Jordan Houghton's Wembley Preview
In May 2016, just over 34,000 people watched dejectedly as Argyle lost 2-0 to Wimbledon in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final at Wembley.
One of them was Jordan Houghton.
However, unlike the majority of people in green and white that day at the national stadium, Jordan’s seat was not in Wembley’s East End, it was on the bench.
Houghton, then on loan with the Pilgrims from Chelsea, was just 20 at the time, and as an unused substitute was unable to do anything about the forlorn finale to that otherwise thrilling season.
He has since played key roles in promotions for Doncaster Rovers and Milton Keynes Dons and, now aged 27, in the prime of his career, is looking forward to another trip to Wembley, this time as a senior member of the Argyle squad, as the Greens play Bolton Wanderers on Sunday.
“I'm one of the old boys now!” he said, self-deprecatingly, while speaking to Argyle TV. “The manager has been pretty keen to keep it as normal as possible. You can't completely keep it as a normal game, because it isn't. It's a big game.
“In 2016, it probably did feel like more of a bigger occasion because we were getting suited up, little things like that. It put even more pressure, maybe, on the occasion.
“The things outside of the game, get them sorted early. That helps, as you then just focus on the game. For the lads that have been involved in Wembley occasions, I think it'll be probably more excitement going into it. There's going to be some nerves and it will be down to the senior boys, or the boys that have experienced it before, to help guide the players that might see the occasion as a little bit nerve-wracking.
“It was my first real – I don’t know if you'd say ‘achievement’, because we lost - but it was the first time that there was a big occasion in my professional career.
“I'd won the Youth Cup [with Chelsea] but that was different. It's not men's football. This was my first season in professional football, men's football, and getting to the final at Wembley, which some players don't even get to play at.
“I didn't think I was going to make it because I'd got an injury at the end of my loan. I went back [to Chelsea] and they told me to go on holiday and not worry about the semi-final or final or anything like that, but I was keen to try and give it a go because I knew how much of a big occasion it would be and potentially the only chance that I would get to go to Wembley.
“It's not a good occasion when you come away losing, which I did and we did. It was a feeling that you don't want to feel.
“I felt that quite early on in the men's game, but I think that it put me in good stead going forward. It meant that I wanted to be victorious in these games. Thankfully I have come out on top twice with that. Hopefully I will again on Sunday.”
Jordan is looking forward to the game, as two sides with promotion ambitions in the regular season lock horns to win some silverware.
For the third time in the club’s history, the Green Army will head to the capital, should Argyle win a cup competition for the first time in the club’s history, they will do so in front of a following of over 38,000.
Houghton wants fans to enjoy the day, but says the players have just one thing in mind.
“We're going there to win,” he said. “It's not just a day out. It’s obviously nice for the fans to go, but you are playing at the biggest arena for an English player, the home of football, against a really good side that are going to play good football.
“We’ve had some good games against them this season and last season when I've been here.
“It's a big game. Everyone knows that. We're looking at the ticket sales and it's brilliant to see so many of our fans would be coming up to Wembley – which we knew they would.
“I’m really looking forward to it and to be backed by 38,000 Argyle fans is going to be something special.”