Moles defender Liam Gavin is set to achieve something which has proven even beyond the players at his beloved Manchester United this season – that is to play on the greatest stage of all, in a Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
It will be only a fourth trip to the National Stadium for Southcote born and raised Gavin, this time however it will be as a player rather than a spectator. However, he has previously treaded where heroes dare, onto the pitch itself. Recounting his own visits to HA9 he reminisces: “I watched Reading lose to Huddersfield Town in the playoffs, Thatcham win the Vase, and stood on the pitch watching Fleetwood Mac.”
In fact, Liam was recalled that rock gig only recently: “My girlfriend did remind me the other day I’d said to her ‘imagine playing here’ whilst watching them.”
A wish come perhaps true then, but not quite the ‘dreamed it as a kid’ scenario which crops up in clichés at special times such as this. Gavin admits “I didn’t live and breathe football when I was young, I always played and always supported Man U from an early age but never really had aspirations of being a footballer.”
A footballer he most certainly has become, however: “I started with Kennet Valley on Sundays from 4 until about 18! When I was 16 I started playing men’s football on Saturdays for Westwood Wanderers. After a few seasons there I went down to Amesbury Town in the Wessex league, before doing a short stint at Highmoor and then onto Binfield about 4 years ago.”
Liam has proven a dependable figure for Carl Withers and Jamie McClurg and, although now fully established as a defender, he has experience of other positions earlier in his career. “I played a bit of everywhere to be honest. Mostly centre-midfield when I was about 16-22. I probably wasn’t creative enough to play centre-mid and perhaps knew that myself. So when I signed for Binfield it was sort of a fresh start and a good time to step back into centre-half.”
Results of course make for a happy dressing room but Gavin is particularly forthcoming with praise for the impact of the management team and feels that this FA Vase appearance was perhaps the team’s destiny: “When we came back to football 6-8 weeks ago with this final in mind I fully believed this was possible. We’ve got a dressing room players would kill to be a part of and two Managers in Withs and Dodds that have given us so much over the last few seasons and put so much trust and belief into me personally and all the other boys, so that we’ve gone into these games with no fear. We’ve got our feet firmly on the ground and know that we are owed nothing, but if we give 100% and believe in ourselves and each other we can achieve something special.”
And Liam has friends who he can call upon in terms of preparing for the Wembley experience, individuals in that Thatcham side which – thanks to Shane Cooper-Clark’s penalty – brought the Vase to Berkshire in 2018 are names in his phone book: “Harry Grant and I go way back, Tom Moran is a good friend, Yash (Romeo) also. Then I got to know a few more of them over the years, to be honest it was great to watch and probably made me think – you know what this is possible. They had a great side without doubt and I think we’ve built a similar side over the past two seasons.”