It is a lingering regret that Bromsgrove Rovers never reached Wembley in the FA Trophy. Rovers twice reached the Quarter Final. Their replay defeat against Enfield in 1976 was a heroic failure against much stronger opponents but the defeat at home to Northwich Victoria twenty years later was a bitter blow. Now a Bromsgrove team is on the road to Wembley again, this time in the FA Vase. After three seasons when Bromsgrove Sporting, as a new club, were not eligible for the Vase, being in a national competition has given the club a real lift. A win at Westfields next Saturday would see the club in a national draw with the possibility of a tie against holders Spennymoor Town or another Vase big name.
As Rovers tried and failed to get to Wembley two of our North Worcestershire neighbours. reached the Twin Towers. The team from a carpet town I won’t mention but I will talk about Halesowen Town’s Vase exploits in the mid 1980s. After losing in 1983 the Yeltz were back at Wembley in 1985 and won the Vase with a 3-1 win over Fleetwood Town. I went down to cheer them on and remember a wonderful occasion. The Yeltz played some brilliant football and were irresistible. I can still picture Malcolm Hazelwood’s superb pass to release Lee Joinson in the build up to the first goal and the instinctive link up play between the Joinson twins for Lee to make it 2-0. Was this really 28 years ago? It is still a vivid memory.
The following year Halesowen retained the Vase with a 3-0 win over Southall. This was, however, neither a memorable game nor a particularly good performance. My match day programme says that one of Southall’s strikers was a 19 year old electrician called Les Ferdinand. I wonder what happened to him?
Ir wasn’t the Finals that caused Halesowen difficulties but the Semi-finals. I remember a tense second leg against Warrington Town in 1986 that the refereed struggled to keep control of and then a remarkable replay at Telford which finished 6-3 but in which Warringtom refused to lie down and which remained in the balance until the last five minutes.
They say that the semi-finals are the worst stage at which to lose and this is certainly true of the Vase. What I saw in the players’ faces at The Grove and then at the Bucks Head was fear, fear that all the hard work of battling through six rounds was going to be in vain. Once you reach the Second Round Proper you can be drawn against teams from other parts of the country that you know nothing about and who may be very good teams. There are a lot of rounds to get through, some long journeys to play good teams: the Vase is a tough competition and if you lose in the semi finals you know that, unlike the Trophy, you will probably never get so close again.
But that is the joy of the Vase. Now that even the FA Trophy has been devalued by Blue Square Premier teams with ‘other priorities’ it is the last competition that retains the essential spirit of the Cups, the last one where all the teams involved really want to have that day out at Wembley. Six months and a lot of football would lie between Westfields and Wembley. But who says it can’t be done?