THE fans who will be inside Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final might fill less than one-third of the ground.
But former footballer, Jermaine Jenas, believes they’ll make a world of difference to the occasion.
The former England midfielder turned broadcast pundit, says that the games played for the past year with fans locked out have been “eerie, quiet and sad”.
Jermaine has been working with the sponsor of BT Sport’s coverage of the Emirates FA Cup heycar to bring football supporters closer to the game this season.
He has been answering fans’ questions, interviewing superfans about their FA Cup memories, and reliving his own memories of the game’s cup competition.
Now as English football prepares for its showpiece occasion of the season, thousands of supporters will stream into the national stadium once again.
Jermaine says: “Fans coming back will be an injection of energy into every footballer’s heart.
“I couldn’t think of anything worse than playing in an empty ground.
“The amount of games you go into where you need your fans is vast.
“A crowd can force an improvement in your personal and your team performance.
“For those Chelsea and Leicester players, there will be a familiar feel on FA Cup final day.
“People walking down Wembley Way, the atmosphere building before the game, the sounds of footsteps on stairs, seats being pulled down, people talking, the teams being read out – as a player you hear all of that and it lifts the energy.”
“At the end of it all, a group of fans, after a very tough year, will get to see their team lift one of the most prestigious trophies in world football.”
This time 12 months ago was a very different story as in the grip of the first wave of the pandemic, Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2-1 to win the FA Cup in front of an empty Wembley Stadium.
That’s a position Jermaine acknowledges must have left the winners feeling a bit hollow at what should have been one of the highlights of their careers.
He says: “I’d have felt hard done by, to be honest.
“It is what everyone dreams of, when the final whistle blows in a final and the raw passion of the fans just explodes.”
He added: “It’s been eerie, quiet and sad to watch some games over the past year.
“The echoes around stadiums during games, the lack of feeling – it’s probably responsible for some of the strange results that have happened.
“The players hate it.
“They understand that football has been holding people together, they get it.
“Some have managed to play in front of crowds this season, and they have told me that even playing in front of 2,000 fans they’ve been buzzing.”
heycar has used its sponsorship of BT Sport’s coverage of the Emirates FA Cup to bring to life the passion the cup brings and take supporters on the journey all the way to the final.
Fronted by broadcast pundit Jermaine, fans have been sharing their best memories of the FA Cup and a few even chatted with Jermaine about their favourite days out at Wembley.