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Saturday 10th May 2014 ko 15.00

FA Vase Final

SHOLING 1 (McLean 71)

WEST AUCKLAND TOWN 0

Att 5,341 at Wembley Stadium

Entry to Bobby Moore Lounge, Programme, and Team Sheet – Complementary (Thanks to the EMCL and the NCEL)

 

So, a third visit to the Vase final in three years, for last year’s final click here, and the method is more or less set in stone. You park at Hillingdon Tube station for £2, then buy a six-zone travelcard for £8.90 for the Metropolitan Line trip to Wembley Park. I could park at Bicester North and take the train to Wembley Stadium, but that’s £22, or drive but it’s £30 (£15 for Blue Badge holders) to park at Wembley. I’ve yet to find a cheaper way of doing it, and yes I did try an unofficial car park for a rock concert here once. I  drove home with no driver’s window or sat nav! Yes, Wembley is an expensive place to visit, and I get the feeling that’s part of the reason why the stadium has been close to empty each of the 8 Vase Finals held at the rebuilt stadium.

Of course it doesn’t help when the last 6 finals have included a team from the Northern League, whose most southerly outpost Northallerton is a three and three-quarter hour drive from the National Stadium. Despite that Northern Leaguers West Auckland to my eyes, didn’t take many fewer then Southampton-based Sholing, a much easier 90 minutes away.

Many pointed out ticket prices, a standard ticket was £15, and suggested that the cost is driving away custom. You’d think so given such a small attendance, but I’m not so sure. Is £15 unreasonable for a final at the National Stadium? Yes, the extras are eye-wateringly expensive, the programme was £4 and a 500ml water a daft £2.80, but they are optional, and any economist well tell you that when you cut prices so far, eventually it ceases to produce an upturn in demand.

Perhaps we have to accept that in these days of mass communication, and a hyped professional game. a large crowd for the competition for clubs a minimum of 5 promotions from the Football League is little more than an ambition. I’m sure there will be pressure to move the tie to a stadium that is smaller, or easier to get to, and I hope that will be resisted. This is, after all the only Wembley FA knock-out final where all the clubs entering the competition desperately want to make the final, and with the amounts of money sloshing around the English game if a tie like this can’t be preserved then yet more of the soul of the game will have been lost.

I queued up for a slightly less ridiculously expensive pork roll meal for £8.90 in the Bobby Moore lounge, and looked round at the legions of volunteers enjoying their day out, and ended up having a chat with a club official from Wisbech Town. I’d hate to see this downgraded, its obvious that despite everything that Wembley retains it lustre. One suggestion I heard that might work is a combined FA Vase and Trophy Final day, with the Vase finalists getting the seats behind the goals and the larger Trophy support getting the sides.

The sides had much to make the tie interesting; West Auckland are of course the World Champions having won the Thomas Lipton Trophy, the first World Cup in both 1909, and 1911. They were last in the final two years ago, my report here, losing 2-0 in front of an even smaller crowd. For Sholing, the former Vosper Thorneycroft works team, newly back in the Wessex League after resigning from the Southern League last season, this was their first Vase final.

The game wasn’t a classic, and cold showers sent those spectators in the first 20 rows scurrying back to those of us at the back; why can’t a stadium roof be designed to actually keep patrons dry? The game was settled by Marvin McLean’s 71st minute deflected strike which the neutral in me applauded, it wasn’t a game entertaining enough to warrant extra-time. The stadium announcer bellowed hackneyed clichés read from his clipboard, neglecting to mention the one salient piece of information, that the Northern League’s 5-year winning streak in the Vase was over. Sholing celebrated, and I exchanged pleasantries with many of the officials I’ve met trekking round the country and on hops I’ve helped organise, then quickly caught the next train back to Hillingdon. The one advantage of a small crowd is your egress is straightforward.