Sheffield Eagles are preparing to make their first Wembley appearance in 21 years, as Widnes Vikings await them in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final.
The rugby league outfit will face their Betfred Championship counterparts at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 24 August at 5.30pm, in what promises to be a mouth-watering showpiece.
Mark Aston’s side, currently sixth in the Championship table with one game to go, entered the 1895 Cup in the second round, beating the likes of Halifax, Doncaster and Batley Bulldogs to reach the final.
Widnes defeated Featherstone Rovers, Dewsbury Rams and Leigh Centurions after entering the competition at the same stage.
Speaking about his side’s preparations for the big game, Eagles Head Coach Mark Aston said: “Prep [has] gone great. We’ve been speaking about the little things, but doing them really, really well.
“We’re an immensely proud bunch of people that want to be the best that we can be. We’ll be committed and we’ll do whatever it takes to win the game”.
The two clubs have met twice previously this season. The first encounter saw the Vikings triumph 36-6, before the Eagles exacted revenge three weeks ago with a 30-10 win.
While Saturday’s final will be uncharted territory for many of Sheffield’s players, with most having never played in the Super League, never mind at Wembley, the same cannot be said of coach Aston.
The former scrum-half played in the Eagles’ surprise Challenge Cup Final victory over Wigan Warriors in 1998, their last Wembley appearance, and scooped the Man of the Match award.
Aston said: “We [Aston and coach Keith Senior] can give them words of wisdom. Experience is a wonderful thing so we’ve got to use it.
“It’s simple – don’t play the occasion, play the game.
“In 1998 we were hungry, starving almost to be successful. These boys are exactly the same. I see a lot of similarities between the ’98 group and this one.”
The Eagles will be without club captain and prop Matt James, centre Jason Crookes and stand-off James Glover are all sidelined. The trio scored 13 tries between them before injuries cut their seasons’ short.
Aston said: “It took a bit of time but I think we’ve adapted to playing without them now. Some of our other players have stood up and been counted.
“We’re gutted to be without them. There’ll be a bit of extra motivation to do it for Matty and the injured players, but we want to do it for ourselves, the club and the fans.”
The AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, in its inaugural year, has been contested by RFL Championship and League One sides and is designed to give clubs outside of the Super League the chance to win silverware.
The match will follow the conclusion of the Challenge Cup Final between St Helens and Warrington Wolves. Eagles fans will be housed in the east end of Wembley Stadium and Vikings fans the west.