The defender spoke to Colin Stoner for today's Birmingham Mail...
ONE thing stands out for Alex Gudger after becoming a Wembley winner.
Not the roller-coaster 2018 FA Trophy final; not the last-minute equaliser and subsequent penalty shoot-out win; not the disbelief in the Brackley Town dressing room.
But the joyous reaction from friends and family in sharing one of the most momentous day in the career of the Solihull Moors centre-back.
Football, of course, is a team game but Gudger says sharing the good times with your nearest and dearest drives on every player and that will be the incentive as Moors head north today for the next stop-off on a journey they dream could take them to Wembley.
Neal Ardley’s side visit Southport, looking to shake off the disappointment of back-to-back league defeats in a bid to reach the Trophy last 16 against a team that sits in the top six in the National League North.
Defender Gudger, who joined Moors in the summer of 2018, stressed league rankings and form matters little in knockout competitions - Brackley were a National League North side when they lifted non-league’s biggest knockout prize by beating Bromley on penalties.
“Playing in the final is right up there with anything I’ve achieved as a player,” said the 29-year-old.
“It was great to look around and see your friends and family in the stands at Wembley and realise what it meant to them too. It’s a great day if you’re a player and for a club, but you can see what it means to your friends and family who have supported you from playing as a kid.
“It’s great to achieve as a player, to win things, to taste that little bit of glory, but it’s also about creating memories for your friends and family.”
Gudger can certainly reflect on a memorable final in Brackley’s red and white against Bromley in May 2018. His goal had given the Saints victory in the semi-final first-leg against Wealdstone before they went on to win 3-0 on aggregate.
But the big day at Wembley seemed destined for despair when they trailed until the fifth minute of injury-time and an own goal from former Blues’ League Cup winner Roger Johnson levelled matters. Brackley made the most of the reprieve and a spot-kick from ex-Moors striker Andy Brown finally sealed a 5-4 shoot-out win.
“It all happened so quickly – from being desperate to somehow get back into the game and then going up the steps to get the cup,” said Gudger. “It was a real roller-coaster.
“It’s a competition that really tests your character. You can tell what sort of players you have in the dressing room. It’s all about the team ethic and I’m still in touch with my team-mates from that day, Gaz Dean, Jimmy Armson, Shane Byrne.
“We’ve got that spirit at Solihull Moors and that’s what we will need on Saturday.
“It’s about showing your character. Southport are a big, physical side, they will be direct at times.
“We have to make sure we stand up to that. We can’t let them play their game – we have to implement our style.
“I’ve played against Southport a few times and it’s an open pitch, usually windy and rainy. You have to embrace the conditions and battle for everything and if you do that you’ve got a good chance to progress.”
Gudger, part of the Moors squad which reached the last eight in 2019, admits Solihull will need to improve after defeats to Stockport and Bromley and they want to grasp the opportunity.
“Getting to Wembley puts a club in the spotlight; it would be great for Solihull Moors to get that chance,” he added.
“Southport will be tough but we will be going full throttle on Saturday.”