Glossop North End v North Shields
Wembley / FA Vase Final / 9th May 2015
This should really be a blog about my trip to Arsenal to watch my beloved Swans, but Sky TV put an end to that one. Stupidly, I booked train tickets to London for the Swans game at the Emirates before Sky had announced their May live games. Predictably, the Swans game was moved to a Monday night, I couldn’t make it because of work the next day and I was stranded with train tickets to the capital. However, amazingly, only minutes after all this dawned on me, Gibbo was messaging me about the FA Vase Final between Glossop North End and North Shields at Wembley – being played on the very same Saturday at 3pm. Those train tickets would not prove superfluous after all.
I arrived into London shortly after 9am and soon headed over to London Victoria from Euston, as that’s where a few of us had agreed to meet up. The great thing about today was that it seemed that a whole load of ‘the cast’ of Lost Boyos were coming to the game and so much more merriment was forecasted. I started solo though by drinking in the Willow Walk Wetherspoons opposite Victoria station. Standard Wetherspoons although with added cockneys saying “facking” a lot.
Whilst I did have time to myself though, it gave me a chance to reminisce about my previous two trips to Wembley. Wembley had been very kind to me: I’ve seen Swansea win promotion to the Premier League there in the 2001 Pla-off Final and seen us win the League Cup there back in 2013 – our first ever major trophy. I actually wrote a blog about that day and you can read that blog here. Although the Swans weren’t there today, I was hoping Wembley could provide me with some more joy today.
I indulged in a spot of Spoons-hopping and left the Willow Walk to head to the Wetherspoons housed within Victoria itself. I had been here once before after that eventful day in Crawley and it isn’t really your typical Spoons. Firstly, it is a bit more compact than most Spoons and it is definitely a little but more lavish than others (and more expensive for that matter too). On arriving though, the place was jampacked with red and blue rugby shirts. I didn’t recognise either of the shirts, but I was soon informed that apparently it was the Army v Navy at Twickenham. Anyway, enough of egg-chasing.
Soon, I was no longer riding solo, as Lost Boyos stalwarts Gibbo and Lee arrived after their coach journey from up north and they’d also found Bournemouth fan Pete in the station too. The Crawley love-in continues on this blog even after their season has finished, as I had convinced Craig, Ben and Tom that coming to Wembley to watch two non-league clubs battle it out at Wembley was a good idea. So, shortly after, the Crawley trio joined us in Spoons too, (I was delighted that Craig had worn his flat cap which I gave him at Walsall) as well as my Swans-supporting pal Tom and his girlfriend Rachel; originally, Tom and Rachel were coming with me to the Arsenal game too before the fixture shift, but they were opting for a tourist day in London over the FA Vase final. We were a wonderful cocktail of footballs fans with Bolton, Bournemouth, Crawley, Atherton Colls and Swansea fans all meeting in the pub for a drink – football is nice at times isn’t it?
Today was also the birthday of the blog’s biggest fan: my Dad. So I gathered everyone around the phone to sing Happy Birthday to him and then passed the phone around to a few of the lads to wish him Happy Birthday individually. However, Lee thought it’d be appropriate to ask my Dad, “What are you wearing?” I didn’t ask him how he replied.
Lee and Gibbo set off to dump their stuff in their hotel and so the rest of us said our goodbyes to Tom and Rachel and made our way to Wembley via Baker Street. It seemed there were no trains running to Wembley Park today, so we strolled over to Marylbone station to get the train from there to Wembley Stadium station. Of course, I made sure I picked up a can of M&S Belgian Lager for the train. Craig felt now was the time to unveil his Glossop song he had written, largely based on the Swansea City song that he seems to love so much (and which had been imitated by New York City FC recently too). Remember, Craig knew virtually nothing about Glossop, so this is a bit weird:
“Glossop, oh Glossop, Oh North End said I / I’ll stand here in this wet field, until the day I die / They stole their name off Preston, but they don’t give a fuck / ‘Cos we are Glossop North End and we’re gonna win the cup.”
