Challen taking no notice of Wembley possibilities
Paddy DavittWroxham captain Graham Challen is demanding his troops block out the Wembley factor ahead of tomorrow's FA Vase semi-final, second leg against Whitehawk at Trafford Park (3pm).Paddy Davitt
Wroxham captain Graham Challen is demanding his troops block out the Wembley factor ahead of tomorrow's FA Vase semi-final, second leg against Whitehawk at Trafford Park (3pm).
Challen is potentially 90 minutes away from becoming the first player to skipper a Norfolk side at the revamped national stadium with the Yachtsmen 2-0 up after a first leg win on the south coast.
The central defender insists edging out the Sussex side is all the matters in front of the biggest ever Trafford Park crowd.
"I don't want to think about what it could mean because then you get carried away with the occasion," he said. "The important thing is to focus on the game and afterwards we can enjoy it if we get the opportunity - and that is what we all want.
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"Maybe people don't realise but we're all amateur players at the end of the day and this is a dream for a lot of us, so it's a lot to take in. We've still got a job to do, that is the message, but it's another game so what happened in the first leg has to be put to one side.
"Leading 2-0 could be a tricky one in terms of how you approach it, but the clearest thing from my point of view is to go out with the mindset to just win the game. We have to treat it as a 0-0 and look to go out and win."
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Challen has pledged to play his normal game after earning an early yellow card in the first leg for re-entering the field of play without permission following treatment for an injury.
"It's not a concern for me going into this game," said Challen, who would not miss the final if he was booked in the second leg.
"If you get a booking and you deserve it then fair enough but I didn't think I warranted it. There was a late challenge but the ref told me he'd seen the foul and when play restarted he would get me on as quickly as possible.
"The ball is at the other end of the pitch and he has turned and said something to me.
"I assumed he had said come on but what he actually said was, 'stay there' so I run on, he stops play, and books me. I was a little bit annoyed about that because it took away my safety net. Any slightly mistimed tackle and you risk letting your team-mates down. So I had to stand up perhaps more than I would have done to avoid risking another booking."
Whitehawk striker Darren Freeman is eligible to play in the Trafford Park return despite his late red card, but Challen is more than confident a defence that has conceded only once in the past three FA Vase ties can once again shackle the Hawks.
"I am slightly surprised he can play because in a two legged game that shouldn't be allowed but to be honest I think it could be a good thing," said Challen.
"We like playing against targetmen who stand right up top and I'm looking forward to playing against him again.
"We've got a lot of experience in defence. Scott Howie is the best keeper at this level by a mile, Gav (Pauling) has been playing at this level for 20 years, myself and Howesy (Shaun Howes) for 12 and Macca (Martin McNeil) for 11 years. I enjoy playing with Martin and I thought he had an outstanding game on Sunday. We're also lucky to have Josh Carus as well, so we've got three centre-halves who can all slot in and do a good job."
Challen senses Wroxham's streetwise squad will relish a special Trafford Park atmosphere.
"It could affect some players, maybe the younger ones, but we have to try and block that out," he said. "We know that the rewards at the end of this are massive for everyone involved but we must focus on the task at hand.
"What we need to do and we can put everything that goes with this game and the big crowd to one side. A lot of players in the squad have tried hard to get to this stage of the competition over the years. We were quite fortunate in the first round that we nearly went out to Gorleston and that seemed to concentrate us for the games ahead. After beating Needham you think it could be a possibility and even more so after the first leg of the semi-final, but we still have a lot to do to make it a reality."
� Tickets for the second leg cost �8 for adults, �5 concessions and �3 for children under 12.
They can be purchased from the club on 01603 400300 or by calling in at: Dolphin Autos, Swanton Road in Norwich; Hazell Butchers, Corbet Avenue, Sprowston; Roy's of Wroxham; Norfolk FA's Football Development Centre, in Bowthorpe by ringing 01603 748944.