On Sunday 26th February, Liverpool make their first trip to Wembley in almost 16 years.
In that time, 90 other English league or non-league clubs have played at the country’s national stadium including 60 different clubs since the newly constructed stadium was re-opened in 2007.
It is a mark of how long has passed since Liverpool graced the famous Wembley pitch that not only have Merseyside rivals Everton participated in a final at the stadium more recently, but also Tranmere Rovers and Southport!
Liverpool’s League Cup semi final win against Man City changes that, but prior to this season the Reds have rarely looked like reaching another Wembley final over the last five years.
Domestic cup form has been poor and resulted in Liverpool winning only three FA Cup ties in five years – against Luton Town following a replay, Havant & Waterlooville and Preston – as well as failing to reach the quarter-final stage of the League Cup during the last four years.
Barnsley and Northampton Town have left Anfield celebrating cup progress, while in the meantime, fans of sides such as Morecambe, Scunthorpe United, Stevenage Borough and Exeter City have tasted success at the stadium formerly dubbed “Anfield South”, as have Ebbsfleet United and Whitley Bay.
Not that reaching Wembley itself is a guarantee of success and a good day out, as Arsenal fans will testify. The Gunners have failed to win any of their three games at the revamped arena, and were stunned by Birmingham City in last year’s Carling Cup final.
As Arsenal were last year, Kenny Dalglish’s men will be strong favourites when they take on Cardiff, but the Reds’ manager will need no warning on what can happen in a one-off final having been in charge when Liverpool suffered one of the biggest FA Cup final shocks of all time in losing to Wimbledon in 1988.
There is also irony in that Liverpool’s opponents for the day are a Championship side from the very city in which Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez led Liverpool to a number of cup wins whilst England’s national stadium was being redeveloped.
Liverpool’s success during the six years in which Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium replaced Wembley as the venue for the nation’s showpiece finals was unrivalled. In seven appearances – bettered only by Arsenal’s eight – Liverpool won six, more than any other club. Their FA Cup triumphs of 2001 and 2006, both achieved in memorable fashion against Arsenal and West Ham United respectively, book-ended the Millennium Stadium era.
It’s been a long time in coming, but finally Liverpool have another opportunity to add to the many trophies that Wembley has seen the club win.
Ron Yeats was the first man to walk up the famous steps to lift a trophy for Liverpool following their first FA Cup in 1965. The steps may no longer be those climbed by Yeats, but Steven Gerrard will be hoping to emulate another of Anfield’s greats in four weeks time.