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The Vanarama Big Interview: Kev Wilkin talks through banishing demons and his love for Brackley Town
The Saints’ boss spoke with Vanarama to talk about his time with Brackley that came about after one of his toughest days
Dark days can be a regular thing in football. Not everyone is blessed with the riches of Manchester City or the natural talents of Lionel Messi.
The lowest of times in football can be really low. Kevin Wilkin knows that all too well. After losing in an FA Trophy final with Wrexham, he was sacked shortly after despite a marked improvement on the previous season.
But they say fortune favours the bold. Brackley Town had found their man and made Wilkin their top target – and they never looked back.
Four years on, the popular boss has been back to Wembley to avenge that fateful day – even winning on penalties to banish every last demon in his closet.
“It’s been well spoken about. I lost my job the day after losing that final, which I thought was unfair with the progress we had made at the club,” he said. “But that’s football and fortunately Brackley gave me a chance to get back into management and hopefully that faith has been repaid in some way.
“The best moment I’ve had here is winning the FA Trophy. It was a fantastic run to get there and, on the day, we continued to push before we levelled in the last minute. Even in the penalty shoot-out we looked to be on our way to losing but we turned it around.
“That day epitomised our season where we never gave up and we bounced back from losing in the play-offs the week before against Harrogate. It was a special moment and something we won’t ever forget at the club.
“Playing at Wembley gets you hungry for more days like that,” he added. “When you speak to any player who has experienced something like that, they want to have another go at it.
“I went there and didn’t get the result we wanted but it made me hungry to go back and do it again. When you get the right result, it gives you a taste for it and you want to experience those big moments as often as you can because that’s what we are in the game for.”
Defeat in the play-offs last season might have had fans worried about a fire-sale of their top performers.
Connor Hall left but a number of fan favourites, including captain Gaz Dean, stayed put. Experience in the form of Kelvin Langmead and Thierry Audel was also added to the mix.
“We realise that over the past two or three seasons we’ve been very competitive and that means a number of our players have performed at a consistently high level,” Wilkin said.
“It comes with no surprise that sides with greater budgets are showing interest in these players. That’s just something we have to contend with, but we’ve tried to keep a bit of momentum by keeping hold of as many players as we can, but it is a challenge we face every season.
“We’re doing alright this season. We had a bit of sticky start, but we’ve picked up and steadied the ship a little bit. We’re OK but it’s a very competitive league that doesn’t relent so we’ve just got to dig in and keep working hard.”
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As Saints approach another Big FA Cup Game against a former league side, here are ten things you need to know about Hartlepool United.
- Brackley and Hartlepool may not have too much in common but there is one link. Midfielder Ebby Nelson-Addy who featured in 2013-14 and 2014-15 for Saints also played for Hartlepool, moving to Victoria Park from Brackley in March 2015. Ebby made his debut for League Two United in the 3-0 defeat at Luton Town on 18 April and made three further appearances before eventually returning to non-league football with Worcester City.
- Hartlepool United have played under a variety of names including Hartlepool, Hartlepools United and currently Hartlepool United. The name Hartlepools United marked the coalescence of the neighbouring communities of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool.
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The club is delighted that Vanarama, sponsor of Vanarama National League, has named midfielder James Armson as Player of the Month for September.
The team's form was strong in September moving up to 5th place in the Vanarama National League North table and FA Cup success with Jimmy's performances and goals crucial.