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Papa Johns Trophy

What the managers had to say ahead of the Wembley Weekender...

12 March 2021

The Wembley Weekender is just around the corner! Here's what all four managers had to say ahead of the respective 2020 and 2021 Papa John's Trophy Finals...

Richie Wellens (Salford City Manager) 

On... Wembley memories

“Wembley is a stadium that you can almost feel the history, it has an aura about it, whether it is a full house or it is empty. The players are very proud that they have go there. You want the players to go out there and enjoy it and make the most of it, but you only really enjoy playing there if you come away as a winner."

On... the biggest game in the club’s history

“The profile of the club is to always keep on getting bigger, to keep improving, and Wembley appearances don’t do anything to harm that. It helps that we are playing against a massive club in terms of the Clubs that are involved in this competition; they don’t come much bigger than Portsmouth. If we can beat them, you just have to look at how far the club has come over the past 10 years."

On... the absence of fans 

“I feel sorry for the players, because it would have been a fantastic experience for them in front of a large crowd. Playing in that kind of environment is something that players don’t forget; the fans won’t be able to make that journey which is also disappointing, because they have fantastic memories of Wembley."

On... using the Trophy as a springboard 

“I want the players to enjoy it. It has been a tough year for footballers because it has been really tough for everyone. This group of players has been through a lot this year on and off the pitch, and winning this competition would be that reward, in a way. Then, we would take this win into the remaining 14 games of the season; we are just a lightbulb moment away from really kicking on, and that could be a win on Saturday."


Kenny Jackett (Portsmouth Manager)

On... the 2020 Final

“We’ve waited a long time for this game to come around, and it would be great if we could get the win on Saturday."

On... the absence of fans 

“Playing at Wembley is always exciting, but when you’ve got a fan base as passionate as we have, then it’s great to include them. Wembley is special, and it’s not the same without them."

On... Salford City

"They’re a good side, so we will need to be at the top of our game. Hopefully, we can see a performance and result to take us into what is going to be a very important week.”

On... recent results

“Since the turn of the year we’ve been inconsistent and the results haven’t been what we’ve wanted. So, we have to work it out – and quickly – and grasp the opportunities with both hands. We can’t kid ourselves and need to do better. It wasn’t that long ago when we were in good form and there’s a determination among the players and staff not to let this season peter out.”

On... hopes of retaining the Trophy

“It was an amazing day when we beat Sunderland in the Final in 2019 and the place was completely full. We want to try to finish this competition off strongly and, being the holders from the season before, we want to back that up.

Lee Johnson (Sunderland AFC Manager)

On... leading a team out at Wembley

"It will be a proud moment for me individually, but it is a proud moment for the club and the players as well. The players have worked so hard to get this stage of the competition, so it's a huge moment for everyone. 

"For a club that is sitting in the third tier of the footballing pyramid, players at this level hardly get the opportunity to get to Wembley, it might be their only chance, and for the players that have not done that already at this club, it is a very special chance for them. 

"When you are successful, you build a very special bond with the players at the club, it could be a fantastic day for us first and foremost, but we can't get too far ahead of ourselves and know we have to win the game before we start thinking like that."

On... feeling the pressure

"I don't feel any weight of history on my shoulders. I think in terms of a new regime of me coming into the club, this is hopefully the first of many finals, that is how we are looking at it. 

"I have not managed to learn enough about the history of this club as of yet because of the relentlessness that comes with football management, but I am looking forward to doing that. 

"I am a manager that likes to know his history and someone that has always taken a keen interest in where a club has come from or has been, but it is probably best that I don't know much about it because of the so-called 'Wembley curse'."

On... the competition and Tranmere Rovers

"This competition has not been a distraction for us at all, we have always taken the approach as that our next game is the most important one and we haven't changed regardless of who or what competition we are playing in. 

"The reason why we are in this Final is because of how well we have competed throughout the competition, and we have made sure we have got here for this moment. You just have to go out there and compete again both mentally and physically, that is what matters the most. 

"We have full respect for a good Tranmere side that are competing very well in their division, they have got a huge amount of experience." 

On... being the favourites

"We have a lot of respect for the opposition; you have to because of how well they have played in their own division this season. Tranmere are in the spot they are because they are one of the best teams in League Two. 

"The squad has been so impressive this season because of their flexibility and their understanding, their effort has been there for all to see. 

"We have goals in us, we have kept a fair few clean sheets as well. It is not about guarding against complacency for me, it is about continuity and working towards our philosophy every game."


Keith Hill (Tranmere Rovers Manager)

On… Papa Keith’s (local branch rebrand)
"It’s a positive little bit of embarrassment because I’m representing the people and the players are as well."
On... playing at Wembley
"I think it’s special that we’re at Wembley, I think it’s special that this group of players are getting a little bit of acknowledgement. They’re doing ever so well and in a pandemic when we’re playing Saturday-Tuesday and in this competition when others haven’t played. I think that the players have gone through a hell of a lot and will continue to go through a hell of a lot for everyone connected with this football club."
On… the Final
"When you get to the Final no-one remembers the losers, do they? We’re here to try to win against Sunderland."
On… the lack of supporters
"It would’ve been magnificent for this football club to be travelling to Wembley again and it would’ve been my real first experience of seeing that. We’re disappointed on their behalf that they can’t be at Wembley but they have reached out. 
"They [the supporters] have sent video messages through and there have been some brilliant ones. We’re doing this for them. They are the lifeblood, the heartbeat of our football club and we’re doing everything that we can to justify that support. It’s sorely missed but we know they’re there every day and for all the games but especially this one.” 
On… the Wembley pitch
"The pitch is absolutely superb and it will want and warrant a good footballing spectacle."
On... the competition as a whole
"I’ve been here since the knockout rounds and it was a priority to play a certain way and integrate my philosophies in this competition. It’s been integral to our season because we haven’t had much time on the training ground because of the volume of games. Creating a winning culture to demand from your team-mates is the important thing and that’s what this competition has done for us."

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