Tom Naylor: Prospect of lifting a trophy for Portsmouth at Wembley is a dream
The dream is to lift a trophy at Wembley.
And to do that as Pompey captain is something Tom Naylor will cherish for the rest of his days - fans or no fans.
The Blues’ leader has admitted he had serious reservations that the trip to the home of football to face Salford City would ever take place.
That was a doubt which permeated the Pompey squad with the final postponed, as the coronavirus pandemic saw football come to a standstill.
It means Naylor and his team-mates will be denied the chance of walking out in front of a sea of royal blue and 50,000-plus frenzied Blues fans.
But the opportunity of stepping out on Wembley’s hallowed turf is something many professionals will never achieve; the 29-year-old is on the brink of doing it for a second time in royal blue.
And to be the captain who lifts silverware under the arch is a feat many of football’s finest will never match.
‘It’s everyone’s dream to play at Wembley - and I could be playing there twice,’ said Naylor of the occasion.
‘Obviously as captain I want to lift the trophy. I want to lift as many as I can - and the next one is the Papa John’s Trophy.
‘It’s going to be very different from last time, though.
‘We’d sold a lot of tickets when the game first came around.
‘So it’s going to be weird playing in that ground without fans.
‘It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure.
‘We wanted to play this final and there were times when we didn’t think it was going to happen.
‘To me, it’s a bonus we’ve got this final to look forward to and an opportunity we want to seize.’
Pompey, of course, will go into the final as favourites against opposition who are now stablished in League Two, following their meteoric rise through non-league football.
With aspirations to continue on that front, the Ammies are firmly in the fourth-tier play-off battle and Naylor knows they’re force to be respected.
He added: ‘Salford have brought in new players since they got to the final and we have as well.
‘They’re doing well in League Two and we have to respect them as an opponent.
‘They have got to the final on merit, so we have to match them and do whatever it takes to pick up that trophy.’
There is much that will be missed from a final in normal circumstances, but the occasion does present Pompey with the chance to set an unprecedented mark in the record books.
No one has managed to retain the Papa John’s Trophy in its various guises in the event’s 38-year history.
Naylor is not underestimating the opportunity to set a new landmark, but also sees the chance to impact league fortunes with success.
Two years on from the memorable Wembley victory over Sunderland, there’s a different look to Pompey’s squad.
Naylor felt sympathy for those who’ve moved on after helping the team make the final, with the reality they missed out on a Wembley final due to circumstances beyond their control.
But there’s now others who weren’t present for the events of March 31, 2019, looking to create their own positive memories to cherish in years to come.
Naylor said: ‘Obviously, it’s a chance to get back to back wins and that’s something to go for.
‘A win at Wembley in the final could be just what we need to kick on again in the league.
‘With the ability we’ve got in the dressing and with everyone being together I don’t see why that can’t happen.
‘They were great memories, I almost can’t describe how great the atmosphere was. It was special.
‘There’s a few players who got us to the final who aren’t here anymore.
‘There’s a few new faces who’ve come into the side, too.
‘It will be a great experience for them to play at Wembley, fans or no fans.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
On Saturday, March 13 Pompey will finally get their day at Wembley.
To celebrate the Blues’ place in the rearranged 2020 EFL Trophy Final, The News has launched an offer that gets you 25% off all our Sports subscriptions.
You can choose your perfect Sports subscription here and use the discount code ROADTOWEMBLEY25 to get the latest news from Fratton Park for less. Offer runs until midnight on March 15.