MORNING AGAIN, EVERYONE
Rotten luck on the weather front once more, so as a little diversion how about a trip down Memory Lane, courtesy of the one and only STEWART YETTON? It's nearly six years now since the greatest moment in the club's history. Here's an opportunity to relive some of that Wembley magic through the eyes of Yettsi, one of the heroes of the day!
I'm currently developing a spin-off business from my mainstream Golden Replay Biographies. This will be a new service expressly designed for sports stars, past and present. To this end, I am working with Stewart to create a "dummy" book for marketing imagery purposes. I have ghost-written an autobiographical chapter for him recalling City's FA Vase triumph in 2007.
MY WEMBLEY DREAM
The final was on a Sunday – May 13, 2007 – and we were very much a part
of history, and not just for ourselves as record-breakers for Cornish football.
All the talk just then was of the “new Wembley.” The fabulous new stadium
was hosting its first final – for the FA Trophy – on the Saturday and ours, for
the FA Vase, followed 24 hours later.
We actually travelled up to London two days ahead of our dream match with
AFC Totton. Everyone – the squad, club directors and officials, and various
others – had to meet in Truro at around 8 a.m. on the Friday. Usually, for
away games, the boys would make their own way to Exeter and get on the
coach there, but this was different, of course. I came down by car from
Plymouth with my lifelong buddy and team-mate Marcus Martin, who was
doing the driving. We’ve been playing football together since we were 10 or
11. We were at Argyle together and we’re always room-mates when we’re
staying overnight ahead of a match.
When we reached Truro, we stopped first at Tesco to stock up with fluids and
sweets. We were wearing our Truro City tracksuits and it seemed everybody
knew us and was talking about us! In Tesco, I remember the staff and
customers coming up to us and wishing us well for Wembley. And the coach
was something else. It was a different era then and we were incredibly
privileged to be part of a club where money seemed to be no object. We
always had a great coach to travel away on anyway, but this one gave new
meaning to luxury. It had the lot – truly “top of the range,” with Playstations,
TV, super seats, tables and a kitchen at the back.
It took us straight to Wembley, where we arrived around the middle of the day.
The stadium officials had invited us in to have a walk around and get a feel of
the place – and WHAT a place! It was only about 60 yards between the
coach and the ground. We got out and straightaway we could see a section
of the lush green pitch and the red seats on the other side. And then there we
all were – walking on this famous turf and taking in the vast tiers of
accommodation all around us. Wow, was that an exciting moment. Words
can scarcely describe it. It just took our breath away.
We must have spent a good hour just walking around that pitch, taking it all in,
and then climbing up the steps towards the level where we were already
picturing ourselves lifting that trophy two days later. Talk about photo
opportunities. Our cameras never stopped clicking! There was a terrific
atmosphere in the place even then, with Madonna constantly playing over the
PA system. The excitement level was unbelievable – but I was also aware of
a little bit of fear creeping in. I was beginning to think: “What if we LOSE on
Sunday? It could be the worst day of my life instead of the greatest.”
Then it was on to our hotel, which was another last-word-in-luxury affair on
the outskirts of London. It was bags down and into our rooms. The food here
was so good – and with everything you could possibly ask for – that it was
difficult not to make ourselves suddenly overweight for the Sunday!
Next day, the Saturday, we had a light training session at Bisham Abbey, the
training base for many great sports teams over the years, including the
legendary Barcelona football squad. It’s got loads of soccer pitches and we
learnt that the Russian Under-19 team were there at the same time. There
was a big lake, with crews rowing up and down, and a nice golf course.
Our own training session was definitely what you would call “light.” Normally,
when we train on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it can all get pretty competitive
and we can end up crashing into each other. This time, no-one was in the
market for over-exertion and risking injury just before the biggest match of
their lives! Poor old Glyn Hooper – a fellow striker and assistant coach with
our manager Dave Leonard – was already suffering the heartbreak of missing
the game through suspension.
Back in the hotel that afternoon, we watched the FA Trophy Final live on Sky
Sports TV. We also saw the weather forecast – which told us that it was likely
to be wet for our own match. It was sunny and warm on the Saturday, and
one of the facilities we enjoyed at the hotel was the outdoor hot tub! It also
had a gym and sauna area. The hotel had beautiful grounds and overlooked
a massive lake.
That evening we played cards in the foyer and the rule was that we at least
had to be in our bedrooms – even if we couldn’t be fast asleep! – by 10 p.m.
Me and Marcus are renowned for being last to bed, and there was no way we
were going to get to sleep quickly on this of all nights. So there we were,
sitting on our beds with our laptops open and watching the TV. I think we
eventually got to sleep around 1 a.m.!
We put our alarms on for 9.30 a.m. but we were both awake well before then.
