Mile Jedinak was one of the handful of Palace players returning to play Watford at Wembley just three years after that nail-biting Championship Play-Off Final back in May 2013.
Along with Damien Delaney, Joel Ward and Wilfried Zaha, Jedi played in both games and the Palace captain admitted that the occasion itself was the only worry for the Eagles on Sunday as long as they kept to their game plan.
“That was going to be the most difficult,” said the Australian midfielder about the pressure of handling the occasion. “We knew we had to play the game out but it was about calmness under pressure as they say - easier said than done.
“But we felt throughout, particularly from the start of the game, that we handled it that little bit better than they did.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game, but we felt confident going into it,” continued a tired Jedinak after being the very last Palace player to leave Wembley late last night, well after 8pm thanks to being randomly selected for compulsory doping control.
“We were asked to execute a game plan from the start of the game which we did. Even when they got back in it we felt quite relaxed and determined to get the job done which ultimately we did with a great performance from everyone.
“It was great to see Connor get his goal. He put in a tireless performance and going forward hopefully it’s the start of another little run like we saw earlier on in the season.”
Palace sent their manager into shock, disbelief, ecstasy and into the arms of assistant Keith Millen as within six minutes of the kick-off Yannick Bolasie, an unused sub back at Wembley in 2013, headed in at the Watford back post to make it 1-0 after a Delaney flick from a Yohan Cabaye corner in a set-play reminiscent of the gaffer’s greatest goal as a player – his semi-final winner over Liverpool in 1990.
“Yeah, we might have worked for that [this week at the training ground] for that reason,” said a smiling Jedinak, who joined Palace back in the summer of 2011 from Turkish side Genclerbirligi. “It’s great that it came off and put us in a good place going forward it settled everyone down further, but you practise those set plays and we pulled it off.
“We practised them on Saturday and spoke about them before the match today, we knew that they could be something that would unlock them and to get it so early on is very pleasing, but we also knew there was still a lot of football to be played after that point.”
Before the game and in the week leading up to it, Pardew spoke about bringing the whole extended Palace squad together including players like Paddy McCarthy and Brede Hangeland who have had long-term injuries, had not featured regularly and those with experience to ensure that those younger players, new to such a big occasion would not be overawed.
“Having those guys here enjoying it with us was extra special,” said Jedinak. “It means an awful lot to everyone involved with the football club having them here and enjoying it with us – it was great and everyone felt that.
“Seeing everyone after the game and congratulating one another - the gaffer touched on it as well -the togetherness, the unity and the men that we all are, it was fitting that everyone got to enjoy it and that unity has never gone away.
“We’re going to try and enjoy this one a little bit, but the final will be a special, special occasion, not just for every individual in that changing room, but for everyone associated with the football club; it’s a big deal, a huge occasion for the football club and we’re going to have bring our ‘A’ game 100% [to beat Manchester United], but after today’s performance we’re going to feel confident in doing that.”
It’s a well-worn phrase that English football is big around the world and for all the marketing and PR that comes with not only the Premier League but the cup competitions in England, you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe it is not always true, especially with so many competitions and on the other side of the world, but for Jedinak, who has captained his national side on numerous occasions, the FA Cup Final means a lot Down Under.
“It’s massive - it’s a competition that’s dear to everyone’s hearts back home,” said Jedinak who won the AFC Asian Championship with Australia back in January 2015.
“I’ve had load of texts today and I’m sure everyone in Australia can tell you a story of back in the day what final they remembered when they watched the games – they are normally on at midnight, 1am.
“Everyone remembers the FA Cup so fondly back home and they’ll be there right behind me - some of them will be supporting Man United and some of them will be supporting us at Crystal Palace but it will all be taken in and used as fuel going forward.
“It’s awesome and I’m just very pleased to have some sort of part in it. Whatever sort of part that will be is yet to be determined but it’s something that everyone going forward is going to be excited about.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement and something we should all enjoy; hopefully we can come out on the other side and have a little lift of that cup – it would be tremendous.”