BEFORE THE BIG DAY
For me, the magic probably started when I went to the 3rd round replay of Havant & Waterlooville v Swansea. Somehow I felt even then that this part of south-east Hampshire was destined for cup glory, and I still believe that the Hawks picked up on that extra special bit of luck or karma, or whatever you want to call it. That was an incredible game, great fun, and we joked about a Pompey v Havant final. It was the first occasion that a Pompey based team would dump the Welsh out of that season’s FA cup. And in many ways, Havant’s trip to Anfield was their own cup final.
Then there was the quarter-final draw. Even before this I had a sneaky feeling our name was on the cup this year. The news of the draw away at Old Trafford came as an initial shock, the initial reaction being ‘not again’, that we had no chance. Just as we went out of it last year at ManU. But it wasn’t long before we all started to believe we could do it this time. Why we should think we could win there, I have no idea, but the belief came from somewhere. I had to go. So it was puppy eyes at Glen, my boyfriend, and a short time later the tickets and coach were booked.
I thought we might have a chance if Fergie fielded a weakened side but that was dashed when we saw the team news. But there was a force field around Jamo’s goal. Then Kuszczak got sent off and Muntari coolly tucked away the penalty past Ferdinand. The ref had deemed it to be a goal-scoring opportunity even though it was Baros! We were 1-0 up at ManU, could it be, could we really win there and go through to the semi-final at Wembley? The 4 minutes of extra time seemed to last for 4 hours. Then it was really true, and the metal stairs down out of Old Trafford resounded with ‘Que sera sera, we’re going to Wemberley’. The thought of going to Wembley for the first time in all those years was just mind numbing. And then . . .by the end of the weekend we were the only Premiership side left. Our name was on the cup for sure. It was just amazing! I wondered what on earth was going on, but I was enjoying it.
The ticket scramble followed. We were fortunate that our ManU ticket stubs guaranteed us Wembley tickets, without having to try to get through to Ticketmaster at all. At the time I didn’t believe there would be any chance of us getting Final tickets, so at the time I looked on the semi as our own Final. We bought the T-shirts, and jester hats, and balloons and I made myself some huge, blue glittery earrings in the shape of the cup. The magic really was working that day. We were up very early, joining the coach queue at Fortress Fratton before 6, which took about an hour and a half. It seemed to take ages for the coach to wend its way into Wembley itself, as it did we passed cars and mini-buses and even limo’s full of both Pompey and West Brom fans. And what an occasion it was. We didn’t really play well, but all that mattered was – WE’RE IN THE FINAL. What a surreal feeling that was. We saw John Westwood leaving the stadium in tears. Our Pompey in the FA cup final!
The ticket situation was more fun this time. At Christmas we had booked a holiday just following the end of the league season, but had agreed at the time if Pompey got to the final AND we could get tickets, we would cancel the trip. We never thought that was going to happen! I had a letter from the club to say I was entitled to (one) ticket. What to do? To give it up? (Not a chance!) Get a second ticket by fair means or foul? Pay Glen for his half of the holiday and go to Wembley without him? (And come back single!) Thankfully our wonderful football club listened to my pleas, and sold us 2 tickets directly. Again, no phone call to Ticketmaster required. And not only were Pompey in the cup final – but we we’re going. WOW WOW WOW WOW!
THE BIG DAY
Eventually the big day dawned. We walked to the station to catch a packed train. Pompey fans all over the place, small children with flags bigger than them. Cars tooting good luck. On board, I met up with some friends who I used to watch football with in the old days and had lost touch with. It was to be a theme – I met up with friends and colleagues past and present all day. There were two very dapper gentlemen on the train, who were going up to Lords for the cricket, but they weren’t daunted by all this rabble of football fans, instead they sat and chatted all the way up.
Even my tickertape just appeared, in the form of a copy of the Times someone had dropped on the platform at Victoria station. Because we stopped for a coffee we left behind the mass of Pompey fans and had a very quiet tube ride up to Wembley. People on the tube wished us luck. Then there it was, the stadium, the arch! What a fantastic view. Because we went to the semi by coach, we had missed the Wembley Way experience – not this time.
First we found ourselves in pub called the Parish, which was heaving with Pompey fans. I bumped into current and former work colleagues. Then we grabbed lunch in a burger bar, sat and chatted with 2 Cardiff fans, while we watched our team coach leaving the hotel, running late on Sky Sports news.
Then it was time for the walk down Wembley Way. Fans everywhere in blue, everyone good natured and excited about the prospect of an unexpected cup final, for everyone their first in about a hundred years or so. A Cardiff fan came over while we were taking a photo to have his photo taken as well! I had to tell Glen off for wishing them luck – but they were a great bunch of fans. Then we stood for ages in the rain waiting for our team coach, which thankfully did turn up eventually. Doing that meant that we missed the arrival of the suited and booted team on the pitch of course.
Our seats were up in the gods but the view was great, and we even got free flags! I sorted out my tickertape and balloons, and started to just try to take in the atmosphere. It was about an hour to kick off, but it went very quickly. Then it was time for the legendary moment when Arry led out his team at Wembley. I felt so proud, the tears were welling up. And of course we gave them the classic Pompey noisy tickertape welcome, just as we kept the noise up all match. I loved watching Arry go along the line up of his players and give each one a hug. The traditional formalities took place, and in no time the match was underway.
Cardiff had a burst of activity and a chance early on, then King Kanu missed a sitter. When Enckelman spilled in front of him, and he tucked it away, it was bizarre. Nothing wrong with the goal at all, yet somehow we couldn’t believe we’d scored and there was a pause, which seemed like a long time, before we all erupted. But erupt we did, and how! How sweet it would have been if Distin’s second half run up field had ended in him scoring, but it didn’t matter in the end. Thankfully the ref saw the handball when Cardiff ‘scored’. The closer it got to the full time whistle the shakier I got. With one minute of extra time left I wanted to let it go and let the tears flow, but I had to wait. When you’re on a 1-goal lead you can never be sure.
Then the whistle went, and flow the tears did. Pompey had actually won the FA cup!!!!!!!! We cheered, we sang, we danced. How easy it was to applaud the Cardiff team going up for their medals. Then it was our turn. When Sol, went up, to lift the FA cup, we were there, we were there! And huge cheers for Linvoy and Harry when they lifted it too. Another colleague appeared in the row in front of me. Then the running around of the players on the field, with the cup, and standing on the podium dancing and cheering. Harry lifting the cup up in triumph. I thought the way the Cardiff fans stopped on was great too.
We stayed and danced and cheered and waved flags, but eventually we had to leave the stadium, and we made our way to central London. People stopped us to ask the final score. We were asked ‘who’s shirt is that?’ ‘Its PORTSMOUTH! FA CUP WINNERS!!!!’ came the response. We went into a restaurant and had a chat with a nice sc@mmer fan who shook our hands! The train back was packed and noisy, and it was almost midnight by the time we got home. The next day was the Parade, which was another fantastic experience in itself.
So now its over a month later, and the flags have come down, I even took the poster out of the window last week; we have a photo of us holding “our” FA cup. All of us are now looking forward to the new season and the European Tour, and anticipating a few new signings. But 17th May 2008 is a day we will never forget, and will always say ‘We were there, we were there’.
Written by tracyc.
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 this offering others have shared their cup final memories too…
pompeygray – The Long and Fruitful Journey
pompeyrug – ‘It meant the world to me’
eastneydave – Did it really happen
eastneydave – Toast Special – FA Cup Final Around The World
It is never too late to also share yours, so if you want to send me through your story I will happily publish as I never, ever tire of reading people’s accounts of the day – and I do not think I ever will!