After watching the Manchester United/Portsmouth hightlights tonight, I have a strong sense that Harry Rednapp has done a sulphurous deal with Mephistopholes to guarantee Pompey the FA Cup this year. Little wonder that 'Sralex' was choking on his chewing gum after Portsmouth implausibly survived chance after chance created by Tevez et al.
But with Barnsley heroicly overturning Chelsea, it rather raises the stakes in the other two Quarter Finals tomorrow. Genuinely, any of the surviving clubs could lift the trophy in May.
As a life-long Bristol Rovers supporter, the feelings this situation provoke veer between the agony and the ecstasy. Being brought up on the east side of Bristol, it was almost inevitable that I would be a Rovers fan in football and Gloucestershire in cricket. For the most part, that has meant reconciling myself to a lifetime anticipating (and receiving) mediocrity. Rovers have played most of their time in what was League Division Three, with occasional forays into the second tier of football. Gloucestershire, the club of Grace, Jessop and Hammond, have never won the County Championship in modern times.
There was always another way, of course. At primary school, even in my end of town, those kids who wanted to support a winning (rather than their local) team went for the hated City or Somerset in cricket, rather than Rovers and Gloucs. It's a phenomonem more familiar now, given the apparent number of committed Manchester United/Arsenal/Chelsea supporters worldwide. So whilst I like to see Darlington FC do well, just as I look out for Grimsby Town results (where I got married), it's Rovers' scores that really matter.
And now we find ourselves a heartbeat away from Wembley. 25-1 sounds implausible, and I have a sinking feeling that West Brom are going to turn us over, (when I was previously convinced that we would beat Southampton). The sense that we will never have a better chance of lifting the Cup itself will never be stronger, however. Sunday 6pm is no time for an FA Cup Quarter Final, but we can only hope for the best.