What a fantastic day Sunday was eh? One of the best we have had I reckon - even though it is not an FA cup win, well yet anyway...
Prior to the win over Spurs - something that I would say FINALLY once and for all, no two ways about it, lays to rest the 'ghost' of Harry Redknapp that has been haunting us - I was genuinely convinced that we WOULD win!
Ok, I 'almost always' think we will win every game, as you know, although there was just something about this in a 'it was meant to be way' that left me with no doubt that we would do this, and do this we did.
It was an amazing day, as I say right up there with the best - if not the best?
Starting from Plymouth for the 8.40, or was it 8.45, for the Plymouth - Paddington train was an early start but a great start to a fantastic day. Starting to drink before 9am, especially on the Sabbath, is not a good thing, but hey this was a cup semi final so it was acceptable! This journey was spent with some of my long-term travelling companions, and long-term friends, Rob, his daughter Jodie - on at Plymouth with me - with Triv, sorry Lord Trivet joining us at Newton Abbot before Richie and Ken got on at Exeter. The muppet that is Richie says 'lets go and sit in the 'comfy's,' so we go to do this only to find that there were not enough seats, so back we go to the 'cattle cart' we went and our table had been taken! So 3 lots of 2 it was...until our table was freed up again later in the journey.
This, the lack of room in the 'upper class' section, proved a blessing in disguise as we managed to meet up with several Pompey fans that we otherwise would not have, they came and sat with us - the beer, and wine flowed, and the singing began, with some banter given to a couple of Spurs fans just down from us...
Into Paddington for 12.30, we tube it to Marylebone - the singing was getting louder travelling through the tube and at the stations - we had to meet Ken's daughter Susan and her boyfriend Tony but as there was not enough time to get them over to us for the train to Wembley it would have been 'rude' not to have stopped off for a swift half! Finally we got to Wembley around 1.30ish and Ken collects some tickets that he had to and off to The Torch it was.
Random meeting no.1 saw us come across Big Graham, someone that used to travel with us quite regularly in the 90s - I would say it is 'at least' 10-years since I have seen the guy! Random meeting no.2 saw my cousin Paul, my other cousins soon to be husband Steve, Saunders and Adrian all randomly bumped into as I travelled onto the pub - when we arrived it was jam-packed. Random meeting no.3 saw me bump into Tim (Pompeytim) and family and soon after random meeting no.4 saw the guy that sits next to me, not UKTony, the guy on the other side, bumped into at The Torch. I decided I wanted to stay where we were, as there were a lot of the Vital Pompey lot there, including a first time meeting with PompeyFrippy - over from Ireland - although Triv, Richie, Rob and Jodie moved on somewhere else, Ken, Susan and Tony took a seat then the fun and games of finding Gandor, getting her to Ken and them organising a ticket went on, eventually it got sorted. Then came random meeting no.5, another cousin had texted me to ask where I was, before I could get back to him I then bumped into him at The Torch, with him not knowing I would be there I me him. There would be another random one, no.6 was a guy that sits in the row in front of me at Fratton, someone that I have not even spoken to before really, although I am sure we will share 'hellos' if nothing else following this.
These random, chance meetings, all added to the magic of the day - to see people that you might not have expected to, or have not seen in over a decade is, well pretty much 'priceless'.
The sunshine was enjoyed, as was a quick pint - it was a nightmare getting served, and chasing around for Gandor took some time too - before we strode off to Wembley a little after 3pm, we did have a pint in the stadium though, again it would have - despite the prices - been rude not to...
Tony, Gill and co were lost so Sneakay and I eventually went to find our sets - cracking seats they were too in block 115, tore up some paper ready and awaited the kick-offs. A sea of paper awaited the players as they came out. I cannot really remember, in some ways, a lot about the game, no, not drink related, it just seems to have become, all of a sudden, something of a blur - maybe this is tiredness well and truly kicking in as I am at this moment running on empty! I know we started a little slowly and seemed to be on the back foot, but hold out and avoid that early goal is what we needed to avoid conceding, and this is what we did and then grew into the game more and more, playing some really nice football though, that I can remember.
