FORMER Hereford United skipper Tony James has completed a hat-trick of promotions to the Football League.
Tony, who lives in Bobblestock, has just tasted playoff success with Newport County.
The defender has also helped United and Burton Albion to climb out of the Conference.
Tony lined up next to ex-Hereford man Byron Anthony in County’s 2-0 win over Wrexham in an all-Welsh play-off final at Wembley Stadium.
“It is the first time I have played at Wembley,” said Tony, who has agreed a new deal with County.
“At 34, I thought the chance to play at Wembley had passed me by.
“It was amazing to play in a big final like that.
“There are far better players than me who never get a chance to play at Wembley.
“It was a tough final. It was very nervy with a lot riding on it.
“To win it with two late goals was fantastic.”
Tony’s wife and two children were in the crowd, while Rob Purdie and Jon Hill were also cheering him on.
“It was a long way up the Wembley steps to collect our medals but it was a great feeling,” he said.
Tony has experienced highs and lows over the past few months.
His dad died the night before a crucial midweek game against Gateshead.
“My dad died when I was staying in a hotel in Boston the night before a game with Gateshead,” recalled Tony.
“I was in bed when I had a phonecall at 11.30pm to say that dad had died.
“I was a long way from home, so it wasn’t ideal.
“I thought it was best if I played the game the next day and a lot of the lads didn’t know about my dad until after the match.”
Tony gave a fine display and was County’s man of the match in a goalless draw.
Tony is k e e p i n g an eye on events at E d g a r Street .
He still has a signed playoff final shirt which he would like to donate to United to raise money.
Tony was injured when United clinched promotion to the Football League.
But he helped to lift the trophy after United overcame Halifax Town 3-2 in the play-off final at Leicester in May 2006.
“The promotion with Hereford is special,” he said.
“I had been at Hereford a long time and, after all the near misses, we finally got there.”
He later gained automatic promotion with Burton Albion.
“I think things like promotion get better as you get older,” he added.
“I have appreciated every minute of this one and I have tried to take it in as much as possible.
“We had an open-top bus parade around Newport.
For a senior player at this stage of my career, it was the cream of the crop.”
Tony also knows what it’s like to crash out in the play-offs - like when Hereford were beaten on penalties by Aldershot Town in May 2004.
“Losing in the play-off semifinal when we were the best footballing side in the league was sickening.”
Tony’s son Jordan is a promising footballer and goes to Birmingham City’s academy four times a week.
“He loves it and it’s great that he’s so interested in football,” said Tony.
“Hopefully, one day, I will be watching him play football.
“He’s a defender but he likes to get more forward than I do.”