Wembley Celebrates 90th Birthday as FA Cup Final Approaches

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterApril 28, 2013

Chris Lee (Getty images)
Chris Lee (Getty images)

On Saturday, April 27, Wembley Stadium, in conjunction with the English Football Association, celebrated two monumental landmarks in its history.

The stadium first broke ground in 1923, hosting that year's FA Cup final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. Bolton won the game, now nicknamed the "White Horse Final," 2-0 in front of a ridiculous 200,000-strong crowd.

This weekend marked 90 years since Wembley hosted that very event, while it also celebrated 150 years of the FA Cup. The first ever final, played in 1872, was won by Wanderers 1-0 in front of 2,000 people at the Kennington Oval—now the home cricket ground for Surrey.

And that's where the celebrations started, at the original home of the FA Cup.

Sir Trevor Brooking, who remains a West Ham legend and now works in an official capacity with the FA, met the current captains of very same clubs who competed in that first final: Wanderers and Royal Engineers.

They got their hands on both the famous trophy and the match final ball itself, signed by the entire Manchester City team.

Both ball and cup were then placed in a glass-sided truck and transported around London in a procession: from the Kennington pitches, where the FA were running free soccer schools for kids all morning, to classic tourist destinations such as Trafalgar Square and the London Eye.

On the move, two freestylers were harnessed into the truck and juggled keepy-ups, causing people to simply stop and stare as they saw men displaying outrageous tricks while crossing Westminster bridge.

At the designated stop points, the public wasted no time in seizing their chance to have their photo taken with the FA Cup, or with previous idols in the game.

Sir Trevor was with the procession in the morning, while Tottenham icons Ossie Ardilles and Ricky Villa met the truck at the Eye—the latter the scorer of one of the best goals Wembley has ever seen.

The cup and ball were then delivered back to Wembley, where the stadium was celebrating its birthday in style: illustrious tours of the ground, pitch, changing rooms, press areas and the match tunnel itself were free of charge.

Adam Burrage of the FA and Wembley spoke about the day of special tours of the famous landmark:

We've celebrated Wembley's 90th with the special Wembley Pass event, which has seen approximately 5,000 pass through the stadium tours this weekend, including many from the local area.

It's important to be able to reach out to those close, who've seen it up close in both formats: the old venue up until it came down, and now the new version in 2007.

April has been the busiest month ever for the stadium tours, with over 20,000 opting for the Wembley experienced, beating the opening month in March 2007 and even July 1996 when we hosted the European Championships.

Over the course of the day, in which the famous cup was transported all over London for the public to admire, more than 500 seized the rare chance to have their photo taken with it, enter prize draws to win tickets to the final and meet their heroes.

The frenzy around Wembley is gathering pace ahead of several illustrious upcoming games—it will host the UEFA Champions League final next month as well as international fixtures against Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Now, the FA Cup awaits its new holders—a title set to be decided on May 11 between Wigan Athletic and Manchester City.