Eagles dream of night of glory at Don Valley

Mark Aston
Mark Aston
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When Mark Aston talks about the Challenge Cup you can feel the thrill, excitement and pride that comes with winning the famous old trophy.

He was man of the match when Eagles defied the odds to beat Wigan Warriors at the old Wembley in 1998.

As coach of a very different Sheffield Eagles he’s planning another upset when Super League strugglers London Broncos come to Don Valley Stadium on Friday night.

It’ll be the last Challenge Cup game to be played at the stadium and the last hurrah before the bulldozers move in later this year.

“It’s a massive game for us and another chapter in the club’s history,” said Aston. “Can we be the first team from the Championship to get to a semi-final of the Challenge Cup?

“The club has made huge strides over the years and we want Super League back in the city.

“I hope the people of Sheffield will come down and support their team because it would be a night to remember if we can pull off a result against a Super League team.

“It would be a massive achievement for the players, the club and the city.

“We would be in a semi-final, one game away from a Wembley final - that’s what dreams are all about.”

He added: “It is bizarre that the stadium is going. It’s been a massive part of Sheffield Eagles for nearly 25 years.

“Those are the cards that have been dealt and all we can do is sign off the Challenge Cup with a fantastic performance that everybody in the city can be proud of.”

The odds are stacked against Eagles.

They are a team of part-timers facing a London side packed with internationals and experienced Australians.

But in that special way of cup competitions it pits an Eagles team that has the winning habit and is top of their competition against a London side propping up the Super League.

For Aston a victory would be a reward for the years of struggle since a new Eagles was launched in 1999 following the ill-fated ‘merger’ with Huddersfield.

“They can train 20 hours a week, we maybe get four together,” he said.

“They will be the favourites but we have people who know how to win – the pressure is on London.”

The London fixture comes at another crossroads for Eagles who have yet to confirm their ‘home ground’ after Don Valley is demolished.

Aston who combines being head coach with the club’s chief executive role added: “We need somewhere, it’s something we are on with and we want to be in Sheffield which is where the Eagles belong. There’s a lot of history and a lot of happy memories from the 1998 Challenge Cup win, it was probably the biggest thing to happen in Sheffield sport. We want to re-write the history books and remind people that we are still here.”