Just over ten years ago, Alan Pardew was reflecting on a heart-breaking finale for his then West Ham team who lost to penalties against Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup final. Jump to the present day, and the Palace manager is using his experience of a Cup final defeat as both a player and manager to ensure he isn’t on the losing team this time around.
Pardew was in relaxed and seemingly self-assured mood at his press conference on Thursday, and says he has drawn on resources old and new to help engineer would could at last be a precious Wembley win.
“It’s a different era, a different time, even then in 2006 the Premier League, it’s moved on a little bit and you need to have a different approach to go into a final. To go into a bit of detail about that, the training mechanisms and the distances that we work and travel are much more regulated now, much more information for me, much more information tactically than I ever had in 2006, so of course I’ve had to adjust to that new era.
“We had a lunch yesterday and a big meeting before the lunch, and I wanted to get a bit more feedback from the players about their fears, their hopes for the game. I actually tried to get a little bit more from the team to add to what I was going to deliver today and what I’m going to deliver tomorrow (in training).
"It wasn’t just about specific worries, but (for example) who is your opponent, what would you worry about if you’re playing against Rooney, how are you going to deal with him, how are you going to stop him dictating the play, and what scenarios could happen in the game, what happens if we get a guy sent off etcetera etcetera.”
No one will be able to predict whether luck will play a part in today’s game, but whereas ten years ago Pardew’s team lost by the fine margins of a painstaking penalty shoot-out, the manger is this time hoping any favouritism of the gods will go in his favour.
“I’m a professional football manager and all I can do is prepare my team to the best of my ability and you do need a little bit of luck. You need great players, you need to set your team up and make the right decisions, but you do need a little bit of luck and hopefully it’ll shine on me on this one.
“We’re going to Wembley and we want to win, we don’t want to be runners-up. For me the real difference from 1990 is I didn’t think we could win if I’m honest, I thought we might win if it all went our way, now I actually think we can win and I think these group of players think we can win.”
Finishing fifteenth in the league hasn’t broken any club records, however a fourth consecutive season in the Premier League has, and Pardew has thanked everyone at the club and the loyal support of fans for sticking with the team. Now it is down to this one last game which could set a marker in history at the south London club.
“I think we’ve all seen in the Premier League where a relationship breaks down, whether it’s chairman to manager, or manager to fans or fans to players, or managers to players, whatever way you look at it all those relationships need to stay intact to get to a final, to have good seasons and I’ve been fortunate that all those relationships have stayed in place.
“They get strained when you’re under pressure and you haven’t had results and I thank the fans, I thank the board, and I thank the players, they’ve all stayed faithful to what we’re trying to achieve and the game plans we’ve put in front of them. We’ve got one game plan to go this year with this group. I think they understand what we’re trying to achieve, and if they see it through and we get a bit of luck I think we can do it.”