IT is a decision not many trainee gas fitters will have to make: to play in a World Cup qualifier or at Wembley?
This, though, was the predicament facing Jason St Juste in the immediate aftermath of North Ferriby United booking their place in Sunday’s FA Trophy final.
The 29-year-old left winger netted the decisive shoot-out penalty against Bath City last month to send the Villagers through to face Wrexham in non-League football’s showpiece occasion.
Getting to Wembley meant a dream harboured since first kicking a ball around the streets of his native Leeds as a child had finally been realised. A few days later, however, came news from the Caribbean that gave St Juste something to ponder seriously.
“I received a call-up from St Kitts & Nevis for their latest World Cup qualifier,” explains the graduate of the Leeds Brazilian Soccer School to The Yorkshire Post ahead of Sunday’s final.
“There is a World Cup qualifier against the Turks & Caicos Islands and they wanted me to play. I have played four times for St Kitts & Nevis.
“My father is from St Kitts so I just called the FA up over there and asked them if I could get involved. I was at AFC Farsley at the time and, obviously, never going to play for England so I thought, ‘Why not go for it?’
“The coach called me back and then invited me over. The Caribbean Cup was about to take place so I went over for two weeks. I met the coach, went straight into the team and ended up playing four games.
“The games were in Basseterre, the capital, in a stadium that was next to the cricket ground. The crowd was decent and I got man of the match in three of the games.
“A great experience for me and something I really enjoyed. Playing for your country is incredible and gives you a real sense of pride. Unfortunately for me, my call-up for the World Cup qualifiers would have meant flying out in the same week as Wembley.
“I had to choose one or the other. Chances like this don’t come round too often. St Kitts weren’t too happy, but I had to choose one and Wembley was it.
“I would love to have done both, I honestly would. But I can’t. The FA Trophy had to be the one and, really, I didn’t have to think twice.
“I have never played at Wembley. I have friends who have been in the Football League for years and they haven’t been there either. So, this is a big thing for me. A once-in-a-lifetime chance and I just couldn’t give it up.”
In the absence of the North Ferriby wideman, St Kitts took a 6-2 first-leg advantage from Monday’s first leg in Basseterre so should have enough to get through to the next stage of qualifying, a home and away encounter against El Salvador in June.
St Juste would love to be involved, but will have to see what fallout there is from his decision not to join up with the Caribbean side this week for the double-header against Turks & Caicos.
Only time will tell on that score but, regardless of the outcome, Sunday is going to be a special day for everyone involved with the Villagers.
For no one more so than St Juste, who after a year with Darlington in the Football League made what looked like being a dream move to Southampton.
The Saints had just been relegated from the Premier League, but were fancied to bounce straight back under Harry Redknapp and St Juste was hoping to play his part.
Instead, the transfer turned sour very quickly amid a civil war that had broken out at the south-coast club. Redknapp had been against the appointment of former England rugby World Cup winner, Sir Clive Woodward, to the club’s coaching staff, but chairman Rupert Lowe made the appointment anyway.
Woodward brought in Simon Clifford, St Juste’s old mentor at the Brazilian Soccer School, and it soon became obvious that clear factions had developed at the club.
The upshot was St Juste failing to get anywhere near the Saints’ first-team set-up before returning to first club Garforth Town after just a few months.
A move to Norwegian club Sandnes Ulf followed before a return to England saw the winger turn out for Chester, FC Halifax Town, Bradford Park Avenue and AFC Farsley before moving to North Ferriby last autumn.
“Southampton was difficult,” admits St Juste when looking back on his career. “I was at Darlington and they offered me a new deal at the end of my first year.
“But I went to Southampton with Simon Clifford. Things didn’t really go to plan. I wasn’t really accepted. I certainly didn’t feel so, anyway. I felt that straight away.
“Simon had brought me in and that rubbed on to me. I realised quickly it wasn’t going to work out for me and I left. I came back up north. I played for a few clubs and am now at Ferriby, and combining playing with being a trainee gas-fitter.
“It is something where you learn on the job and I am enjoying it. The work also fits in well with my football. We train at 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, unless we have a game.
“I finish work in Leeds at about 4pm. The drive over isn’t too bad and I get to the ground well in time.”
St Juste, by scoring the Wembley-clinching penalty in last month’s 4-2 shoot-out triumph over Bath, is now looking forward to the biggest day of his career and admits the anticipation has been building for weeks.
“The semi-final was incredible,” he says.
“Even before the second leg went to a shoot-out, there was all sorts going on. We went down to 10 men and you start to think, ‘we could lose it here’.
“But then once it had gone to penalties, it was 50-50. With them missing the first two, it was a great lift. But I didn’t think at that stage that it might come round to me.
“It was only when my turn came that I realised. Maybe I didn’t have to score as there were others after me. But I really wanted to get the winner and, luckily, I did.
“I wasn’t nervous or anything like that. You can’t be. If you are then the goal shrinks. It was a great feeling when the ball went in.
“It is right up there in my career as the biggest moment. I have been all over, but nothing can compare to Wembley and I can’t wait for the final.”