Sheffield Eagles fans celebrate Wembley win after years of heartache

Redemption was in the air at Wembley when Sheffield Eagles lifted the inaugural 1895 Cup in fitting circumstances as they came from 12-0 down to win 36-18 over rivals Widnes Vikings.

By Kasey Smith
Sunday, 25th August 2019, 5:25 pm
Updated Sunday, 25th August 2019, 7:37 pm
Sheffield Eagles celebrate winning  the 1895 Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London.  Paul Harding/PA Wire.
Sheffield Eagles celebrate winning the 1895 Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London. Paul Harding/PA Wire.

Fans celebrated, with more than a hint of relief; the club's nomadic existence between 2014 and 2017 still fresh in their minds.

Adrian Bentley, 72, was watching when Mark Aston – the Eagles coach – helped lift the 1998 Challenge Cup, and has been supporting them since their first ever match against Rochdale Hornets back in 1984.

He said: "It's just a sign of progress really, after all we've been through, we're now getting a more settled situation where you can plan and build for the future. We've gone through a lot of woes, it's a real breath of fresh air.

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Sheffield Eagles players celebrate with their fans after winning the 1895 Cup at Wembley

"The powers that be ought to be aware now. There wouldn't be a Sheffield Eagles without Mark Aston – he's done a tremendous job through all the pain that he's had, and he's produced the goods on the field."

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During the game, it was advantage Widnes Vikings at the break as they led 18-12, but the Eagles exerted their dominance to win the cup comfortably - scoring 22 unanswered points.

It was particularly apt that the performance on the field echoed the troubles the Eagles have had to overcome in recent times.

Sheffield Eagles fans celebrate after watching their side win the 1895 Cup at Wembley

Sheffield have been through the mill, playing at four different stadiums in as many years, playing as far away as Doncaster and Wakefield.

During this time, they also had their academy stripped away from them by the Rugby Football League (RFL).

Their problems, though, can be dated back as far as the failed merger with Huddersfield Giants in 1999.

Despite this, their loyal fan base have stuck by them, and many of those at Wembley on Saturday had been there since day one.

Wembley scoreboard after Sheffield Eagles won the 1895 Cup

Long-serving supporter Dave Mappin, 48, said: "It's been a massive rollercoaster - we started at Owlerton Stadium with around 400 fans for the first game.

"We almost lost the club and now we've steadily built back up again. If any team is going to prove against the odds, it's The Eagles. The sooner he [Mark Aston] gets one of those stars outside Sheffield Town Hall, the better."

The Eagles faithful are indebted to Aston who has been there throughout their struggles, ironically starting shortly after their historic Challenge Cup win.

Sheffield had to merge with Huddersfield Giants at the end of the 1999 season as the RFL looked to reduce the size of Super League.

Sheffield Eagles' Corey Makelim celebrates scoring a try during the 1895 Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, London. Paul Harding/PA Wire.

After one year, the merger was scrapped, and the Eagles were forced to play in the Northern Ford Premiership.

More structural change in 2002 meant that they were forced to drop down another division into the newly formed National League 2.

Mark Aston has been coaching the club for 12 years now, and many hope their win at Wembley will be the dawn of a new and more successful era for the club.

David Mappin Snr said: "We've got two games left and we're on the edge of the play-offs - we could be in Super League next year, as daft as it seems."

29-year-old Glenn Brooke said: "The next step is getting the stadium done and hopefully we'll be on our way up from there.

"For the first time in a long time, Sheffield Eagles have been on Look North and that sort of thing, so the wider message is getting out there - hopefully it will mean some people get reintroduced to the club."

When Sheffield Eagles lifted the Challenge Cup 21 years ago, nobody envisaged the turmoil that would ensue, but you sense this time may be different - maybe, just maybe, Sheffield Eagles fans can dare to dream.