“Absolutely chuffing blinding”, I said right here in 2005 as Patrick Vieira lobbed his cup-winning grenade at Utd, “it really doesn’t get better than this”.
And that, looking back, was just a year after our Invincibles season, a mere two years since our last FA Cup win, and just three years after we’d won the double.
We were serial trophy winners then, and I was still bowled over; knocked sideways. Nine years on, and who’d have thought it then – we’ve not won a pot since. Come close a few times, sure – on various stages – but fallen short. There’s not been enough of the ‘chuffing’ and we’ve been deficient in the ‘blinding’ department to the tune of any.
So yes, it’s a laborious way of saying I’m excited. The cup’s never lost its allure for me, and if Twitter is my guide (my skittish guide) then the feeling is widespread.
Of course, this is Arsenal and it’s never that simple anyway. On tomorrow rides the future perception (and maybe even the future) of Arsene, of this promising squad that’s won nothing and of the hopes of millions of angst-ridden gooners.
I look back with generally good memories on my experience of FA Cup finals. I vaguely recall Brooking’s forehead killing us off in ‘80, but luckily I was young and at that point I was more into Star Wars figures.
I watched the ‘93 final from my then abode in Paris. It got messy after that game, if I recall, which I don’t, though I think someone may have put some washing up liquid in a fountain.
The first I went to was 1998, when we were far too good for Newcastle. I was in Cardiff in 2001, when the less said about the result the better, though it was warm and sunny. I was on holiday in New York in 2002 (schoolboy scheduling error), but I was present and correct in 2003 (in the rain, under the roof) to watch Le Bob make it three cups in six years. Then there was 2005. That’s not a bad record.
That brings us to now. It’s a one-off game, and as we all know they don’t always do what you want them to. All I ask, and I don’t think we got this in 2011, is a performance where the players are focused to within an inch of their lives, and give all they’ve got.
Wenger might dispute that, putting it down to bad luck and a bad error, but I remember watching the Birmingham players before that final huddling together and immensely focused, while ours sauntered about. I had a bad feeling from the off. We can’t afford any complacency at all.
The good news is, we’ve changed a lot since then, I think, in terms of character. Look at this from the Evening Standard on Thursday, and you’ll see who we had in our squad then.
Can't say we miss many of these pic.twitter.com/DFatLFnhhw
— East Lower (@eastlower) May 15, 2014
Honestly, compare then and now. Sure, we’re still a way off where we want to be, and we’ve had some right mares this season, some truly baffling cave-ins, but look at that squad and look at ours now. I think we’re going in the right direction.
I’m so excited. As excited as I was in 2006 as we thundered down the Boulevard St Michel with Oxford Matt, Feverpitch and my brother Charlie, in a pick-up truck, flags dangling everywhere, windows down, playing Riddimkilla.
I’ve not been a Gunner Since ‘79. I’d say it was more like ‘80. But if you get tired of this, you’re in the wrong business. If you prefer fourth every year to this – to the nerves, the excitement, the flags draped from houses (and from Piebury Corner), the random people coming up to you at work and wishing you well, then have a long think.
I can’t wait. It’s the FA Cup final.
Come on you rip-roarers.