Monday, 5 March 2012

TWINTERVIEW: Tom Bryant & Luke Harvey

Herne Bay Football Club are two games away from Wembley. Simon Halsey's side won 2-1 at Shortwood United to set up an FA Vase semi-final against West Auckland Town. Incredibly, Bay played for almost the entire game with 10 men after Dave Soutan was sent off the first minute of the tie. Byron Walker and Steve Hanson scored the goals which kept the Kent side alive in the competition.

Afterwards, I caught up with defender Tom Bryant and striker Luke Harvey to get their thoughts on Saturday's hard-fought win and a Vase run which has thrown up late goals, red cards and drama aplenty. They have knocked out Winchester City, Hanworth Villa, Newcastle Benfield, Larkhall Athletic and now Shortwood. Now, they are flying the flag not only for Kent but for the south of England in a last-four draw which includes two sides from the Northern League and one from the Northern Counties East League.

Bay are still chasing an historic Double. After being pipped to promotion in recent years, they have led the Kent League all season and look set to finally take their place in the Ryman League. I put the same set of questions to both Bryant and Harvey in what is probably my favourite twinterview to date. Enjoy...

Describe the emotion at the final whistle on Saturday.

TB: A bit of everything, really. Excitement, emotion, relief, it had it all. Just pleased for the lads, the club, and the fans that travelled.

LH: Definitely a mixture of every emotion. To go to 10 men after 43 seconds and still win, I would say relief and pride were the two main things I felt. We have a never-say-die attitude and that pulled us through. The changing-room atmosphere was crazy.

What were you thinking when Souts got sent off in the first minute?

After the initial shock that it happened, just had to say to the lads "come on, stay patient and stick to the game plan. Don't panic."

The first thought is "we could be in trouble here". Then the determination to succeed takes over and then, if anything, I think it made us more determined to win. We also have done it before so we knew it could be done again! But the fans were like an extra player if I'm honest. They really pulled us through!

How important have those fans been during this Vase run?

They're massive. When they're singing your name, chanting, what more could you want? Gives you that extra boost, your confidence grows. Can't praise them enough for the support, not only in the Vase, but throughout my time at Herne Bay Football Club.

Massively important. I would go as far as saying we wouldn't be where we are without them...

You've got West Auckland in the semi-finals. What are your expectations of that tie?

We've got that winning mentality at this football club, where we believe we can go into any game and win but still remain focused.

We're expecting a big, physical side that will probably have a direct style of play. We'll try and find out info on them in the coming weeks.

Does it help that you've already travelled to that part of the world (Newcastle Benfield) and won?

Definitely helps, as a lot of the lads haven't experienced that side of things before. Preparing right is vital but we'll go there focused and fully aware of what to expect.

I would say it's helped us, we know we can travel anywhere and get a result. I felt we were poor on the day against Newcastle and we still managed to come away with a victory.

At what point during this run did you think "we can go all the way"?

I think it really dawned on us after the last trip to Newcastle, showing that never-say-die attitude and scoring late on.

Definitely after the Larkhall Athletic game in the last round. To go 75 minutes with 10 men made us all believe we're capable of doing something special.

Can you sum up what it would mean to play at Wembley?

It's what you dream of as a kid: playing at your national stadium, doing what you love to do - play football.

To walk out as captain of a team at WEMBLEY would simply be a . It would be a day I'd never ever forget.

Three team-mate questions. Who's the fastest, who's the biggest moaner and who's the changing-room DJ?

Fastest gotta be Byron Walker, he's turbo charged!! Biggest moaner has to be Toby Ashmore, constantly at it! I'll throw myself in the hat for changing-room DJ, my music game is unreal. Rhys Lawson can be my partner in crime though!

Fastest - Byron Walker. Moaner - me or Michael Jenner (usually at each other). DJ - Rhys Lawson.

What kind of beats are pumping around Winch's Field at the moment then?

Some house music, always gets the mood set for the game. Some hip-hop, garage, all sorts! A lot of the lads are into different stuff.

Radio 1Xtra's DJ Jaguar Skills mixes are a big hit in our changing room.... Loud and bassy.

Tell us something we wouldn't know about the gaffer...

He always wears gloves in the Vase games as a lucky omen - very superstitious.

He looks like TV comic Harry Hill.

People often say a cup run distracts you from the league. Has the opposite been true for the Bay this season?

I think it's nice to get away from the league sometimes. It's a breath of fresh air playing cup football. The manager never lets us get ahead of ourselves, he keeps us grounded and reminds us winning the league is the main aim.

I would say the Vase has been a welcome distraction. We have a large enough squad to challenge on more than one front, and I believe that's shown.

You're 10 points clear with 10 games left. You can't lose it from here... can you?

We'll go about our business exactly the same away as the last 20 games, take it as it comes, hopefully win and lift the trophy at the end.

I believe we've got enough capability and experience to see the season out and even make the 10 point gap larger... But just to win it by the one point is good enough for me!

Renewing rivalries with the likes of Whitstable, Faversham and Hythe - is that a big motivation for you guys?

Of course it is. We all strive to do well, to play in big games, in front of big crowds, to express ourselves.

Renewing the old rivalries is good for us as we want to play in those sort of games. Also, the fans will enjoy it more with the club benefitting with more fans coming through the gates. So everyone is a winner!

The club lost its chairman and sponsor back in November. What was the reaction when the gaffer told you the money had gone?

It was a shock, that's for sure, but we knew there had to be a major reason for it. We had a team meeting, all the lads discussed it and we're all mates here on and off the pitch. There's a lot of unity and we vowed to see off the job we had already started.

When the money was pulled from the club it was a setback but after I spoke to all the boys we realised we'd come too far to just give up. We want this league title and to retain our cup and now the added possibility of the Vase is a massive bonus!!! But all in all the long-term reaction from all the boys has been amazing!

Who are the best players you've played with and against?

That's a tough one, really. Darren Caskey, when I was at Halesowen Town, is up there. Although he was in his late thirties, he still could do stuff some people could only dream of. Technically class. And against, probably Andy Reid when I was at Gillingham and he was at Charlton.

Best players I've ever played with were George Boyd (Peterborough United), Matty Jarvis (Wolverhampton Wanderers) and the best player I've played with whilst at Herne Bay would be Danny Kedwell (Gillingham). When I was 14 I played in the Milk Cup competition in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, for Charlton Athletic, and we played Everton in the quarter-finals. Wayne Rooney was playing, so he's the best player I've had the pleasure of playing with.

Finally - you've got one tweet to tell the world about Herne Bay Football Club. Go...

A club that deserves success.

Herne Bay FC is a great club that needs to be up the footballing pyramid and that is what we intend to do...

You can follow @TommyBizzle and @LukeHarvey25 on Twitter


First leg (March 24)
Dunston UTS v Staveley MW
Herne Bay v West Auckland Town

Second leg (March 31)
Staveley MW v Dunston UTS
West Auckland Town v Herne Bay

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