Sixth-tier Chorley could thank their goalscorers Connor Hall and Mike Calveley for getting them into the fourth round of the FA Cup at the expense of a depleted Derby County side, but another unlikely hero has sprung up who saved the tie the night before kick off.
According to Chorley manager Jamie Vermiglio, a headmaster by day, groundsman Ben Kay slept, yes slept on the pitch the night before to ensure the match went ahead with no problems.
The game did go ahead as planned as Chorley emerged as 2-0 winners, leading to Vermiglio revealing (via The Sun): “Last night, I’m on my laptop watching Derby’s Under-23s and I get a message saying it’s in doubt.
“I phoned groundsman Ben Kay, who said it was 50-50. I FaceTimed him at 2am knowing he was staying at the stadium and he wasn’t positive.
“One of the heaters had blown and he was worried we wouldn’t get the tie on.
With little time left, and in fear the match could be postponed, Kay took the matter into his own hands, working tirelessly through the night.
“I FaceTimed him again at 6am and someone else answered the phone and showed him fast asleep in the middle of the pitch.
“He’d slept here to make sure we got it on — it’s incredible really.”
Without Kay’s dedication to the cause, Chorley’s chances of causing the giant killing upset would have likely melted away.
Derby‘s side featured nine senior debuts due to a Covid-19 outbreak which meant they travelled to the minions without any first-teamers or interim manager Wayne Rooney, who called Vermiglio prior to the game.
“Credit to Wayne, I don’t know him personally but he phoned before the game and apologised that he couldn’t be here. That was really humble and a surprise. I was wondering where Coleen was because the kids were shouting down his ear!
“I wanted to compete against him — but I would not swap that now for us getting through to the fourth-round proper.”
Although winning over a team four tiers above them in the Football League significantly helps the National League North club financially, Vermiglio spoke of how much better it would have been to have Victory Park filled with up to 4,300 fans.
“The only unfortunate thing is if this was two seasons ago, this ground would’ve been absolutely pumping and jumping.”
There was still celebration though, with the Magpie players enjoying a huge sing-a-long to Adele’s hit-single ‘Someone Like You’ after the match. An unusual choice to say the least, but when you beat a Championship side while you sit bottom of the National League North, any tune signifies glory.
The day was extra special for opening goalscorer Connor Hall who received a message from better-known Magpies hero Alan Shearer, congratulating him and giving support for the next round.
A Newcastle fan, Hall must have been beaming to get a reply from the Toon Army legend.
Vermiglio and his team deserve their moment, with the primary school headmaster spilling his dream fourth round tie.
“Now if you can organise it, I’d like Liverpool away in the next round please!” he quipped.