Wembley hosts the first all-Essex Senior League Vase final 

Great Wakering Rovers v Romford – Isuzu FA Vase Final – Wembley Stadium – Saturday (12:15 pm) – Preview

Great Wakering Rovers and Romford go head-to-head in the first-ever all-Essex Senior League Isuzu FA Vase final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

The day, a celebration of non-league football, also sees Gateshead take on Solihull Moors in the Isuzu FA Trophy final, with around 25,000 spectators expected to attend the showpiece event.

Just 118 were present at Rookery Hill when a first-half goal from Romford’s Sam Deering separated the sides in mid-March, while only 62 saw the East Londoners recover a two-goal deficit to win an entertaining Essex Senior Cup tie with Rovers by four goals to two a month earlier.

A slightly healthier audience of 218 was at Burroughs Park to witness another Romford success – this time by the odd goal in five. Nevertheless, Vase fever has engulfed both clubs, with the villagers selling just over 3,000 tickets for the event.

While this will be Great Wakering’s first visit to the Home of Football in their 105-year existence, Romford can look back upon a keenly contested FA Amature Cup final against Bromley at the conclusion of the 1948/49 season, which the Ravens won by a single goal in front of a bumper crowd of 94,206.

Romford finished their Essex Senior League campaign in third place, three above the Rovers. Players to look out for include Romford’s top goal scorer, Hassan Nalbant, who has found the net on twenty-six occasions, and Rovers’ leading marksman, Callum Boylan, with twenty-five to his name.

Rover goalkeeper, Luis Shamshoum, proved to be the hero of their shock semi-final success over Vase favourites and Hellenic League champions Worcester City, by saving Chris Knight’s spot-kick in the dramatic Burroughs Park shootout. 

Rovers boss, Marcus Bowers, is no stranger to success having clinched a historic Olympian League Division One and League Cup double as a player with Basildon Town. He then oversaw their promotion to the Thurlow Nunn League after rejoining the club in a coaching capacity following stints at Rovers, Tilbury, Catholic United and Witham Town.

In recent seasons, Rovers superfan, Lewis Searle-Cook has done his utmost to lift the profile of the club: “For a fan to go to Wembley it’s a dream come true. Following my club home and away for many years and seeing this club and the boys do well is exceptional,” he told Yellow Sport. 

“I am on cloud nine and cannot wait for the day to begin. Whatever happens on the day it’s a day of celebrating the club’s record history makers.

“The day will be incredible as I’m getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be pitch-side and a little tour of Wembley beforehand as an appreciation of my support of the club. 

“From leaving early in the morning nerves will kick in but as the day goes on I’ll be pumped and ready to cheer on the boys for one last time this season to hope to bring some silverware.”

Steve Lovell’s family have lengthy connections to the Rovers. His Grandfather – Les Stubbs – a First Division title winner with Chelsea in 1955 – enjoyed plenty of success during his association with the club: “The whole town is buzzing! All the talk is about Wembley and we’re amazed there’s over 3,000 going,” he enthused. 

“The village will be very quiet apart from the Exhibition Inn, which is televising the game and holding a party for everyone after.

“With such a young side this season, they have surprised everyone by achieving this through their determination and team spirit.  

“This has to be the biggest day of our 105-year history.”

Lovell added: “During Grandad’s amazingly successful time at the Rovers, they won nine Southend & District League championships, seven French Cups and five Senior Shields. 

“He went on to be chairman of the club for ten years, they could have only dreamt of playing at Wembley. 

“Grandad did play for the England B side in 1952 but that was at Highbury.”

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk