THE first glimpse of the Twin Towers, the looming presence of the arch or the roar when the players came out.

Everyone has a favourite memory from a magical trip to London for the cup final.

Here, four of our staff members at the Warrington Guardian look back on their first time at Wembley Stadium for the Challenge Cup final.

MIKE BODEN > 1974, Warrington 24 Featherstone Rovers 9

I joined the Warrington Guardian in October 1973 and had never experienced rugby league being brought up in a football environment.

The love for the game in the town was obvious and when the Wire reached the final to play Featherstone Rovers it seemed like everybody upped sticks and made their way to Wembley.

I went down with fellow Guardian photographer Eddie Fuller and sports editor John Dickins.

 

Mike, pictured right at the final

We stayed at the recently opened Penta hotel in the centre of London on the 22nd floor. I remember it was one of the first skyscraper hotels at the time.

The match day atmosphere was amazing with Warrington fans everywhere you looked.

I remember Mike Nicholas darting around with his blond locks and Alex Murphy getting flattened. Derek Whitehead had a great day with the boot going on to win the Lance Todd trophy.

I ran with the team carrying the cup around the stadium as there weren't as many restrictions in those days compared to today.

 

One of Mike's pictures

Getting to the dressing room I was expecting to get some good pictures only to find my lens steamed up because of the steam from the showers, still I was only learning.

MIKE PARSONS > 1980 Hull KR 10 Hull FC 5

WALKING out of the tunnel and lapping up the cheers of an appreciative crowd with my teammates are the abiding memories of my first Wembley.

Being involved in the Challenge Cup Final curtain-raiser between Warrington and Hunslet under 11s schoolboys in 1980 would be the highlight of anyone’s time in junior rugby league.

 

Mike Parsons

I did not play, having been selected as one of three travelling reserves for the young Wire, but after walking out with the team and warming up I was able to soak up this jaw-dropping venue from a seat on the team bench, while knowing I had the support of many family members sat in the stands with the Hull and Hull KR spectators.

As the shield presentation took place with DJ Tony Blackburn and then the lap of honour, the place was like no other – the contradictions of massed team colours and the booming noise an overload on the senses.

 

Mike, right, preparing to meet Tony Blackburn

There was still time for an eyeful of bulging muscles and jockstraps as we walked in regimental fashion through the changing rooms of the two cup finalists, saying hello to some major stars of the sport, before heading to our seats to experience not only my first live Challenge Cup Final but one that just happened to be an electrified and monumental Humberside derby.

Afterwards, a restaurant stop for steak and chips preceded a night in the West End watching Oliver. For an 11-year-old Latchford kid, it was all mind-blowing stuff.

GARETH DUNNING > 1990 Wigan 36 Warrington 14

AGED 10 in 1990 I was a confirmed sports nut.

Badgering my dad to take me to watch Warrington on a Sunday afternoon was a regular event.

So the excitement to learn we had tickets to watch Warrington on a first trip to Wembley against the all conquering Wigan was incredible.

Probably my strongest memory from the day (outside of watching Bruno Brookes hand out the prizes in the junior game) was catching the coach in my primrose and blue sweater my nan knitted for me.

It hardly seem to be anytime before we parked in the stadium, the famous twin towers in the distance, along with hundreds of coaches.

I had never seen anything like it before, Warrington must have been empty.

We got in our seats, high up from the pitch. Me, with camera in hand and a programme signed by both Kevin Tamati and Billy Boston (despite having little idea who either were), nervously waiting for the game to start.

 

One of Gareth's pictures from the day

Despite losing I don't remember being disappointed. I had seen Mike Gregory, my then hero, score the best try and that for me was enough.

 

Mike Gregory's try

Had my 10-year-old self have known I would be nearly 30 before I went back to Wembley to watch Warrington again, I might have been slightly more upset.

But it started a lifetime's obsession with the cup that remains to this day. My diary for the year always had an empty weekend in it when it was Challenge Cup final.

For two decades I need not have bothered, but for five of the past 10 finals, I have been there having the time of my life.

I hope more children leave as inspired as I was on August 25.

ADAM EVERETT > 2009 Warrington 25 Huddersfield 16

BEFORE Tony Smith first set foot in The Halliwell Jones Stadium, it had never crossed my mind that Warrington Wolves could make it to a final – never mind win a trophy.

The last time the Wire had troubled the Wembley turf in 1990, I was still two-and-a-half years away from being born.

That famous image of Mike Gregory diving over for a try between the sticks in front of 77,000 seemed a world away from my experiences as a fan from circa 1998 onwards, with those lining up in primrose and blue in the following decade ranging from underperforming to god awful.

Somehow, the early 2009 vintage Wire side managed to be a mixture of both – with Aussie imports such as Matt King and Michael Monaghan not living up to their billing.

But the arrival of our Grand Final-winning head coach sparked an expensively assembled squad into life and set the Sat Nav for Wembley.

My undisputed favourite memory following the Wire is the day that Briers, Morley, Hicks and co booked our place in the 2009 Challenge Cup final – that famous win over Wigan at the Halton Stadium.

And our first trip to the new Wembley would go a lot better than our previous trip to the capital – a 60-8 battering at the hands of Harlequins where King flicked the Vs at his own supporters, a game often pinpointed as the catalyst for change.

The opportunity to lift the Challenge Cup trophy for the first time in 25 years didn’t pass our charges by, with Richie Mathers setting the tone for a 25-16 triumph by crossing for a try after 68 seconds.

 

Richie Mathers scoring

At no stage were the side in the white shirts with the primrose and blue Vs behind, with Briers and Morley clambering up those famous steps to lift the silverware and seal their reputations as club legends.

But it is easy to forget about the game when so much of the fun came off the pitch.

Growing up, I had heard countless tales of the family descending en masse to Wembley in 1974, 1975 and 1990.

And being among 40,000 Warringtonians in London that day lived up to everything I had been told about, from the army of Wire fans stopping at the services to the endless stream of supporters on Wembley Way.

Warrington Guardian:

Opportunistic merchandise sellers at the motorway services

Only a few months after 16-year-old me had left high school and started a new chapter in life, my club was doing the same thing.

In the following three years, we would unthinkably be back at the national stadium twice – on both occasions returning with the trophy again.

Those dark days of 2002, watching the club die before your eyes battling relegation in a crumbling Wilderspool, were a thing of the past.

Can you remember your first trip to Wembley?

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