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Dunston UTS FC FA Vase 10th Year Anniversary: Interview

Dom Bingham speaks to the Ian Chandler and Andy Gowans, the two men who led Whitley Bay Football Club to FA Vase glory on four separate occasions, as we continue to look ahead to next Saturdays FA Vase 10th Anniversary game between Dunston UTS FC and Whitley Bay FC.

Whilst Dunston had enjoyed a wonderful day at Wembley Stadium in 2012 winning the FA Vase by two goals to nil against West Auckland Town, Whitley Bay Football Club has also experienced a vast amount of success in the competition over the past twenty years, winning it four times under the helm of first Andy Gowans (AG) and then Ian Chandler (IC). Their successes included a win at Villa Park in the 2002-03 final, and then a triple successive final crown at Wembley Stadium in the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, a feat that has never been matched.

Gowans and Chandler will reunite members of their squads on Saturday 14th May, when a Whitley Bay Select XI will face Dunston’s 2012 FA Vase winning squad in a one-off Anniversary match at the UTS Stadium, with the prime purpose of the day being to raise funds for St Oswalds Hospice, who offer superb first-class specialist patient-centred care for those with life-limiting condition.

Dom Bingham sat down with Ian and Andy to learn more about their experiences of their Vase final wins with Whitley Bay, as well as getting an insight about some of the players we can expect to see at the UTS Stadium on the 14th May for the upcoming FA Vase Anniversary match, and finally why people of the local area should get involved.

Andy, you were in charge of the Whitley Bay team who won the FA Vase in the 2001-2002 season, what do you remember about that 1-0 victory vs Tiptree United at Villa Park?

 AG: It was a bit of an emotional occasion with a roller coaster of feelings. It wasn’t the best game but all that mattered was the result and winning the Vase. We had controlled most of the game without creating many chances and missed a penalty.

 I had been to a final with Bedlington prior and lost by a single goal to Tiverton, so I was thinking here we go again. But in extra time a cross by Steve Cuggy was headed in by Ian Chandler and that was it elation and the start of a domination by Northern League teams in the Vase.

And Ian, as well as scoring the goal which Andy mentions above, you’ve also experienced huge success as a manager of Whitley Bay Football Club, you made history by winning the FA Vase 3 times running (2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11). This must have been a massively proud moment for you – what do you remember about the three consecutive final victories?

 IC: Now many years after the events, where I’ve had time to reflect and savour the memories it is with pride I remember the 3 finals, but to be honest the finals were so much more relaxing, the actual games, compared to the 3 semi-finals v Lowersoft, Barwell and Poole.  Those games, home and away were nerve wracking to say the least.

 As for the actual finals, Glossop was all anticipation, in the hotel night before, the really really really tough decision in picking the starting 11 with Steve Cuggy & Gavin Fell, then the even harder decision on who didn’t make the 16 and would end up watching the game from the dugouts, not a nice job at all!  The game itself was I felt comfortable, with the double act Kerr-Chow scoring a goal apiece.

The Wroxham match turned out to be a stroll, with no disrespect to them, but the Bay team was a year older, wiser and more prepared, again Kerr-Chow were on the score sheet with Mr Chow scoring after 20 plus seconds, a record for the new Wembley at the time.

The Coalville final was what felt like, a taken for granted situation. Probably the sternest game of the three as the score line suggests, a 3-2 victory.   The game was indeed a great contest, leading 1-0, 2-1 and eventually winning 3-2, and you guessed it, goals from Kerr-Chow, scoring in each of the 3 finals, what an achievement, so many records set, unbelievable!

 I have special memories of all 3 finals, and the amount of effort put in from everyone at Whitley was exceptional. Gav Fell’s match analysis which saw him travelling the length and breadth of England watching opponents helped us win many a game we may have lost without him, Steve Cuggy’s words, challenging the players and me to do better again helped us win games we may have lost, Glen Martin our Physio who kept the walking wounded on the pitch, all great people creating an exceptional time in North East football.

 Unlike Ian who managed Whitley Bay in all three finals at Wembley, the 2001-2022 final was held at Villa Park. Despite this, to play at such a prestigious ground and to manage a title winning side must have been a proud moment for you Andy?

