This year’s Papa John’s Trophy final will take place on Sunday, April 3 when 1996 winners Rotherham United meet group leaders Sutton United at Wembley Stadium
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Sunday’s EFL Trophy final between Rotherham United and Sutton United offers both clubs a chance to taste glory at Wembley.
While the Millers have lifted this particular trophy before, in 1996, for Sutton, it was a remarkable achievement for them. The finalists consider this their debut in the competitionwon the first promotion for EFL final period. But while the club title was lifted, the match also propelled both groups of players into the national spotlight.
And it could also prove to be the perfect shopping window for players to catch the eye of the clubs higher up the pyramid. The same thing happened to Ben Foster in last performance back in 2005. At the time, Foster was a young goalkeeper still studying on loan at Wrexham. He kept a clean sheet in the final as they beat Southend United 2-0 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium after extra time. He made a string of saves that day in what he considers, quite rightly, a career-changing afternoon.
Foster was on loan from Stoke City and one of his teammates on that memorable day in the Welsh capital was Darren Ferguson, son of the legendary Sir Alex. The Manchester United the manager attended with his primary concern about how his son was doing. But the Scots couldn’t help but be impressed with Foster’s performance – and it would lead to a move to Old Trafford that summer.
“If it weren’t for Wrexham, I wouldn’t have moved to Manchester United,” said Foster, who at 38 is still a Premier League often for Watford. “That’s really how it started. It was almost like the right place at the right time. In the final we were on top. I had to make a few saves but we did well.
“I remember looking at the big screen and seeing Sir Alex. It clicked that Darren was playing for us and his dad came to see him. I think that’s where it all started. Two or three. next week Darren pulled me up after training one day and asked me what was going on with my contract at Stoke I said I had one season but I didn’t really want to go back there because I knew I wouldn’t competition.
‘Darren said just do what you’re doing, you’re doing great, but I knew someone was watching you and they were going to send a spy to watch you.’ I remember going home and told my girlfriend, who is now wife and mother of my children, I know that Sir Alex has been to a few more games and goalkeeping coach Tony Coton has been to most of the games since then.
“I accepted it, accepted the challenge and ended the season pretty well for myself.”
Sunday’s match will be the first EFL Trophy final to be played in front of a crowd since more than 85,000 record attendees watched the 2019 clash between Portsmouth and Sunderland.