WARRINGTON Rylands 1906 owner Paul Stretford has heaped praise on the management team and players that have steered his club to a debut FA Vase Final at Wembley.

The renowned sports agent, whose Triple S Sports & Entertainment Group took full control of the club last month, has spoken of the epic journey the side has been on in this competition but wants the cup final experience to be just the start of something much bigger going forward.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” he said after watching Rylands defeat Walsall Wood 2-1 in Saturday’s semi final at Gorsey Lane, a venue sat on the border of Padgate and Orford.

“We started on a journey on which our management team have taken us forward time and time again. And it’s been a long journey, one done at the most difficult time with Covid and with leagues being disrupted when we’ve flying and looking for promotion.

“For them to keep it together in this way and for them to work as hard as they have worked, the management team are so on it and the players are delivering for them. That’s great credit to the management team but it’s even greater credit to the players.

“This community and area that we’re in, has been down trodden for a very long time and it’s now got something to be proud of.

“This is the FA Cup Final for this level of football.

“I think it was around 616 clubs that started out, and we started at the very first stage you can start. We’ve come through the longest journey, we’ve come through every battle and we’ve had some enormous ones on the way.

“The game at Jarrow sticks in the mind when we were so dominant and we let them back in but then won it on penalties.

“The fortitude of this squad is immense. And they’ve wanted it, that’s what it’s about.

“Wayne Rooney came to the training session last Tuesday. And he said to the players that semi finals are about getting through to the final. And to get through to the final you can be the greatest footballer in the world but if you don’t want it enough you won’t get there.

“I thought some of our best football all season was played in the first half.”

But while the spirit, character and effort has been seen in abundance throughout the competition, skill has been too with regards to ability on the field and team selections.

“There’s enormous quality in this team,” said Warrington-born Stretford, who played football for the club in the 1970s and 1980s.

“On Saturday, Andy Scarisbrick in the last 20 to 30 minutes, there was so much quality when he was getting ‘leggy’.

“Charlie Doyle reads every potential pass that’s going to destroy us. He gets on the ball, wins it, he’s calm and plays the pass.

“Ste Milne is an absolute goal scorer, but for the team on Saturday he worked his trollies off. He worked that back line as nobody ever could.

“Ricky Smith and Gaz Kenny, our captain, at the back, outstanding. Podge (goalkeeper Graeme McCall) with the save in the first 15 minutes was so important, and how many times as he done that this season – whether it’s been penalties or in the game. In the game against Hebburn and West Auckland, he’s pulled off massive saves.

“So all over the pitch we’ve got heroes.”

He had more to say about captain Kenny, who, less than 24 hours after the semi-final success, ran a full marathon to complete his 136 days of virtually running from Land’s End to John o’Groats to raise funds for charity.

Those 122 10K runs, five at 15k, four half marathons and the full marathon for a total of 874 miles started as the country’s third national lockdown got going have coincided with Rylands’ Vase run since April.

“At one stage we were thinking can he do it, he’s doing all this running and it’s a different set of muscles, what’s his body going to be like,” said Stretford.

“The manager made a massive call against Hebburn Town in the quarter finals by bringing him back in. And Gaz Kenny repaid his manager on Saturday and it’s just a great thing to see.

“And he picked Kane Drummond for his first start in a long time, and he produced.

“He got the goal that got us going. He was offside for a goal that was disallowed. But what a finish. And that’s his quality and that will do him good. He’s not had minutes for a long time, and now he’s got himself on the pitch, got himself a goal, he worked hard in areas Kane doesn’t want to work hard in but he did it for his teammates.”

It was three years ago that Warrington Rylands stepped up from the Cheshire League to the North West Counties Football League, aided by his sponsorship since 2012.

And when asked what this latest Wembley cup final milestone for the club means for him, Stretford said: “It’s got nothing to do with me. It’s about everyone in the background.

“We’ve got a small number of committee members that will go the extra mile and push and push to get this club where we want it to be.

“I’m a figurehead, it’s about these guys and that community on the outskirts of the club that we want to engage with.

“This club has come a long way in a very short space of time and we’ve got to use this to build us to the next level. This isn’t a job finished, this is a job that’s begun and that’s what we’re about.”