Growing up and watching his dad win the Chatham Cup instilled dreams into Melville United coach Sam Wilkinson's head to do the same. On Sunday that dream may become reality with Melville United to face Napier City Rovers in the Chatham Cup final at QBE Stadium in Auckland. Tom Rowland reports.
Not only was Sam Wilkinson's father the last Waikato coach to win the Chatham Cup 31 years ago against Christchurch United, but Melville will in the final this Sunday be facing Napier City Rovers, who dad Roger transformed into a National League Club.
The 2019 Chatham Cup has become the stuff of fairytales for Sam and Melville United, with the links to the past scattered throughout the cup run.
In the quarter finals, Melville United dumped Christchurch United out of the cup 4-0, with the team the finalists in the Chatham Cup that Roger won.
Along with Sam, Melville United is also coached by Michael Mayne who is also credited with the success of the side.
Sam said the personal links around the cup were funny, but he was focused on the game at hand.
"Yes, there's a lot of funny links with the final, playing against Dad's old club. Hopefully they are signs that it's our year," he said.
"Michael and I are incredibly proud of the players and delighted their hard work has been rewarded with this opportunity.
It's nice for me having played in a final for Melville — but I'm also very mindful of the importance of winning the final and not over celebrating just being in it."
It would be the best possible birthday gift for Wilkinson, who's will be turning 36 on the same day.
Melville United's has been a near dominant cup run, securing a 7-0 win over Hamilton rivals Claudelands Rovers, and an 8-2 win over East Coast Bays.
They also secured a 3-1 win over Waitakere City, which is similar to the 3-2 victory that the 2003 Melville United side faced.
That was the last time Melville United featured in a Chatham Cup final, with Sam Wilkinson part of the squad as a player, they were defeated 3-1 by University-Mount Wellington.
It was a slow start to Melville United's season, after a dominant 2018 season in division one, their return to the Premier League did not quite start as planned.
However, after a run of last minute defeats and draws, Melville came right and start claiming points off the likes of Eastern Suburbs and Manukau United.
Sam said the main turning point in the season was time, and allowing the players to settle.
"We were playing well at the start of the season but just falling short in key moments. With time we've become a little more game-savvy and battle-hardened, signing Craig Pritchard has also added another dimension to our play in the top third."
Sam and co-coach Michael Mayne have received plaudits across New Zealand for their academy, and having faith in youth has paid off.
"A large number of the young players we had at the club in our first season are still in the team. We've also had a number of players progress into the first team from the academy. Seeing young players not only progress but perform well at first team level is hugely rewarding for me and Michael."