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Rachel to represent Blades at Wembley

27 April 2015

Congratulations to Blades fan Rachel Dixon, who will take her place alongside 63 other football fans to sing 'Abide With Me' prior to the FA Cup final between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Wembley next month.

Rachel secured her place after impressing judges in the Songs of Praise FA Cup fans choir competition to bag a once in a lifetime opportunity and she is certainly in tune with arguably the greatest club cup competition in the world.

And we aren't just talking the high and lows of following the Blades in the competition, Rachel was a student nurse in the Steel City in 1989 and as well as falling in love with the Blades she also cared for victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

Songs of Praise, who 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. The winning tales - selected by a panel of judges from the worlds of football, music and journalism - are a combination of amusing and moving stories which capture the spirit of the FA Cup and have a strong thread of family, community and tradition throughout.

Over 1,300 people applied to take part in the unique experience to sing 'Abide With Me', which has become a constant fixture since it was first sung at the FA Cup Final in 1927. In recent years, a celebrity solo singer has performed the song and this year the fans choir will join them on the football pitch. They will be led by international music producer and Songs of Praise conductor Steve Thompson, who is also a life-long fan of the FA Cup.

No singing experience was necessary to apply for the competition; those selected to perform the hymn at the FA Cup Final will now be able to practise singing ahead of the event with an online lesson which will be available on the Songs of Praise website shortly.

All the winners will also meet each other for the first time at Wembley the day before the final, where they will practice singing together and find out what it's like to walk out onto the pitch in front of 90,000 people.

But Blade Rachel has more memories than most, some good and some she would rather not have happened, she remarked: "The spirit of the FA Cup for me is about never giving up! Look how close we came to reaching the final last season when the odds were firmly stacked against us in each round.

"Although I was born and raised in Surrey, I was on duty in Sheffield and witnessed the tragic events of the Hillsborough disaster.

"Yet through the sorrow and pain over the years since that tragedy, the families and people of Liverpool have never given up and that inspires me.

"I have also gone through pain and ecstasy ever since becoming a Blade and we certainly have come close on more than one occasion in the competition.

"When Stefan Scougall scored our second goal in the semi-final with Hull City last year, I honestly thought our luck was about to change, but in the end we fell agonisingly short despite fighting until the last kick of the game.

"So I suppose this is my opportunity to have an amazing memory of FA Cup final day. I love to sing in choirs and to do it at Wembley on a day that captures the imaginations of the whole country will stay with me forever!"

* Rachel is pictured in the first Blades shirt she bought.

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