Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Wembley – the home of footballing legends
The guy with the shaved head moves along the Royal Box at Wembley to get his hands on the trophy.
The moment of destiny has arrived as his sweaty palms grip the prized silverware.
Then the photographer asks for a cheesy smile before you pass it along to the tourist couple from Venezuela and the Spaniard in the Barcelona scarf.
Nope, it’s not Gary Jones holding the Capital One silverware aloft, but me with a replica of the FA Cup. Close enough, maybe, and we can still dream...
City are in the League Cup’s “lucky” east dressing room on Sunday after all.
Three of the past four winners of the competition have got changed in the same area where Phil Parkinson and his League Two bravados will finalise their battle plan to make history.
Manchester United in 2009 and 2010 and Liverpool last year both left the “away” dressing room (so named because England use the one at the other end for international home games) and returned with a gleaming cup in tow.
Myself and photographer Mike Simmonds were lucky enough to get a feel of what it will be like for the players when they arrive on Wembley Way.
We were invited on the stadium tour – a 75-minute experience that takes you through the past and present of the evocative home of English football.
It is described as “walking in the steps of legends” and certainly feels that way. The new Wembley, rebuilt in 2007, carries the aura of the original but with more grandeur. Everything seems bigger and bolder than before.
There are nods to the history of the place – starting with the crossbar that Geoff Hurst famously rattled for the most contentious of his hat-trick goals in the 1966 World Cup final.
“Are there any Germans on the tour?” asked our guide. Realising there were none he quickly added: “It bounced well over the line, you know.”
You are taken into the bowels of the stadium to see the vast press conference room where over 200 reporters will hear Parkinson, hopefully, telling the world how he pulled off victory.
There is the plush suite for the VIPs who will be joined after the game by the winning team. Most clubs tend to stay for a couple of hours before heading into London to launch their celebrations properly.
Some linger longer and Portsmouth hold the unofficial record in 2008. Their FA Cup-winning party stretched until 3am before they had to be physically pushed out of the doors by staff who had been on duty for 20 hours by that point.
Around 200 people work at Wembley on a daily basis but that number is swelled to 5,000 for the big events. Twenty five of those are tour guides – it is big business and, judging by the numbers of excited tourists we saw on the day, hugely popular with the public.
The most keenly-viewed area inside the building itself are the dressing rooms. Wembley, in fact, have four – and all will be used when they host American football where 50-strong teams split into separate changing areas for offence and defence.
Wembley cleverly sprinkle an assortment of shirts in the two dressing rooms you are allowed to visit. Being as it was only two days after the Brazil friendly, England occupied one while the other was filled with Champions’ League jerseys – Messi, Ballack, Casillas and Rooney, plus the empty peg where Drogba’s Chelsea top used to reside.
Spotting the England shirts still on the dressing room pegs, I got the merest hint of the tingle that the players will get walking in and seeing their own ones hung up and all ready for action.
There it was: “Parker, number eight”. At last, my chance had finally come – Roy Hodgson was looking for a bit less mobility and no engine in his midfield .... or could it have had something to do with Tottenham’s Scott of the same name?
The rooms are spacious – it’s not like Valley Parade – and open up into a separate warm-up gym area. This also doubles as England’s dining room where they are told to eat within an hour of the final whistle.
You then walk through into the tunnel area. And that’s where it hits you.
“I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising,” admitted Mike – and he’s not even a dyed-in-the-wool football fan.
The iconic images on the walls brought it home: Hurst, Shilton, Charlton, Lineker, Shearer, Campbell. When City assemble opposite their Swansea counterparts on Sunday, those pictures will be different – they will be staring back at ten-foot photographs of themselves!
Our guide divides the party into two behind a “team captain” and you have to shake hands with the person opposite. Then the doors are pushed back and you stroll into the daylight.
Piped crowd noise tries to create the impression of cup final day. But it’s impossible to imagine what that volume will be like when Jones and Co emerge for the biggest game in the club’s history.
We also traced the steps of the cup winners – all 107 of them. It used to be only 39 to the Royal Box but now you have to work for that ultimate moment of glory. A stroll for the victorious team, according to our guide, but an ascent that “feels like Everest” for those who have just been beaten.
City, of course, are experienced mountaineers, having scaled Everest more than once already in this cup run. It should be no problem ...
The Wembley tour will not be open tomorrow because the dressing rooms are being prepared but fans can go round the viewing gallery, a smaller version minus downstairs.
But for those staying in London overnight after the final, the full tour will be back as normal from 10am on Monday, and every hour until 4pm.
Details are available at www.wembleystadium.com/wembley-tours