'It’s an unbelievable turnaround for the club' - Hebburn Town captain Louis Storey confident ahead of FA Vase semi-final
The Hornets are currently in Kent as they prepare for their FA Vase semi-final against Southern Counties East League club Corinthian on Saturday afternoon.
That is all a far cry from the events of early 2017 when a drop in attendances led to an appeal for support to help secure the future of the club.
The appointment of new directors and fresh investment led to a rejuvenation in fortunes as Scott Oliver led the club into Northern League Division One and then secured a second-place finish in their first season back in the top tier.
The foundations left by Oliver were built on by current manager Kevin Bolam and the former Hornets reserve team manager looked set to celebrate his first season in charge with promotion into the Northern Premier League and a historic run to the semi-final of the FA Vase.
The outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic cruelly ended any thoughts of progressing up the non-league pyramid, but the dreams of Wembley remain alive after the Football Association delivered on their promise to finalise last season’s Vase.
Speaking ahead of his side’s journey to Kent, Hornets captain Storey told The Gazette: “We said earlier this week that after seeing the fixtures for this season’s Vase and league released, last season’s Vase might not go ahead.
“I was really concerned, but now we can get a fair crack of the whip down there and it’s just sheer excitement for everyone involved at the club.
“It’s an unbelievable turnaround for the club when you think of where they were not so long ago, and we are all really proud to be part of it.
“To be 90 minutes from Wembley is testament to the new owners, the committee members and everyone that works hard behind the scenes.
“What we do on the pitch isn’t achievable without their hard work – we buy into that work ethic, we want to give them something to celebrate and we take our hat off to them because without them, it isn’t possible.”
Storey will hope to celebrate reaching his second FA Vase Final appearance by tea-time on Saturday.
The Hornets skipper was part of the South Shields squad that won the competition as part of a historic quadruple in 2017.
An impressive Corinthian side stand in the way of a return to the Home of Football – but Storey is relishing the prospect of taking on the Kent outfit on their own ground.
He said: “You expect to play teams of a standard that could be playing higher in the latter stages of the Vase.
“We see ourselves as one of those sides, we think we have shown we can compete with clubs higher up the pyramid during pre-season, and I have no doubt that Corinthian will see themselves that way too.
“The strength they obviously pose, as players and as a club, we see it as an exciting challenge to take on at this stage of the competition.”