Monday 15 July 2019

Do I Have To Pay For These? - Chertsey Town FC Vs Cray Valley Paper Mills FC, FA Vase Final, Wembley (19/05/19)

Sitting anxiously at the end of my road early on a Sunday morning, the world around me having not really stirred, has become somewhat of the norm over the last few weeks, except for the anxiously bit. The mild feeling of terror is not because we are about to embark on a long journey to some far flung part of the country, we’re only going fifteen minutes up the road, but because of the magnitude of today's game, and because somehow we have been able to wangle a level of access I don't think either of us could have ever dreamt of.

It’s probably no bad thing we are only in the car for a short while, it's eerily quiet, the nerves already getting the best of us, the silence only occasionally broken by the sound of Tom’s vape or one of us saying out loud, “what are we doing?”.

Snaking around the back of a well known Swedish furniture outlet, both of us considering jacking in what we are supposed to be doing, stopping for budget hot dogs instead, the task ahead of us too daunting. The reality of what we are about to undertake, has just been made all that more real by our first glimpse of today's venues most prominent feature, its white iconic arch poking up into the gloom, on what is turning out to be not one of North West London's better days.

Not shy of a nostalgic look back on my footballing past, it must have been around the mid nineties when I first visited Wembley Stadium. A stadium then in the truest meaning of the word, very different to the space age monolith that towers above us today, as we negotiate the multitude of streets around its massive footprint, eventually finding our way to event car park yellow.

It wasn't for a match mind, that would come a little while later, England Vs Chili in a pre World Cup ‘98 warm up, where Micheal Owen and Dion Dublin made their debuts and my Dad spent the whole evening shouting “Dublin for Ireland” after the then Aston Villa's players less than auspicious performance.

With its twin towers, apparent lack of suitable toilet facilities for women, and a not inconsiderable gap between the stands and the pitch, the whole place even then clearly felt in need of a makeover, little if any of it seemingly having been updated or modernised since being built, it was still completely awe inspiring. The very place I’d seen the SAS demolish the Netherlands, where Gazza scored that goal against the Scots, the place where the greatest football tournament played out in the Summer of ‘96, that forged my love of football.

Much like my first visit here for a tour, all piped in crowd noise as you made your way to the royal box, the crossbar from the 1996 World Cup Final, that sparked fierce debate about if it was over the line or not, and the very medical room Paul Gascoigne was treated in, after his ill timed tackle against Nottingham Forest. Wembley is devoid of much life, just swathes of bare concrete, the odd sign of yesterday's FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Watford, and lots and lots of men in hi viz.

There is none of the energy and near dangerous cruses that peppered my subsequent visits, meaningless England friendlies, Arsenal Vs Panathinaikos in their Champions League experience, and numerous visits post makeover, with Tom and on a few occasions my Dad once again. His surprise of tickets to a friendly against the Ukraine, always received with mixed emotions.

My own feelings on our nation's stadium are varied, it is obviously from a spectators point of view a much better place to watch football, no speedway track and if you happen to be a woman, the fact they have more than one loo is an improvement, but it’s no longer somewhere I can honestly say fills me with an instant feeling of occasion.

That might have some small part to do with my own recent visits, when acting as Spurs temporary home, they lost both times, it’s not exactly associated with the fondest of memories.

There are more staggering Man City fans, lurching out of the front doors of the various surrounding hotels, then there are of either of the four teams playing here today, but that's no huge shock, kick off is still over two hour away.

What there is however, is a huge amount of people checking into hasty set up stations on the very lowest rung of the Wembley cake stand. Signing in, picking up their complementary packed lunch, and receiving instructions on what part they will play in the running of the production, each of them an intrinsic cog in the greater machine.

Passing through the metal detector, my bag opened and fumbled, today finally feels like it’s actually happening. Both of us secretly unwilling to acknowledge what had been promised to us, until right now, and when I place the large multicoloured laminate and the end of a white Football Association lanyard around my neck, Non-League Finals Day across it’s top, my miserable faded picture looking out at me and below a succession of numbers highlighting where I am able to go, it hits me, this is real, somehow we have pulled this off.

A whistle stop tour of where we have access to, goes close to spinning my head right off my shoulders. Travelling in the lift, guided by one of the Wembley press team, trying not to look too giddy because my pass says FA Media on it, we descend from street level to floors denoted by letters and ever decreasing numbers.

Along a poorly lit road within the vast grey bowels of the stadium, so cavernous is the space a large coach is parked, with still enough room for another to park on top of it, there are more and more remnants of yesterday Final. Signage and all sorts litter the floor, a box that reads “FA Cup plinth handle with care”, all discarded, ready for the tip.

The next few hours are somewhat of a blur, when we are led out pitch side and are basically told there you are, have a good day, time slows and I feel I imagine what someone halfway through an Amazonian drug trip might feel. The very seats Pep Guardiola sat in less than twenty four hours ago are within touching distance, his effortlessly cool scent probably still all over them, but I'm not sure rubbing myself on them would be a good look.

There is only the thinnest of cordons stopping us from walking out onto the hallowed turf and when we are asked to move because they are about to test the pyrotechnics, the warmth of the shooting column of fire only contributes to my state of fervour. A brief encounter with the scourge of both Arsenal and Spurs, former Bolton player Kevin Davies, being recognised by a BT commentator and touching the wrinkled bronze face of Sir Alf Ramsey's bust, that peers up the tunnel, out the double doors towards the pitch, it’s enough to make a romantic like myself, breakdown.

Running through his lines, the bloke who used to do the comedy casual on Soccer AM prepares for the TV broadcast and neither of us know what to do with ourselves. I can tell that everyone else knows we shouldn't really be here, that we are very much imposter's, we do our best to look like we fit in, but are failing miserably.

A lack of notes and somewhat hazy memories, means my recollections of everything between now and kick off are somewhat limited. A brief visit to each teams palacious changing rooms, each with a larger floor plan than my own two bedroom flat, both are lovingly tended to by the kit men of Cray Valley Paper Mills FC (CVP) and Chertsey Town FC (CT).

The appropriate coloured lighting, green in CVP’s case and blue in CT’s, bathes each players crisp new kit in an almost ethereal glow, today's date and opponent embroidered into each one, is a sight to behold. Messages from loved ones and pictures are dotted about, making the most alien of places feel a bit like home. Everyone having to pinch themselves, however the staff of the respective clubs, are doing a much better job then I am, of keeping their cool.

On the bottom left of our passes in a small grey box are the initials TVG, which stand for TV Gantry, which is where we will be watching today's match from, in our attempt to capture the day on behalf of
CVP, who somewhat miraculously got us the very passes that weighs somewhat heavily around our necks.

Circumventing the pitch, we watch the players of both teams, most with a phone in hand, each documenting the day in their own small way, take the customary pre match walk on to what is an exquisite playing surface, no key prodding or heel stomping required here, before we start our ascent to the very top level of the stadium.

Two service elevators later, each one guarded, each time our passes inspected, each time we’re sure we are going to get rumbled and turfed out, each time we are let by with a smile, each time we can't believe it, we step out onto the vertigo inducing gantry, surrounded by camera crew sporting hats and hoodies from the previous major events they've covered like Champions League finals, their multiple thousands of pounds cameras poised, as we prepare our wonky charity shop tripod and John Lewis camcorder.
The warm ups complete, my memory fast forwards again in this disjointed account of our final game of the season. A large advert for the competitions sponsor has been stretched out across the centre circle, the red carpet has been rolled into place, a plinth has been placed pitch side and a sponsor covered backdrop for the teams line up has been erected.

CVP are not the most well followed of teams, and therefore the CT end is far more populated than that of the team from South East London. There is the odd bit of green and black below us, a row of youngsters in CVP shirts and the odd sighting of a green and black scarf, but compared to the sea of blue and white flags, homemade banners, one of which surfs over the heads of the crowd, nigh on the whole of Chertsey must have tuned out.

Ten minutes to get up here, so ten minutes to get back, is how much time I need to allow myself to scale the various elevators, bypass all the security and make it to the tunnel in time to see the players emerge, like a bearded overweight Tom Cruise. I leave Tom, who is no fan of heights and is looking a little wobbly, flanked by two cameras that are making him feel woefully inadequate, as I prepare myself for the most dreamlike tunnel experience of my life.

