Jordan Henderson would have preferred to see the Football Association move Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City to a neutral venue nearer the north-west rather than stage it at Wembley next month.
Liverpool’s captain was dismayed to learn that the tie, to be played on Easter Saturday, takes place on a day when engineering works dictate there are no direct trains from the region to London. Since then the FA has announced it will charter a free return bus service from Anfield and the Etihad Stadium to Wembley for up to 5,000 fans from each club but Henderson remains unconvinced.
“It’s disappointing for the fans – I think this time it should be a bit more about them,” he said, exhibiting an awareness of the inconvenience and, in many cases, high cost of travelling to Wembley from Merseyside and Manchester. “It’s their day and for different reasons, costs included, it would make sense to change it to a neutral venue nearer the north-west.
“That’s just my view. I’m sure there are complications the FA would have to overcome in moving it. But I’m looking at it from the fans’ viewpoint, which is probably the most important thing to me. I’ve learnt over the past couple of years of the pandemic how important the fans are to football so it’s really disappointing to see that it will be very expensive for many of them to get down there.”
Henderson also believes domestic use of the national stadium should be restricted to finals.“I love playing at Wembley, I think it’s a fantastic stadium, but for me personally I would like to keep it for finals,” he said. “I think how it used to be, semi-finals at neutral grounds was quite exciting. Then to keep the final at Wembley made it extra special.”
Although his pleas fell on deaf ears, the FA is providing 100 buses for each club and liaising with National Highways to try to ensure that hundreds of miles of unessential roadworks are placed on hold over the East weekend, smoothing fans’ road journeys.
After Liverpool v City kicks off at 3.30pm on Saturday 16 April, Chelsea face Crystal Palace on Sunday 17 at 4.30pm.
On 16 April, at 12.15pm, City will play at West Ham in the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup and the FA is providing free buses for City fans too. The following day Chelsea’s women visit Arsenal at 12.30pm.