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From The Stands: Pre-Wembley

23 April 2016

By Simon Mills

As much as I would love to just talk about one thing in my blog this week, I have been told I have to mention the United game on Wednesday… we lost 2-0.

Right, Sunday is the big one! It’s what we have been looking forward to for the past several weeks (or even the past 26 years) and with the Palace tickets now sold out; I am looking forward to a real atmosphere to roar the lads into the Cup Final.

I’m still trying to actually let that sink in - the thought we are that close to the FA Cup final itself. Perhaps it would be better if I don’t comprehend it until it’s over; otherwise I’m not sure I could cope under the weight of the excitement and nerves beforehand. In a way, I don’t envy the players one bit with such responsibility on their shoulders, even if they are professionals who are more than well paid to cope with it.

There’s been much made of the fact this game takes place at Wembley and most believe that honour should be reserved for the final. While I can’t help but agree and remember my trip to Villa Park back in 1995 fondly, despite the eventual outcome, it’s an experience we should drink in all the same. The venue after all, is not really what is important; making our first final since 1990 is!

At times like this you look for any kind of omen possible going into a game with such significance. Every black cat in your path is kicked, roads crossed in the presence of a ladder and solitary magpies baked into a pie… An interesting one I’ve seen mentioned this morning was in relation to the fixture before our last winning FA Cup Semi Final. Back in 1990, ahead of our trip to Villa Park we lost 2-0 away at Norwich – even more interestingly an Irish centre back (Gary O’Reilly) managed to score an own goal. From this I can only conclude Damien Delaney must be as superstitious as they come!

So going into the game how confident should we feel? Personally, I haven’t got a clue. When it comes to cup finals/semi finals, logic is the first thing to go right out of the window. It’s that little thing they love to call “the magic of the cup”, although for me it’s more akin to the agony of it! The great news, it would seem (and I’m crossing arms, legs, fingers, toes whilst touching several planks of wood as I say this!), that we have a full squad to choose from, for pretty much the first time this season.

It certainly brings a big smile to the face to see James McArthur back in the squad and while he is unlikely again to start or play more than a role from the bench, his introduction is the kind of one that could really motivate the crowd and in turn the players, should we need it.

I was pleased to see us rest most of our players last night, especially as Watford did the same. What I do feel confident about is that with our best players involved, if they can play to their potential then we can be unplayable. Naturally the trick is to get everyone on song, after all that has been a big problem in the league this season. Then again, as I said – this is the cup! We have managed to pull that ability we demonstrated in the first few months of the season from the bag in the games when needed. Let’s pray we can do the same when it matters the most come 4pm on Sunday.

I would finish my ramblings with a call to arms and a rousing rally cry to our supporters to really sing their hearts out and get behind the lads. I have no doubt, however, that it’s not needed in the slightest and that Wembley will be absolutely rocking and vibrating to its very seems with an explosion of noise from the Palace end.


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