Give that lad a Ivor Novello Songwriter of the Year award – or maybe not.
Clearly, the train driver was some sort of Geordie as he played songs synonymous with the North-East much to the delight of the North Shields fans on the train. I was just blown away by the fact the train had proper can holders – perfect for my can of lager. Train journey seemed to suggest that the north-east club were far out-numbering the Glossop support. As a result of living in the north-west and the fact that I semi-regularly watch NWCFL football, I was supporting Glossop today along with the rest of our gang. Plus, when I visited there 2 years ago for Non-League Day, I had a superb day.
On my only two visits to Wembley, I had always arrived at the bottom of Wembley Way, so it was nice to see the other side of Wembley today; although there’s not much to see really – I still don’t find Wembley the most beautiful of stadiums. The thing I always find most captivating about Wembley is just the sheer size of it with it standing almost on a plinth-like platform above the rest of the area. I suppose the arch is eye-catching too.
We headed onto Wembley Way, where we met up with Ellis and Fake Gibbo of the YouTube channel Away Days. The lads were creating a video of their day at Wembley, which is linked at the bottom of the blog – well worth a watch and features yours truly too. They went off with Craig and Tom to buy tickets and me, Ben and Peter headed away from Wembley and towards the pubs behind Wembley Park station. Of course, not before purchasing a Glossop scarf to show my support for the Hillmen today.
We eventually arrived at The Torch pub and fair to say we would not have got anywhere near the bar. The car park was heaving with fans, so we didn’t even bother going inside. Instead, we opted to head down the road to the off license and bought a load of cans of Budweiser to drink on the street like proper miscreants. In fairness, most of the North Shields fans were doing the same thing as us; that off license must have made an absolute fortune selling cans that day.
Soon we were re-united with the other lads, who now had their tickets, and much, much quicker than expected the beer was all drunk. With no beer left, we figured we may as well head up to Wembley after that.
We found ourselves back at the bottom of Wembley Way and the walk up ‘the Way’ is always something I enjoy with the huge stadium dead ahead of you. There was one bit of business to sort out first of all though. As some of you may know, me and Craig’s friendship spawned from me giving him an old Swansea shirt before Notts County v Crawley, as he pursued collecting all 92 Football League clubs (a venture he seems to have stopped now having got to about 40 odd). Today he decided to return the favour and present me with a Crawley shirt he had bought me as an early birthday present (apparently it was £10 in the club shop sale) . Plus, I think it was a bit of a reward for my repeated championing of Crawley Town in the second part of this season. What a delightful gesture. So, just as we had done just over a year ago at Notts County, we had a ‘handing over the shirt’ photo at the bottom of Wembley Way. Lovely stuff.
We continued up Wembley Way taking photos and mingling with some North Shields fans, before we eventually found ourselves heading up the ramps and past the statue of Bobby Moore and towards the entrances. My ticket (which I had acquired off West Didsbury and Chorlton FC for free – big thumbs up to them and my mate Rob McKay for sorting it!) meant I had to enter the stadium via the plush Club Wembley entrance, whilst the others had to go through the turnstiles with all the commoners. On walking through the Club Wembley area with its fancy, big dining areas and shiny marble floors, I realised that it wasn’t for me – get me in with the commoners! The concourse was huge though! More of an issue was the fact that I was wearing a blue Glossop scarf and a blue jumper and it seemed that my ticket had got me in the North Shields side of Club Wembley. Fortunately, the stewards were not in jobsworth-mode today and I just strolled through the concourse doors and out of Club Wembley completely, so I could be with my mates.
