Sunday, 30 September, 2007 23:43
Joe Lydon - Wembley Back

Joe Lydon - Wembley

Wembley may be missing its twin towers, but there is no chance of losing the old memories

There comes a time when things have to change, and the new Wembley will start to make its own Rugby League memories, starting this Saturday when the mighty St Helens take on the underdogs Catalans Dragons.

It is every Rugby League player's dream to walk out at Wembley and play in front of such an impressive crowd. Some of the world's best have achieved this dream, but how does it feel for a past Wembley winner and a man who has his name engraved on the Lance Todd Trophy?

The Lance Todd Trophy is presented to the Man of the Match at the Challenge Cup Final. It is an extremely prestigious award, which is decided by members of the Rugby League Writers' association and has been awarded every year since Billy Scott won it in the 1946 final between Wakefield and Wigan.

Joe Lydon has not only played at Wembley seven times, but also won the Man of the Match award in 1984. He is presently residing in the Quins office, working closely alongside the Business Development Manager, and generally making life in the office that little bit more interesting.

'There is nothing that can match the feeling of walking out at Wembley, and those memories will never leave me.'

His first experience of Wembley was of playing in the first ever curtain raiser, playing for Widnes Schoolboys against Wigan Schoolboys in 1975. They lost the game, but he will never forget having his photo taken with Mick Adams, the Widnes captain, after they defeated Wigan in the Challenge Cup Final.

He later signed for Widnes, and kept the photo in his locker.

The second time was with Widnes when they defeated Wigan in 1984. That year he won the Lance Todd Trophy, scored two tries, but is still slightly annoyed that he did not score the third!

'Our coach that day was Vince Karalius, a professional way before his time. He said to us all before we walked out that if anyone waved to the fans he would take them straight off. We were allowed to wave afterwards, to which he added, 'I'll stay with you till it gets dark.'

'Wigan walked out waving to their fans, and I knew at that moment that we had won. As Vince said at half time, the waving was just an interruption to what we were there to do.'

He signed for Wigan in the 1985/86 season and took part in one of the most impressive runs in Wembley history, with eight consecutive wins.

'Wembley almost became like a second home. There are so many memories from those years (I missed two of them due to injury) - Shaun Edwards breaking his cheek bone and still continuing to play, Martin Offiah's try against Leeds, the crowds, the singing, the adrenaline and, of course, the wild celebrations. I loved every minute.'

So, how does it feel to return to Wembley as a guest of honour and watch others take the centre stage?

The whole thing will be different, for two reasons. It is a new stadium and Joe will be having a different seat in the house. He will not be on the pitch, but he will be pitch side with the BBC and seeing a very different side to the clash between the two teams:

'St Helens will have the edge going in to Saturday's final. Losing to Catalans last time they played was probably the best thing that could have happened to them; it will have knocked any kind of complacency that they may have had right out of them.

They will be there to win on Saturday and, considering the ability they have across the whole team, there will be very few people who will doubt them.'

It is going to be a fantastic return to Wembley, and the start of many wonderful memories. The Challenge Cup final and Wembley are back.