Opinion: Wembley opportunity is well worth taking for Grimsby Town
MANY have questioned the value of the FA Trophy, but as long as the final is held at Wembley – it should always hold significance for football fans.
I was 12 when I made my first pilgrimage to 'Old' Wembley for the Auto Windscreens Shield final against Bournemouth in 1998
Along with some 28,500 other Mariners fans, I travelled down to the capital, leaving North East Lincolnshire by driving past the now famous slogan – "The last one out – please turn off the lights".
I'd been a Town fan for a few years before that, but getting to watch my team play at the home of football is something that I will never forget.
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The first time that I emerged into the open air of the stadium, alongside my dad and uncle, I was hooked.
That was even before Wayne Burnett's golden goal winner that sent the travelling army of Grimsby Town fans into raptures.
Of course, after that, we were all back at Wembley little over a month later for the Division Two play-off final against Northampton.
And again, unforgettable memories were forged on that day thanks to Kevin Donovan – a hero of mine as a kid – and his 19th-minute winner.
I was lucky enough to speak to Burnett earlier this week as he recalled his memories of an incredible day 15 years ago.
For myself and so many other fans who were there on that day, Burnett and the rest of the side made memories that will last a lifetime.
Whether people see the FA Trophy as a 'tin pot' competition, the chance to win any cup in the hallowed surroundings of Wembley is anything but.
And that's why – with Town in with a chance of that return to one of world football's greatest arenas – everyone should get behind them.
Throughout this season, Trophy attendances at home have been disappointing – the peak coming when just 2,791 watched the quarter-final victory over Luton at Blundell Park.
I really hope that there will be a healthy crowd inside BP this afternoon to cheer on the Mariners in their first match of a two-legged semi-final with Dartford.
Should the Mariners come out on top after the next two games with the Darts, I've no doubt that there will be another army of fans who travel down to Wembley to cheer them on in the final.
But why not play a part in helping them to reach there by getting down to the game today?
The current crop of Mariners is a team that deserves your support – after all, they could be on the cusp of making even more fantastic memories for this town.
So if you're a lapsed fan or a parent who is thinking of taking their child to their first match, why not make it today's?
Who knows, you might even get hooked and find yourself at Wembley in a few weeks' time.
There will be plenty that say 'we don't want any Johnny-come-latelys jumping on the bandwagon' but who really cares? This club needs all the support it can get.
Every fan needs to begin – or rekindle – their love affair with the Mariners at some point. Why not let a potential trip to Wembley with their home-town club be the catalyst?