Howes hopes for his happy Vase ending

Paddy DavittWroxham defender Shaun Howes is targeting a memorable Wembley swansong against FA Vase holders Whitley Bay next month. The 32-year-old aims to retire by playing his part in Norfolk's first cup final success since Diss triumphed at the national stadium in the same competition in 1994.Paddy Davitt

Wroxham defender Shaun Howes is targeting a memorable Wembley swansong against FA Vase holders Whitley Bay next month.

The 32-year-old aims to retire by playing his part in Norfolk's first cup final success since Diss triumphed at the national stadium in the same competition in 1994.

Howes' curling free-kick helped seal the Yachtsmen's Wembley passage in a memorable 2-1 semi-final, second leg success over Sussex-based Whitehawk.

But the left-back insists he will call it a day after a decade of Trafford Park service when David Batch's men bid to seal their place in history at the most famous venue in football.

"I've told everyone now that is me finished after Wembley," he said. "Gav (Pauling) is already saying he might see how he feels when pre-season comes around but I've said it now, so I won't backtrack.

"It would be great to go out with a bang. Playing at Wembley is one thing but to win it in the biggest game of our lives would be special. Really, even now, I don't think it has quite sunk in yet that we will be playing at Wembley, but I think it probably will when we start the build up for real."

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Howes admits competition for starting places is intense with Batch rotating his squad over the congested Ridgeons League run-in. The left-back played 90 minutes in the midweek defeat at Stanway with tonight's latest Wivenhoe league test the eighth game in 16 days since reaching Wembley.

"It's a really difficult one because you don't want to pick up any injuries," said Howes. "By the same token you know if you aren't playing well then Batchy might not pick you for that game, so you have to go out and play every game as best you can.

"I had 90 minutes against Stanway but it was a mixed side with three or four lads who had featured the previous Saturday.

"At the minute we're just trying to tick over the games. It's been Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for a few weeks now and it will be until our last game, but then we've got a full week to prepare for the final."

Wroxham's Wembley date is poised to be only the second competitive game on its newly relaid surface - but Howes is quick to put the ongoing national debate in context.

"When you've been on Stanway's pitch and Ely's pitch and our pitch then I'm not being funny but playing at Wembley is not going to be an issue," he said. "It will be like a bowling green in comparison. The pitches at the minute are like concrete with the sun and the wind we've had to dry them.

"I know we plan to go down and maybe have a look at the FA Trophy final the day before to get a feel for the ceremony and all that goes with it. I work for the FA so I've been down a few times but maybe one or two haven't and doing that should mean we are prepared and not fazed by the whole occasion."

Howes is also content for the holders to carry the burden of favouritism.

"We'll just concentrate on what we can do but of course with them being the holders and going well in their own league they will be favourites," he said. "We've probably been in this situation every round since beating Halstead. I'm sure bookmakers look at previous FA Vase results and league form, which is fine.

"Our league form hasn't been great and we haven't done anything in the FA Vase before so that does not bother us."

Tickets for Wroxham's FA Vase final against Whitley Bay at Wembley on Sunday, May 9 are priced �25 and �12.50 for under-16s and supporters aged 60 and over.

For a full list of outlets selling tickets along with Wembley travel information, visit wroxhamfc.com or call Trafford Park on 01603 783538.

Dolphins Autos (01603 400300) and Skyplane Travel in Norwich (01603 424010) plan to run coaches to the game and match tickets can also be purchased from those outlets.