Crystal Palace Football Club can win their first major honour in the 135th FA Cup final at Wembley this Saturday afternoon when facing Manchester United.
As fate would have it, the Eagles came closest to their first trophy in the May 1990 cup final, which was also against Manchester United. Hopes were dashed in extra time as the Red Devils equalised to make it 3-3 after two goals from hero Ian Wright had put Palace ahead late in the match. When United won the replay five days later 1-0, Palace Manager Alan Pardew suffered heartache as a player, who along with now first team coach John Salako, were powerless to stop Sir Alex Ferguson win his first trophy in England.
While everybody knows what United subsequently achieved in the game, Pardew has called upon his players to banish the demons of 1990, and perhaps begin a successful period at Selhurst Park in the club’s own right.
“The 1990 run got a couple of mentions during the week, it’s difficult with John Salako is in the room. He talks about it every five minutes”, said Pardew.
“I hope the destiny isn’t the same result. The scenarios are identical. But this is a different team, a different spirit in the team that we had then. But the characteristics are similar.
“We had a similar side in 1990: hard working, diligent, good defenders, a little bit of pace on the attack.”
This Premier League season has been mixed for the south London club, having finished 2015 in sixth place. But a combination of injuries to key players and a horror run of form saw Pardew’s men in 15th by May, collecting just 13 points since Christmas.
Palace have a great opportunity to end the season on a high note, facing Louis van Gaal’s remarkably patchy United.
“’We’ll play a team who are, potentially, a great team. I’m pleased for Louis van Gaal that he’s got there. They’re the biggest club in the world”, said Pardew.
“It’s a tough task for us, and the game-plan will be different, but we’ll buy into it. We have got players who can hurt any team.
“It feels good because we deserve to be in the final.”
1990 – Alan Pardew played in Crystal Palace's only previous FA Cup final games, both against Man United in 1990. Destiny.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 24, 2016
To add an extra dimension to what would be a fairytale finish for Palace, United were forced to play a Tuesday night replay of the final day fixture against Bournemouth due to the bomb scare debacle which overshadowed the culmination of the Premier League. Palace will be hoping to capitalise on any tired legs in the opposition squad, who have missed out on Champion’s League football for a second consecutive season.
But Mile Jedinak has been quick to rebuff assertions that the final is Palace’s to lose after United’s unsettled preparation with a four day turnaround.
“It’s hard to say if it will affect them in any shape or form but I expect as a footballer you just get on with how it is,” said the Palace captain.
“I guess it is not ideal for them. But that’s how things have been dealt and you just have to put up with it.
“They also have a huge squad which they will use to good effect and I still expect them to come into the game on Saturday fully ready and all guns blazing.”
Pardew is concerned the club’s injury list might have an effect on the outcome of the game, with key figures Connor Wickham, Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie in doubt and Wilfried Zaha, Wayne Hennessey and Scott Dann having been rested in the 4-1 mauling at Southampton on Sunday.
“We had a few problems going into this game, I’m hoping they’ll all clear themselves up. They usually do, cup final week, I find. Hopefully that’ll be the case, said Pardew.
“We can look forward to the preparation, and the attention, that’s going to come to this fixture, and then we’ve got to win it, and that’s what we’ll try and do.
Pardew is also keen to wait until kick-off before ruling Emmanuel Adebayor in-or-out of the key clash.