WEMBLEY-bound North Ferriby United will warm up for the biggest game in the club’s history this weekend by attending England’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania as guests of the Football Association.
The Villagers are set to take on former Football League outfit Wrexham in Sunday’s FA Trophy final.
Up to 7,000 fans are expected to descend on the national stadium from the East Riding, almost double the population of North Ferriby.
As part of the club’s preparations, officials had been hoping to secure a pre-match visit to familiarise Billy Heath’s squad with one of world football’s most iconic venues.
However, England’s qualifier against Lithuania on Friday night plus a Premiership rugby union clash between Saracens and Harlequins being scheduled for the following afternoon scuppered those plans. That left the Conference North side in danger of arriving cold at a stadium where opponents Wrexham played twice in 2013.
North Ferriby chairman Les Hare last night told The Yorkshire Post: “The only sad thing in terms of our planning for the weekend was being unable to get a stadium tour for the players.
“The England game on Friday night is the problem, along with the rugby on Saturday.
“That meant no prospect of us being able to get in and look around.
“So, when I went to the pre-match planning meeting with the FA, one of the very first things I threw into the melting pot was us wanting to go down on the Friday and whether they might oblige by providing us with access to the England international.
“I wasn’t quite sure whether the Welsh contingent among Wrexham might be as interested as us.
“But, fair play to the FA, they have presented us with free access to the England game for the entire squad. So, we are going down on Friday.
“We will get settled into the hotel, have a bite to eat and then we will pop down to Wembley to take in the game and give the players an opportunity to see not only the stadium but also witness what it is like when there is a big crowd.
“For us, it is fantastic. Not only in terms of giving the players what most clubs have before a cup final, a pre-match visit. But also with the priority being to keep the players occupied, this will be ideal.”
North Ferriby are only the third Yorkshire club to battle through to the Trophy final. York City twice got to Wembley, triumphing in 2012 three years after losing to Stevenage, while Scarborough lifted the Trophy three times during the Seventies at the old Wembley.
This time around, Wrexham, a member of the Football League as recently as 2009, are strong favourites. The East Riding club have, however, enlisted the help of Hull City manager Steve Bruce in ensuring their own preparations are spot on.
“Steve has been brilliant,” explained chairman Hare, whose club’s Church Road ground hosts the Tigers’ reserve team home matches.
“We asked if he might be able to help us by contacting a couple of the Premier League managers to see if we could utilise their training facilities.
“Steve immediately rang Arsene (Wenger, of Arsenal) and a few other managers on our behalf. He went through a list but, with it being an international break, many training grounds are shut down.
“Luckily for us, Sam Allardyce offered the use of West Ham’s facilities.
“It is a nice piece of reciprocation as, not too long ago, West Ham played at the KC Stadium against Hull City and asked if they could use our facilities for their pre-match warm-up.
“We agreed and Sam Allardyce was extremely complimentary at the time. I am so glad that happened, as when Steve made the phone call to Sam and asked on our behalf, he was glad to help.
“Sam was in Dubai, enjoying a bit of sunshine. But he made a couple of phone calls and, within a day or so, an e-mail arrived at the club saying we could train at West Ham on the Saturday morning.
“The boys now have a fantastic opportunity to go into a Premier League training facility and have a really good session. They will be swept away by a whirlwind couple of days.”
The Tigers have also provided help in other ways, with the club’s nutritionist having offered plenty of advice in recent days as to how the non-League players should prepare.
Hare added: “We have passed the advice on to the chef at our hotel.
“So, once the players are back from training at West Ham, the players will have special food prepared for them on the advice of the Premier League boys at Hull City.
“We are eternally grateful to Steve and also to someone like Sam Allardyce for breaking his holiday in the sunshine to help us out.”