They are the best of friends who are on the adventure of a lifetime.
Sholing manager Dave Diaper and his assistant Mick Brown have been friends for more than 30-years but their trip to Wembley today tops all their escapades together.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Brown. “It’s the pinnacle of anyone’s career.
“Me and Diaps go back a long way, we’ve been to The Dell and St Mary’s but getting to Wembley is the pinnacle.
“We’ve worked alongside each other for 15 years at Sholing and Vospers (VT), we worked at Otterbourne together, we’ve played football against each other for many years and played football together for many years too.
“Funnily enough, Dave and I were having a conversation a little while ago and we realised over the 30 or more years we’ve been together I don’t think we’ve had a cross word.
“We both think in the same way, we both discuss football in the same way, team selections we’re never far off each other.
“If there’s a decision when I say I don’t we should play him or him, he’ll go away and think about it and say ‘quite right, Mick, we’ll start off that way, if we need to change the system we’ll change it’. “And that’s what happened for the period of time we’ve worked together.”
The pair have transformed Sholing from a Hampshire League outfit to a club that will be back in the Southern League next season.
Brown admits that Diaper has blossomed as a manager over the past few years.
“If I’m quite honest with you, over the past three to four seasons Dave has come into his own, he’s constantly looking at what’s going in the game.
“What he says before the game, half time and even after the game is always spot on.
“Going back a few years ago, he’d give a team-talk and I could say a bit too, I’d come in and have my say. “But over the last three years he’s come into his own, he can analyse everything that goes on on the pitch and the players only want to hear it once.
“You can’t repeat what he’s said because it would be pointless, he’s already said everything.
“Over the years he’s picked up every trick in the book and he can just analyse everything. He is seven days a week 24 hours a day a football manager.
“I always get psyched up to say something after he’s done a team talk and I think ‘pointless’ I just don’t say a great deal now,” he laughs.
In their playing days, Brown joined Cadnam, where Diaper was a player, and ever since they have been almost inseparable.
“It’s probably worse than husband and wife,” joked Brown.
“When we’ve gone out, I’ve had some pretty rough nights around town and Dave’s always been there with an arm round me looking after me.
“We’ve had a really good career together and I’m proud of what we’ve built here.”
Before they joined forces, they regularly had battles on the pitch. “I was playing for a little side called Quadelmer at the time and Dave was playing for Cadnam, we were always competing against each other.
“We’ve been friends many years but when we played against each other we haven’t been quite so friendly.
“He liked to give you dig once in a while.
“I was a centre-forward and Dave was a midfielder, then he became a sweeper. I came up against him when he was playing in that sweeper role, he was always right up my back.
“We never came up against each-other in a cup final but I remember when I was about 33. We’d just won the Southampton Premier League, I just won the player of the year award and I picked it up and Dave accused me of bribing the manager to give me player of the year,” he joked.
They have, together, developed Sholing’s philosophy on football, which has been implemented throughout the entire club.
“We like to try and keep the ball on the deck, pass it around in the right areas with people moving off,” he said.
That style of play has seen them through to a Wembley final, something the 60-year-old is hoping to prepare his side thoroughly for.
“This is the best as you can get in football, stepping out on to the turf at Wembley is the pinnacle,” he said. “It’s difficult but we’re going to try and take them out the day before to get them all relaxed.
“If we can relax and get out on the pitch, and play the way I know we can play, we’ll put in a good performance.
“A couple of rounds before against Larkhall we tensed up, we were under a lot of pressure, but we came away with a 1-0 result.
“You can say anything to players but when they go out on that pitch they get all tensed up.
“They go into a little shell sometimes, now we’ve got to the final they’re out of that shell.
“We proved over the semi-final legs that we’re out of the shell and now we’ve got the final we can show the Wembley crowd what we can do.”
Although he’s keen to relax the players, it doesn’t go for himself.
“I’m terrible, I get really tensed up, referees make silly mistakes and I jump on them,” he revealed.
The friendship between Diaper and Brown is reflected in their team, who have tremendous team spirit.
“We’ve built three squads over the last 15 years and every squad we’ve built have had a great relationship with each other, going out and enjoying each others company,” he said.
“We’ve installed that friendship into the players.
“We’ve always had good communication with the players.”