Eniola Aluko column: FA Cup final is biggest game in our history

Eniola Aluko
Women's FA Cup final - Chelsea v Notts County
Venue: Wembley Stadium. Kick-off: Saturday, 1 August - 15:00 BST
Coverage: BBC One, BBC 5 live, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC London 94.9 and live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Since returning from the Women's World Cup, it's been a pleasant surprise that more and more people have approached me in the street and congratulated England on finishing third.

Another measure of success in Canada will be the crowd for the first Women's FA Cup final to be held at Wembley on Saturday.

We've already seen record crowds at Women's Super League games since we've arrived home and about 30,000 tickets have been sold for the game between my team Chelsea and Notts County, which will set a new benchmark.

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If we see those numbers, I see no reason why the FA Cup final cannot be played at Wembley every year. Women's football in England is now worthy of that stage and as one of the first two teams to play this historic occasion, we will be proud to be part of another pioneering moment.

In the build-up to the game, some of my team-mates have been asking me about playing at Wembley, having played there for England against Germany last November and while representing Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics.

I can only say that it is a unique, out-of-body experience to play in front of so many people. It's a feeling that never gets old and we will be going to Wembley before Saturday so that those new to it can get a feel of the iconic 90,000-seat stadium.

In attempting to win Chelsea's first piece of silverware, it's the biggest game in the club's history, but one thing I've been telling them is we have to play the game and not the occasion.

I wouldn't care if it was being played in a local park in Wembley, the most important thing is to win.

With Chelsea's men's team also playing at Wembley the following day when the Premier League champions take on FA Cup winners Arsenal in the Community Shield, we want to make it a historic weekend.

Read more from the players involved at Wembley
Laura Bassett: the reluctant icon ready to make history for Notts County
Aluko: How Mourinho inspires us at Chelsea
Aluko: Why I'm putting legal career on hold
Eniola Aluko
Eniola Aluko scored against Manchester City last Sunday but Chelsea went on to lose

We aren't feeling pressure

There are many players in our team who have won the FA Cup before, including myself.

The first time was in 2005 with Charlton when I scored the winner against Everton and in 2012 I was part of the Birmingham team which beat Chelsea on penalties following a 2-2 draw.

In our dressing room we have midfielder Katie Chapman, who has won the FA Cup eight times, and Gilly Flaherty, who has won it five times, so we are not lacking pedigree.

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But having missed out on WSL so narrowly last season [on goal difference to Liverpool], it's fair to say that this could mean more because of the journey we have been on together.

Despite losing our last two league games, we aren't panicking. We have strong characters in the dressing room and the belief that got us to the FA Cup final and saw us go unbeaten in 13 matches this year.

There has been plenty of talk about the fact that our unbeaten start to the league season has come to an end.

It would have been nice to hold onto that record, but the WSL is a very competitive league and every team in it has dropped points. We were the last to do so. We didn't play well in a 4-0 loss at Sunderland but the promoted side are now top of the league and our defeat by Manchester City last Sunday came courtesy of a very fortunate winner. Despite the result, our performance was pleasing.

We are a point off the top with five games left and to be in that position in such a competitive season is positive.

Our focus is now on Saturday and we are confident we can win.

World Cup bounce

Sunday's game saw a record crowd for Chelsea Ladies at Staines FC
Sunday's game saw a record crowd for Chelsea Ladies at Staines FC

Another positive from the World Cup has been the boost to crowds in the WSL.

The first weekend after we arrived back saw record numbers for Manchester City, while 2,061 watched Liverpool beat Arsenal, and more than 1,200 saw us beat Bristol.

England collect their Women's World Cup bronze medals

Three weeks after our return, the bounce has lasted. Our first home defeat in more than 18 months by Manchester City was watched by a club-record 1,857 at Staines FC.

Those numbers are a credit to marketing staff at WSL clubs and the players, who are obviously putting on a good show in order to entice supporters back. The time we spend with fans immediately after games also helps too, I think.

The test now comes when the Premier League starts on 8 August.

With the Continental Cup now under way again, our season doesn't end until October, so hopefully the upsurge in attendances will continue and women's football will still very much be something people want to watch.

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