This particular moment in history was settled for Lincoln City many months prior to the 8th of April, writes Samuel Rowson.
A cold early February evening in front of the Sky Sports cameras, at Sincil Bank (no sponsorship deal just yet…). Luke Waterfall’s goal on 72 minutes wasn’t enough to seal the tie, so a goalless period of extra time soon followed and then onto a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out.
But once Lee Frecklington stepped up to score the winning penalty, the vast majority of the 9,444 in attendance that night were celebrating and in football paradise. Completely forgetting the 120 minutes of nerves and tension in a sudden release of pure excitement. I too had joined in with that rush! The first time my Lincoln, Our Lincoln, were to play at the national stadium. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a ticket for the game… WEMBLEYYYYY WEMBLEYYYY WE’RE THE FAMOUS LINCOLN CITY AND WE’RE GOING TO WEMBLEY!!! was reverberating around The Bank.
What I haven’t disclosed about my route to Wembley was that I would have to do so via air travel. Because 20 seconds after Frecklingtons’ penalty went in, the reality of the situation hit home. I was due to fly out and study in Augsburg, Germany as part of my degree from March- August 2018. Making the not so difficult journey from Lincoln to Wembley a whole lot harder.
I had toyed with the idea of just simply watching it on TV, in a bar in Munich with a bunch of friends I had made over in Germany. However, that was but a momentary thought. I was going to attend this game and as a result, tickets for me and Dad were purchased, and it was settled. We were going to be a part of the massive 26,000 horde of Lincoln fans for the final in April. The so-called Imp-vasion was back with a vengeance!
Now for getting to London for the game, setting off a full 2 days in advance. Getting an inner state bus journey to the town of Memmingen and staying over in a hotel nearby the airport so that I wouldn’t miss my early flight headed for Stansted. I of course was wearing a Lincoln shirt at every stage of the journey so that everyone knew my reason for travelling and for spreading the gospel that is Lincoln City!!!
The next morning it was game day and after having a little jibe with a Burnley fan in the hotel restaurant during breakfast, (they had just played and lost against Watford 2-1 the day previous) reminding them of big Rheady and Raggett, me and Dad set off on our pilgrimage to the home of football. We were unsure as to how long it would take to travel from our hotel into the centre of London, and then back out to Wembley via the underground. So, we decided to head straight for Wembley, not going to the main hotspots of Lincoln fans such as Kings Cross.
Despite this we ran into many Lincoln fans also making sure they got to Wembley well ahead of schedule, it felt like half of the county had come down in a mass exodus. ‘Make sure you turn off the lights and lock up when you leave the city’ was joked about on social media in the weeks leading up to the big game, due to the massive amount of people journeying to the capital. The tube to Wembley felt more like the number 1 bus going into Lincoln on a match day, packed with fans. It was great to see so many happy excited faces. Not one person was worried about the outcome of the day, just enjoying the adventure of a new stadium and absorbing in the new feeling and crazy atmosphere.
That was until we all stepped off the tube and walked out of the station. There it was in front of us, Wembley Way and at the end Wembley Stadium. A very drab, dreary, and drizzly Wembley way, but it still held your attention and packed a massive punch. All those nerves I had been holding back under the grandeur of the day all rose to the surface as the enormity of the game dawned upon me. After taking a few photos we started on our journey up towards the stadium.
The nerves kicked in hard because up until now I hadn’t given the game a moment’s thought. I was just concentrating on making it back into the UK and I was just so excited to be at Wembley. Maybe it was also a bit of complacency, going back 4 years to 2018 we were well placed in League Two, we had won the conference the year previous, with a quarter-final FA Cup run and a semi-final FA Trophy run. We had up until this point won more cup games than not under the Cowley’s and in my eyes no team no matter how high was safe (except maybe the 2nd half Arsenal Team…). So, facing off against Shrewsbury Town didn’t seem an impossible task. Looking back, they were one of the highest-ranked teams in that year’s competition being in the top 2 of League One at the time of playing them.
After all the hype and the build-up came the long-awaited debut, we’d known the feeling of being at a National stadium twice over, but instead of Cardiff in 2003 and 2005 it was finally time for the main stage. WEMBLEY!!!
And as everyone now knows it didn’t disappoint!