The crowds were well below average for both ties. For the Brizzle game we were down to a pathetic 6,000 odd and for Leicester yesterday ( a side close to us in the Championship) it only rose to a sparse 10,000. It looked like Wales football team at the Millennium Stadium. On Tuesday, you could even hear our keeper berating defenders.
I know four regular season ticket holders who didn't go to both matches. This follows a pattern throughout the country and, with a few exceptions, almost every club saw a considerable drop in attendances for the Cup. When I phoned the club for tickets, the woman claimed it was down to 'the Recession' and who can blame people for choosing to opt out occasionally?
In the case of my friends, I suspect it was more likely to be our striker Jay Bothroyd in collusion with their spouses. Bothroyd - despite being voted man of the match v. Leicester - told reporters prior to the Bristol City game that the Cup was a distraction from our main aim : promotion from the Championship. Logically he was right, though his timing was questionable.
I ought to agree, but can't. Memories of our epic journeys to Wembley two years ago are still fresh, as are the thrilling victories against Leeds and Man. City when both were high-flying Premier teams. When my son and I travelled to Middlesbrough ( then a top-flight team ) for the Quarter Final he cheered me up no end by predicting - 'We're going to get stuffed!' All the more joyous then, when we won 2-0 and my lucky scarf still bears the scuff marks of being trailed outside his car on our journey home.
Then there were great days at Wembley itself. Before the Final, we drank outside a pub in Baker St. and everyone urged tourists in open-topped buses to 'Do the Ayatollah!' Comically, fans were clutching beer glasses in their hands, so slapping heads with one hand only. Tourists replied in similar fashion, possibly believing we were members of some obscure Welsh religious cult!
We came so close to winning the FA Cup it seems incredible. Even after our defeat against Pompey ( one friend is still nicknamed 'Up Pompeii' because of his mispronunciation ), we were chanting more loudly than their supporters - WE NEARLY WON THE CUP!
In 1925, we lost in the Final only to return two years later to defeat Arsenal 1-0, courtesy of a gaff by their Welsh keeper. I dream of Arsenal signing Wayne Hennessey and of him lining up against us in this year's final. Let's hope my lucky scarf survives another car journey.
Passing Ninian Park is surreal : the Bob Bank, where I sat for so many seasons , still stands and faces one house ( presumably a show house) which is nearly completed on the site. We debated names for streets, like Leo Fortune-West Boulevard, but this house seems to be on Turnstile Row. If only I could actually buy one on the Bob Bank, where my stairs would be terrace steps and I could sit in my own,old seat and gaze out ...........
P.S. Stoke have just beaten Arsenal. Are Chelsea after Boaz Myhill?
THEY CAN’T KNOCK DOWN
They can pull down those floodlights
one by one and demolish the stands
where I used to sit and stand,
uproot the metal barriers
I once leant against.
They can crack and crumble
the many stone terraces
where I moaned or leapt,
sell off the Grange End clock,
haul down the facade
to reveal a painted sign
like some ancient cave drawing.
But, they can’t knock down
all the memories, the years
from the deepest Dungeon
to the Tower of the top,
from Blakey’s bender and Young’s crash home,
from Clarkie’s header, Earnie’s celebrations,
to pitch invasions at the season’s end.
No, when the last block’s shifted
and the ground is completely levelled,
my mind will make a park there
from the many eras, with family and friends
high above watching, clapping, chanting
as grass grows again in my vision.