Sunday’s FA Cup Semi-Final with Budweiser between Hull City and Sheffield United was the 900th football match played at Wembley Stadium, old and new.
The first, of course, was ‘The White Horse Final – The FA Cup Final of 1923, featuring Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United.
The match started, around 45 minutes late and with King George V in the Royal Box, and Bolton’s David Jack scored Wembley’s first goal in their 2-0 victory. In the following year England played their first home match at the new stadium, drawing 1-1 with Scotland.
Wembley’s greatest match, calculated to be the 232nd, was surely the World Cup Final of 1966 when Geoff Hurst scored his memorable hat-trick as Alf Ramsey’s England lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy on home soil. There were 96,924 fans inside Wembley and more than half a billion following it on TV and radio worldwide.
These might also be included amongst iconic Wembley’s most special matches…
‘The Matthews Final’ – Blackpool edged Bolton 4-3 after being 3-1 down in The FA Cup Final of 1953. Stanley Matthews, a genuine sporting hero, finally got his winners’ medal at the age of 38.
England were unbeaten at home to Continental opposition until Hungary’s ‘Magical Magyars’ came to Wembley on a misty November afternoon in 1953 and won 6-3. It was a footballing lesson for the country that invented the game.
There was a wonderful afternoon for England as they crushed Scotland 9-3 at Wembley to clinch the British Championship in 1961. The watching Queen and Prince Philip could hardly have seen better entertainment.
Manchester United became the first English winners of the European Cup at Wembley in 1968, defeating crack Portuguese side Benfica ten years after Munich. Sunderland, the clear underdogs, won the 1973 FA Cup Final against Leeds United after Jim Montgomery’s fantastic saves.
There were unforgettable Finals too in 1979 and 1981. Smith had to score but he fluffed it. The ‘Crazy Gang’ beat the ‘Culture Club’ and Wembley was all-seated two years after that. ‘Football Came Home’ as England hosted Euro ’96 and went out on penalties to the Germans in the Semi-Final.
The magnificent new Wembley opened in 2007 and Chelsea won its first FA Cup Final. The highest attendance there is the 89,874 who saw Portsmouth win the following year’s showpiece. The new stadium has witnessed two Champions League finals (Barcelona v Manchester United and Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund) and some magnificent Football League Play-Off matches, most notably Blackpool’s win over Cardiff in 2010
Wembley is football big and small. It has hosted Olympic matches, amateur matches, university and schoolboy matches, war-time matches, charity matches. A team called ‘Greenwich’ won the London Civil Defence Cup Final of 1945 10-1 against ‘Paddington’. No other team has reached double figures in a single Wembley match.
Bolton were the first winners and Hull City take the honour of being the 900th!