Tag Archives: wembley

All Cup Finals Should Not Be Played at Wembley – Agree?

I was at the National League play-off final yesterday at Wembley Stadium. A great occasion for the fans of course, however, a mere 8,049 were inside the 90,000 capacity ground.

Next week is the FA Trophy final, an average crowd over the years of around 15,000 to 17,000 – similar to that of the National League Playoffs. However, again it will look lost inside the vast Wembley backdrop.

Yesterday seen two northern teams travel down to the Capital, each with an approx four-hour drive there and back. Early starts, late getting home. It’s a long day for the fans, although the flow of beer for many will help.

I was sat next to some rather tipsy Salford fans waiting for the underground, who just wanted to get home – this was 7 o’clock at night in Wembley Central. I didn’t get home myself until 10:30 pm.

Was it worth it for them Salford fans? Without a doubt, yes.

Nevertheless, my gripe with the use of Wembley is this, yes it’s a great day out and something not every fan will experience watching their team at the iconic ground. However, I don’t understand why if two northern teams are in a final, we have a nominated ground in the north – like Old Trafford of the Etihad.

Similar if it’s a northern and southern team, we have a neutral ground in the Midlands like Villa Park.

Leave the League Cup Final, the three EFL play-off finals and the FA Cup ONLY to be played at Wembley. The rest play at neutral grounds, because let’s face it FA Cup semi-finals are not a Wembley showpiece. They take the edge off truly getting to a Wembley final and, it’s double the expense for the travelling fans.

It would be easier for the money spending fans to get to, more fans would be more likely to go with shorter travelling distances and it would pump money into different parts of the country.

Yesterday could have been played at the Etihad. The numbers would have definitely been more and the chance to play at a Premier League stadium would have still been a massive day out.

This all will never happen of course, but in common sense terms, it makes total sense to all.

Salford City in The National League…Completed It Mate

Salford City were on the verge of club history, and well ahead of their projected league status as they entertained AFC Fylde in the National League Play-Off final at Wembley.

Having overseen three promotions in an amazing four seasons, many would have backed Salford to make it a fourth and second on the bounce into League Two. The opposition had been going great guns in the league, however, do have the distraction of the FA Trophy final back at Wembley next weekend.

The Ammies crowd outnumbered, outsang and nearly outfought the security, as they looked to drink up every second of the biggest game in their 79-year history. There was plenty of noise made by the Salford lot and you could feel the anticipation amongst the crowd.

Salford dominated from start to finish, with Fylde not really causing much concern for Graham Alexander’s backline. The early pressure paid off when a free kick bounced off a couple of Fylde players and, landed at the feet of the Mani Dieseruvwe, the striker duly put it away from around 8 yards out.

The men in yellow and black staged a little fightback, going close on a couple of occasions but nothing to nail-biting in all fairness.

Half time whistle went and Salford went in the happier, the crowd moved a little towards the centre of the goal as they looked to suck the ball in for that second goal, the goal that could really settle the nerves.

Up stepped Carl Piergianni with a bullet header from a corner, the Salford crowd erupted and chants of ‘Salford’s going up’ rang around the stand. Every time, I’ve watched Piergianni this season he has impressed me, he looks like a player that may be in demand once he gets in the spotlight of league football. Salford have got a proper defender there, and one that is always down for the cause.

With still over thirty minutes left of the match to play, Salford put themselves in easy mode and cruised to the final whistle. Things got a little bit more celebratory on the hour mark when Ibou Touray, was left to wander down his left flank from inside his own half to the 18-yard box. He put in one of his trademark crosses but surprised everyone, including himself by finding the far corner of the goal and it bouncing in off the post to settle the tie at 3-0.

A lot can be said for Salford meteoric rise through the non-league divisions since the class of 92 took over. However, what you can’t fault is the player’s effort and commitment to keep Salford striving forward.

This really is a fairytale, Roy of the rovers type stuff, and one that certainly grabs the imagination. I can predict a few disgruntled League Two fans next year when Salford hog the limelight, and it will certainly be a scalp most teams will want to add to their bow.

However, Salford has to be applauded for the way it’s run, and the setup behind the scenes. As we have seen so much this season with badly run clubs near falling out of the league, Salford has the chance, and fair play they’re taking it with both hands.  

Today Salford City or Fylde Will be Taking a Step Into The Unknown, Miles Ahead Of Expectation

Just over a decade ago AFC Fylde and Salford City were so far apart, one of the clubs had a different name and the others had a different colour for a home kit.

