GOSPORT Borough are off to Wembley – and are set to land a welcome windfall as a result.
Borough fans are in dreamland after the club booked their place at the home of football thanks to a 2-0 second-leg success over local rivals Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Trophy semi-final.
Saturday’s win at Privett Park – which gave the hosts a 3-1 victory on aggregate – means Gosport will now grace Wembley when they take on Cambridge United in the final on Sunday, March 23.
As well as the prestige of gracing one of the world’s finest venues, the club’s run in the competition could see them rake in more than £250,000.
Chairman Mark Hook told The News Gosport have already netted £46,000 in prize money and are guaranteed a £25,000 cheque for reaching the final.
That will rise to £50,000 if they lift the trophy. Added to that is ticket sales from the two semi-final matches, expected to come to between £10,000 and £15,000, as well as around £1,000 already taken in merchandise receipts.
Meanwhile, last year’s trophy winners, Wrexham, made £225,000 from gate receipts from the Wembley final.
The money will be a huge boost to the Skrill South side, who have not been able to repair their clubhouse roof after it was damaged by recent storms.
Mr Hook said: ‘If you get to the semi-finals of any national trophy, the financial rewards are there.
‘We will be looking at how we can improve the facilities.
‘There’s not going to be any immediate reaction of saying “this is what we are going to do”.
‘We will ensure the club is debt-free and then we will look to see where we can invest and make Gosport a stronger club over the next few seasons.’
Borough fans stormed on to the pitch as the referee blew the final whistle on Saturday.
Neil Reeves, 47, from Rowner has been a Gosport fan all his life.
He said: ‘I’m very happy. I’m elated and relieved. It’s unbelievable. I’ve supported Gosport for over 40 years and it’s never been like this.
‘I never thought we would be going to Wembley. We’ve never been in this position before. We’re never likely to be again. It’s the best time I’ve had supporting Gosport.
‘I’ll be queuing up for the tickets whenever they get announced.’
Gordon Sears, 78, from Bridgemary, said: ‘I’m elated. I’ve been watching Gosport for the past eight years since I stopped going over to Fratton Park.
‘I didn’t think we would be in this position. We just didn’t expect to get this far. We’ve played so many teams that are a higher level than us and we’ve beaten the lot of them.’
But Gordon will miss the Wembley game as he’s on holiday in the Lake District.
‘We’ve booked a cottage up there,’ he said. ‘I didn’t even think about getting to the final.’
About 3,000 fans crammed into Privett Park on Saturday, with the kick-off delayed due to crowd congestion.
Mr Hook added: ‘It puts Gosport on the map. Nobody will have heard of Gosport Borough outside the non-league areas we have played in.
‘It gives us national recognition. It’s the pinnacle of every player to be able to play at Wembley.
‘To take your team to Wembley has got to be the highlight of your career.
‘It means everything to the fans. I want to give a massive thank you to the companies that sponsor us, too.’
· Ticket details for the final are still to be announced but are expected to be finalised when Gosport officials visit Wembley Stadium on Thursday.