Wembley Stadium

Sutton United on their way to Wembley for Papa John’s Trophy final

Tuesday 8th March was a historic night for Sutton United as they reached the Papa John’s Trophy final, their first Wembley final since 1981.

Sutton were victorious over League One side Wigan Athletic in the semi-finals, defeating the Latics on penalties after it ended 1-1 in normal time.

The result continues Sutton’s dream start to life in the EFL, as the Us are currently sat in the play-offs in seventh in League Two and are only two points off the automatic promotion spots.

Chairman Bruce Elliott is still in disbelief that his boyhood club will be playing under the famous Wembley arch.

He said: “We’re still pinching ourselves as to what is going on, it’s all a bit surreal. It’s a day at Wembley. You can’t beat that.

“We had some good games in the group stages and then suddenly you’re thinking there is Wembley at the end of this, this is a very serious competition.

“And thanks to the miracle work by our manager and players, plus a little bit of luck, we’ve got ourselves to the final.”

Elliott first started supporting the club when he was teenager, when his dad would take him to watch Sutton when they were in the Isthmian League.

After joining the club’s management committee, he became chairman of the club in 1996.

He said: “The club has transformed hugely from when I was first asked to be chairman, there’s a massive difference.

“We’ve got full time status and are members of the Football League, and we run an academy now. It’s a totally different club.

“There’s a lot of people involved in this club who have spent basically their lifetime being involved in one capacity or another.

“That’s one of the lovely things about this club, the number of volunteers who really care about the club and who have been here forever.

“Once you get involved with this club you never want to leave. That’s what makes places, it’s not the buildings, it’s the people, there’s something special about it here and we’re very very lucky.”

Since Elliott came to the club, they have risen up the divisions.

Sutton were founding members of the Conference South, before being promoted to the National League Premier in 2016.

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Elliott and Sutton, as after earning promotion to the EFL, the club were forced to tear up their 3G pitch and replace it with real grass.

Elliott said: “The 3G pitch had been the best thing we’d ever done for the club, and then suddenly we got promoted and it was like a noose around our necks.

“Half the money we got for promotion was effectively wasted, as we had to spend half a million pounds on ripping up the pitch, which was a shame because it never did anyone any harm.”

Elliott also heaped praise on manager Matt Gray as well as his predecessor Paul Doswell for the effect they have had on the club.

He said: “Matt’s played a huge role in the journey we’ve been on, which started ultimately with Paul Doswell.

“Paul eventually stepped down because of the travelling, so we appointed Matt who had been an assistant at various clubs in and around our level.

“He’s done an unbelievable job, he works extremely hard, is totally committed to the club and I think he thoroughly enjoys it.

“He’s meticulous in his planning, and the whole football side of our success has been down to him.”

It’s already been a phenomenal season for Sutton United, and whatever happens on the 3rd April when they take on Rotherham in the Papa John’s Trophy final it will be a day their supporters never forget.

Featured image credit: Paul Gillett via Geograph under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

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