Wembley bound! Britannia Primary School given celebrity send-off as they represent Ipswich in dream national cup final just before Championship play-off final
- Credit: Su Anderson
Ipswich Town may have failed to reach the play-offs – but a Suffolk primary school will today realise a dream and play at Wembley in a national cup final.
The school football team at Britannia Primary School in Ipswich were yesterday given a raucous send-off on their team bus as they headed to the capital.
The young celebrities, in their Coes-donated suits, were given the red carpet treatment as classmates reached out over the railings for autographs and belted out a range of songs in their honour. They waved Union Jacks and held posters declaring ‘Rule Britannia’.
Teachers danced and proud parents hugged their Wembley finalists and took photos outside the school gates. Even Ipswich Town mascot Bluey turned up. It was quite a scene.
“It is a dream come true for the lads – but also a dream come true for a middle aged man,” said team coach Greg Williamson, who will manage his young guns from the Wembley dug-out and give his team talk in one of the official dressing rooms.
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The school will represent Ipswich in the Kids Football Cup, taking place on the hallowed turf at Wembley before the Championship play-off final this afternoon.
Britannia won the local Ipswich league before claiming victory in the Kids Football Cup southern section to reach the final. The competition was divided into Championship, League One and League Two divisions.
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They beat MK Dons in the semi-final and face Derby, who won the northern section, in the final today.
“It is incredible. It has been an absolutely fantastic season so far,” Mr Williamson added.
“It is a proud moment for the whole school. The players work hard for each other, we like to get the ball down and play, we score a lot and concede very few, each player knows what they’re doing – but it is the team spirit which has really carried us through to the final.
“We are confident and hopefully we will win, but it is all about enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime experience and having a great day, win or lose.”
The players stayed in a London hotel last night after enjoying a team trip to a restaurant and a cinema.
Captain, 11-year-old Tom Chilvers, said: “It is amazing. I didn’t think I would get the chance in my life to play at Wembley. I’m really looking forward to it.
“We’re a hard-working team who like to get the ball down and get it forward. As long as we play our football, we have got a chance.”
The centre-midfielder and Ipswich Town fan says he styles his play on enigmatic Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil.
“I like to watch him and pick up tricks that I can use,” he said. “He is a good passer of the ball as well, which is what I like to do.
“My parents are really excited and have told me to take in the whole experience. Just playing at Wembley is going to be an honour.”
After the coach departed – from Britannia Road to Wembley Way – parents lined up to express their thoughts. A similar team bus will take up just over 50 parents and teachers today.
Shane Greenleaf, 31, of Stoke Park, father of Brandon, a defensive midfielder, said: “I’ll be going up to Wembley to watch him run out of the tunnel and play. I will probably have a tear in my eye. It’s really heart-warming.”
Cathy Ellis, 51, of Henslow Road, mother of 11-year-old “prolific” striker Elliot Stevens, who has scored around 50 goals this season, said: “It has been unbelievable and he has been so excited. It is going to be really special to see him on the Wembley pitch.”
Jo Leeks, 42, of Parliament Road, mother of goalkeeper Jamie Leeks, said: “The send-off they got was absolutely fantastic. Mr Williamson has made them a team and hopefully we will win.”
Jamie’s grandfather, John Gosling, 76, added: “The team have got the right attitude. There’s no moaning if they make a mistake. The whole family is going up and I can’t wait. Not every granddad can say they’ve seen their grandson run out at Wembley.”