FA Cup glory continues to elude Crystal Palace, after our painful 2-1 FA Cup Final loss to Manchester United on Saturday May 21, 2016, and it’s eluded me for varying reasons…
In 1976, as a Third Division side, we had a glorious FA Cup run to the semi-finals behind a hero of mine, Peter Taylor. As an 11-year-old I was unable to attend the semi-final at Stamford Bridge versus Southampton, as the person who gave me the CPFC bug, my dad, had moved to America. Unable to go alone, I sat front of the television and watched my heroes, who had beaten the mighty Leeds United and not so mighty Chelsea, get knocked out by eventual winners Southampton, 2-0.
In 1990, now aged 25, I was a not so recent college graduate, a few years into a new career and living in America for just over 10 years. Palace faced the mighty Liverpool in the semi-final when you know who popped up in the Scousers Box to give us that famous 4-3 win. I thought briefly about flying over to see Palace in their first ever FA Cup Final but with no real way of getting a Cup Final Ticket I was reduced to listening on my shortwave radio to the BBC World Service. Believe it or not the FA Cup was not shown live in America back then, I eventually had someone send a VCR tape over from England that I had to have converted in order to see the matches. How things have changed. The 3-3 draw, followed by the gut wrenching 1-0 loss in the replay saw Palace fail to win its first major trophy. I was left in pain once again but had hope in that at least we had made a Cup Final for the first time and perhaps we could get back again soon. My pain was eased somewhat by a rare trip during that Summer of 1990 back home to Thornton Heath where I picked up an FA Cup programme, scarf and a cap as small consolation.
On to 1995, and as a 30-year-old who was now married with a 2-and-a-half-year son and daughter only weeks from being born, the thought of seeing Palace in a Cup Final seemed to be possibility as we had actually reached the semis in both the League and FA Cups. Alan Smith was the architect of these great Cup runs that saw us lose to Liverpool in the League Cup semi and lose out also in the FA Cup to familiar foes, Manchester United. Any thoughts of flying over for a potential Final were killed by Bruce and Pallister in a replay and my existence as a Palace fan continued in a long line of “what ifs” and “it might have beens” …
And so to 2016 and an Alan Pardew led Palace side, who had obviously prioritized the FA Cup, make it to Wembley as we beat some impressive teams during our run while unfortunately seeing our league form suffer. With a Wembley trip booked with a Quarter Final win over Reading I now had a decision to make. Do I hope for a Semi Final win and go the Finals or go to the Semis at least guaranteeing seeing Palace once again play at Wembley? Having been here over the recent Christmas Break, at what was the beginning of our terrible league run I had been labeled a JINX by some fans and to be honest it was accurate. However, having flown over for the 2013 Championship Playoff Final win with my son, I felt good about seeing another Palace win over Watford and felt lucky. So with that in mind I bought tickets, booked a flight and with my brother and nephew with me I witnessed arguably the best Palace victory of the season. The atmosphere and the win were fantastic and the elation when Wickham’s header found the back of the net and at the Final whistle were extraordinary. It was actually all a bit surreal but was made extra special when I got to spend them with the likes of Lucy White and Chris Hambling, HOL Radio comrades at the Final Whistle. Crystal Palace FC were in the 2016 FA Cup Final and we were in footballing heaven.
I returned to America with a huge decision to make. Work, finances and family commitments made the decision to attend the Final an extremely difficult one. I purchased a ticket, just in case. Palace were in the FA Cup Final for only the second time in my lifetime and I really wanted to be there. Discussions with family and some mates who were also flying over made my ultimate decision for me. We all know how the game went and the result was a major disappointment but the experience was one I will forever remember. Highlights included spending the day with my nephew who I have made a Crystal Palace supporter for life. I had initially wanted to share the day with my son Xavier, who despite being born in America is as big of a Palace supporter that you could ever meet but unfortunately he could not make it. I made to with sharing the experience with him via social media via pictures, videos and messages. Also seeing my mate Wil Block, his son Jack and sister Edie after the game was special as they had als0 flown over from America for the match and it was Wil who had convinced me to fly over for the Playoff Final in 2013, having never before met (the power of Twitter). The pre-match atmosphere in the Palace end was unreal. The noise, singing, flags, displays and “support” was something I doubt I will ever experience ever again but I am thankful I did this time. But the overwhelming feeling, that will last with me was THAT goal by Jason Puncheon and the reaction and feeling the Palace end and in my body in its aftermath. It was footballing heaven in its purest sense and even though the final result spoiled that moment it remains one of the best things I have experienced as a supporter of this club.
FA Cup glory continues to elude Crystal Palace after our painful 2-1 FA Cup Final loss to Manchester United on Saturday May 21, 2016 and it’s eluded me for varying reasons, going on 45 years now… that being said it hasn’t dampened my spirit or love for Crystal Palace and I know Cup Glory is somewhere down the road… it has to be.