TONIGHT, Lee Kerr and Paul Chow will take a stroll around St James's Park. Newcastle United could do worse than ask them to stick on their boots and play.
The rest of Whitley Bay’s victorious FA Vase team, too. For while the Magpies and Middlesbrough slug it out in the footballing gutter, the Seahorses are dancing among the stars, having finally bestowed on the North East game a dash of much-needed pride and, of course, silverware.
As reward for beating Glossop at Wembley yesterday, they will parade the pitch at Gallowgate come half time. They will probably get, and deserve, a better reception than their United and Boro counterparts. Against a useful North West Counties Premier side, the equivalent of their own Northern League, they were nonetheless a league apart.
That now-familiar double act of Kerr and Chow scored the goals but there were heroes everywhere. The back five of keeper Terry Burke and defenders Mark Taylor, Leon Ryan, David Coulson and Mark Taylor, shielded by the relentless Damon Robson, were immense, and only ever truly looked in any danger when Nick Allen’s long-ranger crashed against the bar after 22 minutes.
But in that respect, the Bay already had a trump card. Five minutes earlier, and following a nervy, cagey opening, Adam Johnston attempted possibly the most audacious goal effort Wembley – and not just the new one – has ever seen, only for his 60-yard strike (yes, that’s the halfway line) to be palmed on to the crossbar, and safety, by Glossop keeper Matt Cooper.
Moments later, Bay’s tactical curve-ball of starting perennial right-winger Chris Moore on the left, and Craig McFarlane on the right to counter Glossop’s supposed star man Dave Hodges, was abandoned and, reverting to type, with these two of constant threat on the flanks, the Bay began to dictate matters.
Chow headed a long Picton throw wide and Kerr arced a free kick at Cooper. Yet Glossop were no mugs, and inside the 35th minute Darren Hamilton and Hodges both tested Burke.
Seconds later, they were behind. Cutting in from the right, Chow squared to Kerr. His deft touch ignited consternation between Glossop defenders Jamie Kay and Danny Yates, who collided, freeing Kerr to slip by and steer the ball inside Cooper’s near-post from a tight angle.
Kerr, first goal. It won director Dave Styles a few quid, but came as no surprise. Newcastle felt they could cope without him, and for all the Bay’s myriad talents, Kerr is the stellar act, and deserved to be man-of-the-match. After his sending off in the semi-final at Lowestoft, he felt he owed his team-mates. But Whitley were not done there.
On the stroke of half time, Glossop’s Dave Morris shot at goal, Picton blocking the way. That could so easily have been 1-1, but breaking at speed, Chow traded passes with Johnston and chipped emphatically past Cooper. Game over. Oh sure Allen, up front after the break, had a shot well snuffed out by Taylor and Ryan, before Jay Gorton’s follow up flew wide. Later Burke did enough to force Hodges to hammer over, Paul Robinson hacked clear when danger lurked and Coulson put the blocks on Tom Bailey’s shot.
And later still, Taylor got in the way of a header from Mark Balfe, who also volleyed over, and Burke saved from Hodges. But in truth, these were mere half-chances. Glossop were gone.
On the hour a Mexican – sorry Whitley – wave swelled up which, to the Glossop fans’ credit, they sustained. Chow had a shot deflected over and headed on to the bar and over it.
Johnston crashed a shot against Cooper, as did Moore. Kerr steered another free-kick wide and Ryan, then Robinson headed on to the roof of the net. Two would do, though. And after four minutes of added time, an orgy of joy was unleashed.
Picton re-acted his semi-final Giggs-athon, individual and team dives were hilariously shortlived such was the dryness of an otherwise handsome pitch, and more than the odd customised policeman’s helmet ended up on the heads of the players.
Then up they went, treading in the footsteps of legends like Sir Bobby Moore, Jackie Milburn and Jim Montgomery. Having received the Vase from FA chief Lord Triesman, Coulson kissed, then lifted it to the massed blue and white hordes.
Tomorrow he will be back on his postie route, the same but different. Taylor will go back to school, Chow to the office and Ryan to selling. Rob McLean, Darren Reay, Callum Anderson, Chris Reid, Bruce Hogg, Andy Hayes, Chris Bone, Darren Timmons, Steve Cuggy, Gavin Fell (80/1 to score the winner), Glen Martin, Paul McIlduff, Derek and Jennifer Breakwell, Peter Siddle and Styles will go back to their everyday lives. The same but different. Because now they are Vase winners. And then there is Ian Chandler, like Cuggy a winner in 2002 but, now, the first to win it as a manager, too. He must be up there in the pantheon of (Google them) Bay legends Gladstone Adams, Hilton Valentine, Ian La Frenais and Jonny Decker.
The only man who looked happier yesterday was a spectator in the Royal Box, dancing away at the end to Status Quo’s ‘Rocking all over the world’. That was club president Sid Cope. He is 83.
GLOSSOP NORTH END: Cooper, Young, Kay, Lugsden, Yates, Gorton, Richard Bailey, Morris, Allen, Darren Hamilton, Hodges. Subs (not used): Tom Bailey, Whelan, Hind, Parker, Balfe.
WHITLEY BAY: Burke, Taylor, Picton, McFarlane, Coulson, Ryan, Moore, Robson, Kerr, Chow, Johnston. Subs (not used): Robinson, Fawcett, McLean, Bell, Reay.
Goals: Kerr 28, Chow 45.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire). Attendance: 12,200