Next week sees us host Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup semi-final at Emirates Stadium, with Jack Wilshere aiming to inspire his side into the final from the touchline.
On Tuesday, April 4 his mind will fondly rewind back 14 years to when he was playing his part on that same pitch against the same opposition at the same stage of the competition, in the year we last got our hands on the famous trophy.
Back in the 2008/09 season, we reached the last four by knocking out Aston Villa, Wolves, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur, thanks to a squad that would go on to amass over 3,000 professional appearances including Kyle Bartley, Francis Coquelin, Luke Ayling and Henri Lansbury.
However it was Jack who was the most exciting member of that side, having already debuted for Arsene Wenger’s first-team in a Premier League match against Blackburn Rovers in September 2008 and continuing to feature fairly regularly up to the start of the cup run.
And that experience gained at the highest level would stand him - as well as his teammates - in good stead by the time City pitched up in N5 in April 2009, skippered by Kieran Trippier and featuring future internationals Dedryck Boyata and John Guidetti in their ranks.
We had inflicted City’s first defeat all season by beating them 2-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium in the first leg the month before thanks to goals from captain Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Gilles Sunu, but boss Steve Bould didn’t look to send his side out under instruction to protect their advantage - they looked to wrap up a final spot in style.
Our stall was set out in just the first minute when Sanchez Watt raced onto a long ball by Emmanuel-Thomas and fired home, and the striker’s pace caused issues again on 20 minutes when he was brought down by visiting keeper Joe Clegg, allowing Wilshere to tuck home our second from the penalty spot.
Relishing playing in front of nearly 10,000 supporters, the hosts were thriving and added a third nine minutes later when Bartley rose highest to head home a corner, and that was swiftly followed up when Watt pounced on some hesitation in the City defence to add a fourth.
The visitors pulled one back just before half-time through Ahmad Benali, but nothing could prevent Wilshere and co from setting up a final meeting with Liverpool where another emphatic 4-1 success would clinch the cup.
Now 14 years on, Wilshere the coach has helped set the stage for our latest crop of young hopefuls to follow in his footsteps, as they dream of clinching silverware themselves in our colours.
Our team against City: James Shea, Craig Eastmond, Thomas Cruise, Kyle Bartley, Luke Ayling, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, Jack Wilshere, Gilles Sunu, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Sanchez Watt.
Head to Emirates Stadium to see the next step of our cup journey against Manchester City in the semi-finals, with tickets available now priced at just £4 for adults and £2 concessions.
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