ROAR TO WEMBLEY JUST LIKE MY TIGERS Atkinson aims to join Hull with final appearance
WILL ATKINSON has next Saturday marked firmly in his diary – not only could the Southend midfielder be celebrating his own return to Wembley but he’ll be cheering on his beloved Hull City in the FA Cup final.
Born and raised in Beverley – less than ten miles north of Hull – Atkinson grew up watching the Tigers with dad, Kevin, at the old Boothferry Park.
The quaintness of their former 15,000-capacity home – which became a Kwik Save supermarket before being demolished completely in 2011 – is about as far removed as you can get from the plush new Wembley, but that’s where Atkinson’s focus for the next week will be.
First up for the Blues is the first leg of their League Two play-off semi-final against Burton today, followed by the return fixture at Roots Hall at midday next Saturday.
It will be a race against time for the 25-year-old, but he’s hoping to book his place in the final and catch his boyhood side take on Arsenal at 5pm.
“I’m a Hull fan but we play on the same day as Hull in the FA Cup final so I’ll be fully focussed on our game,” said Atkinson, who was released by Hull in 2012 after failing to make the grade.
“I’ll try to catch a bit of the game on television though and hopefully I’ll be celebrating getting through to another play-off final.
“I used to go and watch Hull quite regularly at Boothferry Park and then the KC Stadium, so I’ve got fond memories of being there.
“I started off going with my dad and then went with friends. It could be a double celebration that day and hopefully it is.”
Wembley Way is becoming a well-trodden path for Atkinson – if he makes it past the Brewers it will be his third appearance in just over a year after his two trips with Bradford last season.
By his own admission, the Bantams’ 5-0 League Cup humiliation by Swansea left him reeling, but there was redemption in the play- offs against Northampton.
And Atkinson is hoping to draw on both experiences to help Southend see off the Brewers.
“Getting to Wembley last year with Bradford and coming out on top in the playoffs was a great experience,” he added.
“A lot of the other lads from Southend have been to Wembley last year in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, so we’ve got quite a bit of expe-
ON THE BALL: Will Atkinson evades a tackle from Millwall’s Jack Hunt and, inset, in his Hull City days
KEY MAN BILLY KEE Burton