Pool fan sings in FA choir at Wembley final

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A Blackpool fan will sing his heart out at Wembley this afternoon as part of an FA Cup choir.

Michael Hartley will join supporters representing the 64 clubs to have won the famous trophy at the legendary stadium as Arsenal take on 
Aston Villa.

Michael will sing Abide With Me, making it a Fylde Coast double header as Fleetwood tenor Alfie Boe leads the singing.

Michael, 79, who is registered blind, was the winner of a Songs of Praise competition after he applied to take part in the once in a lifetime experience at the home of football.

Michael, who now lives in Kendal, was chosen after he described match days at Bloomfield Road between 1948 and 1952 when Blackpool had a live duck as its mascot.

In his winning entry he said: “Aged 12 to 16 (1948/52), I went to Bloomfield Road on match days – in through the ‘officials only’ entrance and down to the players’ dressing room corridor.

“I had to ascertain from Joe Smith, Blackpool’s manager, and the opposing team’s manager the changes and put them on to a blackboard and walk it around the ground.

“This was on behalf of Blackpool’s Society for the Deaf, for those spectators unable to hear the Tannoy announcements. There was no electronic wizardry then.

“In those days Blackpool had as its mascot a real live duck, dyed tangerine with dye used for smoked haddock… I tucked the duck under my arm and ran out just in front of the Blackpool team. I ran to the centre spot, put the duck down and raised my arms to the Kop to bring a welcoming roar from the crowd.

“Consequently, I became well known to both staff and players.

“Can you imagine these days, a 14-year-old wandering in and out of the players’ dressing rooms and chatting to stars like Billy Wright and Nat Lofthouse?

“For me, more, it was great seeing Stan Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Harry Johnston and other famous Blackpool players.”

The fans will join with The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas in front of almost 90,000 people this afternoon.

Songs of Praise, which teamed up with BBC Sport as part of their FA Cup programming, asked for people to submit stories that reflect their personal memories and passion of the cup from every level of the game.