Fylde were named Kirkham & Wesham until the 2008/09 season before winning the FA Vase at Wembley, the same venue of the play-off final. Salford’s main kit was orange until a controversial colour change following on from the takeover that changed Non-League forever. 2014 was the year the Ammies found fame, following the takeover of The Class of 92.

It’s fair to say Fylde and Salford have more than ambitious owners. As near neighbours, Blackpool have suffered aplenty under the Oysten Family, the new up and coming Lancashire club have been doing the complete opposite. Under chairman David Haythornthwaite, a top of the range stadium and academy named Mill Farm has been constructed.

Now with Haythornwaite’s backing, they too have aimed to make the Football League. 2022 is their desired aim for League Two football, meaning if David Chanillor’s men come up short against Salford, they’re still ahead of progress to one day be in England’s top 92 teams. Alongside businessman Peter Lim, Gary Neville and co have something similar planned at the Peninsula Stadium.

Both teams have clear objectives, but by sunset tomorrow one side will have exceeded all aims and objectives. By August one of Fylde or Salford will welcome Oldham, Scunthorpe or Bradford to their respective stadia, while the other dust themselves down and goes again in the league they’ve spent nine months trying to get out of.

For Graham Alexander at Salford, promotion to the football league would be nothing short of his set standards. Only over a year ago Alexander was managing Scunthorpe in League One, come next season he may be taking his present team back to Glanford Park in League Two where the Irons have now been relegated to.

The former Scunthorpe and Fleetwood Town boss has been working with a lucrative budget this season, the reason why few eyebrows were raised when he made the rare step down in league quality. Most likely one of the few clubs below the Championship, let alone the National League to be able to have £4,000 a week Adam Rooney within his ranks, managing the club neighbouring Man United and City certainly holds a fair few bonuses.

But with money comes expectation and Salford have revelled in that. Set for another promotion, possibly their fourth in five seasons, working out where the momentum will end for the Ammies has been impossible. Working out where that will stop with victory tomorrow is a troublesome task as well.

Signings from Bristol Rovers (Rory Gaffney) and Chesterfield (Scott Wiseman) have helped Salford in their attempt to complete the last leg of their Non-League journey. In their way stand the club of the Fylde Coast. After finishing 5th in the regular league season and taking down Solihull Moors in last Sunday’s semi-final, they now have dreams and expectations of their own.

Sutton’s Sensless Stereotype

Former Blackburn striker, owner of one England cap and honorary non-league pitch connoisseur (a title seemingly awarded to himself after once playing the last 30 minutes of a 3-2 defeat for Wroxham) deemed it right to compare an extremely scruffy Wembley pitch to a surface from the lower tiers of the game.

As an ex-professional, Chris Sutton has no doubt seen the day to day efforts of groundsmen at various football clubs and training complexes. These professionals made it their business to prepare a surface they would never get to play on, to make it good (as instructed) to suit the individuals that would be playing on it and facing up to whatever challenges the weather threw at them to achieve this because it’s what they are paid to do.

In contrast, every weekend, thousands of volunteers wake up early to make sure their respective games can go ahead. Many of them will have just finished a 40+ hour week, and in some cases will have arrived at the ground straight off the back of a night shift. There will be heated discussions as ancient tractors and mowers are started with hammers and jump leads, a few swear words as tools that were “definitely there yesterday” have magically disappeared and the inevitable coin toss to determine who has to go on the butty run.

A final cut and brush, then all the pitch markings are completed from strategic markers left when the pitch was cut, the goalmouths are taped off to prevent teams warming up in them, and any divots will be repaired by hand. There are so many jobs to do, right down to the grass around the base of each post is trimmed with scissors to provide a neat finish, leagues ahead of that Wembley pitch.

Come 2 o’clock on a Saturday, there is just time to nip home for a quick shower and a bite to eat, before returning to pay £12 to watch someone else play on their hard work. The club secretary now looks a new man in his shirt and tie instead of his overalls!

The self inflicted state of the pitch boils down to the fact that Wembley has been let out as a multi-sport venue, that Tottenham’s new, multi-million pound, stadium is still incomplete and that the game wasn’t played at 3pm on a Saturday because of the money it could generate as a televised game at another time. How does that make it anything like a non-league pitch?

Non-League pitches are the way they are due to hundreds of hours of dedication and effort, often with substandard or dated equipment, and as a collective, we do not appreciate the comparison.

Apologies on behalf of all of football’s fantastic volunteers if this isn’t quite good enough for anything except a cheap shot at the monopoly that is modern football. Feel free to join us one Saturday morning Chris, I’m buying breakfast.

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