LONDON (Reuters) - Salford City have waited a long time to contest arguably the biggest match in their short history but should they beat Portsmouth in this Saturday's EFL Trophy they will only have 24 hours to enjoy being called champions.
Salford and Portsmouth were supposed to have clashed at Wembley Stadium last April but the COVID-19 pandemic saw to that. The 2019-20 final, dubbed football's "forgotten final" takes place behind closed doors at Wembley on Saturday.
Then, 24 hours later, Sunderland face Tranmere Rovers in this season's version of the EFL Trophy final.
The strange situation is all the more odd as five players who played in Portsmouth's semi-final win over Exeter last February have now left the south coast club while Salford have lost nine players, manager Graham Alexander and first-team coach Chris Lucketti since booking their Wembley date.
Third-tier Portsmouth are the holders, having won the 2018-19 final against Sunderland, but they face the prospect of retaining their crown, then losing it 24 hours later.
Either way it is a double helping of exposure for a competition that is contested by England's third and fourth tier clubs and 16 Premier League/Championship 'academy' sides and sponsored by pizza chain Papa John's.
Salford, jointly-owned by former Manchester United team mates Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham as well as Singaporean businessman Peter Lim, are aiming to win their first major piece of silverware since joining the professional ranks and being promoted to the Football League in 2019.
Forgotten final or not, it would mark another milestone in their remarkable rise which has included four promotions in five seasons for the club from Manchester's old industrial quarter, better-known for it's ship canal and it's so-called media city.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)