The longer the game went on, the more I grew in confidence that we would do them - but I DID NOT want penalties, although part of me thought this was Spurs' 'best chance' of winning to be honest! Towards the end of 90 minutes we came under some heavy pressure but weathered that, we did have some decent chances too though but the deadlock could not be broken so extra time it was, and as the clock ticked round to 100 minutes up popped Freddy P to send us wild, it was absolutely amazing, everyone was jumping around, shouting, screaming it was just incredible...Right after Spurs equalised, wrong though as Crouchy had an effort ruled out for what I thought looked a foul but am told it was actually probably a foul on David James by one of his own, and James is also 'said' to have known this as he could be seen giving a wry grin as he fished the ball out of the net.
As the clock ticked away we had more breakaway chances due to Spurs throwing more players forward but we got in the blocks, throwing bodies at everything and finally killed off the game with Aruna Dindane going on a surging run before being fouled - I thought it should have been a red card, but hey ho it was a penalty regardless. 'We would miss,' was the thought that I, and I dare say countless other had - seeing Papa Bouba Diop lining up to take this terrified me, thankfully the 'debate' that he and Kevin-Prince Boateng - who owed us something and to be fair in many ways went someway back to repaying us for his recent actions - had resulted in Boateng taking, and scoring, the penalty.
Bedlam I think best describes what followed!
The atmosphere was just incredible, something VERY special and it makes me tingle just thinking about it now - the pride and passion that we showed was something else, this meant the world to us and to see half of Wembley remain after the whistle when most, if not all, the Spurs fans had gone was wonderful, as was the noise. Like I say it was a special atmosphere.
It was 'meant to be' you know guys, and I am maintaining this sense that perhaps beating Chelski in the final is also 'meant to be' for Avram Grant, as much as anything?
The guy MUST stay, surely - how can he leave us? Why, well bar further off-the-field chaos, would he want to go!? The man has almost God like status now!
The joy that was felt by everyone was something else, meeting the guys I travelled with outside the ground was brilliant, as soon as contact was made it was the old running up to each other sharing hugs, 'come ons' and all that - people all around you were doing the same...
With our sleeper train, not that much sleeping would be done, not leaving Paddington until 11.50pm we had to 'kill some time' somehow, so we had a quick pint in the Plaza hotel - meeting one of Ken's Spurs supporting mates, who we had prior to the league game a couple of weeks earlier - then over to Paddington and a pub over there where PLENTY more booze was sunk, and finally some food eaten, well taken onto the train.
People before, and most definitely after, were congratulating us, talking with us and saying how 'pleased for us' they were and so on - for me, the reason we won was because we DID want this more, I think it meant more to us than Spurs and I am convinced that our support helped us, and 'maybe, just maybe' overwhelmed the Spurs players, maybe even their fans?
Eventually we got back to Plymouth at around 5.30am this morning, I had to walk over to the bus station for a 6am bus, and finally walked through my front door around 6.30 - after 24-hours of being awake I was shattered, and starting to feel the 'waking hangover' kick-in, so I crashed out for a bit, but could not really sleep. After a couple of hours kip I found myself waking up grinning like a Cheshire cat, something I cannot stop doing and have just kind of sat around taking it all in since!
Oh and we get the Wembley experience at least once more, although another couple of times I reckon win or lose in the cup final, should Chelski also win the league anyway...
Speaking to my cousin earlier this game, the occasion and everything that surrounds it MUST put it right up there in our all-time top games, and - for me - must rank alongside the likes of the Vitoria in Guimarães as that was special, Milan at Fratton something else, getting spanked 4-1 at Selhurst Park in the last 90s is ALWAYS remembered fondly, 'that' Stockport game and of course the 4-1 beating of Scum in the cup this season are among my best, but I would think this one ranks pretty high up on this scale now!
I am proud to be Pompey, even prouder at this particular time - Pompey and Proud.
PLAY UP POMPEY!