Mark Carruthers: The time for waiting and debating is finally over - Hebburn Town and Consett will finally get their day at Wembley
The time for waiting, contemplating and debating is finally over.
At long last, after nearly 12 months assessing the numerous ifs and buts, Consett and Hebburn Town will finally get their big day at Wembley.
There can be no doubt this will not be a ‘normal’ FA Vase Final between two of the most forward-thinking clubs in the North East non-league game.
These are different, unusual times and the build-up to Monday’s game has encapsulated the environment we have all become accustomed to living in over the last year.
Supporters are forced to watch events from distance, media duties have been carried out in line with the strict guidelines and some of the usual buzz of Wembley week has been uncomfortably absent.
That said, as Monday has crept into vision, excitement levels have risen, albeit not to their usual levels.
Enthusiastic, unbridled videos of support from junior teams at both clubs have warmed even the coldest of hearts and the air of increasing tension in players and managers has been all to evident.
This is their day as much as anyone’s and they deserve their moment on a pitch where legends are created, and dreams are realised and crushed in equal measures.
There is little to choose between the two sides and that is the message coming across from a number of experienced onlookers.
Consett’s pace and vibrancy feels well-suited to Wembley’s wide-open space – but Hebburn have an experienced spine and a whole host of players used to the big occasion.
There is undoubted talent in both squads – not to mention the intriguing angle of Consett captain Arjun Purewal facing his twin Amar as two South Asian brothers and proud Sikhs compete at the home of football for the very first time.
Luke Carr’s creativity, Dale Pearson’s cool head in front of goal and the guile of the likes of Jake Orrell, Jermaine Metz and Calvin Smith all make Consett a threat to any side.
That is not to underplay Hebburn’s considerable strength – far from it.
They have matchwinners aplenty and the likes of Michael Richardson, Tom Potter and Graeme Armstrong are more than capable of helping their side grab the headlines come mid-afternoon on Monday.
The two managers are similar characters and offer little in the way of an indicator to lean towards either of their sides.
Consett manager Terry Mitchell and Hebburn counterpart Kevin Bolam consistently laud the strength of their experienced players and coaching staff – rather than push themselves forward as leaders of the dressing room.
Both were appointed in the summer of 2019 and have led their clubs to a maiden appearance at Wembley in what is technically still their first season in the role.
They both have clear, defined styles of play – they are clear and concise in the messages they deliver to players and they have both kept a cool head as Wembley approached.
At the risk of being accused of sitting on the fence, this feels like the closest FA Vase Final in years.
There is a case to make either side slight favourites, but that would underplay the obvious threat in their opponents.
No matter which way it goes, Consett or Hebburn will become the tenth North East club to lift the Vase as the region’s love affair with the competition continues - and all of the nervous waiting of the last year will feel like a distant memory.