I’ve only had the pleasure of visiting Wembley stadium on one occasion in my life. Believe it or not, I was once a 15-year-old Northampton Town season ticket holder and my sole trip to the biggest arch in football was to watch the Cobblers get dismantled 3-0 by a Bradford City side who boasted the talent of the once prolific duo of James Hanson and Nahki Wells. This had a certain ‘grand day out’ feel to it, but the dream was and still is to watch the red and white wizards take to the field on the grandest stage of them all.
The 2014 League Cup final was a match that I didn’t really pin my hopes on attending. The season ticket priority and massive allocation given to corporate customers made my chances slim to nil of bagging that golden ticket. There was no need to despair, however.
2019 came bombing into view and Sunderland find themselves in a cup final at Wembley which, thank the lord, is possible for me to attend. When tickets went on sale I was hopeful of bagging one at phase two, not bad considering I haven’t owned a season ticket since I was 12. I didn’t care what the competition was, all I knew was that it was the first chance I’ve ever had to watch my team walk out at Wembley.
Through a solid piece of luck and the generosity of a friend’s family member that chance of getting to Wembley was confirmed - armed with two season card numbers and a short wait in the queue, I was sorted.
Eddie Money sang about having two tickets to paradise - I now find myself facing the prospect of standing amongst the 40,000 other Mackems agreeing that our paradise (for one Sunday afternoon at least) was a football ground in North London.
Receiving the phone call from my pal to confirm that we had that tickets while I was on my way to work was a fantastic feeling. After missing out on tickets five years ago I thought it would be a much longer wait for another opportunity to see the Lads in a cup final.
To all Mackems out there, whether you’re attending the final or not, I suggest (not that you need me to tell you!) that you don’t listen to what any other fan says about this competition, our participation and what it signifies.
We’ve had a rough ride in the last few years and we thoroughly deserve to enjoy ourselves with a big day out. Does it matter what the competition is? It’s a cup final in the biggest venue in English football. Let’s get excited, have a cracking day out and put the promotion race on the back burner for just a day.
I’ve been absolutely elated ever since that phone call came through just over two weeks ago. What makes it even more special for myself is that I’ll be going to Wembley with my old man - I don’t see him much when I’m away at university, so to be able to say I’m going to watch Sunderland in a cup final with him is fantastic.
I know there’s been a lot of talk from supporters of other teams about boycotting this tournament, and there is a valid argument behind their individual concerns. However, we’ve made it to the final by beating every team put in front of us - we’re there on merit.
This, to most of us, means so much more than just a game of football. It’s a deserving reward for Sunderland fans and it gives us a chance to take our superb support to the national stadium, and into the capital, showing all that come across us who we are and what we are.
Win or lose, I’m confident that the players and the tens of thousands of supporters in red and white will do our city and our team proud.