The remarkable rise of Dagenham & Redbridge
At Wembley Stadium
Something truly, truly special happened at Wembley on Sunday afternoon as, in the words of their veteran goalkeeper Tony Roberts, a pub team from Essex reached League One.
The Daggers have only been a Football League club since 2007. They had an average attendance of 2,088 last season and their most expensive player on Sunday, left-back Damien McCrory, cost £10,000 when he was signed shortly after the turn of the year.
"It is a fairy story," said emotional manager John Still after the match.
Still took charge of the club for a second time in 2004. Chairman Dave Andrews got in touch but Still had only recently left Bristol Rovers and felt he had better offers to consider elsewhere.
It was Still's wife Barbara who persuaded him that the club was in his blood and that he should return home from a holiday in Cyprus and accept the position.
Sunday's victory was rich reward for Still's hard work
The 60-year-old Still's first thought after the final whistle on Sunday was of his late dad Len, a Daggers supporter. His mum Pat was too nervous to attend the match but Still telephoned her straight away as he tried to absorb the scale of his team's achievement.
As with Blackpool's remarkable promotion to the Premier League a week earlier, there was a slight sense of disbelief as the final whistle confirmed the Essex's club promotion to the third tier of English football.
It was another victory that proved you don't need a flash stadium or deep pockets to succeed in the modern game.
Afterwards in Wembley's cavernous press conference room, Still spoke directly and honestly as he explained how the club have managed to punch so far above their weight.
Time and time again he talked about the type of person who is fit to be called a Dagger. It is obviously something that matters to him a great deal.
"No one comes to this club unless they are a Dagger," he explained. "It is about hard work and about being 100% behind what you do.
"We're Daggers, we always keep going, nothing fazes us, nothing stops us."
Still had met numerous players down the years that he quickly realised would not be right for the club. They talked too much about money and not enough about ambition and self-improvement.
Goalkeeper Roberts added: "The manager and his team watch players eight or nine times to make sure they are a Dagger.
"We have not got the biggest fanbase so we have to believe in each other and that is what Still seems to get out of everybody."
The Daggers missed out on last season's play-offs by one point and lost seven influential players during the summer months.
Nobody expected much this campaign but they had not reckoned on the rebuilding job done by Still, who blended a series of loan signings with some shrewd finds from non-league.
Danny Green, for example, scored the Daggers second goal at Wembley after joining from Bishop's Stortford last July.
"It is all about hard work, about getting out in the car and watching games and it is amazing what you can achieve when no one is worried about taking the credit," added Still.
Still has found, polished and sold numerous players from non-league football over the years, including Soloman Taiwo, Tresor Kandol and Craig Mackail-Smith.
Paul Benson, another Wembley goalscorer, was signed in 2005 from White Ensign, who play in the Essex Intermediate League, 11 levels below League One.
Benson is part of Dagenham's experienced spine, along with keeper Roberts, defender Mark Arber and midfielder Peter Gain.
Roberts has been at the club for a decade and at the ripe old age of 40 has now fulfilled his ambition of playing at Wembley.
The nearest the Welshman had come to playing there prior to Sunday's match was as an extra in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager.
"I was the big Belgium number four, in goal when England missed a penalty and an outfield player for Norwich," Roberts told me.
A finger injury had forced his retirement from professional football in 1998. He joined the Daggers in 2000 and, when the club reached League Two, he had to pay back part of the £150,000 compensation package he received when he quit the pro game.
He has never been full-time at the club and currently trains Arsenal's youth keepers from Monday to Thursday before hooking up with his club on Friday ahead of their match the following day.
"When I first arrived I did not think we would ever see days like this," said Roberts of the Wembley win.
A decade ago the Daggers celebrated promotion from the Ryman Premier League. Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton and Charlton were playing in the Premier League back then but they will meet as equals next season.
"I am sure that Mr Irvine and Mr Pardew will be quaking in their boots," added Still. "But hopefully we can write another chapter and keep the club playing within that level."
Not surprisingly, Still had already started planning for next season before the final and had four trialists across from Spain last week.
He is confident that his talent for unearthing and developing non-league players will still reap rich dividends now that he is managing at a rarified level for a club of modest standing.
Still will return to his favourite spot in northern Cyprus and take with him a few photos of the Wembley day out to show the friends he and his wife have made there.
Obviously, he and his coaching staff of Wayne Burnett and Terry Harris will stagger their holidays to ensure that they do not miss out on any potential signings.
One season has ended, but in some ways another has already begun and I get the feeling that Still would not have it any other way.
"When they decide the bald bloke has had his time I will then be on the terraces watching because I am a fan of this club," said Still, whose sense of achievement is clearly heightened because of his true feelings for the club.
Somehow I get the feeling he will be waiting for quite a long time before that happens.