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Dunston UTS FC FA Vase 10th year Anniversary

Billy Interview

Dom Bingham speaks to former Dunston UTS FC manager Billy Irwin, who lead the club to their famous Wembley win, as he returns to the dug-outs once more.

So Billy, on the 14th May, two weeks after the season is completed, there is a 10 Year Anniversary match of our historic FA Vase win at Wembley against Whitley Bay Football Club. You were gaffer at that time, what do you remember about the run towards Wembley and then Wembley itself?

I remember quite a bit, every game actually! Something big happened in every game, an incident or whatever. But from the quarter final away to Peterborough Sports and then the two semi-final legs against Staveley I remember a whole lot, plenty of drama.

Then of course you’ve got the final, and with social media nowadays it’s great to be able to go and watch stuff back, but aye they were great memories, and I cannot believe ten years has gone just like that, I remember it like it was yesterday! I still get people now who were in the crowd that day come and tell me their stories which is great to hear, but no fantastic memories not just for the team, but for the town and the whole area in general.

Without a doubt the proudest moment in the clubs history, and to get to Wembley let alone win it must have been a super proud day for you to lead the team to glory?

Aye, massively. It was a massive occasion for the whole club and the committee who had put in so much work and effort to get the club to where it was. I had a fantastic group of players but I think it’s important to note that people often forget we got to two quarter finals and three last sixteens I think so when you look at it we could’ve won it a few more times!

But the day at Wembley itself... I always thought we could get there but you always think you need a little bit of luck. I don’t think we needed luck with the squad of players that we had and the mentality of the group. They were a superb group and it was just a brilliant occasion.

The North East has renowned success in the FA Vase, over the last 20 years there’s been so many success stories come from this tournament, the atmosphere around Dunston and the North East in general with two North Eastern teams going head to head at Wembley must have been fantastic?

It was brilliant! I mean there was a little bit of rivalry between both clubs, West Auckland were a top team with top players, but the reason why clubs won the Vase all those years on the trot was because the standard of the Northern League then was superb. Obviously now with promotion from the Northern League you have to take it so the league in my opinion is getting weakened by that. It was a really tough competition to win and it still is, but long may it continue that teams from this region get to Wembley and get to experience the occasion!

10 years on, it’s been a while since you have been in the dug out, are you looking forward to getting back in the dug out and linking up with the old team?

Yes it will be fantastic! We get back together quite a bit and we are all in touch with each other still. It was a fantastic experience that brought us all closer you know, staying in hotels for two and three nights at a time. Me and Harra are really looking forward to having a great day as well.

Hopefully we get a few through the gate and we will raise a good sum of money for St Oswald’s Hospice Home.

Could you just give us some background to St Oswald’s charity for those who may be unfamiliar ?

Well I asked Chandler the Whitley Bay manager about Mark Taylor’s charity who suffers from Motor Neurone Disease and he came back and has asked if the money could go to St Oswald’s hospice which is a hospice in Gosforth and it’s superb.

I had a bit of experience myself with my wife before she sadly passed away so it holds a massive place in my heart and there is a lot of committee members who have had a brush with St Oswald’s so it is a fantastic place, with fantastic people. I would love to see as many people as possible come down to even chip in a couple of quid through the raffle or tombola. They are a fantastic place but they do need the support.

Finally, despite it being for charity, that inner managerial fire to win must still be burning to try and win the game on the day?

Aye of course, I had a chat with Swaz and spoke to Harra yesterday. I know what type of group they are and they will be out training and all that. We will all want to win, and Whitley Bay won it three years off the bounce which will never be done again, so it will be great day and hopefully a good game on the pitch.

Published Thursday 5th May 2022 (last updated Friday 7th April 2023)