‘The famous USP’ now have the belief they can reach Wembley – top scorer James Franklyn on a remarkable FA Vase run

The chants of 'Wembley, Wembley' started way back in October as US Portsmouth celebrated their surprise FA Vase second round qualifying victory at higher tier AFC Portchester.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 3:00 pm
James Franklyn celebrates his goal in US Portsmouth's FA Vase victory over Brockenhurst in December. Pic: Martyn White.

And breaking into song about playing under the famous arch has become customary with USP remarkably winning through six rounds to reach the last eight.

Yet, despite the loud Wembley cries – including the phrase ‘we're the famous USP’ - top scorer James Franklyn confessed that not even the players really believed it was possible ... until now.

Glenn Tunbull's step 6 record-breakers claimed a fifth higher division scalp in six FA Vase rounds with a stunning last-16 triumph at Western League Premier Division heavyweights Tavistock last weekend.

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James Franklyn puts Christchurch ahead in their FA Vase fourth round tie against Christchurch. Pic: Martyn White.

And, for the first time, Franklyn says the squad were actually starting to believe, just maybe, the catchy Wembley chant which started in jest at Portchester could actually become glorious reality.

The route is set - USP host step 5 Hellenic League Premier Flackwell Heath in the quarter-final on Saturday with the winner knowing a home tie awaits for the right to reach Wembley against either Long Eaton or Binfield.

Flackwell are also surprise quarter-finalists - they weren’t expected to win at Fareham’s conquerors Plymouth Parkway, but triumphed 4-2.

Franklyn, 23, remarked: 'I think when we drew Portchester, not being down, but we all thought we could be out in the first round, but we beat them and the confidence has grown since.

‘In the previous games - obviously after the games you’ll hear us singing ‘Wembley, Wembley’ - but I don’t think people actually believed we’d get this far.

‘After Saturday people started to think we can do it, especially with two home games.

‘Going into the game (at Tavistock) everyone was a bit nervous because we’d looked at some of their results and some of the articles saying they’d scored 95 goals or something between the strikers over the past two seasons.

‘But beating them has definitely given us more hope that we can win on Saturday, especially with Plymouth Parkway being knocked out as well.

‘It would be nice to win on Saturday, I’m sure the celebrations would be as good as they were last weekend.'

Franklyn - his side’s leading marksman in 2020/21 with 17 goals, including three in the Vase - feels the fates could be aligning in his side's favour.

He knows the squad will probably never get a better chance of going all the way with two home ties standing between them and Wembley.

Franklyn added: 'We’ve played two friendly games against AFC Portchester and Moneyfields (before resuming in the Vase), then going into the Christchurch game we looked a bit tired towards the end.

'But by the time Saturday (at Tavistock) came and the game just gone, I think everyone was back to full fitness and hopefully we can do that again on Saturday.

'Winning against Christchurch a couple of weeks ago gave us massive hope and with the Tavistock game only being a week away, the momentum was there. We didn’t have to concentrate on playing in the league or another cup, so that’s definitely helped us.

‘Out of our squad only Tom Jeffes has been to the last-16 so for some of the younger lads, like myself, it hasn’t really hit home yet how well we’ve actually done.'