A Day like no other - Sunday 13th May 2012 - A Wembley visit - Billy Montague
Long serving Dunston UTS Secretary Billy Montague on his memories of that famous day at Wembley
A DAY LIKE NO OTHER
SUNDAY 13th MAY 2012 – A WEMBLEY VISIT
After a great Saturday night out in Borehamwood when the whole squad enjoyed an excellent Italian meal and then quite a few drinks around the bars on the High Street, it was back to the Hotel for a very fitful sleep. The events of the following morning were weighing heavily on my mind. Would the day be an unmitigated disaster or a wonderful success story? Myself and my best pal, Ian McPherson had visited the National Stadium on quite a few occasions following Newcastle United and all of them had ended in the former option! Surely, it was time for a change of fortune!
After a hearty Full-English we were all ready, suited and booted, to make the best of the day. The players, the Committee and their wives and partners all looked like a million dollars. Frank Rankin and his lovely wife Margaret did the business with Carnation buttonholes for all the males and flowers for the ladies. The Team Coach was ready with our usual driver Malcolm fully prepared as usual. He had done an early morning trial-run to Wembley Stadium to ensure that there would be no room for error or last-minute problems. He had taken quite a few of the Management Committee with him and they had gained access to our changing-room and prepared the strips in advance. A great touch!
I didn’t discuss it with anyone else, but my stomach was churning with the nerves and expectation about what was in store for us in the next eight hours of a glorious sunny day. The journey from the Hotel went without any problems and when we reached the Stadium approaches it was really emotional to be greeted by hundreds of Dunston supporters clad in their Blue and White colours. The noisy reception on arrival just brought it home to everyone how this was it – at last! Malcolm the driver skilfully negotiated the coach through what seemed like a mile of tunnels beneath the Stadium and we proceeded into the East Dressing Room (the lucky one)!!! The excitement was starting to build but we had to keep a lid on it. Everything about the Stadium was first class. I had imagined that we might be classed as the “Country Cousins” because this was “only” the FA Vase Final but I was completely wrong.
Our treatment by the Stadium staff was brilliant, but in the same breath, our party showed the utmost respect to them also. It’s only right.
Walking out onto the pitch surrounds was a brilliant experience for all of us but I was aware that as secretary, I had to concentrate on my duties as if it was any other match, making sure that there were no mistakes made prior the game as far as protocol was concerned.
Management team Billy Irwin and Tony Harrison had the unenviable task of selecting a starting eleven and then the substitute line-up. The Club were lucky that the whole squad were completely dedicated to each other and even those that didn’t make the team, though very disappointed, were still supportive of those who had been chosen. Once I had received their selection I completed the Official Team-Sheet, being doubly careful to spell every name correctly while trying to steady my shaking right-hand. The Team-Sheet was supposed to be submitted to the Match Referee Roger East at least ninety minutes before kick-off. I made sure I was ready – didn’t want to rub him up the wrong way before a ball was kicked in anger.
The West Auckland Town secretary Alan Bailes was a really good bloke and I always got on very well with him for years. But he was notorious for submitting his team-sheet late to the Match Referee when he didn’t want the opposition to know his team’s line-up for domestic competition. Anyway, on our big day I went to the Match Officials’ Dressing Room a few minutes before the allotted time but there was no sign of Alan. I entered their room and was in conversation with them and decided to leave and attempt to find Alan’s whereabouts – unsuccessfully as it happened.
When I returned to inform Roger East, he immediately set off to seek the West Auckland Team-Sheet and only returned with a red-faced Alan who had been given a right telling-off! It seems that Alan had been engaged in a chat with someone and had forgotten the time – that was what he said anyway!
After the exchange of Team-Sheets I hot-footed it to the East Dressing Room to give the details to Billy Irwin and Tony Harrison so that they could continue with their pre-match preparations. The delay was irritating but considering the final result it maybe didn’t affect their team-talk that much. It did wind me up no end though because my late arrival upstairs in the function suite meant that I missed out on the starter at the pre-match meal! I can’t remember much about the actual game apart from nervously viewing a disallowed “goal” from Chris Swailes and two goals from Andy Bulford after great work from Steve Goddard and then the utter euphoria and relief at the final whistle. Just another average day in the life of the Secretary of this great little Football Club!