At the last minute of packing I swapped my warm Bluebirds hat for a baseball cap. It turned out to be a 'winter spring' day the next one.   That was the only prediction I got right last weekend.   Not that I actually stated (as everyone else did) that Cardiff City were going to get stuffed by Liverpool, because I never make predictions. Football is too likely to confound them.
   However, to myself I agreed with their unanimous pessimism: our recent form has been poor while Liverpool have played superbly. We are a hard-working team without world class talent, while they have internationals like Kuyt and Maxi on the bench!
   On the platform of Cardiff Central station we had abuse from Swansea rugby fans off to watch Wales v. England on the big screen at the Millennium Stadium. When we got to London, a few Cockneys told us to ' 'ammer them scousers!'
   The pre-match warm up session at The Globe on Baker Street (by now, our ritual) was full of cheerful chanting, as both sets of fans shared the same pub. Usually, the opposition are in the Metropolitan on the other side.
   The only untoward incident was when a pick-pocket tried to lift a Liverpool supporter's wallet and was pursued by the latter through a throng of beer-guzzling Bluebirds.
   Drink flew everywhere, along with some of the wallet's contents : coins and a condom floated in puddles of spilt brew.
   Some of the tourists on the open-topped buses enthusiastically obliged by doing the ayatollah. One woman wouldn't stop and was obviously amazed to find so many followers of the late Ayatollah Khomeini outside a London tavern.
   The police photographer needn't have bothered taking mugshots of just about every fan standing there. It was the antithesis of  stereotypical football hooliganism.
   I even saw a group of Bluebirds and scousers arm-in-arm and chanting about 'shitty Manchester'. I didn't like to point out that our keeper Tom Heaton, hero of the semi-final 2nd leg, came from there.
   And then.......we're so used to it by now, some have become blase.....that walk down Wembley Way and a carefree feeling of why-not-even-though-we-don't-stand-a-chance so unlike the Play-off Final v. Blackpool, with all its tensions.
   We check-listed all the omens. We weren't playing in black : a good thing. We hadn't seen Frank Skinner in person that morning: a good thing. We were,however, standing at the end where we'd lost twice before.
   When Glen Johnson's shot came off the cross-bar after 2 minutes we began to believe those predictions. Liverpool attacked relentlessly and Stewart Downing was making Kevin McNaughton look like his hair colour not his reputation!
   Moreover, Malky hadn't picked the team chosen by myself (and most fans) on the BBC Wales website. In my conceit now, I think that team might've won it.
   We seemed to surrender midfield and a team with specialist winger Conway instead of striker Gestede would, I think, have given us more quality there, releasing Mason to do more damage. Also, Miller plays much better when the ball's on the deck and he's not one to anticipate Rudy Gestede's flicks, which anyway went to Liverpool players.
   But I can't complain too much about Malky Mackay, who has been our best manager since Jimmy Scoular, a fellow Scot who was in charge when I started supporting CCFC.
   Joe Mason's goal was our first sniff and understandly sent us all ballistic. Unlike v. Blackpool, I didn't break my mobile ; another good omen, I thought.
   How we managed to contain Liverpool I don't know. They had more corners than we strung passes together. When Skrtel scored we feared the worst, but the rout never happened and Kenny Miller continued his recent poor League form by blowing our best chance with 4 mintues remaining.
   In extra time it was that class sub. Dirk Kuyt who altered the game, though I thought I saw Bellamy pass when it would have been much easier to shoot! Kuyt was direct and single-minded and when he scored I thought that was it.
   Last year, our team would've caved in and left the field to down a few jars.
   Under Malky things are different : the willingness never to give up was epitomised by the final ten minutes. Turner's header so close and Kiss's stabbed shot cleared off the line by.......guess who?.......Kuyt!
   We had a corner. Next to me, my friend yells 'Go for it Turner!' Four minutes to go and Ben Turner scores.  Jubilation, screaming, jumping, hugging.
   Surely now, it would be our day.
   Penalties and Heaton saves magnificently from Stevie G. Even after Miller hits the post, Charlie Adam skies his into the travelling Kop.
   At last , it's down to Anthony, cousin of Steven, to take our last hope pen. He must've been haunted by all those times he'd been made to play in goals in the street footie games of Liverpool . He missed and it was over.
   In the 'Western Mail' Steve Tucker tells us to feel proud. Malky talks about 'losing with dignity'. But I just want us to win at Wembley.
   Still, after losing to Portsmouth in the F.A.Cup Final I recall a friend saying 'We won't be here again!' He was wrong then. Let's hope he's wrong again!


                                     WEMBLEY  BLUES

On Cardiff Central platform
waiting for the Paddington train,
egg-chaser Swansea fans
calling us 'Scum! Scum!'

I got them
I got them
Wembley Blues again

few pints the night before
and we can really win ;
by hangover next morning
we're bound to be shat on

standing outside on Baker Street
tourists doing the ayatollah,
think we must be Iranian shi-ites;
us and scousers all together

all the superstitions keep returning :
did we eat the right things?
what colour shirts did we wear?
have I left those pants at home?

I got them
I got them
Wembley Blues again

I lose my voice, blow my brain,
before that corner
my mate yells 'Do it Turner!'
and I think he's got Superpowers

we're gonna lose, we're gonna win,
penalties and a familiar pain ;
we'll never be back here,
we'll soon return
     
 


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