Manager Martin Larkin and chairman Joe Croker talk to Greg Miles about their final preparations for the big day at Wembley next weekend.

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Martin Larkin admits that his Tunbridge Wells side will have to be at the top of their game if they are to overcome three-time Northern League champions Spennymoor Town at Wembley next Saturday.

Just a week separates Wells from their mammoth date at Wembley in the final of the FA Vase, when the Kent League side will be backed by more than 9,000 fans in the capital.

They are just the second side in the county to ever reach the final, following Deal Town’s 1-0 win over Chippenham Town in 2000.

Manager Larkin, 32, has had little time to reflect, with a backlog of league fixtures that has left his side playing as often as five times a week.

Fortunately, there is just one game this week, on Monday at home to Cray Valley PM, before their date in the capital.

It means the squad will be able to train together on Tuesday and Friday before making the trip to their hotel in Windsor on Friday afternoon.

The opponents, heavily favoured by the bookies, who have priced them at 1/6, are the latest in a number of sides from the Northern League to grace the final in recent years and Larkin is well aware of the threat they pose. In fact, Wells knocked out the holders, Northern League side Duntston UTS, in the fourth round.

“If you look at the records for non-league clubs at step 5, Spennymoor are unbelievable,” he said. “We have beaten teams in that league already, but we’re under no illusions that we will have to be at our very best on the day.

“To win that league three times in a row is fantastic, but if you want to win the cup you have to beat the big teams.”

The final preparations have been done for their trip to the stadium, with Larkin keen for his side not to get too distracted on the day.

“Most of the guys have got Thursday and Friday off work,” he said. “We will meet up on Friday and go and see the pitch and get their photos done then so that on Saturday we are focused and ready to go.

“We have got a really nice hotel booked in Windsor near Eton Dorney. It’s 45 minutes from the stadium. A lot of the hotels the FA wanted us to stay in were near the ground, but we wanted that drive in to see the arch and get excited.

“There’s a lot going on before the game, with the build-up, the national anthem and the mascots. We need to make sure that when that whistle goes we are fully focused and not too excited.”

With every player wanting to play in what is the biggest game of their career, choosing the side is going to be tough for Larkin.

One piece of good news is that big striker Andy Irvine, who has scored seven goals in the cup run, should be fit for the final after being stretchered off against Woodstock Sports on Tuesday night with a back spasm.

“It’s a little emotional when you think about what they could miss out on,” said Larkin. “We have got four centre-forwards – we have got some tough choices to make.

“We have got to get the right combinations, it’s not just about individuals. That’s where the main discussion point lies, but anything can change before then.”

Off the pitch, chairman Joe Croker has been busy organising all the extra fixtures, but he allayed fears that the players would not be fresh, insisting the adrenaline rush would make up for any fatigue.

“It’s been a couple of the most hectic weeks we’ve ever had at the club – trying to sort out all these games while thinking about Wembley is hard,” he said. “But we’ve all stepped up to the plate. I can’t imagine that anyone playing at Wembley won’t be fresh – there’s no chance they won’t be at their best and putting in 100 per cent.”

The might of their opponents also means nothing to Croker, who believes Wells are more than a match for Spennymoor.

“History means nothing, does it? Dunston won the Vase last year and we knocked them out,” he said. “It’s about what you do on the day. They’re a good team, but so are we.

“Outside of family, this has got to be the number-one achievement – to be a part of this is very special. Everyone wants to talk to you all the time. There’s a thousand and one tasks to do.”

Croker became chairman four years ago, having previously been a season-ticket-holder at Crystal Palace, but he became disillusioned with the professional game.

“From where we were four years ago to where we are now is a great leap,” he said. “Four years ago on a Tuesday night we would be lucky to get 30 people here, but now we get 100 as a minimum. We are a building club.”



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