I’ve only ever been in the top tier of Wembley, but its fair to say that the lower tier facilities are far, far better. The concourse is massive with food and drink stalls everywhere. They even had a cask ale stand set up today too. Of course, if you are going to buy anything, expect to pay absolute top dollar. I bought a pint of beer and just handed over a £10 note before putting the change straight back in my pocket without looking; I really didn’t want to know how much I had paid. Anyway, with beer in hand, I bumped into Curzon manager John Flanagan and son Lucas and then the enigmatic non-league character that is ‘Breezeblock’, so I chatted to them for a bit whilst we waited for the game to kick-off. This also presented me the chance to congratulate John properly as Curzon Ashton won an unlikely promotion to to the Conference North last weekend; I had been in attendance at the Play-off semi between Curzon and Ashton United the week before, so it was good to see them finish the job.
With kick-off looming, I went pitchside in search of my pals and I soon spotted them down the front, thanks to Craig’s flat cap being easy to spot. There was no sign of Lee and Pete though and Gibbo was being big-time today and photographing pitchside; he even had a fancy Wembley photographer bib. Only the one half of the bottom tier of Wembley was open today, but the crowd looked far healthier than I expected. The attendance would be recorded as 9,674 – almost double the 5,000+ who had been at the final the previous year.
It took us a matter of seconds to decide that we would move to behind the goals to mingle in with the already boisterous ‘Glossop Ultras’. And what a decision this proved to be. I’ll elaborate further later on, but I’ll just say it now: the Glossop fans were awesome. They relentlessly sung and bounced around for the entirety of the game.
The drum at the front was thudding loudly and chants of “VIVA GNE!” bellowed from our end, as the two teams walked out on to the pitch, Glossop in blue and North Shields in red. Craig is moving to Huddersfield next season and stated that he wants to come on more of our northern non-league adventures, so Gibbo had informed him that this is the sort of football to expect to see. So, I hoped for his sake that the clubs put on a good advert today.
Glossop have already won the NWCFL Premier Division and the League Cup this season and it was they who started the better and took the game to North Shields. However, the thing lacking was goalscoring opportunities. It was a cagey and scrappy affair to say the least. Fortunately, we were amongst some of the best fans I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a stand with this season.
Classily, both clubs acknowledged a minute’s round of applause on the 17th minute to commemorate the two Geordies who had lost their lives in the MH17 plane disaster, but then shortly after that, one of my highlights of the season unfolded.
The Glossop fans had been trying to get everyone quiet and sitting down for a good minute or so, so we knew something was going down – we just weren’t quite sure what. I was genuinely excited to see what was about to unfold in the stands. It was finally quiet but still nothing happening, so I thought it had all been for nothing. But then from behind us came one sole voice belting out…
“Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this! / This is the heavy, heavy monster sound / The nuttiest sound around. /So if you’ve come in off the street, and you’re beginning to feel the heat, / well listen buster, you’d better to start to move your feet to the rockin’est, rock-steady beat of Madness! ONE STEP BEYOND!”
Utter anarchy blew up in the stand. There was chaos as everyone rose to the feet and went absolutely mental, chanting the tune to Madness’ One Step Beyond. There were limbs everywhere. The only thing that surprised me was that Craig standing next to me, like my young apprentice in his flat cap, was actually still standing, as I’m used to him being on the floor when any sort of celebration ensues at football. Fairplay to him – maybe he’s getting better. Ellis and Fake Gibbo had both joined us by now and Ellis captured the moment brilliantly in his video. Just press play on the video below and you’ll see what I mean.
It was still a bit of a bland affair on the pitch, although North Shields had by now had a shot cleared off the line and a 20 yard shot well saved by Greg Hall in the GNE net.
Still, the better fun was in the stands with the Glossop lot still in excellent voice. Plus, they unleashed one of my chants of the season in ode to their number 5, Dave Young. The chant also went along to the tune of Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, which can only be a good thing:
“He’s big and he’s Youngy and he’s…number 5 /He’s big and he’s Youngy and he’s…number 5 / He’s big and he’s Youngy and he’s…number 5 / He’s big and he’s Youngy and he’s…number 5 / Everybody needs a nutter in the middle / Everybody needs a nutter…”
Half-time: Glossop North End 0 – 0 North Shields.
