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From The Stands

27 April 2016

By Simon Mills

It’s Sunday morning and if it hadn’t been for the lack of sleep in the past week, I doubt I would have had anywhere near as good a night as I actually did. It only takes a few seconds of vague dizzying consciousness, before an electric current races through every circuit and cell in the brain, all screaming ‘It's Cup Semi-Final Day!’

Several hours later, for as good as that sleep was, the usual Sunday morning doss in bed will never survive the thought of a trip to Wembley, we set off, headed for Victoria via East Croydon. Red and Blue everywhere you look - some young, some old and many in-between who look just as nervous and excited. There is a glorious warmth you can’t help feeling, surrounded by your fellow Palace. Total strangers (mostly), all with the same hopes, dreams and ambitions, it’s almost like heading into battle.

After several nerve-settling beverages and it’s onwards we march, on that well-beaten path to the home of football. Arriving at Wembley Park and walking onto Wembley way is a completely different rush and all that time spent trying to calm myself down proves pointless.

From that point on, the concept of time seems to lose all meaning, the next four hours will mostly spin by in a dizzying blur and yet slow to a snail’s pace simultaneously. Logic goes completely out of the window and all sense of when and where you are 
becomes a mad disorientated nonsense in itself. One might think this is a symptom of too many drinks, but alas, it is the drunkenness of being a Palace fan at their first semi final in 21 years.

Only that morning my brother told me that you never saw anyone you knew at Wembley… He can’t know as many people as I do! Everywhere you turn, you see a face you know, from school days to new. It just serves as a reminder about what makes supporting our club great – our community.

Finally 4pm rolls around and everything about Palace is in your face: the noise, the colour and most importantly the pure emotion. Palace fans do it best and boy did we do it best on that day! The sea of noise that rippled between Croydon and Wembley is given its focal point as every supporter is finally brought together into one mass crescendo. United into a single dramatic wave and wall of red and blue that greets both sets of players as they walk upon the national turf.

The game itself, we were superb. One team really turned up and aside from one wobbly moment, it never really seemed in doubt. Perhaps that is just how it feels as a supporter after the event, but the performance the lads put in was certainly worthy of a place in the final. I could name every single hero that played their hearts out for the cause that day, but I will give special praise for Mile Jedinak, Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha and Pape Souare. 

Naturally, of course, massive man love also goes to Yannick Bolasie and Connor Wickham!

Tactically, we were spot on and massive credit goes to Alan Pardew and the rest of the backroom staff for getting it right. If we can get it just as right on May 21st, then I sense something even more special could well and truly be on the cards.

It was after that second Palace goal that the world seemed to stop, a watched kettle never boils apparently and more importantly a watched clock at Wembley (when you’re winning) never moves, at least never slower! After an eternity the hours… sorry minutes finally roll past and every second the ball spends in the Watford half feels like its own victory.

Then it happens… a whistle like no other.

It’s like being sucked into a bubble. The din of noise around you reaches its peak and yet seems to mute, everyone goes crazy and yet everything seems to slow down. For me, all I could do was sit and look around with overwhelming raw emotion. 

Eventually, the feeling returned and I was finally able to join in with the pandemonium.

Afterwards, all I could do was sit there and look around the emptying stadium with wide-eyed wonder. Absorbing what had just happened, trying to accept the reality of it all; that Crystal Palace are in the FA Cup Final. 

I’ll say that again just because it sounds so good… 


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