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Exclusive interview: Brian Gumm, chairman of Wembley FC, on Venables, Caniggia and co

Brian Gumm is the chairman of semi-professional club Wembley FC, who currently play in the Combined Counties League Premier Division.

Wembley FC have had a few months to remember, with the club teaming up with new sponsors Budweiser to bring in some of the biggest names in football to help them out with this season’s FA Cup campaign.

Football legends including Ray Parlour, David Seaman, Tony Adams, Claudio Caniggia and Terry Venables (pictured) all got involved. Caniggia even rolled back the years with an FA Cup goal for Wembley.

Wembley FC were recently awoken from their dream when they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Uxbridge, after an initial 2-2 draw sent the tie to a replay.

So with an early cup exit, was it all worth it?

Total Football’s Glen Walter spoke to Gumm about the whirlwind adventure his club has experienced since their sponsorship with Budweiser began.

When did the idea of the sponsorship from Budweiser begin?

It’s been ongoing for a while. It’s been over a year that I’ve been negotiating with them. It’s been in the making a long time, and we finally set up a meeting and it went from there.

Was it an easy decision to team up with a massive company like Budweiser, or did you ever have any doubts and worries about the whole thing?

Well everyone has doubts as a Chairman of a football club because you have to weigh the options up. We’re in a recession and they’re a very big company.

I didn’t know exactly what was going to be the outcome of it because they’re a very large company and I was a bit concerned about that. I had to put a lot of trust in Budweiser, to make sure what they were doing was the right thing for the club.

I had to make the decision, and I now know that it’s the best decision I’ve made since I’ve been at the club.

You’ve been an integral part of Wembley FC for so many years now. This must have been such an exciting experience for you on a personal level?

It’s exciting for me and for everybody that’s involved with the club. The club can only survive with the people it’s got around it. It would be very hard to do everything ourselves, without the people that volunteer for us on matchdays.

If we had to pay people and they didn’t give up their time for us it would be a struggle. So it’s given everybody at the club a lot of excitement and a big lift.

Some cynical people have labelled the sponsorship with Budweiser as merely a PR stunt. Surely it means a lot more than that to Wembley FC?

Well, I would say that anyone in non-league football that says they would turn the opportunity down would be a liar, because in this position you can’t afford to turn it down.

The benefits it has given the club have been amazing. If you look at what Budweiser have left me with it’s unbelievable. They’ve left me with a good foundation and it’s up to us to spring on from there, to be truthful.

It’s been good for everybody, including grassroots football. Take Uxbridge for example, all the years they’ve been in existence and they had never been on television before, now they have and they have made some money from it which will help them.

Langford were given a new training kit and a luxury coach was put on for them that cost them nothing. There’s so many other little benefits that went with it.

What has it been like being part of the ‘Dream On’ documentary on ESPN? It must be weird having loads of cameras following you around.

It has been great but also stressful! Can you imagine coming home from work and seeing a big crane outside your house and walking in to find 15 camera crew in your living room?

I’m not used to that and neither is my wife, so it has been hard to adjust. It’s been particularly hard for the boys because they’ve never done so much training!

They’re coming in early and training all day to get all the filming done. They are knackered from it all. It’s crazy that three days of filming fits into one short programme like that.

Realistically, Wembley were never expected to win the cup, but it’s a shame they couldn’t progress a little bit further, isn’t it?

Yes definitely. It was upsetting for everyone that we got knocked out so soon, but the FA Cup is the FA Cup and there’s no guarantees in football.

We had the chance to win it in the replay but we blew it. Uxbridge were better than us and they deserved it, and you can’t change the result so you have to get on with it.

I guess it didn’t really go to plan in the end, because even though Budweiser had good intentions bringing those great players in, there were a lot of injuries which unfortunately meant they couldn’t play.

Ray Parlour and Graeme Le Saux got injured in the first game and then Brian McBride had to return back to America because he had other commitments.

I think we’ve learnt from that and so has Budweiser, and maybe we can start looking at ways to make it even better if we do it again.

The ex-professionals that have come in have all handled the challenges of playing at the highest levels of football. Would you say that this experience has also provided them with a challenge?

Yeah, of course. I noticed it especially with Brian McBride, it hit him very hard. He thought he was fit before he started with us, but it wasn’t until he started training that he realised how unfit he was.

Claudio Caniggia was absolutely brilliant. He went training when he went away from here, and he’s now twice as fit as he was when he first came here. He absolutely loved it here.

I got an email from him last night saying how much he enjoyed it and how welcome he felt here, and he said next time he’s in London can he ring me and arrange to go for a coffee together and have a chat.

Brian McBride apologised for not being able to come back because he had commitments, but he said he’ll call in if he can and keep in touch. For a football club with our standards to meet these kind of professionals has been a massive bonus for us.

They’ve all been complete gentleman and I think they feel like a part of the club now, which is great. I think they’ll keep track of our results and always know where we are and how we’re doing. I think everyone will know Wembley FC now and that’s great. What Budweiser has done has been tip-top.

How long will the sponsorship from Budweiser last, and will we see more from the footballing legends in the future?

I’m not really sure. It’s been a new experience for them and a new experience for us, so it’s been a big learning curve for everyone.

People say it was easy because of the money we get from it, but it’s actually been hard and a lot of stress and it has taken us out of our comfort zone.

It’s been great for Budweiser and great for us, but now that we’ve been knocked out of the cup it’s actually a bit of a relief because it feels like I can come up for air! We have been so busy with it all.

Now we’ve got some time to sit down and reflect on everything that’s been happening. We’ve been on TV so much and we’ve still got the show going on ESPN every Thursday night. We’re happy with it and Budweiser are happy with it, so it’s a win-win situation.

What are your targets for Wembley FC this season?

I’ve not set any targets this season, none at all. Only one team can be promoted, and now that Guernsey are in the league it has made it impossible to get promoted this season. They will win the league, no doubt.

Also, we’ve just come off a bit of a high with everything that’s been going on, and now we’re going through a bit of a low.

So it’s important that we’re able to pick ourselves up and carry on. All I’ve got planned for this year is to stay up if we can, then move on from there. I’m not looking for miracles, I’m looking to be realistic.

Are you still as in love with football as you’ve always been, and how long do you plan to stay involved with it?

As long as I’ve got my health, I’ll still be here. I think all the filming has added 10 years to my life, but it has taken 20 years off by not having as much pressure now.

I don’t have to worry as much with running the club and about paying for bills and stuff like that. I’m not going anywhere at the moment, only on my holidays! At the moment, I’ve got no interest in leaving this club or doing anything else.

I’ll be here until they carry me out in a box, I suppose. I try to take things day by day, rather than year by year.

Wembley FC chairman Brian Gumm was talking to Total Football about his team’s journey so far this year with new sponsors Budweiser. You can watch the documentary Dream On - The Journey of Wembley FC every Thursday at 10pm on ESPN or catch it on the Budweiser UK YouTube channel

By Glen Walter - Follow me on Twitter @GlenWalter27

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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