Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens urged his team-mates and the club’s supporters to cherish Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final visit to Wembley Stadium, as the Seagulls look to upset the odds against Manchester City.
Chris Hughton’s men secured a Wembley date after a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Millwall, and Stephens is now focused on making the most of his chance to reach the final of the illustrious competition.
He said, “It’s a special occasion for everybody involved — ourselves, the club, the fans and everyone’s families will enjoy the occasion. It’s important that you don't let it pass you by.
“It’s a one-off chance, you don't really get these opportunities too often, playing at Wembley in such a big occasion. You’ve got to grasp these opportunities.
“No matter what age you are — the younger players may never get this opportunity again, and the older ones, like myself, it might also be our last chance.
“The atmosphere will be very different, we’ll take a lot of fans and it won’t feel like an away game. The ultimate prize is to get into an FA Cup Final — our focus is fully on what we want to achieve.”
Stephens continued to speak about the magnitude of the game, and the 29-year-old fully believes his team-mates have produced performances worthy of reaching the final four.
“The final would be [the pinnacle of my career] if we’re able to get a result this week. I’ve had quite a lot of success since being at this football club, but this game would be right up there.
“The occasion and stadium, it’s what you dreamt about as a young boy and hopefully we can get the job done.
“I played there in the Tottenham game but this weekend will be totally different. It’s a massive game for us but also for the fans as well.
“The fans have bought into the cup run this year — we’ve had a good set of fixtures to get here but we’ve earned our position.”
The reigning Premier League champions stand in the way of a second visit to Wembley this season, and Stephens is under no illusions when it comes to understanding the quality that City possess.
“When you get to a semi-final it’s always going to be against tough opposition, but we probably drew the best team in the division. I knew it was going to happen.
“When you look across their team, their subs and also the players that don’t make the 18 — most of their players could walk into any club across European football.
“We’ve done quite well against Manchester City performance-wise in previous games — not too many pick up results when they play against them.
“We can take a bit of encouragement from what we’ve done, especially this season at the Etihad. It will be a tough game, but it’s a cup game and anything can happen.”