In a couple of weeks’ time the footballers of Morpeth Town FC will step out on to the hallowed turf of London’s Wembley stadium to realise every players’ dream of playing in a FA cup final.
No matter what level of the game they are playing at, whether in the Premiership or the lower echelons of the football league, it’s a dream come true for any player to play at Wembley, and one even some of the biggest stars in the game never get to experience.
The desire of officials, players and fans to be successful in keeping the club moving forward knows no bounds and they are about to reap the rewards for the endless work they do with this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wembley.
Along with the FA Trophy final between Grimsby and Halifax that will be played straight after Morpeth Town face Hereford in the FA Vase final on Sunday, May 22, the games will be a moment that the 50-odd players taking part will never forget.
For players who play before a handful of spectators at humble grounds, it will be an occasion to savour at a ground that the day before will have been packed with Manchester United and Crystal Palace fans cheering on their teams in the FA Cup Final.
Every one of us who has kicked a football has played in make-believe FA Cup finals with our pals in local parks, gardens or back lanes. Sadly in the mega-rich world that football has become, the Premiership, or for the select few the European Champions League, have become the trophies clubs aspire to.
But to fans nothing matches the glamour of a Wembley cup final and for supporters, players and officials of Morpeth Town, that dream is about to become a reality.
This season all the talk surrounding the Premiership has been about Leicester City’s amazing transformation from relegation candidate 12 months ago to champions, and what a wonderful fairy tale that has been.
In my opinion, however, the achievement of Morpeth Town in getting to Wembley is no less spectacular.
There’s a world of difference between football at Premiership level and non-league teams, and I know what I’m talking about because I have the privilege and honour of being Chairman of my home-town Ashington Community Football Club.
We don’t have the millions the big clubs have — in fact, we would be delighted to even have a fraction of the money some run-of-the-mill Premiership stars earn in a week.
Across the country small clubs struggle week-in and week-out to keep the game going at grass-roots level, but we do it because we have a genuine love of the game and the local teams we support.
That’s the case at Craik Park, the home of Morpeth Town. The desire of officials, players and fans to be successful in keeping the club moving forward knows no bounds and they are about to reap the rewards for the endless work they do with this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wembley.
It is perhaps wrong to single out one person, but I cannot let this opportunity slip by without paying the most generous compliment I can to Ken Beattie. For nearly half a century Ken has had a love affair with the club like no other, first as a player and now as its Chairman.
Like so many non-league sides, Morpeth Town has known the bad times when they could have folded. But Ken has been there to help pull them through and I hope that he enjoys every second of the club’s day in the sun. The work he does, ably supported by his backroom team, is stupendous and no one deserves this trip to Wembley more.
It’s fair to say that Morpeth hasn’t always been a ‘football town’, with the rugby club and Harriers often enjoying greater prominence. So it’s fantastic to see that the town is getting right behind the team.
I know Morpeth Town Team is working with the club, shops and businesses to deck the town out in its colours, and to make sure that whatever the result, the team is given a spectacular and richly deserved homecoming by leading the parade through Morpeth on Fair Day, June 12, in an open-top bus.
On Saturday the partners have organised a stall in the Market Place selling scarves, hats and shirts.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 fans are fervently hoping to say ‘I was at Wembley when Morpeth Town won an FA cup final’. Here’s hoping they do.
Congratulations to Morpeth Town FC and the best of luck at Wembley!