Romford FA Vase Final Preview

Isuzu FA Vase Final Preview: Romford FC

All-Essex Final Displays Strength of Local Football

Essex is a “hotbed” of non-league football according to Romford Chairman, Steve Gardener, as he looks forward to his club facing Great Wakering Rovers in a huge Isuzu FA Vase Final this Saturday (12:15pm kick-off).

Thousands of supporters are heading to Wembley Stadium connected by EE for the all-Essex clash, part of Non-League Finals Day, and Gardener believes the achievements of local clubs this season reflects very well on the Essex game. “We’re competing on all levels, from Step Five all the way up to Conference South and beyond,” he explained.

“If you look around Essex generally, Braintree [Town, now promoted] and Chelmsford [City] have reached their play-offs, Aveley have reached their play-offs, Hornchurch have won the league, you’ve got two clubs in the final of the Vase that are both from Essex. I think it shows that people talk about the north being the footballing non-league hotbed. I mean, Essex at the moment, I don’t think we could be any stronger.”

Manager Dan Spinks will lead Romford out at Wembley, and Gardener detailed that there will be a familiar feeling across the two dressing rooms: “Lee Bunn, who’s their Assistant Manager, played for Romford, and there’s at least four players that have previously played for both clubs. We’ve already played each other three times this season, not that that means anything, but they are a club that we know well and are a very well-respected club in and around Essex as well.”

“It’ll be nice going to Wembley and not have to be introduced to everyone, because you know them! Unfortunately, there’s got to be one team that wins and one team that loses, which is a shame, but I think it’s fantastic for both clubs, the Essex Senior League and the Essex FA, to be that well represented, and that’s good for the county as well.”

In terms of special arrangements for the big match, Gardener claims to be well-versed in such occasions, adding: “I go to Non-League Finals [Day] every year, and when I go, I go up by train and I walk up Wembley Way, and I always say, what must it feel like to be walking up with your own supporters? Getting off that train, coming out the station, walking down the steps, walking up Wembley Way? What must it be like? What would it be like if it was blue and gold?”

“So, this year, I’m going up by train, the same as I normally do, getting off at the station. I’m hoping to see some supporters from the club walking up, doing the same thing, and just soaking in the atmosphere. The players’ preparation will be a bit more structured. We’re going to go to a hotel the night before. The players will relax, and we’ll stay together as a group, and then we’ll travel to make the short distance from the hotel to Wembley on the Saturday morning.”

The media attention on the clubs has been intense, says Steve, with coverage far in excess of what they’re used to: “It’s been fantastic. It gives the opportunity to raise the profile of the league, the club, football in Essex generally. But it’s fantastic. We’re making sure our sponsors know that by sticking with us and sponsoring us, it’s been a good season. It’s just nice for everyone. We are a Step Five club, and yet we’re being mentioned every day in the media.”

Gardener is particularly pleased for the Romford supporters, who can celebrate this massive milestone in the club’s history: “We’ve got a lot of supporters that have followed the club from the ‘60s. We’ve got a lot of supporters that have been with us recently. It’s going to be a fantastic day. It’ll be a fantastic day for me, the rest of the committee, the volunteers, the players, the management. It’s just incredible.”

“Whatever the result, it will be an incredible experience for everybody connected with the club. For those that have been to a lot of games, then they will feel more connected. Those that are playing, or those that are volunteers, will feel more connected than, perhaps, some of the newer supporters, but we’re just embracing everyone that wants to come to Wembley. We just hope that some of those supporters might be engaged enough to stick with us and follow us next season as well.”

“Romford were last at Wembley in 1949 and played in the Amateur Cup Final which, I guess, is probably the equivalent of the Trophy. There were 97,000 people there. I was explaining to some of the younger players on Saturday that, in those days, not only was there not any football on the telly, there probably wasn’t any telly either!”

“So, if you wanted to see a football match, you had to physically get off your backside and go and watch a football match. As we all know, in those days, they did in incredible numbers. There wasn’t the saturation of football. But it’s certainly the biggest day in the club’s history since 1949.”

You can follow the build-up to Romford’s big occasion on our website, and you can still buy tickets here. You can also interact with us via the @EssexCountyFA Twitter/X account, and by searching for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.

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