Normally cramped, dingy and with little room to move, really no place for a mountainous man like me, your average non league tunnel is not the most conspicuous of places. At Wembley though there is no end of room in the vast tunnel beyond the double doors. One could probably quite easily find a corner and set up a home there, and I’m not sure anyone would notice.

Carried out by a representative of each club, both if I remember rightly gleaming examples of the kind of tireless volunteers that are the beating heart of non league clubs, with a handle each they escort the shimmering FA Vase. They like so many today now have their own moment that will be hard to forget. Delicately placing the spoils of the day atop the plinth, the players arrival is now only moments away.

“Discipline, discipline” asks the CVP manager of his players, each now with a mascot in hand, their arrival giving their fidgeting hands something to do, many if not all are raring to go. CVP’s manager, the imperious looking Ming the Merciless type, has a steely look of determination chiseled onto his face, like at any moment laser beams might come shooting out of his eyes.

Echoing around the lofty, not even half full stadium, the booming voices of the pitch side announcers welcome the two teams out, as does the quite unnecessary pyro show, perhaps a left over from a recent concert. Flanking either side of the tunnel, the two dugouts, already filled with their bib wearing substitutes, applaud their teammates as they make their way past the numerous flag bearers, out for what might be the biggest day in their playing careers.

Led by the captains, the suited dignitaries are introduced to the starting elevens, walking slowly along the unfurled red carpet. Taking my surreal o’meter close to breaking point, I then have the quite bizarre honour of watching a woman in an immaculate cream ball gown, no less than ten feet away from me belt out the national anthem. The dignitaries, having completed their meet and greet, each standing tall alongside each other, chests puffed out, give just as good as the lady with the classical training, all while the fans of each team appear on one of the two massive screens, smiling inanely when they realise they’re on, and then cut off before they are able to do anything to daft.

Both teams huddle, never before I’m sure has a huddle seemed so vital, the chance for a few choice words from the captain to help steady any nerves. Exchanging pennants and handshakes, the armband wearing ones, perform the coin toss, and after another round of handshakes, CVP are to get things underway.

On account of having to repeat the great trek to get to our appointed position in the gods I have to rely on Tom’s analysis of how the first ten minutes have gone. In the time I’ve spent staring at the brushed steel interior of Wembleys lifts he has come to the conclusion “Chertsey are going to win, it’s been all them”.

Having made quite the racket when we saw them take on Northwich Victoria in the semi-final, CT’s greatly swelled numbers means the travelling fans from Surrey have done a grand job of filling their allocated quarter of the stadium, they are making an impressive cacophony whenever they get going, “Chertsey, Chertsey, Chertsey”.

Tom has not spent our time apart pining for my return, but instead swanning about in the “media lounge”, getting his hands on anything that he can. “Do I have to pay for these?” he asked the lady behind the bar, who shot him a withering glance, you’ve clearly never been here before. The long table next to him, which was empty when I left, is now covered in numerous large handfuls of Celebrations.

The other side of the professional cameras manned by men who need little effort to move them, which is no mean feat considering their size, the commentary team made up of our friend Kevin Davies and his BT Sport compadre, are sat using those ancient looking microphones, that I thought were last used on The Big Match.

“Ohhhh” gasp both sets of fans, when CVP send a header just over the bar following a corner. Looking like a mixture of Sensible Soccer and performing ants in a travelling circus, our vantage point allows us an unparallelled view of a game, that neither of us have experienced before and Tom is so mesmerised by the goal side 2D sign that appears to be 3D, that I have to nudge him clear of his reverie.

Equally as raucous as when we last saw them, just in far greater number, the CT’s fan keep up their well earned reputation, and are quick to point out the distinct number of empty seats in the CVP end, “you’re support is fucking shit”.

The excitable cry of “Baxter” from the BT commentator is enough to make one jump, delivered in that excitable TV way, at the sight of the CT player with his back to goal attempting to put his team ahead with the most audacious of overhead kicks from just outside the six yard box.

A succession of meaty challenges from each team, one almost after another on the touch line below, the next in retaliation to the last ends finally with a CVP free kick. The CT fans are spelling out the clubs name, one letter at a time “C...H…E”, which is followed by the occasional blast of a dwindling air horn.

