Jack The Lad: Wembley bound

13th September 2017

Supporter-turned-blogger Jack The Lad prepares for a trip to Wembley and reminisces about his memories from the famous stadium.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Swans playing a Premier League match at Wembley Stadium this weekend.

Having grown up in the 1970s watching classic cup finals and iconic internationals at the famous old stadium, it seems strange to see regular season matches being played at the famous venue.

I know it’s not the original stadium, but the Wembley name is still hugely evocative of one-off special occasions.

One of my first properly vivid football memories is watching Southampton shock Manchester United in the 1976 FA Cup Final.

In my mind’s eye, it was a beautifully sunny day as Bobby Stokes raced away beyond the United defence to fire low past Alec Stepney and clinch one of the biggest upsets in Cup Final history.

And I can remember staying up late on a school night to watch Sportsnight when Leighton James planted his match-winning penalty past Peter Shilton to give Wales their first, and only, win against England at Wembley.

Back in those days, unless you were an England international regular, playing at Wembley could be a once-in-a-career experience.

You either had to reach a cup final or play an international match there. For many, even those playing at the very highest level, the opportunity never presented itself at all.

So, playing at Wembley meant you really had achieved something special. You’d either reached a cup final, or you were representing your country.

As a bit of a traditionalist, I was even against the idea of playing FA Cup semi-finals at the venue.

To me, only international matches or cup finals should be played there, especially these days when there are plenty of neutral venues around with sufficient capacity to stage semi-finals safely.

I know many will argue that an FA Cup semi-final is a bigger occasion than an FA Trophy final or a League Two Play of final.

But to me, it still isn’t a final, no matter who is playing in the match or however big the club competition is.

However, having said all that, I suppose it does give Swans fans another chance to see the club play at Wembley . . . a venue which has been a relatively happy hunting ground over the years.

There can’t be many clubs who can boast a 75 per cent success rate there (I know we’ve only played there four times, but it’s still not a bad record).

Spurs may have a proud FA Cup record, but their success rate at Wembley has certainly taken a dent given their Champions League woes at the stadium last season.

And given our lack of success in the league at White Hart Lane over the years, perhaps playing at Wembley offers our their best chance of a league win over Spurs to date.

The North London venue certainly has some happy memories for us Swans fans.

Our first appearance there back in 1994 saw us lift the Autoglass Trophy against Huddersfield Town.

The next visit in 1997 was certainly one to forget as a late thunderbolt from Northampton Town’s John Frain saw us beaten 1-0 in the Third Division Play-off final.

The next time we sauntered down Wembley Way in 2011, it was to play at the new stadium, where we clinched what was arguably the biggest win in the club’s history to secure our place in the Premier League.

And, not forgetting, there was a quick return in 2013 when we beat Bradford City 5-0 in the Capital One Cup final.

So, it may not be a cup final this time around, but here’s to hoping it’s going to be another historic day out for the Swans in North London.

C’mon you Swans!