Updated: Jun 1
“F***ing hell,” a clearly awe-struck Jack Edwards said as he strolled out onto the hallowed Molineux turf, for a player who is usually so calm, even he seemed struck by the occasion. One man who seemingly wasn’t struck by the occasion was Lichfield City’s manager Ivor Green, for someone who was about to lead his team out for a cup final at a Premier League ground, he seemed as relaxed as ever.
On the coach to the home of Premier League side Wolves, Green could be seen gesticulating wildly, as he so often does, with his assistant and long-time friend Wayne Chapman. Chapman, who for weeks has been confident of taking the trophy back to Lichfield, seemed deep in thought, decisions needed to be made.
In the weeks building up to the club’s big day out, training was, what can only be described as, intense. One player, who was dripping head to toe in sweat, exclaimed that training was similar to the first day of pre-season. The temperature was certainly similar to pre-season training, but Green needed his players up to match speed.
There were subtle nods of appreciation, as there so often is from Chapman, as the intensity went up a notch throughout the sessions, like clockwork, Chapman and Green will nod in appreciation or make a subtle comment to each other.
There was no appreciation from Chapman, who, like the rest of the squad, were kept out of the dressing room up until 6:35pm, 55 minutes before kick-off, due to another game being played beforehand.
The delay, seemingly, did little to calm the growing nerves amongst the squad, former Tividale player Tom Hurdman could be seen pacing back and forth, despite assuring me throughout that he wasn’t nervous.
Those nerves were only heightened when the players strolled out onto the turf, phones were out, jokes were had. If the players were nervous, the owners, despite their insistence that they weren’t, nerves were certainly jangling.
What a cup win can do to a team, cannot be understated, Lye Town, who beat Lichfield on the way to winning the trophy last season, have just been promoted to step 4. Whether Lye winning the JW Hunt Cup propelled them to promotion, remains to be seen, but it certainly can’t hurt.
It hit 6:45pm and the music stopped, there was a hush of anticipation as the man who is usually in his element and for the 55th and final time this season, gave a rallying cry to his troops. The tactical plan was simple, the pitch was huge and theoretically it should suit Green’s men with their possession game, which Green craves, more than the opposition.
“You’ve done the club incredibly proud, you’re entitled to enjoy yourself tonight, for your friends and family that are here tonight,” was Green’s rallying cry. When the pressure is on, the former Atherstone manager has a way of taking the pressure off. He gives his players simple instruction, he relaxes the squad, which at Molineux is hard, and, most of all, just wants the players to enjoy it.
The eight-minute address was short but sweet, there was an almighty raw which followed the end of Green’s team talk, and the players filed through onto the immaculate turf. It was a strong start to the game from City and from the first to the last minute, truthfully, they were in full control of their own destiny.
The goal, which was worth the wait came from a man who might embody Lichfield City more than most, Joe Haines. To not only score the diving header that got Lichfield on their way to Molineux in the first place, but to also rifle in the goal that won City the trophy, and then to be crowned manager’s player of the season, is some feat.
The players adore him, although some may struggle to admit that. Green, who presented Haines with the award, believes he’s up there with one of the best he’s ever managed, which was a statement met with that nod of approval from Chapman that the players would have become so accustomed to.
The players certainly respect him and have constantly spoken about the positive impact he has on the dressing room with his, sometimes, ridiculous antics. You could see what it meant to him when the ball hit the back of the net, and certainly to the majority of the crowd. From then on, Tividale huffed and puffed but they couldn’t break down the stubborn defence.
That defence, which has boasted a clean sheet in every round of the competition, were immaculate throughout. Lewi Burnside, now seemingly deployed at right-back, was, in Chapman’s words, superb. There were concerns that he may not make it through the game, after he seemed to pull up with a hamstring issue during training the week before, a defeated look was strewn across the youngster’s face when asked what was wrong.
Physio Dan Martin got to work to try and help the 18-year-old and upon re-emerging from the dressing room had a smile as wide as the Molineux turf and wanted to give it another go at training, before Green stepped in to make sure Burnside didn’t push himself too hard. You wouldn’t know it from his performance in the cup final, however, as he was marauding up and down the right-hand side like Matt Doherty used to for Wolves in his heyday.
The added five minutes, which must have felt like an eternity for the Lichfield bench, was filled with drama and an abundance of crosses which were dealt with every time with relative ease, despite the gasps from the crowd.
As the referee put his whistle to his mouth, Chapman turned around and punched the air in celebration and gave a wry smile to his family who were smiling ear to ear. The players on the pitch looked relieved, some collapsed to the floor out of pure exhaustion, some collapsed on the floor, in Tividale’s case, in defeat.
Green looked chuffed, although it was a very lowkey celebration from the manager. The togetherness was on full display in the dressing room after, with a huge team photo really highlighting the camaraderie that has been rife for the past two years of this whirlwind adventure. The league season may well be a disappointing drop off from last season, where they finished third, but to win a trophy that has been coveted for so long will be a special feeling.
For Green and Chapman, who have previously won the competition, they have won Lichfield their first trophy in almost 10 years and to do it at Molineux was special. Chairman Darren Leaver celebrated wildly and was cradling the trophy for a while, they boarded the team bus winners, but there was a sense that this is just the beginning. With the recent news that play-offs will be introduced in step 5, there surely must be a belief that, with the cup winning momentum behind them, they can challenge the top 5.