Wroxham boss looking to make history
Paddy Davitt Wroxham manager David Batch is urging his men to embrace the weight of history surrounding tomorrow's FA Vase final against Whitley Bay at Wembley.
Wroxham manager David Batch is urging his men to embrace the weight of history surrounding tomorrow's FA Vase final against Whitley Bay at Wembley.
Diss remain the only Norfolk club to have won the trophy after a 2-1 extra time success in 1994 at the old national stadium.
Wroxham's former Ridgeons allies Tiptree, AFC Sudbury and more recently Lowestoft all fell at the final hurdle - but Batch is adamant his Yachtsmen can write their own chapter in local footballing folklore.
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“If anything we want to use it as a positive,” said Batch. “If you were to ask people now not many could name the players from sides that didn't win it but I think you would stand a better chance of naming some of the Diss players, because they did.
“We're saying to our boys it's an opportunity rather than telling them to put it out of their minds. We're not going to slack off now, start enjoying the occasion and forget about the football. On the contrary, we want them to be the players who in another 16 years or so are getting contacted to comment on the next Norfolk side to reach Wembley. Our players can create history from a local football perspective. You don't remember the second or the runner up. In a decade it will be, 'didn't Wroxham get to the final once,' or it will be, 'Wroxham won it and this was their team.' That is the difference. The players are really close to the finish line now so to start jogging instead of sprinting towards it would do us no favours.”
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Batch insists Wroxham have nothing to fear from the holders.
“I don't think they are better than Armthorpe or Needham who we played in previous rounds,” he said. “But that, of course, doesn't mean we will naturally go on and win the game. I think both those teams are better and that is not being disrespectful to Whitley Bay because they probably feel Barwell - who they beat in the semi final - are a better side than us.
“I know on the day they might be capable of putting in the best performance of the season - but similarly so might we. I didn't want to play Barwell, I wanted to play Whitley Bay because you would have had two clubs there for the first time and it's a bit of the unknown. Both of us would have felt the same sort of pressures but having said that, Whitley Bay beat Barwell over two legs so they are not going to be a bad team.”
Batch has downplayed the significance of Whitley Bay's recent FA Vase win.
“We have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he said. “People can expect Whitley Bay to win and we are happy with that. We'll go and do the best we can and if they pull it out of the bag then fair play to them but if we do the best we can, they'll have to play well to pull it out of the bag. There is no fear of failure for us.
“I firmly believe what happened 12 months ago, in anything in life, has absolutely no relevance. It's about what you are doing now and what you are going to do - not what happened in the past. That's gone and that's why it's in the past. Who knows if it will have an impact? From speaking to their players who were at the press day they wished the whole squad could come back down again which is why we have arranged to tour the stadium and watch a bit of the FA Trophy game. Good preparation can give you an edge, but its no guarantee. What matters most is what the players do on the day - its all about the players.”
Skipper Graham Challen has shaken off a hamstring injury to lead his troops but young wide player Matty Daniels (groin) has lost his fitness battle.
“I feel so sorry for him because he is the only member of our squad not available to take part through injury,” said Batch. “But Whitley Bay have joint managers who both want to lead their team out so we have been allowed to bring an extra mascot and Matty will walk out with the team in his kit on the day itself. He's a teenager, he's the youngest member of the squad and he still has his whole career in front of him. But he had been very impressive this season, he started the quarter and semi-finals and you could argue if he had kept us his form he had a good chance of starting.
“Graham is fine. He just had a hammy but we gave him 45 minutes in our final league game to test it and he has had another eight days rest so he will be even fresher. He trained absolutely fine this week but we took him off at half time last Saturday as a precaution because at this stage of the season and with the amount of games we have played you take no chances because players are more susceptible to injury.”
Batch unveiled his starting line up to the squad at the start of the most important week in the Yachtsmen's history.
“I think it's important they know as you have enough nervous energy going on anyway around a game like this,” he said. “We don't need to increase that by withholding information. Keeping it amongst the coaches is probably a disadvantage. Now they can relax and get prepared to carry out whatever role they have been given - be it as a starter, a sub or in the stands.
“Like always you always have one or two question marks, whether it's through personnel available or the system, and there was a couple of starting spots up for grabs - mainly due to the performances of people over the last few weeks. Telling people is one of the hardest things I have had to do in football. Not the hardest, though, because I've been in situations when I have had to release 18-year-olds from professional football clubs and that is harder because you are taking away someone's career and hopes. But there are a couple of players who I feel are unlucky not to be a part of it.”
Batch wants his players to relish the historic occasion.
“For me, personally I have got that feeling when you are about to go away on holiday,” he said. “I'm quite excited, looking forward to it, and I can't wait to get there. We've said to the players there are a couple of key words we are looking for this weekend and it's important we remain calm and relaxed.
“Both on Monday and Wednesday we looked really sharp, really bright at training. Matty (Daniels) was watching it on Wednesday and he turned to me on the touchline and said the same thing. In terms of the mood away from the pitch I would say it has been quite relaxed. We can enjoy it but we also need to make the correct decisions and not get caught up in the occasion and the hype.”
Wroxham's party will train at Championship club Watford this morning before sampling the unique Wembley atmosphere at the FA Trophy final.
“We're not going to watch the Trophy game, more what happens before that, what the players have to do and so on,” said Batch. “By the time we get back to the hotel and have something to eat it will 8pm so we'll allow the lads' time to chill out and relax. We haven't done a lot different to the previous rounds - the only thing that really changes is the opposition and what we have to do to combat their strengths and weaknesses.
“We've made the players aware of that and what we plan to do to try and hurt them but ultimately it is a game of football. Of course we wouldn't normally go to the ground beforehand to watch a match or go down to the hotel two nights before so perhaps in that sense we have prepared for the occasion but in terms of the football we haven't done anything different to what got us here. They'll in the right frame of mind. I just want them to go and perform one more time and if they do - it's history.”