Challinor’s painful past drives him to success at Wembley

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The fear of losing on the biggest stage of all has become the greatest inspiration for York City right-back Jon Challinor.

The much-travelled 31-year-old was one of a number of York players who got to savour a Wembley win for the first time last Saturday as York defeated Newport County to lift the FA Trophy.

Players like Danny Parslow and Michael Ingham had both suffered successive defeats at the national stadium with the Minstermen prior to last Saturday, while Challinor was twice a losing finalist with Exeter City and Cambridge United.

Now, however, after getting the victory bug, Challinor is more determined than ever to taste success again tomorrow as York meet Luton Town for a place in the Football League.

“I know how the Newport boys felt; it’s not a nice feeling, it’s the worst place to come and lose a game of football,” said Challinor.

“For me to finally win at Wembley last Saturday was the highlight of my career.

“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity, but now the focus is on the play-off final.

“It was good to finally be a winner at Wembley.

“We enjoyed that success, but it’s about putting that to the back of our minds and getting focused on Luton.

“Because ultimately, tomorrow’s game is the one we really want.

“If we’d have lost last Saturday we would want to prove ourselves even more, but hopefully we can now take the momentum from last Saturday into tomorrow.

“There’s a lot of confidence in the team and I don’t see why we can’t go and do it again.”

York is the 11th club of Challinor’s career, a footballing journey that includes three spells at Cambridge and two at Mansfield Town.

But of all the managers he has worked under in that time, none has impressed him more than the man who signed him from Kettering last summer – Gary Mills.

“Gary is up there with the best,” said Challinor, who set in motion the goal that sealed victory against Newport last Saturday.

“He encourages us to play. If we dig in in the first half he’ll encourage us to get the ball down and play in the second.

“He doesn’t really like us to bang it long but he appreciates when we have to.

“As a footballer that’s what you want to hear.

“I’ve been at clubs where the first thing they say to you is ‘get it forward straight away’.

“So for Gary to encourage playing, to encourage us to spread out and pass the ball, is what every footballer wants to hear.

“Teams who have played us this season have been surprised by the way we play.

“We’ve got to take that into the game, we’ve got to use the big pitch and we’ve just got to pass the ball as we know we can.

“Playing at Wembley last week gives us an edge,” added Challinor.

“Not specifically for us older guys, but for the younger guys, who know the stadium now, they’ve taken their pictures, done their walks and drunk it all in.

“Now we can get straight down to business and hopefully come away with another win.”

nick.westby@ypn.co.uk