YORK City boss Gary Mills freely confesses he is more consumed by the magic of Wembley, but he is under no illusion either about the financial importance of an FA Trophy final appearance.
Should the Minstermen exit at the last-four stage this afternoon, as they take a 2-1 first-leg advantage to Lincoln, then their efforts in this season’s competition will be rewarded with a cheque for £42,000 from the FA’s prize fund.
Completing an aggregate victory, though, will see that figure jump to £67,000 and, then, £92,000 if Mills’ team prevail under the famous arch on Sunday, May 21.
When gate receipts, TV money from BT Sports, merchandise sales and hospitality packages are also factored in, the cash windfall could rise to as much as £200,000.
That would clearly be a boost for a club hoping to mitigate some of the inevitable, eye-watering losses accrued in a season that has seen 46 players used and two managers assemble a squad each.
Recognising the strain on chairman and club owner Jason McGill who, due to the continued dalliance over relocation to a sustainable existence at Monks Cross, is now pumping in money that will not be recoverable with no equity from the future sale of Bootham Crescent, Mills said: “As manager, the financial rewards are not something I think about but, for the chairman and the football club, it’s very important and, obviously, if you get to Wembley and then go and win, that comes with it.
“Saying the chairman has taken a financial hit this season is a bit of an understatement. He’s been incredible and, even now, he is giving me the opportunity to bring in whatever players I can.
“We always get overnight stays and he does everything right at this football club so he certainly deserves a Wembley trip more than anybody. There’s no two ways about that.”
Since City last lifted the Trophy in 2012, ticketing arrangements have changed.
One ticket will now entitle fans to watch the FA Vase and Trophy finals on the same day with receipts likely to be determined by how many each participating club sells.
Previously, Trophy finalists would receive a share of the aggregate gate from the match but the Non-League finals day idea means there will be no perceived benefit from City meeting Tranmere rather than their semi-finalist opponents and smaller club Macclesfield, who boast former Bootham Crescent trio Scott Flinders, John McCombe and Luke Summerfield in their ranks.
Those two teams are deadlocked at 1-1 prior to this afternoon’s second leg at Tranmere’s Prenton Park.
Ticket prices for the day have already been frozen, meanwhile, at last season’s prices of £25 for adults, £10 for concessions and £1 for children
There will also be a group rate available for schools and clubs of £12.50 for adults, £5 for concessions and £1 for children.
This weekend will see the Vase semi-finals decided too, as Cleethorpes Town entertain Bromsgrove Sporting with the first-leg score level at 1-1.
South Shields, who include ex-City striker Jon Shaw in their ranks, lead 2-1 ahead of their home clash against Coleshill Town.
The Minstermen will also face the Imps with ten likely squad members – Aidan Connolly, Simon Heslop, Danny Holmes, Kyle Letheren, Amari Morgan-Smith, Sean Newton, Vadaine Oliver, Shaun Rooney, Luke Simpson and Alex Whittle – all hoping to earn an opportunity to grace the hallowed turf for a first time or 11, if Scott Fenwick is included, having only played at the old Wembley stadium as a schoolboy.
Injured quartet Yan Klukowski, Matt Fry, Clovis Kamdjo and Simon Lappin, along with youth-team graduates Sam Fielding, Tyler Walton and Alex Bruton, have not played there either, leading Mills to reason that success this afternoon would provide a massive lift in the fight against relegation.
“It would give us a boost going into the last ten league games, because I don’t want to be picking people up on Saturday night and Sunday morning if we’ve not made it to Wembley,” the City chief pointed out.
“I asked the question who had played there, before we started in this competition and quite a few haven’t, so it would be a massive occasion for them because thousands of footballers never get the opportunity.”
Should today’s scores finish level on aggregate after 90 minutes and extra-time, a place at Wembley will be decided on penalties.
In that scenario, City have players at their disposal who have experience of finding the net from 12 yards.
Jon Parkin, if he is still on the pitch after two hours of football, would seem an automatic choice.
The 35-year-old veteran had a penalty saved in the quarter-final against Brackley, but scored from the spot in his first spell at Bootham Crescent and has also converted for previous clubs Macclesfield, Hull, Preston, Scunthorpe, Fleetwood and Forest Green.
Fellow striker Morgan-Smith has netted with a spot kick this season for Cheltenham during a 1-0 Football League Trophy victory over Bolton and was successful after assuming the same responsibility when a Kidderminster player.
Newton (Telford, Stockport and Lincoln), Asa Hall (Oxford) and Fenwick (Hartlepool) also have penalty goals on their CVs and Mills added: “We’ve got quite a few who like taking penalties and practice them in training, although they can sometimes be the people who turn around and walk away when it comes to the moment.
“I hope it doesn’t go to penalties but we’ve practiced them and, if it does, you just have to stay confident and deal with the situation.”