’ve got to start creating your own history and I’m sure they’ve got a great chance of getting to Wembley.

“The Deal side that won at Wembley was a very, very good team. If we were allowed to carry on, we would have won a couple of promotions and we would have been in the National League South.

“That side was fantastic, easy to manage, good players, willing to take on board information.  I had players who were so decorated by the end of their careers.”