The League One play-off Final could scarcely be a more exciting prospect. Bradford City and Millwall have produced two exciting draws in their prior meetings this term.
Something has to give. Will the Lions erase last year’s Wembley heartbreak, or will the Bantams continue their rise back up the leagues with a second promotion in five seasons?
One thing both sides have is a slew of players who’ve enjoyed Wembley glory and endured heartbreak in the national stadium. Here’s a run through some of the key men on each side who’ve been here before – and how they’ve done.
We’ll start with Millwall…
The 33-year-old has more Wembley experience than anyone else involved in this clash, and much of it has been very promising. In fact, he’s scored winning goals in two different finals here, helping Stevenage lift the FA Trophy in 2007 and 2009, netting an 88th-minute winner against Kidderminster Harriers in the former.
Having also played in the Lions’ 1-0 League One Final triumph against Swindon Town in 2010, he’s a man who knows how to win at Wembley. And after heartbreak against Barnsley in North-West London last season, he’ll be more determined than ever to notch up another winning goal.
Another member of Millwall’s Class of 2010, captain Craig has impressed greatly during his second spell with the South-East London outfit. And the local lad has proved himself a man for the big occasion – with the centre-back grabbing a rare goal in the 4-3 final-day victory over Bristol Rovers, to clinch a play-off berth.
He’s also tasted heartbreak on the big stage, as part of the Brentford side pipped to Championship promotion by Yeovil Town in 2013, as well as for Neil Harris’ men last term.
But with all that history – and having been part of The Den crop that reached the 2004 FA Cup Final – he’ll have few nerves heading into the cauldron of Wembley on Saturday.
Heartbreak for Craig back in 2013 meant joy for Webster, with the towering defender – then on the books of Yeovil Town – keeping a talented Brentford frontline quiet on route to a 2-1 victory.
As for last year’s final, the Yorkshire native missed out on the Final after an impressive campaign where he’d played 50 times, and chalked up six goals in League One, before starring in both legs of their semi-final triumph over…you guessed it, Bradford City.
He’ll be desperate to show boss Harris that he can frustrate a lively Bantams backline at Wembley, just as he did here for the Glovers four years back.
And speaking of Bradford City…
An integral part of the swashbuckling Leyton Orient side who collapsed in the 2015 League One Final to Rotherham United, the cultured Frenchman likely has the image of Steve Evans bum-shaking his way down the Wembley touchline burned into his retina.
Still, the experience could prove useful. If his side find themselves leading on Saturday, he’ll be sure to remind his teammates that they absolutely must stay switched on and see the job out – an easy thing to lose sight of when the giddiness of potential promotion glory hits.
In truth, the defensive midfielder has offered a cool and composed presence throughout the season, breaking up opposition attacks, offering neat distribution and chipping in with a few crucial goals – namely in narrow away wins at Port Vale and Oldham Athletic – this term.
With 239 games under his belt at Valley Parade, it’s fair to say the former Liverpool prodigy has become something of a stalwart for the West Yorkshire outfit.
And that’s come with a flurry of Wembley experience, playing in the 3-0 play-off victory over Northampton Town, as well as every minute of their historic League Cup campaign – both in 2013.
Though not a guaranteed starter this term, it’s likely McCall will call on the 28-year-old on Saturday, given the pivotal part he’s played in some of the Bantams’ biggest games of recent times.
The former Northern Ireland international is no stranger to the big occasion, having faced the likes of Netherlands and Chile on international duty. And like Darby, he’s been on the club’s books since back in 2012.
A rock-solid presence in central defence, he’s also a man for the big occasion. As well as scoring in City’s 2013 play-off victory, he also netted against Aston Villa that season – one of an impressive 15 goals he’s scored in 230 Bantams games.
Don’t be too surprised if he nods home another this weekend.
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