IT has not been the happiest of places for him, but Sam Russell is confident he can exorcise his Wembley curse.
The Darlington goalkeeper was a Middlesbrough fan in his youth, and was at the home of football when the Teessiders lost the 1997 FA Cup final, the Coca-Cola Cup the same year and 12 months later, and the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1990.
As if that were not torture enough, he then sat out Rochdale’s League Two play-off final defeat to Stockport County in 2008, with a broken finger. So as he prepares to face Mansfield Town in today’s FA Trophy final, Russell is determined to consign his previous experiences of Wembley to history, by finally being on the winning side.
“I was brought up as a Middlesbrough fan, and used to travel far and wide to watch them,” he said.
“I‘ve been to Wembley every time they’ve gone, old and new. I think I was seven-years-old the first time, in the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1990, against Chelsea.
“Then there was the FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup finals, so it’s been terrible for me. Not one win! I was at Rochdale but broke my finger, which kept me out of the final. I was gutted, devastated.
“I didn’t think I was going to be that disappointed until I actually pulled up to the ground, that’s when it hit home.
“I had to go and have a couple of drinks up in the bar and relax. That helped a little bit, but not much!
“You think ‘Will it ever happen again?’ and luckily enough it’s going to. Hopefully this experience is going to be the best one.
Russell added: “I’m not too nervous, more excited. It’s going to be a fantastic experience. Winning the semi-final against Gateshead was the best feeling I’d had in football. Emotions were running high, but this would top that if we win.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a great day for myself, to be able to put on my CV that I’ve played at Wembley, and hopefully won there.
“But I’m also really happy knowing my family will be there too. To play at Wembley, with family and friends there, is just going to be great. We’re confident and it’s going to be a fantastic final.”