Former Bury Town star Ben Coker said Southend United’s dramatic victory in the League Two Play-Off final at Wembley was the pinnacle of his career.
The 24-year-old left-back, who left Ram Meadow in 2010 to sign professionally for Colchester United, played all 120 minutes of the Shrimpers’ 7-6 penalties win over Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
Reflecting on the experience, Coker said walking out at Wembley is something he will never forget.
He said: “It was absolutely surreal, hearing the crowd as we came out was unbelievable.
“I was just trying to keep as calm as I could and luckily I started the game quite well so that settled me down.
“Playing at Wembley is every footballer’s dream and it is definitely the pinnacle of my career so far.
“Winning the league with Bury (in 2010) was special as we had such a great group of boys at the time, but this just tops that.”
Coker made a last-ditch saving tackle to prevent Wycombe going 2-0 up in extra-time, but the experience nearly ended in heartbreak for the player named in the PFA League Two team of the year, after he missed Southend’s second spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out.
“I was gutted. All I could think about was how we weren’t going to go up and it was all going to be my fault. I got back to the centre circle and one of the lads put his arm around me and said ‘Don’t worry Bents (Goalkeeper David Bentley) will save one’.
“Fortunately he did and it was the best feeling I’ve ever had.” he added.
The Shrimpers had to battle back from a goal down in extra-time, with Joe Pigott’s 120th minute equaliser cancelling out an unfortunate 95th minute Bentley own-goal to send the game to penalties.
Coker said: “At that point I was just knackered but I knew we would get another chance, we just had to take it. The ref said afterwards that there were only 10 seconds to go and I still can’t believe we did it to be honest.”
The celebrations continued for the team over the weekend with an open top bus parade through the streets of Southend on Bank Holiday Monday.
Speaking on Tuesday, Coker said: “I’m only just starting to come down from the high now.
“To be playing League One football next season is brilliant and I’ll enjoy my time off this summer before going again in July.”
His promotion follows on from former Bury goalkeeper Nick Pope, whose loan side Bury went up in the final automatic promotion spot at Southend’s expense.
n The week 52 winners of the Bury Town SuperDraw are: £1,000 Mr Andrew McLaren (V8744); £150 Mr R F Nash (A8400); £100 Mr M Jones (D4214); £75 Mr M Smith (G6033); £50 Mrs Callister (U7304); £50 Mrs L Withers (I9423); £25 Mrs M Toogood (J0746), Mr R Bushell (B4653), Mrs M Richards (R2783), Mr D Read (N6034). The birth date drawn was 11/07/60 and was matched by two winners: Mrs Pullen and Mr Jones who share the £300 jackpot. Next week’s jackpot starts again at £100.