This is the story of a lifelong Pompey fan, who made the long trek from Australia to see his first ever FA Cup Final, one in which his own team was to take part.
Pompeygray takes it up….
We had just beaten West Brom in a nail biting finish, ensuring that we would return to Wembley on the 17th May for our first Final since 1939. When the final whistle blew my initial thoughts were “will I go over, and what about acquiring a ticket”.
This was to be a chance of a lifetime, but there were some hurdles to overcome, firstly I needed acceptance from my girlfriend. Then there was the question of taking time off work and approval from my boss (who actually hails from Southampton!) Organising and paying for the airfare would need to be overcome, but I had 2 major restrictions on my timeslots. I am a Warehouse Manager for a large French luxury goods Company and my understudy will be away from 24th April, returning 19th May. I also have to be at a wedding in Sydney on Saturday 24th May….how the hell am I going to be able to fit all this in, and the question of the ticket was still to be resolved.
On Monday 7th April I decided to book my flight, with a departure from Sydney on Friday afternoon 16th May, arriving Heathrow at 6.00am on the morning of the big game. This was cutting it fine; there was no room for error or delay. I figured at the time of booking that if I hadn’t acquired a ticket I could still enjoy the day down at Portsmouth or better still at Fratton Park. My return was going to be equally as swift, since I needed to be back in Sydney by the following Saturday.
Work approved my week off, the girlfriend (a Rangers fan) had also supported my cause, but what about the ticket, I dearly wanted to go, there possibly will never be another chance like this. Ron Tilsed, former keeper and friend, was in touch with the club but Paul Weld had mentioned that there were some 50 or more applications from Pompey fans based in Australia. The chances didn’t look great so I felt if I was going to be on a plane and spending over a thousand quid, I would want to be going over knowing I had a ticket; enter the Internet. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle was put in place and after coughing up enormous amounts of the hard earned I was on my way, with ticket assured.
Thursday 15th May and Sydney airport is in chaos, with thick fog preventing all in bound flights, which were diverted to Brisbane and Melbourne. This will affect outgoing flights and should this weather pattern continue into the next day, my plans of getting to London for the FA Cup Final could be well and truly scuppered. Luckily overnight cloud descended on Sydney and Fridays flights returned to normal. And so the A380 Singapore Airlines Airbus carried me off to London via Singapore, on schedule. And thanks to Ron Tilsed for the lift to the Airport, and yes I will get you a programme.
Saturday 16th May – Cup Final
Following the dash to Godalming to pick up the ticket, I head up to Waterloo on the train, amidst many other Pompey fans. Tiredness is the last thing on my mind, I am just hoping that this day could be one to remember and the very thought drives me on. First pit stop is the HOLE IN THE WALL outside Waterloo Station where numerous fans have gathered, chanting and enjoying the pre-match banter. This becomes my resting spot for the next 4 pints as I really don’t feel like going anywhere else except Wembley. Mind you the size of the toilet reminded me of a converted phone box!
Wembley Stadium draws near, so the underground will take me to the magical place of my dreams, and hopefully Pompey’s too. Cardiff fans line the Wembley approach to the right with Pompey to the left. Fans are well behaved on both sides; the only thing I encountered all day from Cardiff was “Portsmouth is a smelly fishy town” with Pompey returning “Sheep S******s, Sheep S******s”.
My ticket, included the match day programme (saved 10 quid there) and was I surprised at the seat I had waiting for me. I was in Club Wembley on the 2nd Tier in Row 1. Close to the Bars and Food outlets and a magnificent view of the game, looking down behind the Pompey end. Someone was looking after me, but the all important thing now was will we lift the Cup, and in my lifetime.
CARDIFF 0 PORTSMOUTH 1
We had done it, my long journey from Australia had not been in vain, and now the celebrations could begin in earnest. Where do I go now, the local Wembley pubs will be overcrowded I thought so better head off to the City.
After finding numerous watering holes closed due to the Cup Final I find a small Brazilian Café that serves beer. That will do me, at least for the time being. Time passes, shall I go down to Portsmouth or head back to Waterloo. After awhile I decide on the latter, since it would be great to head down to Portsmouth the next day instead.
After a few more celebratory ales at Waterloo Station I boarded the Portsmouth bound train. It was now quite late, however the train was jam packed with very happy Pompey fans. Still not tired and running on pure adrenalin, I joined in the festivities with all and Sundry. A big black girl was going around topping up drinks and insisted I toast the team with her. She was very friendly, very drunk and very generous but that red wine was awful.
The rest is football legend. I was part of the 250,000 at Portsmouth the next day and followed the bus entourage all the way to Southsea common, but not before purchasing a 2008 FA Cup Winners ‘T’ shirt, Poster and News Mail. A digital version of my number plate in NSW (POMPEY) even ended up on the lead bus, and some great photos of this and the previous days events will long recall the most successful trip I have ever undertaken back to my beloved homeland.
Returning to Australia out of Heathrow Thursday night I had come to the conclusion that this was a dream come true, and I just wanted to sit back and take it all in, every single solitary moment, over and over again. I did not get to watch the replay until Sunday 25th as Jet Lag and the over exuberance of the previous week had finally caught up with me.
Could I repeat all this should we get to Wembley again one day. The answer is yes because I want it to happen all over again. Hope you enjoyed your time as much as I did. If so let’s have other personal stories posted.
Written by Pompeygray.
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