The FA Cup has always had a sort of special meaning in our household. The Villa Park heroics are perhaps my Dad’s most recounted story and the last FA Cup Final we reached was my late Nan’s, Dorris, last trip to Wembley. Her last match before the dreaded c-word began to take a deeper hold was our 3-0 win in ’91 vs. Manchester United; matches vs. Man U therefore hold a deeper meaning in their own right than just because we lost to them last time we got this far. With this in mind, and knowing who we had in the final should we win, it all got a bit emotional at full time; there were a few tears shed from myself, brother, mum and of course my Dad for whom Dorris was such a wonderful mother.
But we had a legitimate reason. We had just got through to the FA CUP FINAL! Football in particular, has a funny way of reducing grown-ups to tears. Sadly, Dorris never did get a second chance to see Palace win the FA Cup. We now get the chance for her.
The semi-final day was beautiful and the joy carried into the following. The chap I sit next to at work, who was sat up the other end on the day, was not in such a good mood as I when we met again on the Monday. He admitted that the best team won both on and off the pitch and we then quite simply didn’t talk about it anymore; I had other concerns anyway such as the deep fatigue from the constant jumping and blowing up the 200 balloons I took to the ground, the shredded voice from the singing and the raw eyes from the smoke bombs let off in block 111 in which I was sat stood 17 hours previous. The atmosphere at the semi-final was up with one of the greatest I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing; the celebrations up there with the most impassioned, the sea of red and blue was awe-inspiring and the noise at times deafening; as the BBC commentary team nervously pointed out, we quite literally made the stadium shake.
It was however a nervy affair. I’m never good when we score and go into the lead; a deep sense of panic seems to hijack all my senses leaving me unable to harvest rational thought, which may in part explain my ultra-emotional and physically erratic response to the whole game. You could have filmed me for the full 90 minutes and it would make for hilarious viewing.
So Man U? We’ve been here before. At least this time there will be no ridiculous FA Cup Final bumble bee kit and no replays should we draw, although I do hope there is another CPFC squad rendition of ‘Glad All Over’ or Yala releases some FA Rap. They are a good team but by no means great any more. There will be some interesting battles such as Martial vs. Ward, Fellaini the Elbow vs. Mile the Elbow and Wilf/Yala vs. Rojo/Darmian. They will go in as favourites but I’m not nervous about them at all at the moment.
At the moment I’m more nervous about getting a ticket for the final than the day itself or facing Man U; my 2,000 loyalty points will mean I will have to wait until phase 9.2.6 to be able to purchase my ticket and will only be able to do so if I buy a novelty Michele Padovano figurine, or something equally daft, but what a day to look forward to!
But why be nervous like I was vs. Watford? We are the underdogs and we’ve had plenty of practice at being just that, it’s familiar territory and we are very good in this space. We have already beaten four Premier League teams and a very good Championship side on our way (back) to Wembley. We are doing this the hard way. One of those teams, Tottingham, are also considerably better than Man United are at the moment. It’s just one more game. We can beat anyone. I have no expectations. I must heed the advice of my own words.
I will turn up with the intention of enjoying the day for what it is, one of the biggest days in the club’s history. I will do my bit to make a balloon merchant that little bit richer again and will also do my bit to make Wembley shake again.
For the 11 on the pitch.
For Red and Blue.
And for Dorris.