Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 17 May 2008

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup Final

This is it, everyone - FA Cup Final Day, a day to enjoy and a day when someone will win one of the most prestigious trophies in world football.

Some people say it's lost it's value in recent years, some say it's lost it's sparkle. I disagree.

When I was a young boy, it was a day when Wembley Stadium was almost always bathed in early summer sunshine, when the football played was captivating and the fans experienced every possible emotion. Though you can never tell how good any Final will be, the occasion always has that evocative history that few others can boast, and that for me is what makes it so special.

Today, two teams have an all-too-rare chance to lift the trophy. On the one hand, there's Portsmouth, led by Harry Redknapp who brings a team to Wembley for the first time in his career, and on the other is Cardiff City. On SPAOTP's 2007/2008 Road To Wembley, we reach the Final with Cardiff as the team we'll be supporting.

It's been a long and winding road for us since we started out back in September last year in the First Qualifying Round. We began with Burnham Ramblers playing away to Chelmsford City which in turn led us to follow Hayes & Waterlooville, Maidenhead United, Horsham, Swansea City, Havant & Waterlooville, Liverpool and Barnsley before Cardiff City became the team for us in today's big finalé. You can see our Road to Wembley in graphical form by visiting our route map.

So Cardiff it is, then, and with the game not far off starting, let's check out the facts about our team so that we know who we're supporting.

Cardiff City's manager is Dave Jones, a former player with Everton, Coventry City, Preston and, strangely, Seiko - a team from Hong Kong. He arrived at Cardiff in May 2005 and maintained their new-found status as a Championship side, slowly but surely building up the quality of the squad and bringing in many well-known faces.

Among the ranks at Ninian Park now are former greats such as Robbie Fowler, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Trevor Sinclair, but that's not the be all and end all of their talents.

In goal they have Peter Enckelman on loan from Blackburn Rovers and one of his former team mates from Aston Villa, Peter Whittingham. Joe Ledley, a Welsh international midfielder, is also someone likely to catch the eye along with another member of the Wales squad, Paul Parry. Both players are joint top goalscorers for the club this season.

Cardiff have finished the 2007/08 Championship season in 12th place, just inside the top half of the table - a position they're very familiar with for most of the campaign. In the Cup, however, they've been even more efficient. Wins against Chasetown, Hereford, Wolves, Middlesbrough and Cardiff have all seen them cruise to today's big match finish which could see them win the FA Cup for the first time since 1927.

And that, really, is all you need to know about Cardiff. Anything else you can work out for yourselves by watching the match which, I've a feeling, will be a good one.

We send our best wishes to Cardiff City as we draw a close to our 2007/08 Road To Wembley. As someone once said, it's not the arriving at your destination but the journey itself that counts, and that's certainly been the case for us this season. Enjoy.

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