Ahead of the Leasing.com Trophy Quarter-Finals, former footballer and Sky Sports pundit Don Goodman has highlighted the importance of a cup run, with a Wembley Final being an occasion to remember for all involved.
More than 85,000 people were in attendance at Wembley Stadium to watch Portsmouth defeat Sunderland AFC on penalties in 2019. The final set a new record attendance for an EFL Trophy Final, beating the previous record set in 1988 when 80,041 supporters saw Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Burnley 2-0 to claim the trophy.
Last year’s final was also the second highest attended football match in Europe that weekend, beaten only by Barcelona v Espanyol in La Liga.
“It was a fitting finale to the competition last season,” Goodman said, reflecting on the 2019 final.
“It probably couldn’t have gone any better. There were two enormous clubs playing in the final, there was a huge crowd representing both sides and let’s remind ourselves that these are two third-tier English football clubs. To get over 85,000 people watching two third-tier teams - there’s not anywhere else in the world that would get that sort of crowd.
“The occasion was a credit to everybody involved and the game itself didn’t let anybody down."
Holders Portsmouth are still in the competition and will face League Two side Scunthorpe United in the Quarter-Finals as they look to retain the trophy.
“Having sampled Wembley last season, I’m sure Portsmouth would love nothing more than another taste of it,” Goodman continued.
“But Scunthorpe United will give them a test. Paul Hurst’s side dismantled arguably the country’s best academy side in Manchester City U21s in Round Three, who have some incredibly talented young players. It’ll be a tough one for Pompey."
When asked about the Wembley experience and the chance of a cup final, Goodman says it is a special place and an opportunity not to be missed.
“How many times in your career do you get to play at Wembley? It really is a special place and it’s not a place that a high percentage of footballers get to go and visit, so it’s a really good opportunity for those clubs and players currently left in the competition.”
talkSPORT presenter Natalie Sawyer agreed, adding: “It’s a chance for players to get to Wembley who have maybe never played there and may never get the chance to play there again. These chances don’t come around very often in football and you’ve got to take them when you do. With a cup final comes such optimism for everyone involved, it’s a great competition simply for the opportunity it presents to clubs."
Of course the importance of a cup run and the impact that can have on a team should also not be underestimated.
“A cup run at this stage in the season can be so important, especially with Wembley being the prize,” Goodman went on to say.
“It can bring motivation and momentum going into the final third of the season, which can only benefit a club’s league campaign. You can’t underestimate the positivity that brings.
“Stevenage are a prime example. They’re battling towards the bottom of League Two at the moment, but they’re two games away from Wembley which is bound to give them a boost."
Confirmed ties for the Quarter-Finals are as follows:
"There are some great ties coming up in the Quarter-Finals,” Goodman continued. "But the North West tie between Salford City and Accrington Stanley is the one that stands out for me.
"I think those two clubs are good examples where playing at Wembley in a cup final would be a fairytale day for all involved.
"I’ve had the privilege of commentating on some of these occasions and you really get to see what it means to the fans just to be there for a memorable day out. Of course the winning supporters are absolutely ecstatic and it cements what is a fantastic day out for them, the coaches and the players, but it’s a massive occasion for everyone connected to the clubs involved.”
All ties will be played on Tuesday 21 January and you can follow coverage via @LeasingcomTrphy on Twitter.