If taken in context this title may, I confess be a little misleading due to Chelsea’s recent success in the competition. As holders there has been little FA Cup hurt experienced by Chelsea fans in the last few years.
I am however speaking from a personal perspective, since queuing up in the early hours of the morning as a 7 year old in 1994; I have been unable to get a ticket for a final since. This has meant that until Saturday I had only ever seen Chelsea in an FA Cup final once, a 4-0 loss to Manchester United.
Obviously I have watched the previous finals on television or at the Bridge via a beam back. However this is not quite the same as being there.
In recent years, I had got tickets to the Carling Cup and Charity Shield games but not to the FA Cup, every year I would hunt around but despite attending 20 or so games a season, I was never able to access a ticket due to the ridiculous ticketing at Wembley and the sheer number of season ticket holders at Stamford Bridge, ahead of me in the queue for tickets.
This season I did not try so hard in my hunt, I had resigned myself to watching this year’s final on television as in previous years. Thinking that I would be unable to afford the extortionate amounts to buy one from a less than reputable outlet, or the desire to line the pockets of those who seek illegal profit out of the passion of the fans.
However a phone call late on Saturday, changed all that, I had through the miracle of begging secured a ticket, asking everyone I could, for a cup final ticket had actually paid off. Though my hero would prefer to be nameless, I cannot thank them enough. I still cannot believe I got a ticket to the FA Cup final for the first time in 16 years, and it was not from a money grabbing tout!
The day itself was fantastic, I caught an early train and had a champagne breakfast, as in a bizarre twist of fate I saw my boss on the train station platform, her and her friends and got invited to join her for a few glasses/bottles of champagne. Therefore a big thank you to my boss Sam, Elaine, Sal and bride to be Gill, for letting me ‘borrow’ some champagne, I hope you had a great day in Brighton.
After a mad dash to the suburbs to pick up my ticket, I cadged a lift to Wembley and enjoyed a few drinks outside the ground, soaking up the atmosphere and it became patently clear that whatever the result the Portsmouth fans were going to make the most of one last day in footballing sun.
We also saw a few famous faces, such as Steve Redgrave and Boris Johnson as we made our way around Wembley. Although I know that one member of our group was more interested in getting a photo with former Chelsea players Steve Finnieston and Ian Britton, who were enjoying a few drinks in the sun, than any politician or Olympian.
The game itself was a bit of a blur, not due to alcohol but because i got a splinter in the eye as Chelsea hammered the woodwork time and time again.
The atmosphere was pretty good with the Portsmouth fans clearly in party mood, Chelsea were dominant but Portsmouth soaked up the pressure trying to hit Chelsea on the counterattack.
The game was nearly turned on its head when Portsmouth were awarded a penalty, but a combination of a poor strike and good reactions from Petr Cech sent a sigh of relief around the Chelsea end.
Moments later and Chelsea and Didier Drogba made Portsmouth pay moments later to send the Chelsea fans wild as his free kick arrowed in off the post.
Everyone thought the game was over around me when Frank Lampard was given the opportunity from the 12 yards to end the game, his miss sent gasps of disbelief around the Chelsea end, particularly from the guy next to me ,who had bet on Drogba to score first, Chelsea to win 2-0.
After one more scare Chelsea survived to win and spark a repeat of last week’s mass celebrations, this time at our second home, that is otherwise known as Wembley.
After the game we headed to a local pub, to continue singing songs and looking back over an incredible 6 days in the history of the club. When we eventually started making our way home we met some Portsmouth fans on the tube and true to most of our encounters during the day, they were friendly and a good laugh.
The singing continued as each group of fans maybe 6 or 7 for each side, traded songs and banter in what to me is what football is about, no aggro, no violence just banter and fun.
For this reason and their tremendous support of their team today, I for one hope that Portsmouth keep the wolves from the door and one day return to the Premiership.
A great day out and I can finally say ‘When John went up to lift the FA Cup I was there, I was there’