Chorley FC's head groundsman Ben Kay has had his heroic efforts rewarded with an invitation to join Wembley Stadium’s grounds team ahead of this season’s Emirates FA Cup Final in May.
The National League North side booked their place in the fourth round of the Cup for the first time in their history over the weekend, with a 2-0 victory over EFL Championship club Derby County.
And while the playing squad and management team deservedly made the headlines in the aftermath of the result, it's since been Kay’s role in the victory which has caught the attention after the club shared a photo of him sleeping on the pitch in the early hours of Saturday morning.
With temperatures reaching -2 degrees and another inch of snow forecast in Lancashire, the game was in serious doubt of going ahead on Thursday night.
A word for our groundsman @ben_kay8 - 4am this morning, sleeping for an hour under the tent covering the pitch - this is the epitome of what the #EmiratesFACup means to us 😊— Chorley FC (@chorleyfc) January 9, 2021
Thank you EVERYONE who helped get today's game on 👏👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/RBvbt0EmOO
So Kay and his team made the call to stay overnight on Friday, sleeping on the pitch, to ensure they could be on hand to rotate the small heaters.
And Wembley’s grounds manager Karl Standley was one of thousands inspired by the story and has since reached out to invite Kay to join his team to help prepare the hallowed Wembley turf ahead of this season’s Final.
“Hearing about the work Ben and his team put in to prepare for Chorley’s Emirates FA Cup game was really inspiring," revealed Standley.
"Their hard work and dedication were rewarded when the odds were stacked against them. It is a privilege to be able to invite Ben to join our team and help us prepare the pitch for The Emirates FA Cup Final, one of the biggest days in Wembley Stadium’s calendar.”
It was surprise news for Kay too, as he added: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been invited to Wembley for the Emirates FA Cup Final.
"I was shocked when I received the message, but obviously genuinely touched by the offer and delighted to accept it. I can’t wait to step out onto the famous turf and experience the thrill of being at Wembley. The FA Cup is such a special competition and to be involved in this way is a dream come true.”
Chorley FC's CEO Ben Robinson was also quick to pay tribute to the club's previously unsung heroes, saying: “We're very lucky at Chorley to have so many wonderful people involved right through the setup, both on and off the field.
"The huge amount of work and effort put in by everybody associated with the club to get Saturday’s game on was phenomenal. I’ve worked in football for a long time and I still find the passion and goodwill surrounding the game fantastic. Clubs simply couldn’t operate without it and a result and occasion like Saturday is what everyone works so hard to achieve.”