AFC Hayes, Brook House, FA Cup, Football, groundhopping, Non League, Vale Farm, Wembley, Wembley FC
Tuesday 13th August 2019 ko 19.45
FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round Replay
WEMBLEY FC 3 (Sabti 15 81 Walker 50)
AFC HAYES 2 (Dennis 17secs Musaka 16)
When you think about it Wembley FC and their home at Vale Farm is the perfect place for a spectator to follow the world’s best cup competition from its start. You can of course see the competition’s final destination in the background, but when it was all over I did wonder whether the national stadium’s presence serves to madden rather than inspire?
I found myself regularly thinking back to the final I was fortunate enough to attend two years ago, did anyone other than me had think about the little club a mile away that bears the same name as the home of the final? Perhaps a few did, the crowd at the final does contain a liberal sprinkling of volunteers from local leagues.
Now it can’t be easy being Wembley FC, but then it can’t be easy being any non-league football club. But being Wembley does seem to carry the cachet of supposed excellence, which would explain the regular publicity stunts that have used Wembley FC to prove a point.
Remember Budweiser bringing in Terry Venables to manage the club’s FA Cup campaign in 2012 when the likes of Ray Parlour, Claudio Caniggia and David Seaman were brought out of retirement to play for them? Now on one hand I’m sure the revenue was more than handy, but what was said to the players who the ex-pros replaced, particularly as the run only lasted 3 games and 2 ties? Wembley lost to Uxbridge in the Preliminary Round.
Then there was the EFL and EE branding very much in evidence at the ground. I, like a few others had assumed a professional club was using the ground for reserves and/or youth games. I was wrong, it was another publicity stunt, except this time the advertisers neglected to come back to remove the branding. At least I suppose it does protect what’s underneath!
And of you remove the national stadium’s presence, and even the site once used by Wasps RUFC just beyond the “Pop” side you still end up with a mighty impressive ground. Much of the reason is Wembley’s past membership of the Isthmian League and the Budweiser money and former tenants Hendon were responsible for much of the improvements.
But football clubs are made of people, not bricks and mortar, and Wembley and a small band of volunteers made my day memorable, there aren’t many clubs who’ll print off programmes to order after being surprised by demand.
The game looked for all the world like a local derby – there are just 5-and-a-half miles between the two grounds. It isn’t though, AFC Hayes (although I still think of them as Brook House) play in the lower divsion of the Combined Counties League while Wembley play in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands League. So a mis-match too, on paper at least although a one-all draw in the first game and Nathan Dennis’ goal after 17 seconds proved the fallacy of that thought.
It was a highly entertaining game, one that both sides will feel they deserved win, even if I felt Wembley just about deserved their place in the next round. Mind you they lost 3-2 at home to Berkhamsted in the Preliminary Round, so they’ll look at that arch in the distance and dream of reaching it next season. That stadium does tease doesn’t it?
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