Monday, 12 May 2014

Sholing v West Auckland Town (FA Vase Final at Wembley)

Sholing 1, West Auckland Town 0. The Vase comes south!
It hadn't been the best game up until the 70th minute. The two sides were equally matched and maybe just a little over-respectful of each other. There had been the odd chance here and there: Sholing keeper Matt Brown had made a couple of decent saves from West Auckland's yellow-shirted forwards, but it looked like we could be having extra-time and penalties. Not good, as I wanted to be home in time for Eurovision at 8 o'clock! A plate of cod and chips, followed by many beers awaited me at home. Come on Sholing, do it for me!

And so they did...

Pre-match souvenir hunting.
Sholing FC (0) 1 v 0 (0) West Auckland Town AFC
Saturday May 10th 2014
FA Carlsberg Vase Final (at Wembley)
Attendance: 5,431 (approximately 3,000 from Sholing)
Admission: £15
Programme: £4
Colours: Red and white stripes / black / red and white stripes v Gold / black / gold
National Grid reference: TQ1985

The roots of the arch.
A long ball forward from centre-back Lee Bright. A slip by West's left-back, and "Marvellous" Marvin McLean was in behind the defence with only the keeper to beat! The Sholing winger with the pace, poise and trickery of my old hero Vince Hilaire controlled the bouncing ball immediately, and after two touches, shot goalwards, aiming towards the far post. His shot may have been saved, but rocketing in from nowhere, a West defender stretched out a desperate calf. The ball hit his golden stocking and ballooned over Jordan Nixon in West's goal. One, two, three, four seconds - however long it was - the looping ball was in the air for longer than San Marino's dire Eurovision effort - but eventually, it was over the line, jiggling Nixon's towel and tickling the inside of the net!

Bobby Moore in silhouette.
It was bedlam on the pitch and off, as Marvin raced towards his brothers in the stands, chased by his ecstatic team-mates. The McLean family reached the bottom of the steps just as the Sholing players caught Marvin and smothered him in a stripey bundle of joy. Flags waving, children screaming in ecstacy, and tumult, utter tumult for the 3,000 natives of Southampton who had followed the team up from the south coast.

South Today's Tony Husband and his cameraman film the fans arriving along Olympic Way.
Twenty minutes of fingernail chewing and breathless defending followed. Brown made at least three more splendid saves to win the man of the match award. West hit the post with a minute of injury time remaining. But the fearless and brave band of brothers from Sholing hung on. The Vase was theirs! After eight ties, vanquishing local rivals Winchester City and Folland Sports during the autumn, travelling to Reading Town and winning 4-1, then beating Hullbridge Sports, Larkhall Athletic, Wisbech Town and Eastbourne United Association - sometimes easily, sometimes fortuitiously - the Wembley steps were awaiting their muddy boots.

Lewis Fennemore spots family and friends in the crowd as a man with an umbrella on his head walks past.
Up went the captain, Byron Mason, followed by his brothers (one of whom was his actual brother, Barry, the rest being his blood brothers), and then the coaching team. I was too far away to properly see the trophy being lifted, but subsequent photographic evidence proves that Mason hoisted the priceless cup jointly with his boss (both at the football club and at his workplace, the electricians BSA-Regal), Dave Diaper. A magical end to the manager's 15th year as the club's gaffer.

Reading out the teams before kick-off. "And at number 7 for's Barry Mason!"
The players and staff then floated back down to the pitch, where they were photographed with the Vase behind the sponsor's board. Champagne was sprayed, the trophy's silver lid was worn as a hat (well, I'd definitely do the same if it was me out there, wouldn't you?), then it was time to hug friends and family in the crowd, surrounded by photographers - every grinning embrace captured for posterity by the pros of the national and local press, and by 3,000 amateurs busily snapping away on their camera phones.

Rain on the terraces at Wembley.
Celebrations followed well into the night at the Dorchester Arms. Then they were back again on Sunday for more of the same before being paraded around St Mary's prior to Saints' game against Manchester United. Including the first team's Wessex League triumph, this season's trophy count was:

Sholing 2, Manchester United 0.

There's a scoreline you don't see every day.

They've only gone and scored! 1-0 to Sholing!
And so endeth my FA Vase journey. From Hythe & Dibden To Wembley. Following Hampshire clubs in the competition from the very first kick to the very last. I got lucky. This was only the second time a club from the county has won the Vase in its 40 year existence (Winchester City in 2004 were the other victors). It was fun.

