Batley Bulldogs head coach Craig Lingard says big day out at Wembley is a reward for the fans

As a player who, in his own words, “never got anywhere close” to gracing the hallowed Wembley turf, Craig Lingard will achieve “the next best thing” when he leads Batley Bulldogs out in the final of the 1895 Cup against Halifax Panthers on Saturday as head coach.
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It will be a historic moment for Lingard, the players, the fans and everyone associated with the club. Their first ever visit to the national stadium in their 143-year history.

“For the magnitude and importance of playing at Wembley, and being the first group of players to take Batley Rugby League Club to Wembley, is certainly significant,” said Lingard, the club’s all-time leading try scorer.

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The former full-back played his entire semi-professional career at Mount Pleasant and he saw, first-hand, the years tick by, as Batley continued to wait patiently in the wings to perform at the iconic stadium.

Batley Bulldogs head coach Craig LingardBatley Bulldogs head coach Craig Lingard
Batley Bulldogs head coach Craig Lingard

That chance has finally come in his role as head coach.

He said: “It’s something that when you’re growing up as a rugby league player, and I guess as a football player, all you want to do is to play at Wembley. It’s your big goal.

"That was certainly my ambition as a young kid but I never got anywhere close as a player. To do it as a coach is the next best thing.

“It will be a proud moment, an exciting moment.

"As much as you want to enjoy the atmosphere and the occasion, you have got to try and control the emotions and realise you have got a job to do for the next 80 minutes.

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“Maybe let yourself go for the first five minutes or so as you’re walking out and enjoy the atmosphere and the occasion, but then it needs to be switched on to work mode.”

He added: “Regardless of what the result is for both teams, it is going to be a fantastic occasion. We have got to have that business head on but at the same time we have got to realise it is a massive special occasion for everybody concerned, particularly the fans who have followed Batley home and away for a number of years.

“Those fans who have followed Batley for 40 to 50 years plus - they have never been to Wembley. I think that reward is more for them than it is for us as coach and players.”