Did it really happen? Was it the greatest day of you life? Are we really in Europe? Just a few questions that Pompey fans have been asking themselves over the last few weeks.
In deepest Eastney, the morning of 17th May 2008 began at about 7.00am with the crow of the cockerel – no joking of course, no bird life in Eastney just the local Spurs fan late home after a heavy night.
Breakfast was declined by all and after a couple of coffees we were on the road to Wembley; Wife, Son, Brother-in-law and Nephew making up the family group who had managed to acquire tickets. We decided this time to park at Ickenham after the exorbitant parking charges in Uxbridge and although the station car park was already pre-booked a very helpful attendant showed us where to park for free and quite legally only a few yards away.
Ickenham was mostly full of Cardiff fans that had travelled down the M4 but the two groups mixed well in the local pubs and restaurants, which were packed by 10.45. We found a small café to have breakfast but once again the tension of the day made it difficult for some to eat. From there we boarded the tube train to Wembley. Once again the train was mostly full of Welsh supporters but there was a very friendly atmosphere with handshakes and good lucks very much to the fore.
Finally we emerged from Wembley Park Tube station for the second time in six weeks but this time it seemed so much more special. Wembley way was a sea of blue as we made our way to the stadium taking photos on the way and generally soaking up the mood of the masses. This was not a football match it was so, so much more. People had travelled from all over the world to be here and we were part of something very special.
I had been watching Pompey for nearly 50 years and never had I felt so tense before a game, the feeling was one of we must win, we have to win despite the fact that I had been surrounded by the doom and gloom merchants for weeks in the run up. They had been saying we were not playing well and that Cardiff would up their game and beat us. I knew this could not happen, we must win!! The tension would be with everybody until 10 to 5.
As we bade our good lucks to each other we entered the stadium and the first person I see is the omnipresent Chix holding a beer firmly in his right hand and food in his left. With him is his sidekick and brother sea-juicer (known to most as Rob) who seems to have the job of fetching and carrying the beer while Chix holds court. Meeting Chix only makes the matters worse as he is determined to milk the situation with his ‘this is great’ and ‘we’re gonna do it’ comments.
It is then we spot a chap near one of the bars blowing up inflatables. We venture closer and find a fellow who claims that you have to bring blow up toys to big games and among his collection he has a paddling pool, which his mate is reclining in. Cameras are clicking all around to capture this classic moment.
And then it is in the seats situated right behind the goal, in fact we watched most of the game through the goal net. Abide with me and then the anthems fly by and the tension just builds and builds. Then just before kick off before my phone beeps, a message arrives from Chix which I think summed it up perfectly ‘Oh my God this is amazing, Play up Pompey, bring it home’.
The game kicks off and the area behind the goal is a mass of balloons and inflatable sheep constantly hitting you on the head – most annoying. Like most fans I remember little of the game until the 37th minute when Pompey scored – or did they? From our vantage point and those around us we thought that it had gone wide or been disallowed. We did not see the net bulge or Kanu’s celebration because of the net. Then we see a replay and pandemonium breaks out, people are jumping around some are crying others just stare in disbelief. This is the FA Cup final and we are in front, can we hold on?
Half time arrives and off to the loo to run into..yes of course, the omnipresent Chix pint in hand and now fish and chips have been delivered by loyal bro Rob. Chix has by now lost his voice among many things and is stunned. Can we hold on he asks will we win the FA Cup after all these years?
The second half starts and we continue to watch the clock rather than the game. My wife spends 48 minutes praying, two young boys next to me look almost terrified and they tell me how nervous they are. I try and settle them by telling them I have been through 50 years of this and survived and to try and enjoy the moment because it may never happen again. It works as they simply put their jackets over their heads.
We try and break the tension with the Chimes and other songs but there is still that feeling, we must win! The time starts to run down and Pompey create a few chances, Cardiff rarely threaten but the nerves are now raw. The fourth official holds up three minutes additional time and about an hour later the whistle blows. There is now euphoria all around as an outburst of emotion takes control of most, everyone is hugging someone, to be honest anyone, most are in tears as it starts to sink in, we have won.
And so Sol goes up to lift the FA Cup with cameras flashing everywhere and eventually Harry brings it over in front of us lifting it high and pointing to the fans to say, this is for you. All too soon we begin to filter out of the magnificent stadium knowing we will be back in three months for the Community Shield. At the exit my wife resists the temptation to kiss one of the security staff as she had at the semi-final and once outside I find myself hugging Pompey’s chief steward as he is the first person I recognise.
The family eventually meet up now with extra members and the party begins. My son is disappointed because he left his flag behind not thinking it was his but left by another fan. He tells me he had an empty seat next to him!
The trip home was fun but we decide let’s get home and party. After a kebab, well we needed food, and a bottle of Champagne, which I had promised the wife, it is of to the local to celebrate. We open the door and it is empty!! We ask the staff ‘Where is everybody?’ with which we discover most got tired and emotional and went home some are asleep in the corners. Slowly the pub fills up with those returning from Wembley and the atmosphere builds.
There is a band playing but most are ignoring them with the occasional song and the obligatory 10..9..8??.2..1 lets all have a disco, as we all rise and join in. Then the TVs are back on and we all watch MOTD. Seems a strange game, was I really there?
Eventually we all begin to drift home having arranged to meet lunchtime for Part Two; the tour of the City!!
Written by eastneydave.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.
As well as eastneydave, others have shared their cup final memories:
pompeygray – The Long and Fruitful Journey
pompeyrug – ‘It meant the world to me’
Why not also share yours? Just drop me an email with your story and it will be added…