 AG: It was a disappointment not to play at Wembley, more for the players I would say but to get to the final of a national competition it didn’t matter to me as it was about winning the competition and could have been played at any stadium. The FA did all the things that would be done at Wembley anyway so walking out at Villa Park with the fabulous Bay fans shouting and the music blaring, was just as nerve tingling with the hairs on the back of your neck standing up was fantastic and will never be forgotten.  

 With a 2-0 win over Glossop North End, a 6-1 victory over Wroxham and a 3-2 victory over Coalville Town, every year must have been special for its own reason. Whitley Bay set a precedent, with Dunston, Spennymoor Town, North Shields, Morpeth Town, South Shields and Hebburn Town all winning the competition in the last ten years. Why do you think this region developed such a strong hold within the tournament?

 IC: Interesting questions which I have seen many comments about from fans and managers/players on different forums over the years, all very valid, however my perspective is once Whitley put the four year run together, I include the 2007/08 semi-final defeat in this, other teams in the region had a belief that they too could win the vase and went on to do so.  An obvious observation was that because no clubs were promoted the strength of teams at our level in our region was getting stronger and that was why the Northern League became so strong in the Vase.

 Andy, your success is special this year as well, it’s twenty years on from the winning season, what are your thoughts looking back on the success in the Vase for Whitley Bay and also North East Football as a whole?

 AG: This is a great historic achievement for a great football club and the great supporters the club has. Winning the Vase three years on the trot, is a feat that will probably never be done again by any team, especially with the current promotion system.  This is probably a good thing for the competition and other teams. We can be proud that The Bay started and continued the domination by Northeast clubs in the FA Vase.

 To win three on the trot is a massive achievement and will likely never be done again. You must have had a superb group of players over that time, who can we expect to see on the 14th May when your team comes to visit Dunston UTS.

 IC: The team over those three years we felt improved each year, we added 2 or 3 players to the 2009 winning team, then another 2 or 3 to the 2010 team, then we lost 3 or 4 after 2010, so all in all maybe the 2011 was the surprise package, no one thought we could do it the 3rd year, so it became ever so sweet that we did.

 Several players from my time as manager in the three FA Vase victories that are confirmed to attend are: Lee Kerr, Craig McFarlane, Paul Chow, Chris Moore, Paul Robinson, Gareth Williams, Terry Burke  , Gary Ormston. It should be a great game.

Andy, Ian will be in the dugout on the 14th May when the Whitley Bay select come to Dunston, You must have had a real sense of pride to see the man you managed continue the club’s legacy in the competition in the years following your success?

 AG: Don’t tell him but he nearly got the hook just before scoring. Yeah, I taught him everything!!  I have known Chan since we played together at the Bay back in the 80’s and he always had the attributes of a manager, understood the game very well and had plenty to say to the other players on the pitch. It comes as no surprise that he went onto become such a successful manager with the Bay. It was great to see Chan, his staff and the players at the Bay achieve such success that may never be achieved again. 

Ian, What has made you and the club want to get involved with anniversary game here at Dunston on the 14th May?

IC: Over the many years I have been involved in local football Whitley and Dunston have always has a great respect for each other, many players have played for both teams, I know Harra & Billy very well having played with both of them and then for Tony when he managed Durham for spell, so it was not difficult at all to get the teams together, combine that with support for our Mark Taylor (2009 player) and St Oswalds, we couldn’t say no.

 I’m sure there will be a good crowd in attendance, with all gate proceeds going to St Oswald’s Hospice. Are you looking forward to getting some of the old squads back together in front of a good crowd at the UTS Stadium?

 IC: After the past 2-3 years where everyone has been affected by Covid and not being able to see friends & family, this will be like a giant family gathering, friends everywhere, really looking forward to it.

Could we just get some words from you as to why local people and football fans of all clubs should get down to the UTS Stadium on the 14th May to celebrate this anniversary and show their support for St Oswalds, who are a brilliant organisation.

 IC: Like I said on the above question, almost every player/manager/club official sees the Northern League or should I just say local none league football as one giant family, once games end everyone enjoys a pint, bit of a chat and on this occasion we can all reminisce about how we won the Vase and that is why people should come down and support on the 14th.

Published Friday 6th May 2022 (last updated Friday 7th April 2023)