Peter Dixon still hurts. Two years ago, his West Auckland Town team lost the FA Vase final to Ebac Northern League rivals Dunston UTS when some say his side, overwhelmed by Wembley and debilitated by Matthew Moffat’s facial injury, failed to “turn up”.
There was no hiding place. Dixon lives in Dunston. “It was just massive deflation,” he says.
Skip to today and a shot at redemption.
West play Wessex Premier champions Sholing of Southampton in the Vase final under the Arch.
They are in the opposite changing room, dugout and section of the stand to 2012. Yesterday, they undercut the wow factor by visiting Wembley before a kickabout at QPR’s training ground.
Moffat, as talismanic and mercurial as strikers come, is fit (despite the club’s recent, chronic fixture backlog).
Pained still from two years ago, Dixon is determined to enjoy this “bigger deal”, determined to see his team do themselves justice.
Determined to win.
He said: “It was just massive deflation in 2012.
“There was no hiding from it. If you lose on a Saturday you might get a bit of a write-up in the Sunday Sun but you can choose not to buy it.
“I’ve done that in the past, but coming back on the coach and it was on the television, the radio...you can’t hide from it. Living in Dunston was a constant reminder, you know.” There are other tales to be written. The first ‘World Cup’ winners, in 1909 and 1911, lost the FA Amateur Cup to Walthamstow Avenue, at Wembley, in 1961.
Current club general manager Stuart Alderson, who played for Newcastle United later that decade, was there, watching.
Eight players remain from 2012 and another, Steven Richardson, was, bittersweetly, an unused substitute when Spennymoor Town won the competition 12 months ago.
So stories to be made and heroes too. Dixon insists he is content simply to be back, but anyone who knows the man will know he is not going there to repeat history.
He added: “I can’t believe we’re going back, I never thought we’d get another chance.
“I’m a realist and I thought it was in the lap of the gods to go once, so to go twice is a massive achievement and the experience of 2012 just makes me want to win it all the more.
“You understand the magnitude of the situation.
“I take things in my stride and I didn’t realise what we’d achieved being there two years ago. It’s a bigger deal for me this time. I understand what we’re going into this time but I’ll enjoy it more, regardless of the result.
“All I do hope is we give a good account of ourselves because we are a good side and I just hope that everyone who attends will see that.
“I want to win, but we didn’t look like a good side two years ago. We didn’t do ourselves justice and people still refer to it as the final when we didn’t turn up as a team.
“So I just hope we can go out and give a good account of ourselves, do ourselves justice and then if we win, great.”