TAKING to the field for a showpiece Wembley final is a day Stags striker Paul Connor thought would never arrive.
Journeyman Connor, who has enjoyed an excellent season in front of goal with 16 goals to his name, began his career way back in 1996 with Middlesborough but has never graced the famous Wembley turf.
But on Saturday Connor, despite a recent calf strain, will patch himself up and fulfil his long-awaited ambition in what he hopes will be a famous day for Mansfield Town against Darlington.
Said Connor, who joined Stags from Lincoln City in 2010: “It is the first time I have been here in my career and I thought time was running out for me. It could be my last chance to play at Wembley and it is one I am really looking forward to.
“I have been here at the old stadium, but it does not compare to what we have now. It is a fantastic stadium which has a real aura about the place.
“I’ve thought about scoring the winner in my mind a lot and going to collect the trophy. It is a really exciting thought.”
But the veteran striker, who has made 381 starts during his career, knows the Trophy final will be all about keeping nerves under check.
“It is all about who performs on the day and we have to got to just enjoy the day” he said. “I am experienced and hopefully I can pass that on to anyone who needs it. Really we just have to try and treat this like any other match and relax.
“We cannot burn ourselves out in the first 20 minutes or do anything silly and have a man sent off. We have got to relax and play our game.”
It looked like curtains for Connor when he limped out of the Good Friday defeat at AFC Wimbledon.
But, thankfully, it proved to be a strain and not a tear in his calf muscle which, even though not fully fit, should enable him to fulfil his Wembley dream in Stags’ patched-up squad of 15.