BOWERS & PITSEA are just 180 minutes away from Wembley but there’s one person who might not be celebrating if they reach the FA Vase final – manager Rob Small’s fiancé!
The 31-year-old boss of the Essex Senior League club, who take on Northern League outfit Morpeth in the two-legged semi-final, has a fixture clash.
Small and partner Zoe are getting married in Cyprus on Monday, May 23 – the day after the final.
“There’s definitely going to be one person not too thrilled if we win,” Small told The NLP. “We knew Flackwell Heath had done really well in the Vase last season. We overcame them in the second round and then knew, although not underestimating the games, we had draws in the third and fourth round we had a chance of winning.
“I thought, ‘I wonder when the final actually is?’ That’s when I realised it was the day before the wedding.
“At that point I joked about looking at flights and Zoe was all in good spirits. But it was the quarter-final when we beat Ipswich Wanderers in extra-time on a Wednesday night.
“We’ve got a little boy, Henry, who is five months old, so she was indoors with him and I crept into bed at about midnight trying not to disturb her.
“She’d obviously followed it on twitter. She opened one eye and said, ‘Can you stop winning games in this bloody competition!’
“At the moment it’s a discussion that’s not been seriously had and doesn’t need to be had. We’re in the semi-final and we’ve only got a chance of getting to the final because Morpeth will be tough.
“A lot of people will say there’s a once in a lifetime chance of getting to Wembley. The future Mrs Small will say there’s only a once in a lifetime chance of marrying me! Which is probably a fair argument.
“Realistically, if we get to the final, I won’t be there. I’ve got the support that’s needed and the players by that stage, as much of an inspiration and tactical genius as I am, all know their jobs.”
The former Burnham Ramblers, Bowers & Pitsea and Concord Rangers keeper realised six years ago he had a better chance of achieving as a manager rather than a player.
Having won the Essex Olympian League with Southminster St Leonards, he took over Bowers & Pitsea a season-and-a-half ago after they’d finished bottom of the league.
Last season they finished second behind Haringey Borough before this season’s remarkable run that has largely gone under the radar.
“I know a lot of the interest nationwide is in the Salisburys and Herefords of this world,” Small said. “For our little club to be mixing it with those sort of clubs is absolutely amazing. We’re going to try and enjoy every minute of it while it lasts.
“We did talk at the beginning of the season that we could do well in the FA Vase. People joked about getting to the final and maybe winning it. They’re not joking anymore, that’s for sure!”
Although Small has had to explain the finer details for people unfamiliar with one of Non-League’s most prestigious prizes.
“This is the thing with people outside of football,” he said. “The amount of people who have said to me, ‘Can’t they rearrange the final?’
“I’m like, ‘Do you understand this is a national Wembley final? No they can’t rearrange the final!’”