VIDEO: Lowestoft Town v Whitley Bay FA Vase preview
Michael Bailey He has only been in the job six months but Lowestoft Town chairman Gary Keyzor believes tomorrow's FA Vase clash with Whitley Bay is 'the biggest game in the club's history'.
He has only been in the job six months but Lowestoft Town chairman Gary Keyzor believes tomorrow's FA Vase clash with Whitley Bay is "the biggest game in the club's history".
The Blues will be hoping to overturn their 2-1 first leg defeat at Hillheads last weekend in the return leg of their semi-final at Crown Meadow, and book a second successive Wembley final on May 10.
Keyzor, who took over in October after former chief Geoff Price resigned four months earlier, is aiming to bring Ryman League football to the town and is well aware what a Vase semi-final victory would mean for the Trawlerboys.
"Every Vase game has been a sensational experience for me with the buzz around the place, going to Wembley last year and the massive crowds we've had this year - and this one will be no exception," said Keyzor.
"In looking at the future of the club and regarding promotion, this is probably the biggest game in the club's history. Financially, making the final is worth about �17,000 without everything else like merchandise and ticket sales.
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"But it would put us in good stead for the future, give us the stability I have been looking for and enable us to attack a higher level. It's not going to be cheap competing at level four; that's what we've been aiming at."
Lowestoft have had the 'comforts' of the Eastern Counties League and its various guises since 1897, but moving up the non-league ladder is a serious ambition for Keyzor, whose side have an 11-point gap at the top of the Ridgeons League Premier Division.
"You've just got to look at teams like King's Lynn and Histon, and I think I'm young enough and have the enthusiasm to take the club as far as I can," said the 42-year-old. "Seven years ago, Histon were playing at the same level. They prove it can be done, with the right finances and the right people."
Keyzor is Lowestoft born and bred, helping to set up the successful Waveney Youth football club alongside being managing director of an electrical supply company.
And while he is happy to do his work as Town chairman in the background, Keyzor admitted his first season - which could still end in a Ridgeons League, FA Vase and Suffolk Premier Cup treble - has so far been a dream.
"Exactly; to still be in for those three and not just the first team - the reserves look like winning their league and are still in the cup competition - so the season for Lowestoft has been just that, with so much silverware to play for," said Keyzor.
Only a few tickets for tomorrow's second leg remain and none will be on sale on the day, meaning an all-ticket sell-out and 2,250 fans packed into at Crown Meadow.
"There aren't many tickets left, so we'll have a capacity crowd and there won't be any tickets for sale on the day," said Keyzor. "Winning the league is the biggie, that's where the week in, week out hard graft is. But to give the people of Lowestoft another day out in the capital would be fabulous.
"Wherever I go, people ask 'will you be going down to Wembley again', people who want another day out. It would all be for them, to go and see Wembley again whether football followers or not, and for them to get behind the town.
"The players trained at Norwich's Colney training ground on Tuesday and they'll all meet on Saturday at the Meadow for a pre-Vase breakfast. We've been at home in every round of the competition this year and they've done it each time, put on Sky Sports and Jamie Godbold even created a quiz once.
"It helps them settle down and prepare. But the players don't need much discipline or motivation. They've been here before so they know what it's all about and hopefully this time they can go and win it."