“It’s weird to think Sterling banged in a hat trick yesterday and now we're here watching this” ponders Tom, the game if I’m honest somewhat passing us by, neither of us really having yet snapped
out of the fact we have been given the chance that we have. A burst of CVP pace sees the wide man beat his nearby marker easily, his low cross into the box has promise, but is eventually cleared.

I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a shaky start, more a slow one by CVP, but nearly thirty minutes in, and they unlike us are starting to appear from their, ‘fucking hell I’m at Wembley’ fog, and start to show some of what has made them one of the most entertaining sides we’ve seen all season. A shimmy and a drop of the shoulder, sees one player out wide loose his man, but the final ball is not quite there.

Such is our altitude, Tom is starting to feel a bit chilly, “might have to put my scarf on”, admittedly it's not the most balmy days, but it's far from a crack out the snood kind of afternoon. On the pitch, and with every passing minute, CVP grow more and more confident, their latest effort a goal bound shot cleared off the line.

Not waiting around to lick their wounds after conceding the attempt on goal, CT are quick to counter, the danger of which is apparent to all, no more so than when one CVP midfielder who hauls the advancing CT player with the ball to the ground, conceding a free kick on the corner of the box.

“Ohhh foam” notes Tom, no expense spared by the FA today, Tom telling me there is even “goal like technology” in play, but is quick to point out “no VAR” as the referee marks the spot the set piece is to be taken from, and what a set piece it is. A wicked curling effort, that is only just tipped over by the CVP keeper at full stretch.

The closest either team has got to going ahead so far, inspires the loudest chant of the day so far, a roaring rendition of “Come on Chertsey, come on Chertsey”.

Laid out across the wiry obstacle to stop pitch invaders, a few CT flags bring a much needed colour change, against the many empty red seats, and with just short of ten minutes left of the half, a half filled with lots of “almosts and nearlys” as Tom put it, where CVP have failed to so far impress up front, and somewhat against the run of play, its takes a stroke of individual excellence, to give them the lead.

The twenty foot high picture of CVP forward Gavin Tomlin fills the screens at both ends of the ground, the stadium announcer bursts out his name, as the CVP fans for the first time are the loudest. All on their feet, they applaud the scorer, who just sneakily cut in off the left wing and sent his low angled shot pass the CT keeper, who is now racing towards the celebrating fans, his teammates in his wake, calling on those in the CVP end to give them all they’ve got, and they will do the same.

Two minutes after going behind and CT are awarded another free kick on the edge of the CVP box and considering how well the last one went, the fans and players I’m sure must be optimistic. However this one is a little less spectacular, and instead of clearing the wall and heading goalwards, it clips it and goes out for a corner.

Delivered at pace with some considerable bend, and in what looks like a case of overloading the six yard box and out muscling their opponents, there was no end of takers in blue and white to get on the end of the corner. Heading it almost from the penalty spot, the attempt is well out of the reach of the straining CVP keeper, but unfortunately for the CT player his well placed header, is just a fraction off target hitting the foot of the post instead of the back of the net.

Looking like the quickfire chance to level things up has avoided them, favour then falls somewhat fortuitously in their lap, presenting CT with another bite of the apple. Bouncing neatly back into play, the ball drops squarely on the right boot of one of the CT love train looking on in the box, who has the easy job of poking it into the empty net.

It’s Sam Flegg’s turn for his giant likeness to grace the screen and for his name to be energetically shouted over the PA. Racing off towards their fans, in a similar manner to which the CVP scorer did just minutes ago, the CT players take their celebrations up a notch, with an en masse knee slide.

For once I can excuse Tom’s sombreness following the goal, “back to square one,” he sighs. After our last three consecutive games have all gone to extra time, two all the way to penalty shootouts, Tom is longing for a game to finish in regulation time, “need a goal” he mutters to himself.

Normally the sight of pissing rain would send us fleeing, “getting heavy” points out Tom, who more than most objects to getting wet and is normally one of the first to seek cover. Such is the setting of this very non, non league encounter, we have no such concerns today. The same cannot be said for those in the very first few rows, who are forced to retreat as the rain starts to cascade down onto them.

“It’s not a retractable roof?” he then asks, unwittingly opening an age old can of worms, containing accusations of horrendous funds mismanagement and multiple missed deadlines, that I really can’t be arsed to get into now, so I confirm his statement.

