Diss Town 1994 FA Vase winning manager Bill Punton’s view on that memorable day

Bill Punton ANL-140705-141705001
Bill Punton ANL-140705-141705001

He had played top flight football with Newcastle and Sheffield United, and had a long period with Norwich City, which earned him a place in the club’s hall of fame.

But the then Diss Town boss Bill Punton puts that FA Vase win as “probably” the highlight of his career.

As he admits, it was a particularly talented group, with many players who could have, and indeed did, go on to have careers with professional football league clubs.

There were no weak links in his crop of 18 players, said Punton.

“I made sure all the players got paid the same and when we won the semi final, all the players got a £100 bonus - quite a bit then,” he said.

One of the toughest moments for Punton was the night before the final, going to the players’ hotel rooms and telling them who was in, and who was out. Only two substitutes were allowed then - so only 13 could be picked.

Ian Manning, for example, scored the winner in the semi final against Atherton Laburnham Rovers, but missed the cut.

“I was always taught to pick your team with your head, not your heart,” said Punton. “But it was very difficult to talk to those players who were being left out.”

But the whole cup run had very much been a team effort. All 18 players took to the Wembley pitch before the May 7 final for a kickabout in front of the fans - a nice moment - but Diss were given a warning by the FA afterwards for staying on the turf too long!

The match started and The Tangerines were a goal behind at half-time.

“Peter Mendham admitted himself that he should have had a hat-trick in the first half”, said Punton.

“I told them at half time: “You’re one-nil down but you’re the better team. We will have more chances and we will take them”.”

With practically the last kick of the game falling to Paul Gibbs from the penalty spot, Punton knew the self-confident midfielder would bang it in.

And so, with Mendham’s winner in extra time, came the iconic walk up those Wembley steps to collect the Vase.

Punton said: “It was a great year for me. At the end of the season the FA awarded me the Non League Manager of the Year award.”

Punton’s stay at Diss Town lasted seven years and is their most successful ever manager.

He now lives near Norwich and still regularly watches local football.