Mascot from 1999 recalls Wembley day

Lauren Topping on the pitch at Wembley in 1999
Lauren Topping on the pitch at Wembley in 1999

STEPPING out onto the Wembley turf tomorrow will be a moment that will live with Wigan Athletic players forever.

For the vast majority of the Latics squad, it’ll be the first ever time they’ve done it – with only Chilean Jean Beausejour having played there before.

There will be one other person in the stand who knows exactly how it feels, though...

Lauren Topping was just 11 years old when Latics played Millwall at Wembley in 1999 in the Auto Windscreens Shield final.

A huge Wigan fan, thanks to dad Tony, she was a member of the Junior Latics supporters’ club and was picked out of a hat to lead the side out as mascot.

It was a day to remember for her as she walked out side-by-side with skipper Carl Bradshaw and just behind manager Ray Mathias.

Before the game, she met the players and even had the chance to play on the pitch thanks to current boss Roberto Martinez, who was left out of the side on the day.

She recalled the day when she met up with Martinez at the recent Joseph’s Goal pre-Wembley party on Tuesday.

“It was an amazing day,” said Lauren, from Whelley. “My dad and I went around the stadium and got to see all the trophies. I got changed and then went out by the pitch and Roberto, who was walking around, told me to go on and have a kick around – he was lovely.

“When I went out with the team, I was just excited more than anything, I wasn’t really nervous. I remember it being so loud but it was fantastic and then we won too.”

This time around against Millwall, Lauren will be a spectator and is hoping for a similar result to that day in 1999 when Latics won thanks to a last-minute Paul Rogers winner.

That day 14 years ago will be one the 25-year-old remembers forever and she reckons tomorrow’s mascot will have the time of their life.

She added: “They will have an absolutely amazing day.

“The whole experience is great and hopefully we’ll get a win to top it off too!”