Odejayi miss echoes past calamities on historic day
Monday 07 April 2008
The historic resonance of this meeting was emphasised by a large photograph in the matchday programme of Barnsley fans making their way to their last big FA Cup gig in London – making their way by horse and carriage past the Houses of Parliament en route for the 1912 FA Cup final at the Crystal Palace, where their team drew 0-0 with West Bromwich Albion before winning the replay 1-0.
While carriages and steam trains were the means of conveyance on that occasion, Barnsley's latter-day followers and their Welsh counterparts had to approach the new shrine of domestic football via the choked conduit of the A406, or courtesy of the Metropolitan Line which afforded a grand view of the arched stadium from the steps of Wembley Park station that was fully appreciated.
After the endless delays and expenses involved with the new Wembley, those involved would have been gratified by the scenes that took place as the emergent supporters got their first proper gander at the stadium proper.
"Whaahay!" exclaimed one red-shirted arrival as he took in the scene before him with arms outstretched in affirmation. A thousand mobile phone photo opportunities halted the flow of folk along the new Wembley Way. It is not new to the usual crowd, of course. But it is to the likes of Barnsley or Cardiff.
As Cardiff's own striker, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, had himself acknowledged before these teams disputed the right to face Portsmouth in next month's final here, Barnsley deserved to be there already for their achievements in knocking out first Liverpool, then Chelsea. But as the wily 36-year-old added – football doesn't always work out that way.
Hasselbaink & Co now have the opportunity of removing the FA Cup from English possession for a second time, 81 years after Arsenal's keeper Dan Lewis presented them with the fabled trophy by letting a speculative shot from Hughie Ferguson elude his grasp.
That influence was vigorously contested, however, by Cardiff's hugely promising midfielder Aaron Ramsey after he arrived as a 47th minute substitute. Like a certain A Ramsey before him, the 17-year-old experienced a Wembley victory, and now has the prospect of becoming the youngest ever FA Cup winner.
The twisted logic of the FA Cup dictated that it should be the man whose goal did for Chelsea in the quarter-finals, Barnsley's forward Kayode Odejayi, who missed the glorious chance to keep his team in the competition.
As his 66th-minute shot hit the wrong side of the side-netting, Barnsley fans behind the goal – their arms already raised to acclaim an equaliser – froze in dismay.
Odejayi, meanwhile, put his hands over his eyes. He was in that most unfortunate of Wembley territory, missed-sitter land, along with the likes of Brighton's Gordon Smith in the 1983 final.
When the final whistle signalled blue-and-white mayhem, Odejayi stood as motionless as an Easter Island statue, inconsolable.
"It wasn't just down to me, it was down to everyone," he said. "But it was a good chance, and I should have scored. When I went through I was really confident. I tried to steer it into the bottom right-hand corner but it didn't go in.
"That's football. You have got to be big enough to take things like that on the chin. You have to make sure you don't get carried away with either the highs or the lows.
"I apologised to all the lads, but they said to me not to blame myself. We thought we deserved something from the game. It was a real high to reach the semi-final, but now we are all really disappointed."
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