On Sunday, Football Association competition returned to the town for the first time in two decades as Wokingham & Emmbrook hosted Chipping Sodbury Town in the FA Vase First Qualifying Round at Lowther Road.
Football in Berkshire spoke to President Mark Ashwell about the day that saw spectators old and new, ex-players, managers, neighbouring clubs and visitors from further afield as well as importantly, an extra time win for the Sumas.
Ashwell said: “It was amazing. Really emotional. Like watching the life flashing before you as people arrived who have been part of the past, especially the Wokingham Town days. I was even getting calls from Roy Merryweather, he gave me a little speech on the phone in the morning saying well done to us all, and as soon as he’s able he wants to get along and watch.
“It was all of that going on so it was really quite good!”
The icing on the cake of course was the win against a team in a higher division, the Sumas did the business on the pitch: “They absolutely did yeah, obviously it went to extra time, we scored with pretty much the last kick of the game to make it 2-1 which is always good.
“We had 225 in to watch as well. They were a step above us which is nice.”
The Second Qualifying Round
Regarding the FA Vase Second Qualifying Round tie against Thornbury Town which will also be on a Sunday, the Sumas President said: “They are in Division One West, apparently they aren’t a bad side but we’re feeling quite good at the moment but you never know. It’s at home again and we’ll do it on a Sunday, the 15th. We do have a slight clash with the cricket so we’re going to take advantage of that and push it to the Sunday. Another BBQ experience!”
Mark agreed the games being back at Lowther Road made a huge difference: “Absolutely, 100%.
“We potentially wouldn’t have won that if we were at Bracknell Town or Henley Town or somewhere else. To have a partisan crowd of nearly 300 behind the team as you get in to those moments, everybody will say from the Premier League down that you need the support. To be at home is wonderful.
“Our players are playing against teams that pay and they are actually paying for the privilege. They get themselves a membership of the club. At the moment its good, the spirit of the club attracts the players as opposed to any amount of money which is what you need.
Whether that carries on who knows, but that’s where we are at the moment!
When asked whether the current crowds could be sustained, he said: “We hope so, obviously we look at the weather, we look at where we are in cup competitions and the novelty, but we’ve got a core support which has always been loyal to us and if we can increase that by, say 30% that takes us to average crowds of well over a 100. That’s what we figure and are aiming for.
“Of course they can actually stay dry now as well. While you’ve got to get to the stand, once you are in there you are dry!”
Further reading: Satsumas Vase Homecoming Bears Fruit via Base of the Pyramid.
Main image: Wokingham & Emmbrook by Neil Graham.
Mark Ashwell will appear on the forthcoming Berkshire Football Stories podcast from Football in Berkshire, talking about Finchampstead Road. Sign up here for a notification of its release here.