Graham proud of Wembley win
Graham proud of Wembley win

In this part of our “22 Days in May” series, we are delighted to have tracked down and spoken to the man whose goal not only was one of the best ever seen at the Old Wembley but also proved to be the Deal Town winner that glorious day in May 2000.

In a very rare interview, KSN’s football writer Mike Green has been talking to Deal’s match winner ROLY GRAHAM…

Roly who has been living in Australia for the last 15 years couldn’t believe that so long has past as he told us – with a distinctive “Aussie twang” – “When you first got in touch, I said to my wife that it had been twenty years, and she said “you are kidding me!” Where had it gone?”

“We left the UK in 2005 – it was long drawn process which suddenly came across us. I am still a carpenter even though the plan was to come out here and change my job. But unfortunately circumstances meant that I had to work straight away and meant I had to go back onto the tools!”

A long way from the old Twin Towers and with a new life, we wondered how his new friends Down Under had taken to the story of Deal’s greatest ever day.

“Some do,” Roly said, “it’s funny as I’ve got a lot of the pictures on the wall along with the shirt and I’ve still got a lot of other memorabilia. Some people have commented on it and asked what it is – some of them don’t follow football; rugby league is a big thing over here which is what a lot of my friends follow.”

“I don’t go talking about it – if people ask, I will tell them and the people that I know go “wow! How good was that?” I tell them that playing at Wembley and scoring a goal is like playing at the Sydney Football Stadium or the Suncorp Stadium which is our main stadium in Brisbane and playing in front of 25,000 – that’s what it would be like!”

“And the people who know that type of sport appreciate it and ask me how good it was, and I tell them that “it was very, very good!”

Not only did Roly score in the Final against Chippenham Town, he also got the decisive third goal in the second leg of the Semi-Final against Newcastle Town with a “goal” that was a little different to the amazing winner at Wembley as he admitted, “I still to this day still look at the video of the Semi Final if I’m at home and I’m on my own, I sometimes put it on and it was the most bizarre goal ever – and still to this day I claim that I meant it!” Roly said almost laughing.

“There was a corner and there was a bit of a scuffle and the lad’s gone to clear it and it just came off of my knee and flew straight in the top corner! You just couldn’t do that again if you tried and it was in the net, so we all started celebrating.”

And so, to the Final… “The whole experience of Wembley was surreal from start to finish,” Roly recalls, “it was without a shadow of a doubt the best two or three days – and even afterwards – the best football moments of my life.”

Something that if often forgotten about the Final is the unbelievable heat the game was played in – something that Roly only too well remembers – he explains, “Someone said to me that it got up to ninety-five degrees on the pitch – I can just picture looking over at the Chippenham dugout and seeing their manager Tommy Saunders thinking it must be hot as he was sitting there sweating buckets – and he wasn’t running around!”

“I think it was just that we were all in the occasion that the heat really didn’t pay a factor with me – other people it might have done – but I was quite a fit lad!”

Reflecting on the goal itself, through this series there have been some of his team mates who have told us that they were hoping that when Steve Marshall’s cross found him, Roly would control the ball before shooting – something that the goal scorer himself found amusing as he said laughing, “Really!”

He went on, “Stevie Lovell asked me later as I had a spell at Ashford with him why I hadn’t controlled the ball. He didn’t say it at the time but later on he said to me that I had the time to bring it down and put it wherever I wanted, but as I said to him, there was the surprise element for the goalkeeper as he probably thought the same.”

“Looking back and even now I had no intensions in bringing it down. If you look at it in slow motion, you can just see as the ball comes over, I’m looking over and my body shape shows you / showed me that I wasn’t thinking about bringing down at all, as I was still going running at three-quarter pace – others may have said it was faster than that (!!!) – and as it came over my first and only intention was to hit it – I don’t think for one split second that I thought about bringing it down as I had no-one anywhere near me.”

Next time, we’ll conclude our chat with Roly as he pays tribute to those who made it happen and reflects on what might have happened after Wembley as KSN’s “Twenty-two Days in May” continues…