Whitley Bay eye historic FA Vase treble at Wembley

FA Vase Final - Coalville Town v Whitley Bay

Wembley Stadium
Sunday, 8 May 2011
1500 BST
BBC Local Radio

Few clubs have made Wembley their second home quite as frequently as Whitley Bay.

The Northern League side made their first trip to the national stadium in 2009 winning the FA Vase with a 2-0 win against Glossop North End.

They returned in 2010 to thump Wroxham 6-1 in the final, becoming only the fourth team to retain the trophy.

This year, boss Ian Chandler and his players are seeking a historic hat-trick, having already equalled AFC Sudbury's record of three straight finals between 2002-05.

Opponents Coalville Town are the first Leicestershire club to reach this stage of the competition, and had previously only managed a fourth round best in 2007-08.

In contrast, the Bay are already three-time winners, and among three clubs from the north east region to have won or reached the final.

"We talked about that in the quarter-finals," Chandler told BBC Newcastle. "When we played Dunston this season that was a big factor because we had been there for three years before that.

"The final will be the same, as we've got six new players but those players are old heads.

"I hope they enjoy it, we've had the satisfaction of winning it for a couple of years now and the only way you'll enjoy the occasion is if you win - the lads are looking forward to it."

Chandler has already written his place in Vase folklore as the first person to win the competition as both a player and a manager.

The current side stand on the cusp of history, and fully appreciate the significance of what can be achieved on Sunday.

"If we were talking about a Premier League club that had achieved this feat three years in a row, the press would have been bigging it up," midfielder Damon Robson said - who, as a player, has featured in two finals so far.

"But to achieve it at non-league level is unprecedented, it's testament to everybody associated with the club what we have managed to achieve.

"To go back there, the third occasion, it's wonderful for us as a team, the town itself and the new players - we've nine this year and it's nice for them to experience it too."

Former Newcastle midfielder Robson is a veteran of more than 250 appearances for the Seahorses, and has featured on 52 occasions this season.

Another player desperate to be involved in Sunday's showpiece final is captain David Coulson.

Although the former Spennymoor United player lifted the Vase as skipper in 2009, a cruciate injury robbed him of the chance to play in 2010.

But now fit and re-established in the side, Coulson is likely to lead the club out in their bid to retain the trophy.

"Last year was a bit of a disappointment for me, it was great to see the lads win 6-1 but I can't wait to get out there," Coulson told BBC Look North.

"Everyone wants to go to Wembley, our preparation has been fantastic and we know beforehand about the teams we play and that goes a long way.

"And to play at Wembley is fantastic, you never think you're going to as a young boy, but to play there twice is special."

The route to the final has proved topsy-turvy for all at Hillheads, but the holders showed their mettle.

Ties against Herne Bay, Dunston and both legs of the semi-final against Poole all required Bay fightbacks from losing positions to secure progress.

"You take it in for what it is, it should have been a one-off, but thankfully the lads have produced," Chandler added.

"Me, Steve [Cuggy] and Gavin [Fell] have been at the top of the tree, but it's the lads who have produced week in, week out.

"There have been plenty of times that I've thought they were beaten, but the team never did, and that's the extra-special thing we've got.

"They're the ones who have got us back to Wembley, so all credit to them."

BBC Newcastle has full commentary on all frequencies and listen live on bbc.co.uk/tyne from 1400 BST.

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