The journey has ended but the dream is still on
Wembley FC may have crashed out of the FA Cup with a 5-0 defeat to local rivals Uxbridge, but the documentary series charting their progress continues to air on ESPN.
'Dream On... The Journey of Wembley FC' offers a glimpse into life at the Combined Counties League Premier Division club, whose partnership with Budweiser has stirred much media interest this year.
The American beer giants already sponsor the FA Cup but saw a fresh opportunity in supporting the team that is based a stone's throw from the fabled home of English football.
To change the fortunes of a side sitting in the shadows of glory has held great allure for the marketing men but they would have hoped Wembley's cup campaign advanced past the preliminary round, especially after drafting in ex-pros David Seaman, Graeme Le Saux, Ugo Ehiogu, Ray Parlour, Claudio Caniggia and Brian McBride.
The legends participate
The legends were signed to participate in cup matches but, after injuries and other commitments, only 45-year-old Caniggia was actually available for the replay with Uxbridge.
The Argentine star deserves credit for his guest appearances but, ultimately, he failed to inspire victory.
Nonetheless, the cameras following The Lions have captured a fascinating insight into a club competing in the lowly realms of English football's ninth tier.
The juxtaposition between their ground and the national arena is stark; Wembley Stadium's extravagant, iconic arch overlooks Wembley FC's drab and dreary Vale Farm home.
However, the television crew has instilled changes, hiring American architect Majken Larssen to create a new and "kinda sparkly" image for the club's humble abode.
The jury is still out as to how that one will transpire but the show comes into its own when meeting the club's colourful characters.
Proud chairman, Brian Gumm, introduces the series by declaring: "Most people around the world don't realise that there is a Wembley Football Club, formed in 1946. The England squad trained here in 1966 and won the World Cup."
The latter is quite a claim to fame, which makes it all the more surprising that the former rings true.
Involved for two decades
Gumm has been involved with the club for over 20 years and his passion to keep it going is clear; he borders on emotional when addressing the squad to tell them of exciting times that lay ahead.
You get a real sense of the close-knit family spirit that often goes amiss in the upper echelons of the game.
Indeed, the notion to keep it in the family is personified in the form of Gumm's son-in-law, Ian Bates (pictured).
The veteran midfielder juggles the roles of player-manager, captain, groundsman and maintenance man. A far cry from the luxuries of Premier League life.
He displays great humility towards 'Old John', an elderly fan down on his luck, who is given a free season ticket in addition to regular bacon rolls and cups of tea.
It is no surprise to learn that Bates has also found time to make over 800 appearances for the club he loves.
Venables brought in
Terry Venables was brought in as a football director for the project and the former England boss took training sessions with the part-timers, encouraging them to play a more fluid 4-3-3 formation rather than their solid 4-4-2.
Bates was sceptical at first, telling the cameras: "I'm not sure it'll come off in the league we're in, where they come at you and try to smack it down your throat."
The filmmakers amplify a rift between the new management duo but, aside from the added spice and drama, you see that all Bates really cares about is winning.
Chubby cab driver and Wembley's goalkeeper, Lee Pearce, gets his Hollywood moment when the crew arrange for a personal trainer to improve his fitness, while David Seaman is also on hand to improve his technique.
Seaman even gives the strikers an insight into the mind of a keeper, advising them to chip the ball in one-on-one situations because the goalie will always want to stay low.
Masterclasses from other legends will be screened over coming weeks.
If you can cope with the melodramatic Americanized-production, complete with intense musical score, then 'Dream On' is definitely worth a watch. You can catch it every Thursday at 10pm on ESPN or via Budweiser UK's YouTube channel.
by Chris Cahill
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