Me and Ben went to get some half-time beer and also for a reconnaissance mission to find Lee and Peter. We did eventually find them sitting nearer the Club Wembley part of the ground, but they were reluctant to come join the ‘Ultras’ and were quite content sitting and watching where they were. We let them be.
We worked our way back to the more lively Glossop fans and got ourselves ready for more fun in the second half.
North Shields started the better with a long-range superb volley from Ben Richardson hitting the bar, followed by another shot from Micheael McKeown that had to dealt with by Hall.
Me and Craig had discussed that if Glossop were to score the scenes around us, especially in our part of the stadium, would be unreal. We weren’t wrong.
A 55th minute corner was not dealt with by North Shields and the ball fell to Kieran Lugsden, who played it across the box for Tom Bailey to slide in. The Glossop end went all sorts of crazy. With beer in the system and just from being part of the Glossop collective, we all went ape-shit crazy with them too as the Glossop players celebrated right in front of us.
The atmosphere was very much a party atmosphere from there on in and soon we had a special guest joining the mix. I’m a big fan of the stuff Copa 90 do on YouTube and I highly recommend watching their stuff to anyone. However, my favourite of the ‘Copa fam’ has to be Australian presenter Eli Mengem, who travels the world watching football. More appealing to me though is how he mingles and interacts with fans from all sorts of different cultures. It seems that he is a fan of Lost Boyos too and so we arranged to try to meet during the day at Wembley at some point, as he was recording stuff about the Vase final for Copa 90. I informed him mid-match that I was in the midst of the Glossop Ultras and so he came and found me. It seemed that there were a lot of Copa 90 fans present amongst us too, as as he tried to work his way towards me, he was asked to pose for countless selfies. Well, eventually he got to us and obviously he was keen to pose for a double thumbs up photo. He has officially made it in life now.
Whilst Eli joined in the Glossop party with us, I found terror gripping me as the teams started substituting players. Why? Well on the big screen they had huge black and white photos of the players being subbed and the images resembled the mugshots from Crimewatch which used to haunt me as a child. I’m sure Wembley could have thought of a better way to present the players.
Glossop were still looking strong, but in the 80th minute they got caught out. An inswinging from North Shields was met brilliantly by the prolific Gareth Bainbridge, who powered his header home. 1 – 1 and even the staff and players on the bench were sprinting down the touchline to celebrate. We were gutted. Maybe not as gutted as Ellis and Fake Gibbo behind us though who had a train to catch back to Norfolk not long after the game was supposed to finish.
That was enough to take it to extra-time.
Full-time: Glossop North End 1 – 1 North Shields.
I was certain that the game would go all the way to penalties, as there really wasn’t too many chances being created, but I was to be proven wrong. In the 96th minute North Shields took the lead as a cross into the box was missed by a whole host of players until it felt to Adam Forster to fire home at the back post.
In fairness to the GNE fans, they continued to encourage their team who had worked so hard in the game.
Half-time Extra time: Glossop North End 1 – 2 North Shields.
Things had got worse for Glossop by now, as their ‘nutter in the middle’ Dave Young had to exit the game after a nasty head injury and having used all their subs, they were forced to battle on with 10 men.
This did not seem to sway the team though, who began to throw everything at North Shields, despite looking absolutely knackered. Even the keeper was charging up and down the field joining attacks. However, it just wasn’t to be for Glossop and soon the final whistle and North Shields were jubilant.
Final score: Glossop North End 1 – 2 North Shields.
Once again, the Glossop fans were classy as they applauded and cheered their team and sung their names, before they all chanted about how proud they were of the team. The team have had an exceptional season. Their fans were truly magnificent today too.
We weren’t too bothered about the lifting of the trophy, so we opted to leave and beat the Geordies to the pub.
