It is every football manager’s dream to lead their side out at Wembley.
But having already achieved that feat, Gosport Borough manager Alex Pike is stepping aside to allow assistant Mick Catlin the honour in next month’s historic FA Trophy final.
The Privett Park side earned their right to a maiden trip to the home of football on Saturday, when Tim Sills’ headed double earned a 2-0 victory over Skrill South neighbours the Hawks, completing a deserved 3-1 two-legged aggregate semi-final success.
Skrill Premier heavyweights Cambridge United lie in wait for Borough and Pike – who led Wessex League outsiders Wimborne Town to a memorable FA Vase success over defending champions Guiseley in 1992.
But on Sunday, March 23, it will be loyal right-hand man Catlin heading the underdogs’ emotional walk on to the hallowed turf of the national stadium.
Pike said: ‘For me on a personal level, to take my adopted town Wimborne to a Wembley final in the FA Vase and my real home of Gosport to the final of the FA Trophy is something that is hard to take in.
‘What I have decided is that my assistant Mick Catlin will lead the side out at Wembley,
‘I’ve already had that privilege with Wimborne and Mick’s loyalty to me and the club will be rewarded on the day.’
Euphoric scenes greeted referee Tim Robinson’s final whistle at the weekend, as Pike and his management team – along with the majority of the bumper 2,901 crowd – raced onto the Privett Park pitch in jubilation.
But the Borough boss was quick to sympathise with opposing manager Lee Bradbury, before insisting his attention now turns to the Skrill South newcomers’ – who could also seal a Hampshire Senior Cup final place at Fratton Park with victory over Basingstoke – fight to remain in the division next season.
Pike said: ‘My thoughts are with Lee Bradbury, I cannot begin to imagine just how he feels at the moment.
‘That’s life and that’s football, for us it means a great deal, more so if we manage to reach the final of the Hampshire Senior Cup and have a trip to Fratton Park to look forward to.
‘How I would have dealt with it I really don’t know.
‘But more importantly, over the next month we need to focus on our league position and take enough points to climb the table.
‘This win against the Hawks is now to be put in the pigeon hole for the time being.
‘It was a match that was there to be won and my lads made sure it was to be their day.
‘Now it’s back to the bread and butter of saving ourselves.
‘It took us a long time to reach the Skrill South and the thought of stepping backwards is something that doesn’t register.’
And Pike, whose rock-bottom side are now six points adrift of safety – but with as many as six games in hand on teams above them – is in no mood to allow next month’s showpiece event to blur the bigger picture.
He added: ‘Going to Wembley is one thing but our league position needs sorting.
‘We are at the bottom simply because of playing far less games than teams around us, that’s the simple and honest answer.’