I can’t let the opportunity pass by without adding my own personal congratulations to everyone at Morpeth Town Football Club on their spectacular success at Wembley in the FA Vase final.
Much has been said about the team’s remarkable victory by four goals to one over Hereford, and the way they determinedly fought back from conceding a goal in less than two minutes of kick-off. To come back and win by three goals showed just how much the players wanted to win.
You won’t find a much broader spectrum of sports in many towns the size of Morpeth, and the fact that they all survive and prosper is down to many dedicated volunteers.
I was privileged to be at the match, sitting near to my friend and club Chairman Ken Beattie, and I could not have been more delighted for him, his players, officials and back-room staff. Through my own experience of being Chairman of Ashington Community Football Club I can fully appreciate just what this victory will mean to Morpeth Town.
There will be some financial rewards, but winning the Vase is about more than money. It is about being recognised across not just the North East, but right across the country, as a great non-league club, and the prestige of playing, and winning, at Wembley in front of a live television audience is immense. Remember, less than 24 hours earlier Manchester United had won a cup final on the same pitch.
I am sure all of the football world, including top players and managers, will have been following the game. I even read that Alan Shearer had tweeted his congratulations to the club. This time of year is special for Wembley because of all the cup finals and the league play-off promotion games and for Morpeth Town to be part of that festival of football almost beggars belief.
Fans of the club, many of them I suspect new-found, also deserve a word of praise. Around 4,000 of them dug deep into their pockets to get down to London for the game, such was their determination not to miss an event that will go down as one of the great moments in the history of the town.
Hereford took some 20,000 supporters to the game and filled three tiers of their allocated space. But by the end of the game all the noise was coming from the Morpeth fans, and how the players must have appreciated that as the match drew to a close and tired legs were spurred on by the wonderful support.
What victory at Wembley will mean for the club is for the future — right now everyone is basking in their moment in the sun, and quite rightly so. What would be terrific, however, would be to see many more of the Wembley contingent at Craik Park for Northern League home games.
It has also been encouraging to see local shops and businesses showing their support for Morpeth Town with windows displays.
Winning at Wembley has put the town of Morpeth on the map for all the right reasons. Sometimes that has not been the case, and I refer to the recent floods, which hit the headlines. Morpeth has also enjoyed national acclaim through ten successive years of success in Britain in Bloom.
Morpeth has a proud sporting pedigree going back many years. Morpeth Harriers have enjoyed much success locally, nationally, and even internationally, particularly through the medal winning achievements of the great Jim Alder.
However, rugby, cricket, golf and swimming also attract followers of all ages, something which was highlighted by the awards evening organised by Morpeth Sports Council when nearly 40 trophies and certificates were handed out, covering sports such as football, rugby, golf, athletics, swimming, cricket, equestrian, trampolining, judo, netball and cycling.
You won’t find a much broader spectrum of sports in many towns the size of Morpeth, and the fact that they all survive and prosper is down to many dedicated volunteers who train, coach and organise games, matches and tournaments. They all deserve our thanks and support.
The celebrations will go on for some time in Morpeth, certainly on to Fair Day on Sunday, June 12 when Morpeth Town Team has organised an open-top bus so that players and club officials can join the parade through the streets.
Thousands of people will be there to cheer on the team and I hope they enjoy and savour the moment as much as winning the cup at Wembley.