Binfield goalkeeper Chris Grace. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com
Binfield goalkeeper Chris Grace. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

Shootout hero Chris Grace ready for Binfield’s FA Vase date

Moles stopper Chris Grace made it to the Vase Quarter Finals three times, now he's about to walk out at Wembley
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Binfield goalkeeper Chris Grace. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com
Binfield goalkeeper Chris Grace. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

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He’s been the penalty shoot-out hero for Binfield in the FA Vase this season, making crucial spot-kick saves on four occasions in this season’s run to the final.

Now Moles number one Chris Grace is gearing up for the big day under the arch when Binfield take on Warrington Rylands on Saturday under the arch.

Unsurprisingly for Grace he’s “really looking forward to it all, it’s all anyone is asking me about!”

But the former Ascot United, Reading Town, Bracknell Town and Hendon stopper has a bit of history with the competition having three times reached the Quarter Finals – twice with Ascot in 12/13 and 14/15 and once with Bracknell in 17/18. So what is it about the Moles that has pushed him further in the competition?

LIVE! Follow all the build-up to the big game, including how people and local businesses are supporting the Moles on our live blog here.

Chris Grace guesses right in the Fakenham Town v Binfield penalty shootout. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com
Chris Grace guesses right in the Fakenham Town v Binfield penalty shootout. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

“Listen, at Ascot we had a really really good side, a tight-knit group and it says something that I’ll walk out at Wembley with some of those lads on Saturday. We got to the Quarter Finals twice with a similar group. What’s the difference? I think this squad now just has that little extra something that’s got us through some really tight encounters.”

“I’ve been to three Quarter Finals and lost them all, the first time you think there will be more but as you go on, you start to think ‘is this my last chance?’. You always think ‘what if’.

“We didn’t think we’d be back again this season but then I got the call from Withs [joint-manager Carl Withers] and we’re back on the road.”

Penalties

Of course, penalties have been a big thing for the club in the competition with Grace making crucial interventions at Fakenham Town, Hadley and in the semi-final with US Portsmouth, but he’s certainly giving nothing away: “I’ve a set thing for penalties, a way I’ve set up and I’ll tell you all about it after the final!”

‘Well-travelled’

Chris Grace at Bracknell Town in 2007. Photo: BerkshireLive
Chris Grace at Bracknell Town in 2007. Photo: BerkshireLive

Grace first came to prominence at Bracknell Town where he broke into Jon Underwood’s side in 2007 and he’s had long successful spells with a number of local clubs before returning to the Robins, and then on to Binfield.

“I think I’ve played for every local club bar maybe Wokingham & Emmbrook, apart from a little spell at Hendon I’m not one for travelling, I keep my football local!”

‘We’re going there to win’

For most players, playing at Wembley in a televised final is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the Binfield stopper is under no illusion as to the magnitude of what lies ahead for him and his teammates.

“I’ve been to watch games at Wembley before but this is different, walking out the tunnel will be unreal.

“We are going there to win, make no mistake. It could be the best footballing-day of our lives out there. Whatever happens though it’ll be incredible to look back on, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because if all goes to plan off the pitch I’m not sure we’ll be in many peoples heads for the FA Trophy final next season!

“It’s about more than the players though, it’s the people at the club who’ve worked so hard, it’s for everyone locally.”

Chris Grace and Liam Day. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com
Chris Grace and Liam Day. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

One man in the squad though knows all about a day out at Wembley, Jemel Johnson was part of the victorious Thatcham Town team in 2018: “A few of the lads have tried to get the lowdown from JJ but you know what he’s like, he’s so down to earth he just brushes it off, but I’m sure he’ll be sharing a bit of experience.

“It’s been said a lot I know but this is a great group, Dodds [joint-manager Jamie McClurg] said before that there was no limit to what this team could achieve, and the thing with Dodds is he’s mostly right.

“It’ll be an incredible day, the fact I am able to enjoy it with two of my best mates Hanks and Liam [Day – club physio] will mean even more.”

And if it goes to penalties again? Well, he’s not telling us but you can bet Gracey will be ready.

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