Shall I do it again next season? Why not? I don't expect I'll be at Wembley again - Sholing won't be defending the Vase due to being promoted to the next level, where they will enter non-league's senior cup competition, the FA Trophy. But Alresford Town, Winchester City, AFC Portchester and Blackfield & Langley, amongst others, will fancy their chances. It could happen all over again. The draw for the first qualifying round will be in July, then it kicks off again on September 6th.

Out comes the board for the official winners' photo opportunity (with obligatory champagne showers).
There are many reports, videos and photo albums to peruse from this match. Wendy Gee wrote this in the Echo. More pictures from the Echo can be found here. The official FA video of the match is here. There are splendid photo sets from professional photographers here and here. One of my favourite local bands, Brother Goose (Southampton's answer to Vampire Weekend, if anybody was asking the question) wrote Sholing's official song for the final. Paul Samain, a Sholing fan, produced a video for it here. Very odd to hear Brother Goose blasting out over the Wembley speakers, when I'm more used to hearing them up close and personal at the Joiners.

Capturing the trophy presentation on a camera phone.
One little gripe to end the season with.

To the FA:

You spent how much on building Wembley Stadium? £650,000,000? Did it not occur to you to spend an extra few quid to extend the roof just a teensy-weensy bit further so that the plebs sitting in the front 30 or so rows don't get wet when it rains, as it very occasionally does in this country? Hmmm? Or at least put the fans who turn up for the Vase final in one of the upper tiers where they can keep dry. My coat is till sopping wet two days later.

I went to 30+ matches this season, and the only one I couldn't keep dry at was played at the national stadium. Think on.

A souvenir foam hand, broken and forgotten on the Wembley steps.
Enough with the griping, even though the smug, self-serving, self-satisfied FA bigwigs deserve all the opprobrium they get.

There will be an end of season roller round-up in a week or two. Until then, thanks to my regular readers for coming back here week after week. It's much appreciated.


  1. Andrew - as always a great read. Thanks for another enjoyable season of reports from your travels. - still one of my favourites from all the blogs out there.

    O Bag

  2. Thanks, Andy. Great stuff as usual. Shame Wembley hasn't got any old rusty and abandoned equipment sitting around. Oh, they have. they're the people who run the FA! Ho, and indeed, ho!

  3. Hi OB. Thanks for the comment. I may make one or two journeys north next season, so we may meet up. Enjoy the cruise with your winnings from the 66-1 bet on Sholing!

    Nice to hear from you Ed. Mum said she bumped in to you recently - told me all about it. I'll be able to go further afield next season as the children will no longer have hobbies on a Saturday morning which stopped me setting off before 1pm. A potential trip to the south-west awaits - I'll let you know.

  4. It would be great to see you next season up north , just let me know when you intend to make the 'piligrimage' ... dont forget to get you jabs before travel !!!

  5. Good report as always, was great to be part of Sholing's adventure this season. Hope a few of the fans who went to Wembley become regulars at the Silverlake.

    Agree about Wembley. For ordinary fans its a poor stadium. Expensive, utterly pointless sliding roof over the ends, too shallow lower tier, crap accoustics and as you said, laughable that 30 rows get wet when it rains.

  6. Sounds like a great day out. Will be interesting to see how Sholing do next season with Dave Diaper standing down as manager and probably a few players hanging up their boots. I perhaps got a glimpse when I saw what was effectively a Sholing reserve side lose by a narrow 3-2 to a very strong Follands side toward the end of the season. Certainly there's enough talent coming through the ranks and they seem to do a good job of keeping their sides together.

  7. I believe at least three players retired after the Vase final, but Sholing's youth system is quite effective - they should be replaced by equally good youngsters. I can see them doing just as well in the SLS&W as they did previously. The all-for-one-one-for-all ethic should still be there, whoever coaches them, which is what has served them so well over the last few years.

    As for the crowds - well, Totton's increased after their Wembley appearance. I can see no reason why a few of the new fans from Wembley shouldn't come back, so long as the first team are winning more than they're losing. I'll stick my neck out and say that Sholing should be averaging crowds of 150-200 next season - double the attendances from the last time they played at that level. Good luck to them.