Golden boy Wayne Burnett backs Grimsby Town for Wembley return
FROM the moment the ball flicked off his left foot in extra-time at Wembley – Wayne Burnett's name has been forever etched in Grimsby Town folklore.
Because it was that golden goal, in the second period of added time, that handed the Mariners victory over Bournemouth in the 1998 Auto Windscreens Shield final.
In the 112th minute, with the scores at 1-1, Town won a corner which was swung in and flicked on towards the far post.
Burnett stole in and instinctively volleyed the ball past Jimmy Glass to send the travelling Town fans into delirium.
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Fifteen years on, and for Burnett, memories of that day are still vivid.
He describes the victory – and his match-winning goal – as a "fairytale".
Now with the current Town side in the semi-final of the FA Trophy, he's "desperate" to see his former club seal another Wembley return.
Recalling that glorious Sunday afternoon in April 1998, he told the Telegraph: "I look back on it as one of, if not the greatest day, in my footballing career.
"To get to Wembley and to take the amount of fans down that we did was superb – it was a fantastic occasion.
"It was an absolute fairytale – you couldn't have written it any better.
"I was lucky enough to score the goal at the end that our fans were at, and that feeling was just unbelievable – very surreal, but amazing.
"There are players who have had far, far better careers than I've had, who can't say they had the opportunity to play at Wembley.
"You've got to take these kind of opportunities when they present themselves and then savour it."
He added: "Only a few fortunate players can say that they've ever played there and I really do hope Town's players can get there this season.
"Once you've played at Wembley – no-one can ever take that away from you and you make memories there that stay for you for the rest of your career. It is a fantastic, fantastic place."
After Burnett's heroics in the Auto Windscreens final, Town returned to the capital a month later for the Division Two Play-Off final against Northampton.
That time, Kevin Donovan joined him in the history books with a 19th-minute winner that sent the Mariners back into the First Division.
And, with the current Town side enjoying success on two fronts, Rob Scott and Paul Hurst's men could be on course to replicate the double delight of 1998.
Burnett, now first-team coach at League Two Dagenham & Redbridge, continued: "Obviously after the Auto Windscreens Final, we went back there for the play-offs, and all of the work that we had put in over the course of the season rested on that one game.
"To go back there a month later and win that as well was absolutely fantastic for the club.
"I'm desperate for them to go up this season – they deserve it.
"They are a great club and their fans are passionate and they've been too long out of the league – I hope they can do it this season.
"I still keep in touch with the club and always look out for their results because they are a club that are very close to my heart.
"Now that the club are in with a chance of getting to Wembley again, a few of fans have been in touch on Twitter and had some kind words to say as they remembered our two trips there in 1998.
"It's nice to be remembered for that and not forgotten.
"I spent five seasons there, some not as good as others because of injury, but the time that I was playing was absolutely fantastic," he added.
"We played some good football at the time, had some good players and some good times.
"I think people want to see those return and I'm sure if they can have a good season, get back into the Football League and hopefully enjoy success in the Trophy as well, I'm sure that will be the first step on the journey for them."
Tomorrow, the Mariners could take the first steps towards that Wembley final when they welcome Dartford to Blundell Park for the first leg of their FA Trophy Semi-Final.
And ahead of the clash, Burnett had some words of encouragement for his former club.
He added: "Everyone knows the importance of the next two games but the managers will be smart enough to take those pressures away – even though it's difficult because everyone knows what rests on those two legs.
"Back in '98, we said 'take it as two legs' – don't take it as, if we win the first leg, it's over.
"Anything can happen in 90 minutes of football – it's a cliché but it's true.
"Go out there and do the very best you can do, be the very best you can be and the rest will take care of itself.
"The best team will win at the end of the day.
"I'm hoping that they get the right results over these next two legs and they get to Wembley because it would be great for the town.
"Then they can start to look forward to the day and all the razzmatazz that comes with it – it really is an unbelievable day.
"It's certainly one that I'll never forget."