I’m the joker in the squad, so I straightaway ran round the bedroom screaming
my head off; then I grabbed hold of Marcus and said something like: “C’mon,
boy, today’s the day!”
I had a “bit of breakfast” (well, actually, it was a big fry-up!) and around 11-ish
we had our lunch – chicken pasta and beans. We also watched an
inspirational DVD which I think had been put together by Piran Films. It was a
compilation of highlights from all our games on our way to Wembley and was
accompanied by motivational music and voice-over. That was a spine-tingling
thing – hairs standing up on the back of your neck – I can tell you.
Before we left the hotel, we had pep talks from Kevin Heaney and Chris Webb
as well as Lenny and Hoops. And then it all really started to hit us. We
showered up and put our smart new suits on. We were all dressed the same
– even had brand new shoes. As I say, different era. (I don’t think “credit
crunch” was even on the horizon then, although not far off it, and certainly
“austerity” was just another word in the dictionary.)
We did each other’s ties up – Marcus doing mine and me doing the finishing
touches on his. We looked fabulously smart. They were really great suits –
we had all been measured up for them three weeks earlier. Then it was out of
Reception and onto the coach – and more photos.
The trip to Wembley, in the drizzle, was about half an hour. When we got
there, the sight of fans with their scarves and hats already milling about the
place brought it all home to us – once more. It had been a bit of a slow crawl
towards the end, with lots of police around, too, and our fans immediately
began clapping, cheering and chanting once they saw us. It was brilliant –
and a just a little bit nerve-wracking!
We arrived in the stadium at about 1.15 – and walked out on to the pitch once
more, in the classic Wembley final fashion. I remember I was the only player
intelligent enough to have brought a brolly with me – so picture the scene if
you can, with six or seven other players all trying to get desperately close to
me to share that brolly and stop their lovely suits getting wet!
The changing rooms were massive. There was also a warm-up area and
from there, through the doors, I could see my daughter Shannon, then aged
six. We were all accompanied hand-in-hand by little mascots, wearing mini-
Truro City shirts, when we eventually walked out on to the pitch for real, and
mine was Shannon, with her blonde hair and starry blue eyes. I had heard my
name read out, as Truro’s No 9, plus seen the team line-ups on the giant
I am pretty sure it was Shannon’s first-ever football match – what a way to
start, eh! She’s now 12 and is playing the game regularly in Durham, where
she lives. It was a very touching experience, I can tell you, to be standing
there with my little girl on the Wembley pitch while the National Anthem was
played. I also knew that Laura, with my son Corradi just two weeks away
from birth, was up there in the stands – along with many other family and
The match itself? I remember putting one over the bar, but Totton took the
lead and I can still see their scorer running the length of the field back to his
own supporters at the other end, in celebration. We were very aware that one
part of the crowd were going wild with delight and I guess the scale of the
challenge really hit us at this point. I thought: “Oh Christ, we’ve really got our
work cut out here.” Truth to tell, we were a bit off the pace in that first half.
Totton were “first to start,” as they say, but our Kevin Wills equalized just
before the interval and the match, and our spirits, were transformed.
That was the best possible time to equalize, of course. It took us in on a high
at half-time – and Totton the exact opposite. As we returned to the field, you
could see the resolve in all our eyes. The mood now was: no way are we
going to lose this one!
I thought we dominated the second half and certainly got our just rewards
when Willser scored his second, around the 66
th minute. But then this fear
celebrations . . .
factor thing started to kick in again. In a situation like that, you’ve always got
conflicting thoughts – do you concentrate on defending what you’ve got or do
you go all out for a third, “killer” goal? It’s very easy to sit back and go into
negative mode, and I can’t deny I kept looking at the clock!
Fortunately, Joe Broad, another of my ex-Argyle mates, came up with a third
goal for us on around 84 minutes and that clinched it. It killed off the “fear.” I
had not scored – something of a rarity for me, you might say – but I would
much rather be on the winning side and not score, than vice versa. If I had
scored but we had lost, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would have been
the worst day of my sporting life, instead of the best.
The final whistle was not long away. Legs were going, I was cramping – safe
to say, we had probably burnt up more energy than normal! When that
whistle did blow, it was a huge relief and incredible joy, with a massive
adrenalin rush. We were the first Step 6 team ever to win the Vase (and had
done it against a team higher than us, at Step 5).
We were diving and dancing all over the place, and then it was time to walk
up those steps and collect the trophy. Skipper Tom Smith kissed it and raised
it high in the air – to enormous cheers from our fans. That was the most
incredible moment – amazing scenes and emotions. It was the sort of
moment every footballer dreams of from the time he starts kicking a ball
around as a kid – and for most, of course, it remains just that, a dream. But
for me, my dream had come true. And now it was time to start the
celebrations . . .