“Ohh I’m hungry” Tom tells me, watching on as the exodus for food begins, after the blow of the referee's whistle, that sounded so far away, it was only the players heading off towards the tunnel, that confirmed the half had in fact come to an end. Tom won’t be off in search of lunch, even his voracious appetite of football food has its limitations, and £13.00 for a cheeseburger, as well as the fact it's so bloody far away. Means his last remaining Celebrations will have to suffice.

The same can not be said for Kevin Davies, who is off like a shot.

No food, no raffle, a non league game without a raffle is just not the same, as well as the blaring music, doesn't exactly make for a fun filled half time. The sight of the two cup carriers being awarded with their own trophies, in recognition of their commitment and hard work, is something I think we can all agree we’d like to see more of, and the sight of far more organised people then us tucking into food from home on the big screen, has Tom whining, “I wanna packed lunch”.

Are we here to watch the Foo Fighters or a football match? “Welcome back your finalists” says the exuberant voice over the PA, who is soon drowned out by some pounding Fat Boy Slim, more fire, and Tom almost starts a two man mosh pit.

A minute into the new half and after a sharp intake of breath from almost everybody, the first yellow card for the match is awarded to a CVP player. Whoever travelled to 2010 to get a Vuvuzela should be commended for their efforts for mastering time travel, but then should be kicked out, as they have no place in civil society. CT go close with a header at a corner and without the rain to contend with, the fans from each team start going at each other across the black mesh divide between their two sections.

Considering just how expertly the CVP number ten bought his free kick, absolutely conning the ref which was as plain as day, if you were a CT fan or player you would probably be somewhat aggrieved if the resulting set piece had culminated in a goal. Just how close it was, can be deduced by the sound of the CVP fans, whose “ohhhh” is barely audible.

Following suit, the first quarter of the new half, much like the entirety of the first, except for the two goals, is filled with lots of near chances, and fluffed lines. A mix up in the CVP defence presents one CT player with a free shot on goal, which he puts wide. As he berates himself, the CVP defenders frantically wave their arms at each other, between them trying to find a scapegoat for the error.
The somewhat frantic first fifteen concludes with an appeal of “handball” from the CVP players and supporters, a blocked shot by a prone CT defender, has been deemed by those in green and black to have been done unlawfully, but the referee waves play on.

Below us the battle of the fans is heating up, now almost all on their feet, the twelve to fourteen year olds, plus a few older blokes who should know better, are giving each other the old clenched fist hello, flags and scarves are being menacingly waved and the CT fans are asking, “shall we sing a song for you?”.

“It’s amazing what a bit of mesh can do” laughs Tom, each set of fans allowing the barrier to bolster their bravado, “if that was Italy, it would be on fire”.

Block after block after block in the CVP box, gets a fireworks display like reaction from the CT fans, “ohhh, ohhh, ohhh” and when the ball is finally cleared, they let loose one of their infrequent but stirring cries of “Chertsey, Chertsey”.

After thirty eight games together, I think we can be excused for the odd quarrel or lover's tiff and it
certainly gets a bit frosty on the gantry for five minutes or so, when the debate about if we should stick around for today's second of the days double headers. Tom is a firm no, I’m a yes.

“Shoot” shout the CVP fans, twenty minutes on the clock and a poor kick from the CT keeper falls right to a CVP player in midfield, but he hesitated, the goal gaping, he opts for the sensible, a pass wide, instead of the sensational.

“What a tackle that was” shouts Tom, half leaping out from his Westlife stool he’s been perching on, but making sure not to be too animated, to avoid going over the railings head first. One CVP player has just taken the ball quite literally off the toe of a CT forward, the timing and execution impeccable. Once back on his feet his effort is applauded emphatically by one team mate and moments later, CVP are up the other end, curling a shot just wide.

Approaching the final twenty minutes, the game hardly a stormer, the camera man next to us is almost asleep, the pace having slowed to say the least, Tom putting it down to the pitch being “so big” and its continues to get a little bit tasty directly below us, idle hands and all that. With no game to really get their teeth into, the fans are growing increasingly bored and are looking to fill their time one way or another.

Edging closer and closer towards extra time, Tom is fading, and when a CVP flurry brings about a few sighters and a shout for a pen, which only the downed player and fans appeal for, but nothing remotely clear cut I fear his premonition of extra time is all but nailed on.

