From Lomeshaye Way to Wembley Way. From Little Wembley to the Wembley Stadium. It doesn’t get much better than that for Nelson Football Club.
As the town welcomes the return of FA Cup football after a seven-year exile, the Admirals were invited by the FA to do something not even Manchester United, Liverpool or Spurs have been able to achieve - lift the most historic and prestigious domestic trophy at the new national stadium.
Blues boss Mark Fell was joined by Robert Grimes, Peter Wright, Ben Woodhead and Ben Hoskin at the 90,000 capacity stadium which has hosted Football League play-off finals, Capital One Cup finals, FA Cup semi-finals and finals, international friendlies, European Championship qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers.
“It was brilliant and the FA were really good with us as well,” said Fell. “The trip came out of the blue but I think the FA were looking to go down the route of ‘From Little Wembley to Wembley’. We probably have got the richest history of all the clubs in the extra preliminary round though. We were second round regulars when we were a Football League club back in the 1920s and ‘30s.”
Earlier in the century Nelson reached the second round of the competition on a couple of occasions. During the 1926/27 campaign they beat Stockport County 4-1 on home soil before losing 2-1 to Ashington. And in 1930/31 they lost 2-1 to York City in a reply having beaten Workington 4-0 in the first round. However, the FA Vase is a more realistic route of progression in cup competitions for the club now.
“We took four players down and given a private tour of the stadium while photographers and the press followed us round,” Fell said. “We were given the actual FA Cup to walk around the stadium with as well. It was a fantastic day. Playing in the national stadium would be a once in a lifetime experience and we’ve got the chance of doing that in the FA Vase. Hopefully that experience should inspire the players. The FA Cup rounds are bonus games for us.
“We were taken to some of the places that you never get to see at Wembley. As well as the Royal Box there’s a Royal Room which has a special lift. We couldn’t get Robert Grimes out of there. It’s a different world down there and it’s a wonderful place. I’ve never been before but a few of the players went to watch Burnley in the play-off final. It’s just a spectacular stadium.”
After registering their first win back in the North West Counties Premier Division - with a brace from Hoskin and strikes from Ed O’Neill, Wright and Liam Boswell securing a 5-0 romp against rivals Barnoldswick Town midweek - the Blues host Northern League side West Auckland Town in the FA Cup extra preliminary round which kicks off at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Victoria Park.
“Saturday will be a really tough game for us,” declared Fell. “West Auckland Town are a big, strong Northern League side. They’ve reached the FA Vase final twice in the last three years. If we win we’ll be playing Darlington at home who will bring plenty of supporters. That’s the motivation. It’s a romantic competition which brings a whole new dimension to football. The club hasn’t been a part of it for seven years so hopefully this will create a buzz in the town. It’s great to have the FA Cup back.”