“That was shit,” was Craig’s summary of the standard of football he had witnessed. I informed him that games in the lower echelons of non-league can be far, far better and more entertaining than that and not to give up boarding the Lost Boyos bandwagon to exotic non-league locations next season.
Me and the Crawley trio met up with Lee and Peter outside the stadium and then left without Gibbo, as we figured he’d still be taking photos or messing about with his camera somewhere within.
We worked our way back around to the back of Wembley and we thought we’d head up to the Green Man pub, located atop hill just a short distance away from Wembley. It was the perfect pub for this sort of evening. It had turned into a fairly pleasant evening and so we got our beers and sat out on one of the benches on the huge lawn, which looked out over at Wembley Stadium, which was dominating the skyline. I, for some reason, also felt the need to put on my newly acquired Crawley shirt, probably much to the confusion of the Glossop masses surrounding us. This act went down well with my Crawley pals it seemed and Craig felt the need to jump on my back again just as he had done in celebration in the car park in Colchester.
The drinking was well underway when Gibbo eventually joined us. It then occurred to me that somehow Gibbo had missed meeting Fake Gibbo too; clearly, you can only have one Gibbo in your company at a time and never both – there’d just be too much Gibbo-ness going onin one place for the universe to handle. Well, the Real Gibbo was now proudly displaying his Atherton Colls shirt – the club which Glossop had beaten to win the League Cup just a week and a half earlier. It’s fair to say that Gibbo was not fully supportive of the referee that game, so he then unveiled the banner he had created earlier: ‘Justice for Brad Cooke’. Gibbo loves Colls midfielder Cooke, so he was not too happy when he got sent off in the cup final for supposedly throwing a punch (I wasn’t there, but Gibbo tells me that the card was scandalous and wrong). If you want to join the ‘Justice for Brad Cooke’ movement, then feel free to get in touch with Gibbo and support such a worthy cause.
The extra-time had made me lose all track of time and it occurred to me that we needed to shuffle as I had a 9pm train to catch back to Manchester. A quick dart back down the hill and we were back at Wembley Stadium station and heading back to Marylbone.
We walked back to Baker Street and this was where I said goodbye to everyone, as I continued the walk down the road towards Euston station. Obviously, there was still one more place that HAD to be visited. It’s not a London Lost Boyos trip without a drink in the Doric Arch before heading home. I still love that place and it will continue to be Lost Boyos’ London HQ for a long while yet I imagine.
By 9pm, I was on the train with more M&S Belgian Lager and I was ready to head off to Manchester. Of course, I had forgotten that Manchester United had just played Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, so I was joined by a mass of United fans. I was queried by quite a few about my shirt and then my scarf. I suppose I must have looked a bit of a loon, “So you are wearing a Crawley shirt with a Glossop scarf and you say you support Swansea City?” I suppose it was all a bit ridiculous. Although my answer to every silly comment I had thrown my way was “Swansea 2 United 1 – twice this season.” That sure showed them.
Considering I hadn’t planned to come to the Vase and that I was supposed to be at the Emirates, the day had turned out to be a blinder. Going to Wembley always feels like an occasions and today was no different. The game hadn’t exactly been a thriller, but the Glossop fans more than made up for that and made our experience an excellent one. Respect to you GNE. In general though, the day had been a good one because it had just been good to hang out all day drinking, watching football and generally having fun with a gang of my ‘football friends’. Always good times.
I’m well up for going to next year’s FA Vase Final, so see you then Wembley.
Highlights: decent Wetherspoons visits, getting my Crawley shirt, drinking cans on the streets of Wembley, Wembley Way, the concourse in the lower tier, Wembley is impressive, the Glossop fans – superb, The Green Man post match and of course…ONE STEP BEYOND!
Low Points: Glossop losing.
You’ll be able to see all my photos from my day at Wembley shortly if Flickr decides to work for me!
Also be sure to check out Ellis’ awesome Away Days channel on YouTube. You can watch his video of his day at Wembley here.