Wembley Stadium played host to 8,000 fans for the Carabao Cup final on Sunday afternoon.
The welcome sight of fans walking down Wembley Way and taking up their seats at the 90,000-seater stadium provides an encouraging glimpse at a gradual return to normality ahead of this summer’s European Championship.
While 4,000 supporters attended Leicester and Southampton’s FA Cup semi-final last Sunday, double that number were permitted to attend the Carabao Cup final, which was chosen as a pilot event to trial the return of large audiences to venues.
With 8,000 fans present, the final hosted the largest number of spectators for any outdoor event in the country since March 2020.
Further, it is hoped 21,000 fans can attend the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester on May 15 as the UK continues to ease lockdown restrictions.
The Carabao Cup final allocation saw Spurs and City handed 2,000 tickets each, while the other 4,000 were shared between NHS workers and local residents.
No fans under the age of 18 were permitted to attend, while all those fortunate to obtain a ticket were obliged to take a lateral flow test 24 hours before the final.
As well as holding back tickets for NHS staff, the EFL prepared a ‘Thank you NHS’ video to be aired ahead of kick-off at Wembley.
They also planned for NHS Chorus-19, a virtual choir made up of 1,000 former and current NHS staff, to lead the national anthem.
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Tottenham fan Ray Wood, 70, was delighted to earn a ticket for the final over five decades after attending his first Spurs match in 1967.
“The tickets were done on a loyalty basis, I was 1,200 out of 2,000 because I would go to Rochdale on a Wednesday night,” he told Mirror Football’s John Cross.
“So I’m looking forward to it. I had a brush with death three years ago so not a lot gets to me and I’m happy to be here.”
City supporter Anthony Gill, 66, shared Ray’s enthusiasm and insisted the recent European Super League farce had not dampened spirits.
He added: “To be honest, it’s not taken any gloss off and I’m happy to be here.
“The Covid tests have been difficult. I took a test in midweek, another one on Saturday and I’ll have to take one afterwards.”