Chesterfield’s hopes of reaching the FA Cup final were dashed in January, but the BBC’s fans choir meant there was at least one Spireite who graced Wembley on Saturday.
Lifelong Chesterfield supporter, Carl Partridge, was part of the 64-strong fans choir that sang Abide With Me before Arsenal and Aston Villa competed for the prestigious trophy.
The 41-year-old entered the Songs of Praise FA Cup Fans Choir competition with his first hand account of the Spireites’ memorable 3-3 draw with Middlesbrough in 1997.
The semi-final at Old Trafford was shrouded in controversy after Jonathan Howard’s shot hit the bar and appeared to cross the line but wasn’t given. Boro won the replay 3-0 and met Chelsea in the final.
Carl, in his early 20s at the time, went to the match with his brother, Wayne, and dad, Roy, who is still a season ticket holder in the East Stand of the Proact Stadium to this day.
No stranger to karaoke, Carl is widely known among family and friends for his rendition of Hey Jude by The Beatles, however, Wembley’s 90,000 crowd is easily his biggest audience to date.
I had a few butterflies in my stomach but was also really excited to get out thereCarl Partridge
He said: “It was a fantastic and unique experience.
“I had a few butterflies in my stomach but was also really excited to get out there. It was a bit intimidating but all the fans were clapping and cheering us on.
“I was side by side with Scunthorpe, Rochdale, Bristol City fans and for small teams like that, who are never ever going to get to a FA Cup final, it was great to see.”
Carl, a social worker in Luton, where he went to university and stayed, was one of the 64 fans representing their club - each team that made it in to the third round of this year’s competition.
It was a dream come true for those supporters not restricted by age or gender. They met up in London on the Friday and took part in extensive rehearsals before it was their moment in the spotlight.
“It was all quite regimented and it wasn’t until afterwards, when we were in the car park that it really sank in - we’d just performed on the Wembley pitch!
“I took loads of photos and had my picture taken with Alfie Boe. We had a pep talk from the England manager, Roy Hodgson, and sat in on a press conference. It was a great day that’ll I remember for some time,” added the former Calow and Tapton pupil.
Following their showstopping performance, Arsenal delivered one of their own to lift the FA Cup for a second successive year - and 12th time in the club’s history.
Carl watched the match in the Villa end and said the atmosphere soon fell flat when the goals flew in, in the second half as Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners.
His mum and dad watched with friends and family on television and said how proud they were of him.