It’s FA Cup final day and this year the finale of the world’s oldest football competition was made even sweeter, as fans returned to Wembley Stadium.
For the first time in over a year, after a strange and tough 12 months for so many, Chelsea and Leicester City supporters packed out Wembley Way in anticipation of watching live football.
It’s a landmark day for sport as a total of 21,000 supporters will be sitting down in Wembley to watch Thomas Tuchel’s Blues and Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes battle it out for the famous trophy in the 140th FA Cup final.
Like 139 before it, fans from all clubs – not just the two in action – will be tuning in.
But, unlike those previous matches, there will be a communal sense of celebration for fans who, while they may not be emotionally invested in the result, will have plenty of emotion about seeing bums back of seats in anticipation of their own return.
The viewers at home will probably be grateful, too, to hear genuine reactions from the viewing crowd in the stands after months of synthetic crowd noise.
There’s just nothing like the sound of thousands of football supporters cheering and singing as one voice. It’s one we’ve missed and it’s one we’re delighted to have back.
Ahead of the game, TV screens were awash with images of happy fans making their way to the Home of Football.
The tin foil cups were out in force, with banners, scarves, silly hats, painted faces and plenty of beers on display as supporters enjoyed a rare moment of normality.
But, of course, an FA Cup final is not a normal or ordinary occasion for every football fan, and the coronavirus pandemic has made this year’s game quite an extraordinary occasion.
And the Football Association have ensured Saturday’s game paid tribute to those who have the toughest year – the key workers who have battled COVID-19 on the front lines.
The NHS choir performed in a touching moment on the pitch before kick-off and armed services officers from the army, navy and air force were in attendance.
There’s just something about FA Cup final day, but the 2021 edition will be remembered as the day football fans returned home.