Like many a young lad I dreamed of one day playing in the FA Cup final, scoring the winning goal and lifting the famous trophy in front of one hundred thousand fans.
Being brought up on a meagre diet of just one domestic live match on TV per season, the FA Cup Final was the big sporting event of the year, and I was obsessed with it. From re-creating old finals with my brother on a strip of grass between the back of my house and a bridle path using oak trees as goal-posts, to reading up on every football statistic available and obsessively collecting football cards, my whole childhood revolved around football, and around the FA Cup in particular.
It was obvious fairly early on that, as capable as I was with a ball at my feet, I was never going to be good enough to make a career out of playing football, so the opportunity of achieving my boyhood dream of appearing in a Wembley Cup final was kyboshed before I’d even become a man. Little did I know that more than 30 years later I would eventually realise my dream, although in a way I could never have imagined as a pre-teenager.
After decades of collecting and collating FA Cup statistics I finally got to a position whereby I had a complete set of FA Cup records for every club that had ever competed in the competition. This data does have to be updated annually, but I decided it was time to begin to share what I had pulled together with other interested parties via the internet using the Twitter name @FACupFactfile and writing a blog under the name FACupFactfile.
Twelve months after launching my FA Cup stats on these public forums I was contacted by the producers of the FA Cup Final programme to write a stats based article on the 2015-16 competition. I was gobsmacked. I’d had articles included in match-day programmes for non-league clubs competing in the FA Cup and I’d contributed occasionally to Radio Five’s Non-League Show, but I never even considered the likelihood of featuring in the FA Cup Final programme itself.
But my article is included in this year’s Crystal Palace versus Manchester United FA Cup Final programme, three pages in total. Unbelievably, forty years after watching my first ever FA Cup Final I am actually involved in one, albeit not on the pitch scoring the winning goal, but officially involved in it nonetheless. I stand alongside players, officials, administrators, organisers and fans at the greatest football occasion of the year and I could not be more pleased or more proud.