On Saturday afternoon under the arch, one of football’s most valuable fixtures will take place. Aston Villa and Fulham will go to battle under the Wembley arch for a place in the Premier League.
Likely to be at the heart of the Villa midfield is Solihull boy Jack Grealish. It’ll be his third appearance at the National Stadium having already experienced the agony and ecstasy that this famous stadium can provide.
For him, this match means everything. It’s a chance to take his beloved club back to where he feels they belong, and in doing so provide a platform for himself and teammates to perform on the biggest stage of all.
“I’ve set myself targets and I’m determined to achieve them,” he began to explain, after Villa’s second-leg draw with Middlesbrough, which sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory.
“I want to play in the Premier League with Villa, I want to do well up there too, and I want to play for England.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder since I was four. I’ve been at the club since I was six, so to bring the club back to the Premier League would be an honour.
“I’ve won and lost here, so I know how it feels — I want to add another win to that record.”
The love for Villa extends beyond Grealish. More than 20 family members were a part of the bouncing Villa Park atmosphere for their semi-final with Boro. Claret and blue runs through their veins.
Villa Park that Tuesday night was something Grealish had never heard before, it was special.
“It was unreal — I felt a bit suffocated by it! The experienced heads in the squad helped us that night. You look around and see people like Mile Jedinak, Alan Hutton and John Terry. They’ve been here and done it on the big stage, that calms everyone around them.
“I’ll treat the final like any other game — that’s what we all need to do. We’ve just got to go and play our normal football, we know that can bring us success.”
At only 22, Grealish already has more than 100 professional games under his belt. They’ve come with Villa in the Premier League and Championship more recently, but also as a youngster on loan at Notts County.
That experience as a teenager in the EFL is something that he feels benefitted him massively and his helped to sculpt the player he is today.
“This is now my fifth year playing and that first year in League One was huge,” he continued. “If I can give any advice to any youngster out there, it would be to go out on loan and play as many games as you can.
“I’ve learned so much in the last two years too. I’ve been surrounded my great players and under an amazing manager in Steve Bruce — they’ve all helped me on and off the field.
“The Jack Grealish that could be returning to the Premier League is different to the one that was relegated.”