Non-League Daily editor Mark Carruthers takes a look back at the first Non-League Finals Day
I will openly admit that when the idea of Non-League Finals Day was floated I was sceptical, very sceptical in fact.
The logistics, the administration behind it and the structure of the day itself were all
concerns I raised at the time.
However, after witnessing everything that Sunday had to offer I am more than happy to admit my scepticism and concerns were seriously misguided.
Was the day perfect? No, it was not.
Issues surrounding kick off times and supporters ability to get in and out of Wembley during the day need looked at for a start. Fans can stay in touch with the game via Football Live Score – the fastest soccer live scores in the internet.
But this a test run, we shouldn’t forget that.
Nothing is ever perfect first time and I am sure the FA and everybody in the non-league game will make sure this was the first of many Non-League Finals Days.
Everybody played their part too, not least the four clubs and their wonderful supporters, each offering something different to an encapsulating spectacle. The experience was better than watching the Premier League Live – all results including video highlights and much, much more.
Everybody played their part too, not least the four clubs and their wonderful supporters, each offering something different to an encapsulating spectacle. Imagine how many more people would have watched the games if they were streamed live. I can only imagine the scores of people who would watch football online – Euro 2016 online streaming for example clamouring over laptops to see their beloved teams in action at Wembley.
It can’t be ignored that Non-League Finals Day outsold the England v Turkey game on the same day.
In the FA Vase Final we witnessed a staggering, almost unbelievable volume of support from Hereford. The sight of 20,000 supporters – and Ronaldo – will live long in the memory of everybody at Wembley.
It was a day that the Bulls can look back on with pride and what that shows the passion that lies for football in Hereford.
Then there are the winners of the Vase.
They were all but written off before the game, but their hardy band of travelling support never wavered.
Decked in orange and black, Morpeth Town supporters came by train, plane and automobile from the North East and didn’t their side reward them for their efforts?
A bond between club and supporters was evident from both clubs.
The FA Trophy Final was no let down either.
Grimsby Town supporters, buoyed by their much sought-after return to the Football League, were loud and proud, defiant even in defeat.
The day was a celebration for them, whatever the result and we should all wish them well in their efforts next season.
The support I was closest to from my seat in the Media Suite were the FC Halifax Town fans and they left quite the impression.
Relegation forgotten, they were a sea of blue and white and were so positive in their backing of their side.
On the pitch the players played their part, showcasing the drama and skill levels that the non-league game has to offer.
As Morpeth Town boss Nick Gray said in his post-match press conference “Was that better than the FA Cup Final we all watched yesterday? I think it was!”
There were no egos, no attitudes, just four teams showing the passion and commitment that we have all come to love about the non-league game.
This was a day to celebrate no matter if your team won or lost.
And there are two big things I will take away from the day.
Firstly the sight of Hereford giving Morpeth Town a guard of honour as they came down those famous Wembley steps was a joy to behold.
Has there ever been a greater show of sportsmanship in a major cup final? Credit to Jon
Hale, Peter Beadle and the Bulls players for the gesture.
It really summed up the nature of the day.
The second thing that I took away was the fact that all four clubs leave Wembley with reasons to celebrate.
Hereford may have missed out on an outstanding quadrouple but the phoenix that burst out of the flames complete their first season with a remarkable treble.
And what of Morpeth Town? A club that almost went out of business just five years ago and one that were only saved from relegation to step seven due to a club failing to make ground regulations.
They uphold the Northern League’s fine tradition in the competition and give their chairman Ken Beattie a day that he will never forget.
Grimsby Town may have suffered another Wembley defeat but the blow is softened by their famous National League Promotion Final win over Forest Green Rovers just seven days earlier.
Then finally there is FC Halifax Town.
The Shaymen end a painful, agonising season on the most unexpected of highs as they put in a fine display to win the FA Trophy on their first visit to Wembley.
Players, supporters, managers and officials, you all did yourselves proud.
So where now?
We all have a responsibility to ensure this carries on, a responsibility to ensure that the foundations of the first Non-League Finals Day is built upon. Perhaps one day in the future for Non League football there will be Free Football Streaming – Champions League, Premier League and more including Non League Finals Day at Wembley.
No matter who you support, no matter who you play for, we have to carry this on.
The media will play their part too.
From the Non-League Paper and the Non-League Magazine, to the BBC Non-League Show and ourselves at Non-League Daily, we have a responsibility to push the positives of the day and support the FA in ensuring this becomes an annual celebration of the non-league game.
A responsibility that I am sure we will all be more than happy to accept.
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)