By Scott Lanza
May & Baker manager Micky Wetherall is a man on a mission. He has a committee behind him that have steered the club from the Prokit UK Essex Olympian, where they were an Intermediate club, to a Senior status one and taking their place in the new step 6 Eastern Senior League Division One South. They have made a decent start too, currently 4th after Tuesday’s hard-fought 2-1 win over strugglers Fire United. Wetherall admitted that his team maybe didn’t play as well as they could have and that the players had their eye on Sunday’s Buildbase FA Vase game.
You can hardly blame them, as May & Baker, embarking on their first ever Vase campaign, host Swaffham Town in the second round of the FA Vase. I put it to Wetherall that it has indeed been a fantastic debut Vase run.
He goes on to tell me: “We never believed it would come to this, if we are going to be honest. I have great confidence in the lads, but to have gone on the run we have gone on has been amazing. The club is a charity, so the prize money won so far has helped the club from the senior team right down to the youth teams.”
And the run has indeed been the stuff of dreams. Their first ever Vase game was in the first qualifying round with fellow Eastern Senior League outfit Burnham Ramblers providing the opposition. The visitors had been relegated from the Essex Senior League the season before, and had also been playing in the Ryman League only a few seasons before that. May & Baker had a field day as they went on to win the game 8-1.
The next round saw an away trip to Saffron Walden Town, who at the time were sitting 2nd in the Essex Senior League. May & Baker had played the same opponents in their first ever Essex Senior Cup tie a few weeks earlier; they lost that 4-3 but the Vase game at Catons Road saw Wetherall’s men put on a golden performance, going on to win 4-1.
The first round threw up an interesting tie as they were drawn at home to North Greenford United. The visitors, now playing in the Spartan South Midland League Premier Division, played in the Evo-Stik Southern League until 2016. It shows how far May & Baker had come to be even mixing it with teams that had been around at Step 5, and in some cases having played even higher up the pyramid, in competitive fixtures. But they have continued to punch above their weight, beating North Greenford 4-2 after extra time.
With every game in the Vase so far being the furthest they have ever got in the competition, it means that the club is buzzing, as they have already done better than they thought was possible. Wetherall and his team are certainly up for their latest instalment: “We are going to give it our best; Sunday is our cup final.”
He goes on to tell me that he doesn’t care about the result – he just wants a great performance: “If we do that then I believe we will give anyone a match.” The results thus far certainly support that belief.
Swaffham have been watched twice, and May & Baker are committed to the cause from President Ray Wright and Chairman Andy Everett, right down to the players. Wetherall was travelling back to Bristol after Tuesday evening’s game and he explained the May & Baker way:
It’s commitment from all levels. Extra training from the players, building in recovery sessions, and the commitment from the players has been fantastic.”
Being backed by the chairman means that Wetherall and his team – which includes Alan Dickens who made 192 appearances for West Ham United, as his assistant, with Andy Hill his coach – have been given a platform to achieve on the pitch with the full backing of the committee.
“The boys listen to us, they want to learn,” enthuses Wetherall, who goes on to say: “They have also bought into what we as a club want to achieve.”
Indeed the Vase run in many ways may have acted as an interesting sideshow to their first ever senior season. Wetherall admits that the club moved into the Step 6 division once it was set up in Essex knowing it would be tough. Last season the club finished 7th in the Essex Olympian League’s Premier Division but that season was used to get the team ready for the new challenge, and although they seem to have hit the ground running Wetherall feels that the team are still a long way from where they need to be.
He also feels that the games in hand that May & Baker have over Halstead Town and Hashtag United, the two teams currently in the top two, are not worth as much as having points on the board.
“We are close; we just need to click in one or two places and then we will really be ready to have a go.”
So at the start of the season the benchmark was to stay in the Eastern Senior League. With the team pitched at the top end of the table, along with a great Vase run to lift the club’s morale, means that the club are now having a re-think of their aims come the end of the season. Wetherall tells me what the new plan looks like:
“We will now have a look at the table in January and then set ourselves a real target. We have belief. If you believe in something, with the chairman, manager and players all behind it, then what we are aiming for will come.”
The club are eyeing up the Essex Senior League, and why not, after a Vase campaign that has seen them beat high flying Step 5 clubs? The magic of that Vase run could fire impetus into a promotion push, and of course on Monday 5th November, May & Baker may also find themselves in the third round for the first time as well.