THEY already call him ‘God’. How might Spennymoor Town supporters address former player and current manager Jason Ainsley should he lead the club to the FA Vase final today?
“It won’t be repeatable if we lose!” he laughs.
“I could hear a few shouting at Penrith when we lost there the other week. Football’s a fickle game. You get beaten and everyone wants your head, and as soon as you win you’re a messiah.”
At the Brewery Field, Ainsley has largely been viewed as the latter.
A stylish midfielder through several spells as a Moors player – amid stints with Hartlepool United, for whom he once played against Arsenal, Gateshead, Blyth Spartans and Singapore side Jurong FC – the Stockton-born teacher became manager in 2007.
The Ebac Northern League Division Two title promptly followed, then three successive Division One championships.
Spenny have also won the Durham Challenge Cup and the Cleator Cup, but the FA Vase has consistently eluded them.
So neither wonder Ainsley is excited about this afternoon’s final – against Kent Premier League side Tunbridge Wells – at Wembley.
“This’ll bring a tear to my eye, to see so many Spennymoor people down at Wembley, people who’ve been involved with the club a lot longer than me,” he said.
“It’s the first time in the club’s history, as United or Town, that the club’s got to Wembley, so it’s a massive achievement.
“But it’s not about me, it’s about the people behind the scenes, the chairman (Brad Groves) especially, the backroom staff, but more than anyone else, the players.
“We felt something special when we beat Bridlington Town away in the first game (a 5-1 first-round win in October). We sensed then that something could happen.
“Sometimes football has a bit of fate to it and I think we’ve had that. Hopefully we can finish the job on May 4.”
Keen to emulate recent winners Whitley Bay and Dunston UTS, Ainsley added: “We’ve won the league for the last three years, but until you see the press and publicity surrounding the final, you don’t realise the importance of it.
“It’s sort of yesterday’s fish and chip wrappers when you win the league, but this is on a different level. It’s not just local, it’s national coverage.
“Everybody around the country knows the name Whitley Bay and Dunston. That’s what we want to emulate, to try and put Spennymoor on the map. Hopefully, it gains the club a few more fans and sponsors.”
Moreover, however, victory is vital.
“I was at Wembley for the media day the other week and it brought a lump to my throat,” said Ainsley.
“I’m fortunate to have played at Highbury in the League Cup for Hartlepool, which was fantastic. Arsenal had Tony Adams, David Seaman, Paul Davis, Ray Parlour, Ian Wright. They won!
“But that was a real highlight of my career, and I also played in the Singapore Cup final in front of 40,000 at the national stadium, for Jurong FC, and for a Western Australia team at the WACA against teams from West Ham and Nottingham Forest.
“But this is the pinnacle as a manager, and I know I’ll have a tear in my eye. But I’ve got to hold that emotion back on the day. I’m a passionate person but I have to make sure the lads are focused.
“We’ll prepare right, we’ll take them to Wembley on the Friday because I was in awe of it, and I want them to get that out of their system, so it’s business as usual come Saturday.
“But it won’t be easy, it’s never straightforward. Tunbridge must have something about them to have beaten Shildon over two legs in the semi-finals, and Dunston in an earlier round.
“They’ve had some really good results, they’re a team that will dig in. But hopefully on the day, the players we have at our disposal will perform.”