I went to eight Amateur Cup Finals at Wembley, including Enfield v Skelmersdale United in 1967, when ‘Skem’ missed a last-gasp penalty that would have won The Cup before a 75,000 crowd.
Epsom & Ewell reached the first Vase Final and I saw their last-eight tie with Addlestone.
But I followed Crystal Palace in those days and didn’t get to a Vase Final until Billericay Town met Almondsbury Greenway four years later. The Essex side won their third Vase in four seasons and Dougie Young emulated Geoff Hurst by scoring a Wembley hat-trick!
I saw Halesowen Town retain the Vase in 1986, when Les Ferdinand – who went on to play for England 17 times – featured in Southall’s attack as a 19-year-old. I think he and his team-mates were rather overawed by the occasion in front of 18,340 fans on a baking hot afternoon.
My favourite Vase Final was played in 1992. Wimborne Town from the Wessex League, who had no Vase ‘form’ at all, went behind to an early goal by Guiseley but hit back to win a thriller 5-3. No Dorset side had won at Wembley before. Striker Tom Killick, who came back from injury to score twice, now manages local rivals Poole Town in the Southern League’s Premier Division.
Diss Town v Taunton Town two years later had its moments too. Taunton fought bravely to hold on to their 12th-minute lead but Diss from the Eastern Counties League equalised with a nerveless Paul Gibbs penalty nine minutes into stoppage time! It was a case of ‘so near and yet so far’ for the Somerset team and in extra-time Peter Mendham, the former Norwich City midfielder, scored the winner.
The abiding memory of a very sporting Final, with several players shaking opponents’ hands as they prepared to start the second period of extra-time, was of Mendham stripping off his tangerine shirt at the finish and whirling it around his head before thousands of ecstatic Diss supporters.
As Wembley was being rebuilt, The Vase Final was taken to Villa Park (twice), Upton Park, St Andrews (twice) and White Hart Lane. I saw the two played in London. The first Final at the new Stadium, between Truro City and AFC Totton in 2007, was a fantastic occasion.
A record crowd of 36,232 watched as the Western League Division One Champions became the first Cornish club to win the competition after Totton from Hampshire had taken a 28th-minute lead.
It was Truro skipper Tom Smith’s turn to climb the 107 steps to receive The Vase. In the last five seasons I have marvelled at the dominance of clubs from the Northern League, which has included a hat-trick of successes for Whitley Bay.