Thursday, 16 April 2009

Blue (And White) Is The Colour

One year ago I wrote about the build up to the FA Cup Semi-Final between Cardiff City and Barnsley. In a slight ‘tongue-in-cheek’ blog post I listed the Wembley merchandise that fans were clambering to get their hands on: the flags, foam hands, car stickers, scarves, replica shirts and the t-shirts.

A year on and it would be easy to write exactly the same article, with a few alterations in the detail. Swap FA Cup Semi-Final for FA Vase Final, change Cardiff City to Glossop North End and Barnsley to Whitley Bay. The sense of excitement of a visit to Wembley is the same as it was 365 days ago and the fans’ rush to empty their wallets for any type of memorabilia depicting their club colours is just as palpable.

The Final is only matter of weeks away now, but much has already been sorted since Glossop’s quite remarkable Houdini act. On a personal note, I have calmed down somewhat now. I've taken a well earned family Easter break (in Cardiff, coincidentally) and my Vase batteries are fully recharged after they were drained to the dregs up in Derbyshire twelve days ago.

So what exactly has been sorted? The Final will be played on Sunday 10th May, kick-off at 2:30pm and, as if I need to say, will be contested between Glossop North End and Whitley Bay. Whitley Bay overcame Lowestoft Town in their Semi-Final, drawing 1-1 in Suffolk to go through 3-2 on aggregate. No doubt much to the chagrin of the FA, we are going to witness an all-northern Final. Both clubs share blue and white colours; Whitley Bay won the toss for choice of shirt on the big day so the team from the North East will be wearing their home strip (see picture above). Glossop will be wearing a gleaming new white away kit. Glossop are the designated ‘home team’ and will therefore occupy the home changing room, even though both Wembley changing rooms are identical. The match will not be shown live on TV, although Setanta have the TV rights so may well screen highlights after the event.

Both sets of fans are now ready to buy their Final tickets which go on sale at the respective clubs within the next few days and the clubs have received an initial allocation of 5000 each. There is a long tradition at FA Vase Finals for the teams’ support to be swelled with fans from local teams and for supporters to represent their League. Therefore expect also to see fans at Wembley from a number of North West and North East non League clubs. In addition to tickets, orders are also stocking up for the Wembley Final merchandise. In Glossop, the range on offer include both home and away replica shirts, Vase t-shirts, Vase mugs, scarves, rosettes, car flags, car sunshades, badges and jester hats. The only thing missing is a Vase rattle. In Whitley Bay they have a similar range, but also have key rings, caps, gloves and air fresheners to entice. Add to this the blue and white wigs and face paint and there is no doubting which colours are going to dominate the Wembley scene.

It promises to be a marvellous occasion for both clubs and their supporters. There has been a great deal of good natured banter already between opposition fans, which is exactly how it should be, and come Sunday 10th May two trails of blue and white will set off south to ultimately converge in North London to share a special day. For me, it is fitting that I started with Chertsey Town who also play in blue and white; my (and my friends') trail to Wembley has been rather haphazard and wonderfully unpredictable. Proudly displaying their club colours in a myriad of different ways, supporters from Glossop North End and Whitley Bay intend to make the very most of every moment of a day out at Wembley. And just like the Cardiff City and Barnsley fans a year ago, they have every reason to.

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