Wroxham skipper's Wembley dream
Paddy DavittWroxham captain Graham Challen admitted he will realise a boyhood dream when he leads the Yachtsmen out at Wembley in next month's FA Vase final against holders Whitley Bay.Paddy Davitt
Wroxham captain Graham Challen admitted he will realise a boyhood dream when he leads the Yachtsmen out at Wembley in next month's FA Vase final against holders Whitley Bay.
The 30-year-old defender is still coming to terms with the prospect of playing at the most famous venue in world football following last weekend's 4-1 semi-final aggregate success over Sussex-based Whitehawk.
'Its going to be an absolute dream, what more can you say about playing at Wembley,' he said. 'I've thought about it since I was a youngster - in an England kit, perhaps, rather than a Wroxham one - but to be the first Norfolk side since Diss in 1994 to get there is history in its own right.
'I know we will go into the final looking to get a win, not just for ourselves and our club, but for the other clubs in Norfolk and everyone in the Ridgeons League. The build up is going to be hectic. Personally, I didn't care who we played but we will look forward to it. Our gaffer is excellent at researching the opposition and our management team is very professional. We will do our homework on Whitley Bay and we'll be prepared.'
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Challen revealed his overriding emotion on the final whistle at Trafford Park had been relief.
'The pressure was on us,' he said. 'We knew it, regardless of what anyone said in the build up, and we had been mentally preparing ourselves to finish the job. At the end it was just pure relief and then the jubilation comes and you couldn't be any happier. Those scenes on the pitch at the end were the best footballing moment of my career, by far, because it's a lifetime ambition to get to Wembley. As much as you tried to block it out of course you were thinking about Wembley and what it could mean.
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'It was the longest week of my life between the two legs. I just wanted to get on with it and now we have done the business we can enjoy what comes from it - what should be one of the best days of our lives.'
Challen admitted it was hard to block out thoughts of Wembley after going into the second leg with a 2-0 lead following a superb display on the south coast.
'When you are travelling home with a 2-0 lead from the first leg then on the bus people are thinking about it,' he said. 'They may not have been sharing their thoughts with the other boys but to lose a 2-0 lead at home would have been one of the biggest regrets you will ever carry. That's why it was relief because if you are 2-0 down then you have nothing to lose but we had everything to lose, they didn't, and that brought pressure.
'We wanted to be nice and positive but to score from the kick off was unbelievable. We couldn't have been happier and you dream of things like that. Then we got a second but then for the rest of the first half they came straight at us - which they had to do because they were four goals down in the tie.'
Wroxham chief David Batch and his coaching staff earned their stripes during the interval after Whitehawk had reduced the arrears a minute before the break.
'Fortunately for us half time came at the right time,' said Challen. 'The manager got us to calm down and think about what we were going to do second half. He told us we'd done all that hard work at their place and in the first few minutes at home and it was still in our own hands. Maybe as a team, the midfield and the back four, we had got a bit too deep and we dropped off.
'I thought we came out and were positive again. We stuck two lads back up front and had a go at them. They were throwing everything at us but they never got in behind and they never really had too many shots. It was just throwing balls into the box and we were happy to deal with that.'