FOR Warrington Wolves chairman Stuart Middleton, Saturday could be third time lucky.

The lifelong Wire fan has led out the team he has supported since a boy twice before at Wembley.

But both those occasions ended in heartbreaking defeat, to Hull in 2016 and Catalans in 2018.

On Saturday he will do so again, bursting with pride as he leads his team of Warrington heroes onto the pitch for the Challenge Cup final.

And he hopes it is a different story from 12 months ago.

“After the loss last year, it is fair to say I had tears in my eyes,” said the 54-year-old.

“Steve Price and Josh Charnley came over to me at the end of the game and said ‘sorry boss’.

“They don’t need to apologise to me.

“But I do not want that to happen again.”

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For the former Montford High School (now Beamont) pupil, the Challenge Cup has been a life-long love affair.

It started in the 1970s when the Wire went in successive years, beating Featherstone in 1974 before losing to Widnes a year later.

READ MORE > The dad with two sons playing at Wembley

By the 1980s and 1990s, he was running a regular bus trip with Warrington firm Coach lines for a group of friends.

At its peak, around 50 were going on the annual pilgrimage to the capital to watch the biggest game in rugby league.

For Wire fan Stuart though, it meant watching a familiar foe.

“We watched Wigan win eight times in a row in the 80s and 90s,” he said.

“It went from 15 of us to 50 – it got too much in the end!”

And the cup has always been a magical memory for him.

He explained: “For me, Wembley is a special occasion.

“I still hold the Challenge Cup in the highest regard.

“I am a traditionalist and love that history of the competition.

“I am very proud of our history as a club, I would love to open a museum about the history of the club.”

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Before the game against Hull in 2016

And those memories will come flooding back on Saturday as he takes his spot in the tunnel to lead out the Wire as they take on this year’s stand-out Super League side, St Helens.

With his two brothers, who have been watching games with him since childhood, among those cheering on him on, it will be another proud, if tense day.

Stuart said: “It is a quiet night the night before. You want to be fresh for the day.

“In the morning when you get up, you get that feeling in your stomach, you know it is a big day ahead.

“You put on your suit and your primrose and blue tie and you head for the stadium.

“As you see Wembley it becomes really nerve wracking.

“But you are full of optimism as well.

“You see the team and the players and then you are ready. When you are the first person in the queue, it is quite awesome to go into the bowl.

“You get this noise which hits you. It is quite overwhelming as you hear the noise and see the fireworks going off.

“You are bursting with pride.”

Stuart, who grew up on Windermere Avenue in Orford, has been involved in sponsoring the club since the Wilderspool days of the late 1990s.

He took over as chairman three years ago and has put more than £1 million of his own money into the club.

He is determined to see that investment pay off.

“We work hard all year for moments like this,” he said.

“We are not here to make the numbers up.

“We are desperate to win things. We have got to win one of these finals.”

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