Playing at Wembley! – A story by Luke Chadwick

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As a child it was my ultimate ambition to play at Wembley Stadium, I was encapsulated by the place! I would wait all year for FA Cup Final day where the game would be broadcast live on the TV, one of the few games that would be shown live back then and I would watch every second of the build up and game. It was a massive event back in those days with the programme starting in the morning building up to the game at 3pm, there always used to be a celebrity game on the pitch before the game as well which is something that would never be done now!

My first ever visit to Wembley was on a trip with my grassroots club Melbourn Tigers when we travelled on a coach to watch England schoolboys vs Brazil, the place blew my mind, the sheer size of the stadium, the Wembley Towers, you could feel the history of the place as I walked up to the turnstyle for the first time with my ticket, I was in football heaven! I remember there being over 70,000 people there for an u15s game and the atmosphere was electric! I also had a scary experience after the game when I got myself separated from the group and couldn’t find the coach we travelled on in the car park where there were 100s of coaches all looking very similar to a nine year old boy! I must have got on about ten of them looking for a familiar face before I finally found ours, the relief was massive and a memory I will never forget!

The only other times I ever visited the old stadium was to watch my beloved Cambridge United beat Chesterfield in the play-off final with the winning goal being scored by the legendary Dion Dublin who I went on to have the honour of playing with at Norwich City, the FA Cup final with my Dad when I was schoolboy player with Manchester United when they played Liverpool and Eric Cantona scored the only goal of the game, and the last ever game at the old Wembley when I was part of the England U21 squad and we watched Didi Hamman score the winning goal as England were defeated by Germany. I remember leaving the stadium that day gutted that this iconic place was going to be redeveloped.

I visited the new stadium a few times going on the stadium tour with the kids and going to a few England games when my wife managed to get tickets, and seeing Cambridge lose two play off semi-finals against Exeter and Torquay. Throughout all these years that burning ambition to play there never left me. The closest I got was the play – off semi – finals with Reading and Mk Dons but every time we missed out the feeling of disappointment was huge and there was every chance the dream would never be fulfilled.

And then right at the very end of my career it happened! When playing for Cambridge United we reached the play-off final in one of the biggest games in the clubs history to get back into the football league. I started the game on the bench and came on for the last half an hour with the team leading 1-0, I remember warming up absolutely desperate to get on the pitch and do what I’d always dreamt of doing and playing on that hallowed turf! And when I did the buzz was enormous, I ran on to the pitch and it felt so special and also felt like the biggest pitch I’ve played on! We ended up winning the game 2-0 and the feeling of relief and joy was huge!

I’m incredibly lucky and so grateful that I got to do what I always dreamt of doing and to do it while playing for the club I’d supported as a child made it extra special. Everyone that’s ever played the game will have memories from it that will last a lifetime regardless of what level they played at, and I certainly felt like that young kid again that dreamed of playing at Wembley Stadium when it happened as a veteran player coming to the end of his career!

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