Port Vale co-owner and chairwoman Carol Shanahan says reaching the League Two play-off final is a fitting reward for the club’s “phenomenal” football staff.
It is the club’s first trip to Wembley since its rebuilding in 2007.
“The squad is such a group – they’re phenomenal,” Shanahan told BBC Radio Stoke.
“Seven clubs have yet to play at the new Wembley – including us. After Saturday it’s six.”
The prospect of a day at Wembley marks a significant achievement in Shanahan’s eyes after she bought the club – with her also longtime Vale-supporting husband Kevin – by former owner Norman Smurthwaite in May 2019.
This deal ended three years of uncertainty for Vale, which was put up for sale by Smurthwaite in 2016 amidst financial troubles and fights on the pitch.
An “emotional” season
The Shanahans’ first full season as owners ended early when the coronavirus pandemic hit, denying the club a chance to make the 2019-20 play-offs. Shanahan said the vote was for an early end to this season “the hardest thing I’ve ever done”.
After a campaign played behind closed doors, this season has been another rollercoaster ride. A slow start was followed by a streak of eight out of nine wins that automatically sent the club into the promotion places, only for their form to falter and they had to win on the final day to secure their place in the playoffs.
Additionally, manager Darrell Clarke took time off in February following a family bereavement before going on hiatus gradual return at the end of March in support of interim chief Andy Crosby.
“I think if you described Vale’s season it would be emotional,” Shanahan said.
“It was emotional from the start of preseason when I started with nine players and then [director of football] Dave Flitcroft and Darrell are building this roster. All we knew was that they were special.
“I’m happy for Darrell and his backroom staff – Andy Crosby and the others – because there are some unsung heroes in there. They all work for each other. I stay with them the night before the games and it shows.
“The players all wanted to do it for Port Vale. They wanted to do it for Darrell. They wanted to do it for each other. We’re here and I’m just so happy. It was such an emotional build up.
“We have 25,000 fans and we want to accommodate as many as possible.”
“I wouldn’t even win a karaoke”
Shanahan evoked memories of Delia Smith’s famous “Where are you?” At a Premier League game at Norwich City in 2005, while leading a chorus of que sera sera with the crowd after her victory over Swindon, she broke up at half-time.
Shanahan said she decided to give it a try after pressure from the players.
“It started when I went to the dressing room,” she said.
“Someone stands on a chair and sings and the boys all started saying, ‘Come on Carol, give us a song.’
“By then I had gotten away with it, so I just started Que Sera Sera and everyone started singing. Then the fans wanted to sing it, so I was like, ‘It worked last time, I’ll try again’ — I wouldn’t even win a karaoke.”