Morpeth will be a ghost town on Sunday with 25 per cent of its population set to descend on Wembley Stadium and favourite son Nick Gray is pulling out all the stops to ensure they are not let down.
Gray’s Morpeth Town are set to begin their 300-mile journey from Northumberland to north London on Friday, but they will stop en route at Nottingham Forest to train.
Hereford FC v Morpeth Town
The FA Vase Final
At Wembley Stadium connected by EE
12.15pm Sunday 22 May 2016
They will use Premier League Watford’s facilities for one final run through their paces on Saturday, before stepping out in the national stadium for The FA Vase Final against Hereford followed by the conclusion of the FA Trophy between Grimsby Town and FC Halifax Town.
And Gray hopes he can make the Northern League Division One club’s supporters proud.
“We have done our homework on Hereford,” said the manager, in his fifth season with the club.
“They are favourites because of where they have come from. They have a huge fan-base and good players in their team, but so have we and we know we can cause them problems.
“It’s been a fantastic achievement for the club to get this far. We have 3,500 supporters travelling down. It’s a long way to come and we want them to enjoy their day.”
Morpeth have enjoyed an extraordinary road to the FA Vase final, beginning with a 4-1 defeat of Padiham in the first qualifying round in September.
In the first round proper they tossed away a four-goal lead against West Didsbury & Chorlton before Michael Chilton popped up with a last-minute winner and, after their third round tie with South Shields was postponed eight times, the Highwaymen eventually motored through 10-9 on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
“I need 100 per cent effort from the players on and off the pitch”
Nick Gray Morpeth manager
Gray found the smallest of windows in his schedule to enjoy a brief break overseas at the end of January, but travelled from France to Morpeth via Edinburgh to ensure he was at the fourth round match with North Shields.
Inclement weather meant the tie with South Shields was the sole fixture completed between November and February and consequently, since their semi-final victory against Bowers & Pitsea, Morpeth have played 22 games in 50 days.
Despite that gruelling fixture list Gray guided his troops to a third-placed finish.
And the former Sunderland man is pleased the players that have showed maximum commitment during such a testing time will be rewarded with a Wembley appearance.
“If they have shown the right attitude and character in the last few weeks then they won’t have a problem,” Gray added. “I need 100 per cent effort from the players on and off the pitch.
“When you consider where we were before Christmas missing out on promotion is disappointing, but this is a very competitive league and only Whitby have managed to win the Vase and our league in the same season, so that shows you how tough it is.”