Wembley Stadium beckons for this year’s Papa John’s Trophy Quarter-Finalists and former Swansea City player and manager Garry Monk knows a thing or two about playing on the biggest stage of all in the competition.
The Swans edged Carlisle United 2-1 in the 2006 EFL Trophy Final, overcoming Torquay United, Rushden and Diamonds, Peterborough United and Walsall along the way.
And the showdown hosted just a 50-mile trip down the road in the Welsh capital.
“For us, we were League One at the time – just got promoted from League Two,” he reminisced. “It was an opportunity for us to win a Cup. In the early rounds we weren’t thinking like that but once we got to the latter stages.
“It was at the Millennium Stadium at that point when Wembley was getting re-built. To go to the Millennium Stadium in a Final, back by all the Swansea fans against Carlisle was an amazing experience. It set us on that taste of success which followed with promotions to the Premier League and the League Cup as well.”
What followed can only be described as a meteoric rise for Swansea. After winning the EFL Trophy as a League One outfit, nine years later in 2015, they laid claim to the League Cup as a Premier League side with Monk as manager, acting as a springboard for success on a personal level, too.
“Even though we didn’t quite know it at the time, it set in our minds that feel for success,” he said. “It was amazing.”
The 42-year-old, who most recently managed Sheffield Wednesday, highlighted the importance of developing homegrown talent – something which the competition has afforded this season.
And even at this stage, the Papa John’s Trophy continues to foster a new generation of EFL stars.
“It’s been well documented, especially in recent years, that the exposure for young players to what we call ‘real football’, which is men’s football, is very lacking at those Academy levels.
“This competition is a chance to play against experienced professionals at football Clubs on a stage where you go through rounds to get to the next round and then the potential of getting to a final. It’s huge for young players.”