EFL Cup final a special moment for midfielder
May 1st 1976. Manchester United 0, Southampton 1.
With one perfect swing of his left foot that day, Portsmouth-born Bobby Stokes enshrined himself as a true Saints hero forever.
As the club now marches back to Wembley, to once again face United in a major final, the link is not lost on James Ward-Prowse.
Like Stokes, the 22-year-old was born down the road, in enemy territory. And, like Stokes, if Ward-Prowse hits the winner at Wembley next Sunday he will forever ensure legendary status in the city of Southampton.
"It's obviously a nice affiliation to have,” said the midfielder, who has been with the club since he was just eight-years-old. “Hopefully that trend can continue for this final.”
However, it is abundantly clear that Ward-Prowse could not care less who scores the winning goal – just as long as somebody gets it for Saints.
“It would be an incredibly special moment if it was to happen, but the most important thing is making sure the team wins, regardless of who scores the winning goal or anything like that – the team comes first,” he said.
Still, few people who have dreamed of playing football in this country haven’t imagined themselves scoring the winning goal in a Wembley final, and Ward-Prowse is certainly no different.
"Every kid grows up doing that,” he said. “I remember kicking the ball around the garden with my brother, re-enacting famous goals and moments.
“They're the sort of things you think about, and that sort of built the foundation for me as a young professional to make sure I could get myself in those positions. We've got ourselves here and we need to make the most of it.”
it would mean everything to me. but we're not there yet. we need to give it our all.james ward-prowse
And just how special will it feel to walk out at a packed Wembley for a major final with Saints?
"I think it's going to be a great moment,” said Ward-Prowse. “As players, that's the pinnacle of your club careers. You all want to be lifting silverware at Wembley for your club. I think for me especially, coming through the club's Academy, it's going to mean a hell of a lot, and hopefully we can be on the winning side.
“I saw the Johnstone's Paint Trophy unfold, and hopefully we can be on the winning side again. There was a real buzz about the place then. As a young player, you could feel the energy from the first team coming down to us.
“It was a great motivation for us to reach those sorts of heights. I managed to get into the first team and it's crazy to think I'll be with the first-team there at Wembley now as well.”
And if Saints could win?
"It would mean everything to me,” explained Ward-Prowse. “It would be a great honour. But it's going to be a very tough game. We're not there yet. We need to make sure we go out and give it our all and make sure we get there.”