Steve King and Tony Henderson-Smith represented the club's award-winning community programme at Saturday's FA Cup Final, with Steve on the pitch before kick-off in his Sutton United shirt to join the choir in leading the crowd in the traditional singing of Abide With Me. Amber Lane caught up with them to ask about their experience.
AMBER: So, Tony, can I start with you? That was a great game, one of the best finals we have seen in recent years. What was the atmosphere like in the stadium?
TONY: Well we were amongst the Arsenal supporters, albeit very near the “neutral” seats and we had a great view. I must say the atmosphere was terrific and they do really put on a show these days. It was great seeing the United shirt out there on the pitch and I thought what a good day out it will be for us lot next season...
AMBER: Steve, let's turn the clock back a bit. How did you travel up to Wembley and what time did you arrive?
STEVE: Tony very kindly agreed to drive to Wembley on the Friday and we arrived around 1pm.
AMBER: Did the FA arrange anything beforehand or did you simply go straight to your seats?
STEVE: The FA were fantastic, keeping in touch days before and discussing exactly what was going to happen; the detail of the planning was very professional and very reassuring. The FA very kindly arranged hotel accommodation and not just any hotel but The Hilton right next to the famous stadium, Tony and I enjoyed a few beers with views of the stadium.
AMBER: Tony, I assume you were sitting next to each other. What sort of view of the game did you have?
TONY: As I have said we had a very good view nearly on the half way line and Kingy looked so proud standing out there on the pitch. Fortunately, his singing was drowned out by the choir and the crowd because I must say he has the worst singing voice I think I have ever heard. We had a good chat with the other representatives and everybody was extremely complementary about our cup run. I also had the chance to catch up with Gerry aka Gunnersaurus for a quick mascot to mascot chat down on the touchline - he is such a nice guy, I mean prehistoric monster.
AMBER: Steve, you were the one doing the singing. Was there any sort of rehearsal beforehand? Did you have to learn the words or were they on the big screen?
STEVE: I arrived on the day at Wembley Staduim at 9:30am, greeted by FA official Tom and met up with all the other FA Cup teams' representatives from Lincoln, Millwall, Stourbridge, Arsenal, Chelsea and Guernsey. We were shown to our dressing room where we met the professional singing coach and choir. The rehearsals started around 10am, we had several rehearsals then it was time to do a full rehearsal actually on the famous Wembley pitch. Just walking out into the empty stadium was amazing and standing on the famous Wembley grass pitch was a dream.
Around 1pm I was asked if I would be happy to do a pitch-side interview with BBC London. This went well, talking about the FA Cup run and Disability football.
At 4pm I was collected from my Wembley seat and went back to our choir dressing room, a vocal coach went over some vocal warm up training (completely wasted on my terrible singing voice).
At 5:18 we lined up with the band and walked into the stadium. I could never have imagined how loud the crowd would be as we walked to our position on the pitch. As for knowing the words, I knew most of them, I was just concentrating on the vocal coach in front of me trying to look like I knew what I was singing, I think I managed just to pull it off.
It was a moment that I'll never forget. A once in lifetime opportunity to walk on the famous Wembley pitch just before kick off, it was such a great honour for me and Tony to be selected by the club, one I will always be grateful for.
AMBER: And are you a good singer? A blond Pavarotti?
STEVE: No, I could never claim to be any sort of singer, I was obviously not picked to represent the club at Wembley because of my singing as you now may be aware. I must be the worst singer in Sutton, possibly the world and to be honest I haven't stopped laughing at my singing debut on the BBC News.
A blond Pavarotti? I see myself more like a White Chocolate Pavolva.
AMBER: Tony, I believe the invitation to the club to send representatives to the final came out of the blue but it was a fitting way to end a great season for the club. Only last week we were named as Community Club of the Year, you must have been proud and delighted with that?
TONY: Well I must say that this season has been the best I can remember not only in terms of the fantastic efforts of the first team but also how the club is developing its community programme. It isn't until you start explaining to others what we do at the club that you appreciate all the good work that is being done. Steve, Steve Preedy and Adam King have worked especially hard in developing the Community teams and it is my view that we have the best set up in the area. Everyone associated with the club has the right to feel very proud about the many good things happening at Sutton United.
With regard to the actual cup final there were so many memorable moments. It was great so see some of United's goals being played back on the big screen and then for Steve's name to be sent around the stadium on the electronic advertising boards. If you get the chance to see the match programme there is a great article where Bruce is interviewed about the cup run. So it's a really big thank you to the FA for arranging the day and for celebrating the essence of the Cup.
Whilst there are so many great people who have worked so hard to deal with all that is necessary to make the cup matches run smoothly, it is the players and management of the 2016/17 team to whom I will be eternally grateful. They have created memories that will never be forgotten, they have brought new supporters to the club and they have raised the profile of the club so much. It is now the duty of all of us to maintain that momentum and to continue to improve. Oh dear, does that sound a bit over the top? Oh, I don't care, that's what seeing the Sutton United shirt out on the Wembley pitch can do to you, albeit being worn by the world's worst tenor.
AMBER: Steve, your season with the pan-disability squad ended on a high when you captured the league title. The season couldn't have gone any better for the Community teams?
STEVE: The Sutton United Pan-Disability section has made great progress this season and we are very proud to have recently launched our 3rd team, Sutton United Hunters.
With our first team winning the Surrey FA Championship and claiming promotion to the elite Premier League it's been a brilliant season. This was the A team's priority and winning the league with a record of P39 W30 D9 L1 (98 pts) has been a great achievement.
Steve Preedy's Sutton U's [2nd team] have been just as impressive, gaining great results all season as well as providing players moving up to play in the first team and have won the first ever AFC Wimbledon Tournament with a 100% record.
On the 11-a-side front the team reached the quarter-finals of the FA Disability Cup.
And in their first-ever game the new 3rd team Sutton Hunters played out a memorable 4-4 draw with Arsenal. Sutton Hunters will be playing their league games next season in the new AFC Wimbledon League.
The team are also playing in the Irish FA George Best Community Cup in Belfast in June. We will be trying to improve on our 3rd out of 72 teams finish last June.
All of our Community Teams players have confirmed that they want to stay and play their part in the exciting journey for next season. We have added two new faces for next season, they have been training with us and we are delighted to welcome an ex-England Pan-Disability player as a player-coach and also a Disability Football GB Gold Medalist to our already amazing playing squads. It's very important we continue to improve on and off the pitch and having these two internationals asking if they could join and be part of the exciting Sutton United Disability Football Programme just shows how far we have come and what we are looking to achieve.