“At least the security guards are earning their money” comments Tom, by the looks of it the witty back and forth has been taken too far and one CT fan who is being manhandled out, to the sound of the airhorn and surrounded by his fellow clapping fans, “Chertsey, Chertsey, Chertsey”.

The dawning realisation that we are more than likely going to see another thirty minutes at least, has just hit Tom like a ton of bricks, “extra time again, really”. One of the two security guards, standing by the door to the gantry, who confirms a CT fan has been removed, “there's always one” tuts Tom, winces at the sight of a clattering CVP challenge, “ohhhh” and the CVP player resplendent in all green with a very fetching black check on one shoulder joins his teammate in the referees book.

Another foul, another CT free kick, CVP are getting increasingly physical, a sign of their frustrations perhaps. Tensions are close to boiling over. Their third foul in quick succession brings about calls from the CT supporters of “off, off, off, off”, seething and looming over the player he just poleaxed, CVPs number 10 then gets himself entangled in some afters, before the referee can quickly separate them.

CVP are struggling to get out of their own half, of the two sides they are the one starting to now look the most leggy. In a rare break out, Kevin Lisbie, once of Charlton, who has also graced the international stage with Jamaica, shows that class is permanent, regardless of age. Delaying his shot to allow support from the wings, a pass wide seems imminent, but instead he chooses to shoot, his effort blocked, he had better options.

In recent weeks, Tom has become quite prone to prosaic statements, “now or never” his most frequently used, looking at me afterwards and waiting for the dramatic Hollywood cut scene, that never comes. As has also been the way, it's always “never”. The stunning curling cross by CVP is on target, the intended player is ready and waiting to head it, but it's taken away from him at the last.

“That was it, that was the chance” he fumes, “fourth game in a row going to extra time” he’s close to tears, the outstanding CT keepers fingertip save from the resulting corner the difference between Tom getting home in time for his roast and suffering a little longer.

As a large red five appears on the screen, to signify how much added on time is to be played, the match enters a state of near hysteria. CVP’s keeper almost hands the win to CT, when he palms what looks like quite an innocuous cross upwards, sending the ball behind him, and only thanks to a quick thinking teammate, who is in place to head it over.

Again Tom goes all hackneyed, “now or never” and again absolutely nothing comes of the ball into the box.

Neither team can say they haven't had the chance to win it in normal time. Both have squandered some gilt edged opportunities, both have had attempts well saved or blocked. The sound of the collective sigh from the CT fans is one I will struggle to forget, “he had an open net” howls Tom. Somehow, with the goal at his mercy, the ball cut right into this path, the player has contrived to put it over.

“Next goal wins” I quite clearly hear the BT commentator say, like they are watching a school lunch time match, and the buzzer is about to sound. Echoes of relief and screams of near misses ring around Wembley. Doing his best to turn in the box, one CT player with his back to the goal is crowded out, dawdling, Tom can't understand it, “what's he doing?” his eventual shot straight at the keeper.

It happens almost in slow motion, the ball squirming into the path of the CVP player in the box who has continued his run, the one two with a team mate not quite coming off, but a stroke of luck finds him bearing down on goal. He takes a single touch, putting just enough on the ball to help him evade the attention of one defender and then with a single swipe of his boot he unleashes his shot, the CT keeper all but beaten, the ball slapping the face of the bar.

Barely down from its momentary orbit, the ball takes a solitary bounce, before the referee blows his whistle.

Extra time it is.

Plenty of players on each team are being seen to. Cramps, niggles and other injuries are being ironed out by the hard working physios. The high pitched chant of “Chertsey, Chertsey, Chertsey” from a group of young CT fans, does just about enough to keep the yawning camera man next to us awake, and the occasional blast of a 90’s rave whistle, gives away one persons past.

“Getting a bit excited over there” says Tom, motioning towards the commentary team. Going on and on and on, one CT player runs the full length of the front of the CVP box, before eventually shooting, but its wide. CVP don’t seem fazed after going so close to winning it, a succession of corners sees them ramp up the pressure, however they can’t make one count. A dinked cross into the box goes close to one player, but he just can't reach it.

