By Simon Mills
Tickets – check, Palace shirt ready – check, balloons and streamers arrived – check, route planned – barring changes to pub plan, check… and this was about a week ago! There may be three more sleeps to go (yes, I sound just like a kid at Christmas) but I’m already struggling to drift away each evening thanks to the nervous excitement of what’s to come.
You don’t need me to tell you it’s a big deal, each and every year since 1990 that we as fans have watched 50 other teams walk out for the FA Cup Final, there is always that underlying sense of jealousy.
Everything about this club deserves this, we’ve been put through enough in our history and an FA Cup win seems like just reward for the tears, agony and pure emotion we as supporters have invested. It would mean so much more to us than it would to them.
Much has been made of the events of the final Premier League weekend at Old Trafford, with the whole training exercise gone wrong leading to a bomb scare, evacuation of the ground and abandonment of the game itself. With the game eventually replayed last night and with United fielding a full-strength team (which I think most of us were surprised by) naturally some have suggested this gives us an advantage.
Perhaps it has, perhaps it hasn’t. An extra two days spent thinking of a different game and just as long extra recovery time for our squad could well make a difference. That said, with a team like the one at United where most players have plenty of experience playing midweek football before returning to action a few days later, I wouldn’t take anything for granted.
I don’t think any of us are under any illusions as to the difficulty playing a club as big as Man U, despite their fall from the top of the tree since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. Wayne Rooney may no longer be the striker he once was, but his undoubted ability now suits the midfield perfectly, he was instrumental last night as he ran the show against Bournemouth. Covering every blade of grass and picking out pass after pass, he fully deserved his goal and assist. I feel we need one of our midfielders shadowing him on Final day to deny him the space he loves to do the damage he can.
The other major threat who is unlikely to need introduction is Frenchman Anthony Martial. Pacey, skilful and with a real eye for goal, he is another we will have to deal with if we are going to be successful. He has the ability to unpick a team’s defence and cause all sorts of panic in the area - if he’s not scoring goals he’s often the one who creates the chances. There’s also the young Marcus Rashford who has got an England call this week and the highly rated striker will be desperate to impress again.
All of that said, there is one thing I really do believe. We are good enough to win this, regardless of our opposition, as long as we turn up. What I mean is, if we play to the best of our ability, I honestly don’t believe there any many who could stop us. This second half of the season has been more about injuries and not showing up for 90 minutes every week, so if we can replicate what we were doing until December and in most of our cup games so far, then it will be our name on the famous trophy this season no matter what United turn up with.
The supporters did themselves proud at the Semi Final and I’m sure that helped push the players onto victory. Needless to say we need to find another level at Wembley on Saturday, we need to be the 12th man and I’m sure we will do what is needed to roar the boys towards our first FA Cup in our 111-year history.
BE LOUD, BE PROUD, BE PALACE!!! COME ON BOYS!
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