Thousands of Salford Red Devils fans will be watching today’s Rugby League Challenge Cup Final against Leeds Rhinos from home as an empty Wembley Stadium awaits the club’s first visit in 51 years.
The Red Devils reached the final after edging a pulsating contest with Warrington Wolves 24-22 in the semi-final earlier this month.
It was all the way back in 1969 that cup final fever last hit the borough of Salford as the club reached the showpiece event for the seventh time.
Ultimately a loss to Castleford on that day meant a sixth final defeat for Salford; their solo triumph in the competition now 82 years ago.
Though for a fan base starved of the riches and success of tomorrow’s opponents Leeds, the last two years have certainly come close to former glories.
Salford topped the league table in 2019 and reached the Grand Final before losing to seven-time winners St. Helens – a valiant effort for the Red Devils who finished second bottom in the league just a year before.
The Salisbury family were one of those to experience all the emotions at Old Trafford that day, however, they await a totally different match day experience this weekend.
Claire Salisbury, 30, from Salford, was introduced to her local club at a young age and the love affair has been passed down through the generations.
Claire said: “My family have always followed Salford – my grandad, mum, dad, sisters and cousins (all did).
“I love it. I’ve been going since I was a baby and seen some good days and bad days but we’ve always stuck around.”
Living with her partner Dave and as a mum to two young children, Claire has dually introduced them both to the highs and lows of what sport and following Salford has to offer.
She added: “Taking them to Old Trafford was madness in (last) October, one special day we will never forget.
“We would love to be taking them to Wembley this weekend but hopefully we will be there again one day.”
Preparations are in full swing for a day in front of the TV with decorations both inside and outside the house, and such a set-up will be a similar case for many fans with none in attendance at Wembley or at Salford’s home ground – the AJ Bell Stadium.
Such a ruling is a stark disappointment for an occasion which is half a century in the making, and Salford and Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey was keen to voice this to the Prime Minister just a few weeks ago.
Despite being denied a first ever visit to Wembley, Claire still feels an overwhelming sense of pride as the lad’s head to the national stadium
She said: “As for Saturday I’m very nervous.
“I know the team will do us all proud and whatever the result we are proud.
“Prediction wise I think it will be a very close tough game but I’m going to have to go with my boys winning by 10.”
Whatever the outcome in this historic contest the Red Devils have defied the odds in a magical few seasons at the AJ Bell Stadium and the heroics of this squad will be remembered for years to come.