United in victory!
PUBLISHED: 18:10 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 09:46 23 August 2010
FLEET players will tour the town tonight in an open top bus after securing their first major piece of silverware in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at Wembley. On Saturday temperatures soared with pubs and bars in Gravesend opening from 9am as 25,000 Ebb
FLEET players will tour the town tonight in an open top bus after securing their first major piece of silverware in front of a 40,000-strong crowd at Wembley.
On Saturday temperatures soared with pubs and bars in Gravesend opening from 9am as 25,000 Ebbsfleet United fans prepared for the club's most important game in their 52-year history, the FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium.
Coaches from around north Kent and south London poured in to transport die hard Fleet supporters and internet shareholders to the game against Torquay United.
And the legion of Fleet fans were not disappointed as the team ran out 1-0 winners with former Torquay player Chris McPhee scoring the only goal of the game just before half-time, having seen his penalty saved minutes earlier.
Speaking on Tuesday, chairman Brian Killcullen said: "It has been an amazing year in the club's history. I am still on a high. There have been three major achievements this year. The name change, the first ever internet website deal and us winning the FA Trophy are three amazing events. I am still on a high, who could have predicted that? We have made steady progress and all this improves our chance of getting into the Football League and a new stadium which I am sure will be other landmark occasions.
"It has been confirmed that an open top bus with the players and managers will leave Stonebridge Road at 6.30pm and make its way to the Civic Centre. It has been organised for a 6.30pm departure at Stonebridge Road so people can get home from work and children can come along too. We cannot do it at the weekend as players are on holiday so this is our best opportunity."
This time last year Gravesend and Northfleet FC (GNFC) were a little known non-league club who cleverly changed their name in a bid to win their biggest ever sponsor in Eurostar and gain more fans in the ever-growing Ebbsfleet Valley.
Today they are a global phenomenon, bought out by a host of internet geeks, bloggers and sport fans obsessed with 'fantasy football' leagues.
Thousands supported the club at Wembley, but tens of thousands more from around the world tuned in to web channels and Sky TV to watch the historic match.
Lifelong fan Alan Parker, 71, of Fountain Walk, Gravesend, said: "The tension, the ecstasy, the tears, we had it all.
"The stadium is absolutely awesome and it took my breath away. From start to finish the day was fantastic.
"I'm not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes when they lifted the cup and when I got home I was mentally and emotionally shattered. It will stick in my mind forever.
"I never thought I would see the day when I watched the Fleet at Wembley. I went to the 1974 final when Dartford lost in the Trophy final to Morecambe, but of course that was the old Wembley.
"Someone said to me two months ago that it was fate we would go to Wembley and win the trophy, that our name was on it. Could the name change be responsible, could the myfootballclub deal be responsible? Who really knows but when all this was announced there was some controversy. I had my reservations but look at us now. I just hope some of those fans who went to Wembley stick with the club and become supporters who attend week in week out."
Victory was the perfect end to a season that has seen the club become the first team to be taken over by thousands of fans who pledged £35 to myfootballclub.co.uk.
Ebbsfleet agreed to the takeover last November and had the move rubberstamped in February. Its 20,000 members bought a 75 per cent share thought to be worth £600,000 in the ultimate 'fantasy football' game where members can have a say in the team and running of the club.
From the minute fans, whether from north Kent or new additions from the internet revolution, woke on Saturday morning they all sensed victory.
David Gould, 39, from Swanley, said: "This was a game not to be missed. It was a great day out and the crowd was fantastic.
"People need to get behind the club now and give their support when the drama of the final subsides and the cameras go away. This is when you will see if the name change, the internet takeover and the new sponsor is all worth it."
Thousands of fans met at the Eurostar International car park as a massive convoy of coaches hired by the club took excited fans to the famous stadium. Others took coaches organised by pubs and clubs.
Fans of Ebbsfleet and Torquay mixed in a carnival atmosphere outside as the two sets of fans walked proudly down Wembley's Olympic way. Once inside, Fleet fans stole the limelight creating a sea of red and white - the club's home colour. As cheers and Mexican waves filled the stadium the atmosphere was electric.
Vera Porter, 81, from Paddock Wood, is the sister of former Fleet captain and legend Sam Chambers, who died in January this year.
She said: "Sam would have been so proud to see his team at Wembley. It was a proud moment for me to know he was part of such a fantastic team with a great history.
"I listened to the whole of the match on Radio Kent and cried when they won. Sam was a Fleet legend. He started with the club in 1946 and played until 1961. He had two benefit games and won the Kent Senior Cup in 52/53 when the team beat Dartford 2-1. He was a legend, he was marvelous. If he had lived another four months he would have been absolutely delighted."
About a quarter of Gravesend's population went to Wembley, leaving the centre like a 'ghost town' for much of the day.
Those who were unable to go to the game were glued to the screen at pubs, including the Kings Head.
On Tuesday evening, manager Liam Daish and some of the players received a special Taking Pride in Gravesham Award from outgoing mayor Mrs Pat Oakeshott on her last official day of duty.