Former Brighton & Hove Albion captain Dean Wilkins, who scored the club’s last goal at Wembley Stadium, reflected on how his late consolation has grown in importance over the years since the team’s 1991 defeat to Notts County.
The Seagulls make their fifth visit to England’s national stadium for today’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, almost 28 years on from their Second Division play-off final.
Wilkins found the back of the net in the 89th minute during that game, and the midfielder admitted his views on the goal have considerably altered after his initial disappointment.
He said, “The goal meant nothing to me for a few years, because it was so insignificant on the day.
“I remember doing an interview with Meridian and I actually said ‘I can’t believe we lost 3-0’ and the guy had to remind me that it was 3-1 and I’d scored.
“It really meant that little, but it’s one of those things that I look back on now and think ‘wow, I scored at Wembley’.
“It’s something that you can share with your family and friends for years to come.”
Albion’s visit in 1991, which came after two FA Cup trips in 1983, was the only time Wilkins appeared at Wembley during his career, and he spoke of his pride to lead the Seagulls out in front of almost 60,000 supporters.
“Wembley was everything — I grew up watching cup finals at Wembley. Back then, it was the pinnacle of a footballer’s career to play there. It meant an awful lot to me.
“The atmosphere was incredible — we had a great team spirit and it was almost a group of players that if you didn’t have any staff turn up, we would have put on the right session for ourselves.
“I was captain of the team that year, so just to lead the team out at Wembley, where my brother had also played for England, was an incredibly proud moment for me.”
Wilkins went on to assess the challenge Albion face this afternoon, as they take on the reigning Premier League champions for a place in the final of the famous competition.
“I don’t envy Chris [Hughton] — stopping City is a job that every manager has been trying to do from one week to the next, and there hasn’t been much success.
“It’s impossible to take the game to them, they just take the game away from you. I know Liverpool tried to take the game to them, but you need an incredible amount of quality and energy to do that.
“On the day you absolutely need things to go your way, but if there’s one guy that will be as prepared as you possibly can be, then it’s definitely Chris.
“He’ll probably be sitting there with his fingers crossed on the day, hoping that everything the team has worked on goes to plan.”