As we continue our build-up to Saturday’s League One play-off final, Sky Sports News presenter and Massive Lads Fan Tom White brings us his memories of Sunderland at Wembley.
Wembley memories? Awful! All of them! Actually, that’s not fair.
I look back on the League Cup final in 2014 with fondness, but other than that, they have been terrible experiences. Wembley is an awkward place to get to, the pubs are so full that it’s difficult to get into one let alone get served at the bar, and the prices inside the stadium are a disgrace.
I go to a lot of away games, and the vast majority are fairly stress free in that respect, but I find Wembley particularly difficult. None of that would matter, of course, if we won. But we never flipping do!
The reason the 2014 game stands out is because we never expected to win, and we were all determined to just have a cracking day/night/weekend. And we did! I was also proud of that squad, and proud that we, as fans, were exemplary.
We had a lot of fun in London, and we were widely praised for the way we conducted ourselves before the game. And I loved seeing the stadium remain full when the opposition were lifting the trophy. We stayed and applauded, when other clubs would have headed home at the final whistle.
I genuinely believe that we help dispel the myth that football fans are all drunk hooligans when we go to Wembley, and that occasion against Manchester City was the perfect example. (I’m well aware that most of us were drunk! But we’re nice drunks)!
The other occasions have meant much more, so defeat has hurt. Especially the 2019 playoff final against Charlton. When we lost to them in 1998 I was adamant that no one would get near us the following season, and I was right. So, as much as I wanted us to win, I was relatively calm.
In 2019 it felt worse because I thought that was our best chance to get out of League One. I felt that we’d be stuck down here for a while after that. Sadly, I was right again! I really, REALLY hope that this time it goes our way and it’s “our year.”
But those painful memories are still strong, and I’m finding it hard to be optimistic and positive. I’ve got a feeling that Wycombe will score early and we’ll never get back into that. This year, I hope I’m wrong! And if I am, I’ll happily queue to get into every pub, patiently wait for ages to get served at the bar, and I won’t even mind paying those ridiculous prices inside the stadium! Ha’way the lads!
NB: I’ll end with a little admission. I missed the 2019 Checkatrade Trophy Final. I agreed to host a pool tournament in Gibraltar before I knew we were going to Wembley. There were a whopping 18 fans inside the arena, and probably even fewer watching on TV! I ended up watching final on my tiny phone screen on Sky Go in between racks. It truly is one of my biggest regrets! Although did make it to Bristol Rovers for the semi-final. That was a great night!