COVENTRY City boss Mark Robins is looking forward to a ‘special’ Wembley occasion and build-up this week – and has recalled his own memories of the 1987 FA Cup Final after meeting his predecessor from 30 years ago John Sillett on Saturday.
Speaking with the Coventry Observer this morning, he said: “There’s a week of build-up to it. It will be special. We have a week to look forward to it. They’ll be more attention on the club too and we’ll deal with that in the right spirit.
“It’s a fantastic week and a great achievement to get to Wembley, and we will try to win at Wembley.
“I want everybody to embrace it and enjoy it. There is a tendency among players for Wembley to go past in a flash.
“It doesn’t come around too often. 1987 is a long time to wait.
“It’s going to be exciting.
“I watched the England game at Wembley last night. 70,000 people were there. It’s a huge stadium with great facilities. It’s the home of English football.
“You don’t get a chance to play there that often. Not many players get a chance to play there at all.
“It’s a great day out for the fans and it’s a part of the club’s history.
“We have to go and enjoy it. We have to go there with a belief.
“The last two performances have been encouraging. They’ve made small but significant steps. They look hungry and ready to win football matches.”
Robins estimated as a player he had been involved in six games at Wembley, including a youth appearance, a League Cup and the 1990 FA Cup Final for Manchester United versus Crystal Palace.
He also remembers watching the great Wembley Cup Final of 1987 when Coventry City as underdogs won the cup for the first time in their 104-year history, beating the richer, freescoring Tottenham Hotspur 3-2, in what is widely regarded as among the best cup finals of all time.
He said: “I watched it. We’ll go into this game as underdogs as Coventry were that day. They were outstanding that day, the goals they scored. I remember the Keith Houchen goal, the diving header, and John Sillett being involved.
“I met John Sillett on Saturday. He was at the game for the first time in 18 months and it was brilliant to see him. It brought back those memories. To beat Tottenham that day was outstanding.
“We’ll be underdogs – the momentum Oxford have built up and getting promotions in quick succession has been phenomenal. And to go again this season is testament to the manager Michael Appleton and previous managers.”
The Sky Blues’ players have a day off today and will start their Wembley preparation tomorrow.
Robins remains hopeful defender Jordan Willis, substituted on Saturday with a knock, and striker Kwame Thomas – who scored the winner against Port Vale on Tuesday night – will be fit for the Wembley matchday squad. Injury kept Thomas out of Saturday’s 1-0 home victory against promotion-chasing Bristol Rovers.
Regular centre-backs of late, Derby loanee Farrend Rawson and January signing from Bradford Nathan Clarke, are both cup-tied – having played in the Checkatrade Trophy this season for other clubs – and will miss Sunday’s game at Wembley. So club captain Willis’ inclusion would be a major bonus. Cian Harries and Jordan Turnbull could be in contention for defensive slots after playing well in central defensive berths in the semi-final against Wycombe.
Oxford will also miss some key players who are out cup-tied. They include highly regarded goalscorer Conor McAleny on loan from Everton, striker Toni Martinez and defender Charlie Raglan.
Robins added: “I’ve not finalised the team in my mind yet. The players have stepped up a gear which is vital for our league position, and massively important for this final, when belief is going to be important.”
Oxford are at home to Bury tomorrow night in League One, and still fighting for a play-off position in tenth place.