Special stadium

The news that Froch-Groves II will be at Wembley has created a huge buzz this week and, although I'm not a huge boxing fan, I'll certainly be tuning into that one.

Last Updated: 07/03/14 at 11:56 Post Comment

Wembley: National stadium is inspiring, says Phillips

Wembley: National stadium is inspiring, says Phillips

Having played at Wembley a number of times, I can tell both boxers that it's going to be an incredible experience.

They've both fought in front of 20-30,000 people in arenas before but to be the centre of attention in front of over 70,000 fans at Wembley will be something else.

The noise will be incredible and I'm sure they can't wait for the big night; they should relish the opportunity - and hopefully the atmosphere will make for an even better fight than their first contest.

The announcement has also highlighted how important it is to have a national stadium.

England played Denmark there on Wednesday night and, although I'm sure a lot of people would like to see the national team travel across the country, I think it's important they play at Wembley.

When the new Wembley was being built, I played for England at Old Trafford and the Stadium of Light.

Obviously for those areas and regions it was great to see England come to town but overall the national stadium, with the tradition it has, the size of it and the atmosphere it can create - for me there's no better place.

Of course, there's also the flipside to playing home games at such an iconic venue - opposition teams raise their game when they go there!

Every kid across Europe knows about Wembley - it's one of the best, if not the best, stadium on the continent.

So, when they arrive with their national team they step up a level and try their absolute utmost to perform well.

Dream

Without a shadow of a doubt, playing at Wembley is one thing every professional player wants to do.

One of my dreams as a kid was to play for my country and the other was to score at Wembley - and I've been fortunate enough to have done both of those things.

My first experience of Wembley was as a very young boy, when I went to the 1983 Milk Cup final between Liverpool and Manchester United.

When we walked into the stadium I couldn't wait to see the pitch - I remember going up some steps then looking down and there it was. It was an awesome sight and I thought: "I want to play here one day".

My dream came true in 1998, when I played and scored in the Play-Off Final between Sunderland and Charlton. It was a magical day - although the result wasn't very magical in the end for us!

Those games took place at the old Wembley and that was a very special place.

Don't get me wrong, the new stadium is tremendous; the sheer size of it, the amount of supporters you can get in... but the old Wembley had something about it.

You had the long walk from the changing room, up the hill, up the tunnel before coming out behind the goal and then, when you got to the top, you could see the far end of the stadium and the twin towers. It was awe-inspiring.

That's the Wembley I remember from growing up as a kid but I understand you have to move on and appreciate the new stadium needed to be built.

Noise

On Sunday I sampled what it's like in the stands there, while working on the Capital One Cup Final for Sky.

As soon as Sunderland scored I legged it out of the commentary box because I wanted to hear the noise - there's no better feeling than hearing 30-odd thousand supporters at Wembley going mad and celebrating.

One thing I don't agree with - although I have played in a semi for West Brom there and it was a great experience - is playing the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

Personally I believe the reward at the end of a long cup run is the final at Wembley. I don't accept that the semis should be played there.

Obviously it generates more revenue, which I understand - but I think a trip there should be saved for the showpiece final.

Although I'm sure supporters of the sides which get through to the final four of the FA Cup this weekend will disagree!

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