Kevin Lisbies last contribution is giving away a daft free kick in midfield, and when he’s substituted, the boos from the CT fans are deafening, he’s become somewhat of a panto villain over the last hour and a half, his replacement getting a far warmer reception from the CVP supporters.

Tom is quickly turning into a toddler, “make something happen, make something happen” he says on repeat badgering me. CVP find themselves in a great position once more, but again the final ball lets them down, “pony” he says, a phrase I’ve never heard any of my kids use before.

The faint shouts of “green army” are hardly vociferous from the CVP fans, but when on the stroke of half time, a clumsy challenge awards CT a penalty, they are instantly quashed.

Kissing his wedding ring and pointing towards the CT fans, CT’s number 9 has dispatched the spot
kick with an exorbitant amount of coolness, the boos of the CVP supporters did little to put him off. I’m sure his heart was in his mouth for a moment, when the CVP keeper chose to dive the right way, but it was one of those that hits the side net before the back one, and he was never going to reach it.

“You’re not singing anymore” chant the CT fans between frenzied waving of flags and ruffling of banners.

The singing from the CT supporters continues throughout the short break, “we are Chertsey, we are Chertsey” and once the game gets back under way, CVP's indignation is growing by the second, players and supporters don’t feel anything is going their way, much to the delight of the increasingly mouthy CT fans, “sit down shut up, sit down shut up”.

CVP are again let down by their final pass, time after time today they have found themselves in the right places, but that killer pass has been the difference between the two teams. The CT end is close to anarchy, “if you love Chertsey stand up” they sing, it's hard to pick out individuals amongst the ocean of flags and jumping people. A long range dipping shot of theirs with five minutes to go, is just reached by the very end of the outstretched CVP keepers hand and pushed over the bar, and moments later, the corner of blue and white becomes euphoric.

The goal that seals the victory, and the Vase for CT is the pick of the bunch, a low curling outside of the box effort, that would not look out of place in any goal of the season competition. A quick one two just outside the area, allows the scorer enough time and space to formulate his shot. He has every right to march no swagger over towards the fans, performing a textbook knee slide, and then finding a chink in the defences and leaping into the crowd.

Now in a state of full pandemonium the CT end is bouncing, “if you love Chertsey stand up”. Not once but twice, CT almost grab a forth, their supporters now “ole-ing” each pass, as the team do their best to keep possession and ride out the final minutes. All on their feet the CT bench look imploringly up at the giant scoreboard, the time ticking down at almost half speed. “Two minutes of added time” informs the voice over the PA.

Plunged into the pitch, a blue and white CT flag, tossed from the ecstatic crowd, claims Wembley for the Curfews and it's fans. I didn't see who committed the Graeme Souness impersonation, but no doubt it was one of the jubilant players, who after climbing those famous steps, and disappearing from view, reappeared a short while later a good couple of storeys up, the name of the club rolling below them on the electronic boards, to hoist the trophy into the air. Who are now celebrating with the fans, some taking their children from the crowd, for a chance of a picture for the living room wall.

Queen, Bowie and Diamond rattle off the victory play list, in front of the CT supporters the players get to reenact the trophy lift, this time with the added drama of a few bottles of bubbles. The ground staff, one of which nearly kicked us out not long after arrival because of Tom's foray onto the pitch, are eager for a quick turn around, the Leyton Orient fans are flooding in, in anticipation of the FA Trophy final.

Exhausted doesn't quiet describe quite how worn out I feel as I slump into the seat of my car. Far from a normal match day, means I really feel far from normal and it's hard to express quite how grateful we are to CVP and those who made what happened today possible. Bumping into their goalkeeping coach, we share a laugh when we both realise the last time we saw each other was Punjab United. From the Elite Venue to nations stadium in just a matter of weeks.

On the floor of the CVP changing room, the very same one which had a DJ setting up in it when we stuck our heads in was a sign that read "dare to dream". Unfortunately for CVP that dream ending, that dream ending that was almost written in the stars, what better way to toast your centenary year with a win at Wembley, didn't quite come true.

For us, we both could only ever have dreamt of standing on the pitch at Wembley, standing in the tunnel and brushing shoulders with Harrows own David Elleray. Today only goes to prove, that dreams can come true.

Hang on, isn't that a Gabrielle lyric?

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

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