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Remembering Wembley 1996: Phil Gibbons

19 May 2020

Lifelong Silkmen supporter Phil Gibbons takes us back to May 1996, as he recalls his unique build-up to our FA Trophy Final clash against Northwich Victoria -

The Wembley final of 1996 remains up there amongst my many favourite and all-time Silkmen memories.

The match itself has been well-documented, but it really was a terrific performance which brought the FA Trophy home after a thrilling 3 - 1 victory over our Cheshire rivals, Northwich Victoria.

When I look back now, I can still recall the joy I had in not only seeing The Silkmen lift the trophy for the first time since the inaugural 1970 final, but also the incredible build-up to the game and of course, the victorious celebrations.

Shortly after the semi-final victory at Chorley which secured our place underneath the Twin Towers, I was approached by the then Commercial Manager and Silkmen legend Steve Burr to work in a shop that the club had taken a short-term lease out for on Chestergate,

This proved to be a master-stroke by the club and despite the final Itself attracting a disappointing turn out, it led to the greatest commercial venture the club has ever seen to this day.

As the big day approached sales of shirts hats flags went up and up. So much so that I took a week off my usual job to work in a role completely new to me, but one that still brings me an enormous amount of pleasure when I look back on it even now.

Come the Friday before the game, the scores of boxes were all but empty and 5000 fans were decked out in quality clothing and memorabilia for the big day itself.

On the morning of the game I was humbled and honoured to be chosen to appear live on Soccer AM with the celebrity presenter and Torquay fan, Helen Chamberlain.

It was a memorable, although a daunting experience to appear in front of the livetv cameras - make up on and all (part of the criteria for tv by the way!), as I previewed the big day alongside Northwich fan James Wood.

I arrived at Wembley in a chaffer-driven Rolls Royce courtesy of Sky TV and I really did really did feel like a celebrity - especially when I heard of so many fans telling me that they had seen the feature on Soccer AM before making their way to the Twin Towers.

The game Itself was a truly great performance and showed the world live on tv that the Silkmen were on the brink of many great achievements.

I could not have dreamt such a week, even if I had wrote the script.

I arrived home tired but on too much of a high to sleep and sat through the tv recording of the game, together with my own appearance before drifting off around 5am!

There was one further event to come however and that was that glorious team's homecoming and the subsequent Civic Reception.

This proved to be yet another truly memorable evening to conclude a two-week period which will live with me forevermore.

To Sammy McIlroy, Gill Prescott, their staff, their players and their employees - I thank you all for giving me so many cherished memories - many of which you simply would never get at other football clubs.

Phil Gibbons.

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