"It means everything to me" - Shaymen skipper Senior on leading his hometown team out at Wembley

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There'll be no-one prouder than Jack Senior when FC Halifax Town walk out at Wembley on Sunday.

The Halifax-born defender looks set to captain The Shaymen in their FA Trophy final against Gateshead in what he says will be the biggest game of his career by far.

Senior is coming to the end of his third season at the club, and is set to form part of Town's back three in the game.

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"As the occasion's come closer, the more it's taken over my thoughts and the more I'm thinking about it," he said.

Jack SeniorJack Senior
Jack Senior

"I wake up thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it.

"But it's the right balance that you're going about it the right way and you're thinking positively about it.

"What it means for me personally, it means everything to me.

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"It'd be a bit of a fairytale in that I used to watch (Halifax) as a kid and then when I first signed, I was then walking out where I was watching all those years ago.

"I've got so many friends from school who watch week in, week out who are coming.

"A couple of friends, half-an-hour after the Altrincham game, said 'booked a 60-seater'.

"They used to sit next to me when we watched them back in the Vardy days.

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"It'd mean everything to me to win it, it'd just be one of the proudest moments of my life.

"Right now, you're just making sure everything's right because there's still time until we walk out on that pitch and there's a lot of preparing mentally and physically, so we're making sure we do everything right so when the whistle blows, we're clear in what we want to do."

Senior is set to captain the team due to skipper Tom Clarke probably being on the bench, alongside vice-captain Jordan Keane.

"Honestly, I don't know what I'll be thinking until I'm there," Senior said of leading the team onto the pitch.

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"The feeling of walking out and hearing the fans roar, I've got goosebumps talking about it now and I know for a fact I'll have goosebumps.

"They're the type of moments where you want to be in the moment and you don't want to let it pass you by because they're feeling you'll never forget in your life.

"Once-in-a-lifetime, if you're lucky.

"It's hard if you ask me right now to put it into words. It'll just be immense proudness."

Senior will have around 40 family and friends coming, including his younger brother Sam, who has already played at Wembley for Brooksbank School in the 2011 Carnegie Champion Schools Tournament, where they beat South Leeds Academy before that year's Challenge Cup final.

"It'll be roles reversed on Sunday," Senior said.

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"It'll be a proud moment for him because he can have the feelings I felt all those years ago.

"My mum's so proud, she's got a few bits of merchandise from the shop so she'll be full on when it comes to Sunday.

"Everyone's scattered about in the ground so I've got a lot of people to look out for, which will be easier said than done in a stadium like that.

"It's just exciting that people can see me on a stage like that."

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Senior knows he has extra responsibilities as captain, and won't shirk from them.

"While I've been out it's been Jesse taking over the huddle, so because me and him are a bit superstitious, it might still be Jesse," he said.

"I've got my different ways of motivating, it might be little chats here and there, it might be easing the pressure by making someone laugh, just to take the pressure out of the day.

"When it gets closer to the time, that's when it might become more assertive and a vocal presence in and around the changing room.

"You just get a feeling for what's needed at the time.

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"In terms of getting people going, if you can't get yourself going there might be a problem!

"Everyone will be motivated within themselves, it'll just be up to me and a few of the senior members to keep everyone calm. A bit of ice and fire."

Senior feared he may miss the big day when he was forced off in Town's 1-1 home draw against Bromley on April 18 with a hip injury.

"The first 48 hours after the Bromley game was just sheer panic, every minute of the day and night I was in a bad way and I thought 'if this is the way my season's going to finish it'd just be so unfortunate'," he said.

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"So I made sure I did everything I could, I've lived a very boring life since the Bromley game, just making sure everything's right to be ready for Sunday.

"A lot of people used the week off to get away but I'd had my little breather while I was doing my rehab, so I came into the training ground every day.

"Jesse (Debrah) was the same, so me and Jesse came in and spent the week leaving no stone unturned."

Senior, and the rest of his Town team-mates, could also have so easily have missed out on the final but for Milli Alli's last-ditch equaliser against Altrincham in the semi-final before Town won on penalties.

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Instead, while everyone else's season has finished, Town and Gateshead have one more game to play.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Senior said.

"I go home and go on Instagram and see people on the beach and not for one minute do I think 'I'd swap places with them'.

"The extra three weeks has been done perfectly, everyone's had a rest and then coming back in, the atmosphere's been so good, there's a real positive mindset, it's been great.

"There was a bit of apprehension going into the Hibs game in terms of just looking after yourself because I've become very superstitious over the last few weeks, more so than usual.

"I need wood in sight all the time to touch it!

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"But that game was perfect in terms of getting minutes and you want to get back into that rhythm of seeing the patterns of play and getting used to playing each other again.

"I felt so much better mentally and physically after Monday."

Senior wasn't at Wembley when Town won the competition for the first time in 2016.

"I've seen the goal over and over, and I've seen the trophy lift so many times," he said.

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"As it's been getting closer to Wembley, it's become apparent how much 2016 means to everyone and how good it was, and from speaking to fans at the open day, how much they cherish that memory.

"The fans just see us for 90 minutes on a Saturday or a Tuesday, they don't get to fully interact with us, and we don't get to interact with them.

"But we got that added incentive from them of what it means to them and what they'll be feeling while we're out on the pitch."

When asked how he rates Halifax's chances, Senior said: "We've had two good performances against them, we've nullified their strengths in terms of they're a fluid, passing team who like to play through the thirds and build from the back.

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"They've got intricate, tricky players but over the two games I think we've dealt with them.

"If we can nullify their threats, then especially the way we played at the back end of the season, I think we've got more than enough going forward to hurt them."

Reaching the final is a remarkable ending to a rollercoaster of a season for The Shaymen, but one that Senior has ended up taking a lot of pride in.

"There's been plenty of ups and downs, started down, then we went on a run, then we were a bit poor around Christmas, but it's ended on a positive note," he said.

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"There were times at the beginning of the season where, if you'd said to us you'll finish in the top-half and you'll go to Wembley, people would either say you're lying or they'd snap your hand off.

"It's been a challenging season for us all but what I'm most proud about is how we've stuck together.

"When you get on the pitch, there's a job to be done. Yes, it didn't always work for us and the opposition were better than us but we still stuck to our identity and made sure the core values we had were still in place, even through the rough spells.

"No-one threw it in, everyone worked hard to get us back to better times."

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It will be the best of times if Senior is the one lifting the trophy on Sunday evening. Not that he's allowed himself to think that far ahead yet.

"No, not yet," he said. "I'm a very superstitious person so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

"There's things that can happen before that so you deal with that when it comes.

"Obviously it's an amazing situation but until you're there and until you're done your job for 90 minutes, or in the penalties, that's when you can think about walking up those steps.

"Now you've asked me, I'm thinking about it!

"It would be incredible, the players that have walked up those steps.

"I was watching Notts County do that last week, it's crazy to think about it."

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