At the end, as his team finally knew they had staved off the frantic best Cardiff City could hurl at them, the Portsmouth captain Sol Campbell stood arms outstretched towards the heavens in his moment of triumph. In the season that Arsenal succumbed so ignominiously to Manchester United, in a season in which the Premier League's Big Four surrendered its recent "ownership" of this competition, it was somehow appropriate that Campbell was one of a trio of former Gunners who contributed so significantly to Pompey's victory.
There was Nwankwo Kanu, scorer of the winner, following goalkeeper Peter Enckelman's gift to him, who, at the final whistle, donned a cap bearing one word: "King". It was scarcely the kind of epithet the Nigerian appeared likely to receive when Arsène Wenger released him in July 2004 – any more than Campbell's career graph was expected to take an upward curve when he left the north London club in July 2006 after a troubled season during which he had departed Highbury at half-time of a game with West Ham, his psyche shot through by a wretched individual display.
And what of Lassana Diarra, in France's Euro 2008 squad and the kind of player everybody admires, but who only amanager like Harry Redknapp could truly love? The midfielder, whose class and energy go so well in harness, as he demonstrated in Pompey's sixth-round defeat of Manchester United, was here last year as an unused substitute with Chelsea. Impatient to establish himself he joined Arsenal but left them after six months, complaining that he "wanted more consideration from the manager [Wenger]". One can assume he received that from his current boss last night after this Tale of the Expected lived down to our expectations as a footballing extravaganza. Not that Redknapp, or his assistant, Tony Adams, the former Arsenal captain who lifted the trophy here in 1993 and 1998, would be troubled by such criticism.
In truth, Portsmouth did just enough. One suspected that they always possessed reserves of class, if required. And their ambition was no more exemplified than in the former Gunners, who in their different ways are all the type of players that Redknapp loves to acquire when his peers may exhibit caution. Yesterday they rewarded him with his first trophy, which he hugged as though it was his wife, Sandra. Indeed, the victory, he said, was for the woman whose twin sister Pat Lampard, mother of Chelsea's Frank, had died a fortnight before.
For Redknapp and his players, Europe beckons. And their followers can dream of what may follow. It was their day yesterday, as every man, woman, child and innumerable sailors – presumably absent on, rather than without, leave – relished the occasion, one on which captain Campbell and his crew rarely looked like Captain Pugwash and his. Yet, despite the claims of Steve Claridge, briefly manager of Portsmouth and now one of our best radio pundits, that this was a "renaissance" for the old trophy, it is more likely to be remembered as the season in which the passage to the final and the fall of some of those en route – notably Liverpool and Chelsea, both at the hands of Barnsley – will remain in the memory rather more than yesterday's climax.
No royalty was there to be presented to the team, unless you include the indefatigable Sir Bobby Robson, who is battling cancer. And none of the Big Four were here because, to be frank, their heart wasn't in it. United could consider themselves unfortunate to have been denied a semi-final place by Pompey, yet one rather imagines that Sir Alex Ferguson was privately content, given the other matters to which his team had still to attend .
From the start, Pompey attempted to stamp Premier League class on affairs. They began not so much with a complacent attitude, but as a superior pugilist would attempt to keep his opponent at bay, biding their time and waiting for the opportunity to deliver that beauty to the chin. It was a dangerous tactic, as Dave Jones' Championship side attacked their opponents with gusto in the first half and managed some dangerous body shots, David James being forced to save from Paul Parry and Peter Whittingham dispatching a deflected effort which could have gone anywhere, but fortunately for Pompey drifted wide.
Midway through the half, Pompey's understated approach should have borne dividends. A glorious move culminated with Kanu rounding goalkeeper Enckelman; yet in that wonderfully languid manner of his he contrived to strike the post. It may have been an acute angle but he could have virtually walked the ball in. Kanu atoned just after the half-hour, though, taking advantage of Cardiff's failure to prevent a John Utaka cross, though even then Enckelman was culpable, handing the Nigerian an opportunity which this time he could not spurn. For Kanu, yesterday's medal supplements a collection which already includes three Dutch titles and a Champions' League winner's medal with Ajax, a Uefa Cup winner's medal with Internazionale, and in England two Premier League titles and an FA Cup winner's medal. As well as 69 Nigeria caps he also won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.
City's fortunes may have taken a different turn had referee Mike Dean not noticed Glenn Loovens' handball which denied his side an equaliser just before the break. Though there were some nervous final minutes for Pompey, you had no doubt they wouldmaintain their advantage. They did so, to the pleasure of Redknapp. On Thursday it had been suggested he could bow out at the age of 61 because of his disillusionment over the dawn police raids on his home and the effect on his wife. By Friday he was denying it. After yesterday, surely nothing could have been further from the mind of the Portsmouth manager. Could it?
What they said
"It's fantastic. For everybody, my family especially. It's been a difficult year off the field so this is a dream come true. We're a very close family – it's for allmy grandchildren and everybody."
Harry Redknapp, after a season of police arrests and family bereavement, finally gets his hands on the FA Cup
"I don't know what to say, for once. Harry's a legend now, isn't he? First Cup in 69 years? Hats off to him."
David James, the Portsmouth goalkeeper who has lost his two previous Cup finals, pays tribute to his manager
"This is the best moment of my life. I started the game and I won the Cup for Portsmouth. I have felt nothing like this."
Kanu, who won the FA Cup twice with Arsenal, hitsa new high
"It was a tough one to deal with. I should maybe have done better, but it is one of those things."
The Cardiff goalkeeper,Peter Enckelman, on his mistake that led to Kanu's winning goal
"There wasn't a great deal in it. There's no one to blame, but it's hard to swallow. A slight mistake cost us. We gave it everything we've got and we've done everyone proud. What we have done today is prove that maybeother teams can achieve what they thought was impossible."
Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, finds some solace in defeat
"Distin, Campbell, James, Johnson, Hreidarsson. They have all been fantastic at the backThey are all great.I love them all."
Redknapp goes all soppy over his back line
"It's fantastic. This is a brilliant day for everyone who's connected with Portsmouth. We worked hard, we had our luck through the roundsbut in the end the result was good."
Sol Campbell, before going up to lift the Cup. A fitting farewell to Portsmouth?
"Just keep going. We've done well in the first half, we just have to watch their set-pieces. Don't get silly, just be sensible and keep the ball."
Jermain Defoe, Portsmouth's Cup-tied striker, gives his half-time team talk on TV
"Kanu and Portsmouth think they have taken the lead!"
John Motson is confused after Kanu's goal, thinking it's going to be disallowed
As ever, Mark Lawrenson digs Motty out of trouble
"Portsmouth have wonall 21 games this seasonin which they have scored first."
Motty recovers his composure with a trademark stat
"And the Pompey chimes are ringing around Wembley."
And soon he's flying with a trademark cliché
"He's looking a bit blank. Just get the DVD."
Lawro tells Glenn Loovens why his goal was disallowed
"That sounds like the sponsors have chosen it. It's the classic: give it to the goalscorer."
And the BBC pundit voices his disapproval at the choice of Kanu as man of the match
"And Redknapp rules the waves in the naval town of Portsmouth."
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