At the end of last year French international midfielder Yohan Cabaye took a look at his first six months in SE25 after his move from France in the summer transfer window.
"The FA Cup is a fantastic trophy. It's iconic, it's held in such high esteem,” he said back in December.
“It's the trophy for all the country, even the lower league teams can play against the professional ones, so to win it you have to see off every team in England,” he continued. “That's why the trophy is very, very important and very good to win – hopefully."
Those comments came just a few weeks before he prepared to start another journey in the FA Cup after only getting as far as the fourth round with his previous English club Newcastle and even the former Lille and Paris Saint-Germain player in his wildest dreams could not have expected to reach the final with the Eagles in his first season.
But the midfielder, who has played in every round of the FA Cup with Palace this season, is now potentially just 90 minutes away from adding to his medal collection after winning the French FA Cup equivalent with both his former French clubs, most recently with PSG last season.
“The FA Cup is magic,” said Cabaye after the Watford win at Wembley yesterday. “It’s a great feeling [to make the final]. We did not have a good second part of the season in the Premier League, but our cup run is good and we have reached the final. Everyone worked for it, not only the team on the pitch, but those who were not in the squad and the fans – we were all together to get to the final.
“I know how important the FA Cup is; I’ve been watching it since I was young - I remember when Cantona scored his goal against Liverpool (in the 1996 final when Manchester United won 1-0) – we now have that chance and to go and play that football we [know we] can to win that trophy.
“It’s not enough to just play in the final, you have to play with a winning mentality and do everything you can to get that trophy. I played before in the French final and I won some trophies but the FA Cup Final will be very special because it will be my first time here in England.”
Watford were only level with Palace for 12 minutes during the whole 99 played (including nine minutes of additional time) and the fact that the Eagles were ahead of the Hornets for most of the game was testament not only to team defending, but good old fashioned work on the training ground, which incorporated more than a nod to the famous nod from Pardew back at Villa Park in April 1990.
“The manager showed us his goal this morning,” said the 30-year-old about Pardew’s header against Liverpool. “We’ve been working on that (flick-ons) this week, so it’s nice because we scored in the same way and the final is now going to be the same final as it was 26 years ago.
“But I think we were the better side today, especially in the first half. It’s been a while since we played as good as we played today, we were confident on the ball except for maybe just 10 minutes at the start of the second half when they got to 1-1, but I think we deserved to make the final.”
With his experience for one of the world’s biggest clubs in PSG, as well as for the French national team, combined with his domestic cup-winning pedigree, Cabaye is well-placed to offer an insight into dealing with big game situations and this, in addition to the famous Eagles support is sure to provide good foundations for a Palace side who can only count James McArthur as an FA Cup winner amongst it ranks.
“It’s hard for me to say, but the final is just a game of football,” said Cabaye who was born in Tourcoing, northern France near to the Belgian border. “What I mean is that we don’t have to change our mentality. I’ve had a chance to play a few finals and for my country as well and I can say that the most important thing is to play our football and stay focussed on the game.
“We have one game where we can put Man United under pressure by playing the right football to win it - we have the quality in the team, we just have to play our proper football, don’t be stressed and know it’s a final.
“The fans are unbelievable; all year and again today, so I knew before the game that their section was going to be loud and noisy - they’re fantastic.
“For me, alongside Newcastle, they’re probably the best in the country and we won for them as well today because they’ve supported us all season, even when we had a bad run in the league.
“It’s their moment as well so I hope the final will be good for them and to share that great feeling with them is going to be incredible.”