FA Cup Final: 35 years and still here
35 years and we're still here.
Supporting Manchester City is a birthright in my family. There are United fans among us, through marriage, and there's one defector (known as Turncoat Billy). But from the top down we're sky blues. And the Don? My Grandma O'Grady. She never goes anywhere without a city badge and gave her sons 'a love of their own' when she bought them season tickets for Maine Road back in the Sixties.
My earliest memory of football, after being carried over the turnstiles, is clinging to my Dad and walking into the noise and madness that was the Kippax. I was five. We never queued because we always arrived post kick off. My Dad and his pals were known in the Osbourne House as the ten-to-three boys. Not because that's when they left to go to the ground, but because that's when they got the last round in.
I loved going to the match as a little girl. My cousins Tom, Faith and Rosie were always there. The same cousins I'll be sat with at Wembley this coming weekend. Half-crazy on pop and crisps, we were hoisted up over the crowd to get a good look at the pitch. I don't think I really appreciated watching the game back then. It was all about being there.
Joining in with the songs and trying to remember the offensive chants directed at the referee. "Don't tell your Mum I said that" - my Dad's constant plea. The elation on the Kippax when city scored was something else. Everyone jumping and hugging, beer (and sometimes us kids) flying over the crowd, and to see my Dad and Uncle being so silly and so excited was and still is the best.
Family photos on my dad's wall.
As a City fan I've been to Wembley twice. The first time was for the Second Division play off final against Gillingham. What a day that was. Fellow blue Will Greenwood was talking to Rachel Burden about it on 5 live recently. He summed it up for me when he said "the best sporting moment I was involved with was nothing to do with the World Cup. It's City beating Gillingham in 1999 at Wembley. Two nil down, minutes to go. It doesn't get better than that. It's all about that behind the sofa moment, you're biting your nails, thinking 'can we do it?'" We did it.
That weekend we perfected the O'Grady rush, up and down London's many escalators, came up with one of the daftest football songs I've ever heard - "you're my pigeon, you're my dove, you're my city you're the one I love" - and all eight of us went home with bruised knees (thank you old Wembley). The numbers from our seats remain proudly framed on my Dad's wall, alongside an unimaginably tasteless City clock and a signed shirt.
For some reason, even at two nil down, I never gave up hope that day. 10 more years watching City's consistent inconsistency and that optimism seems to have deserted me. The second game I saw City play at Wembley was something of a trial...
A Manchester derby for a place in the FA Cup final. We queued for close to four hours at Eastlands to get tickets. I reckon we'd have lined up for a week. Until the big day there was talk of nothing else. The morning of the game, however, we wanted to talk about anything but. The nerves were bristling.
Our Faith saw more good omens on the way to Wembley than I can remember, but best of all was our seat numbers. They were the same as they had been for the Gillingham game. Surely it doesn't get better than that? We took our lucky seats just in time to Poznan through the United team sheet. The little boy in front of us was crying with nervous anticipation for the first few minutes of the game. From then until half time many of us felt the same.
Then for 15 minutes we relaxed and even remembered to phone and sing happy birthday to Grandma O'Grady. I don't think Mancini was singing to the players in the dressing room as City came back out a different team, creating chances, keeping the ball. A defensive mistake saw Toure clear. The ball hit the back of the net, our jaws hit the floor and blue moon bellowed right round Wembley.
But soon after, the excitement dampened and worry set in. Whispers of 'it's too early for my liking' started up. Even the cheers when Scholes was sent off were more than a little tinged with fear. The feeling that it was all too good to be true couldn't be quashed.
The clock didn't move for the last ten minutes. We thought the ref had blown up at one point - he hadn't. In reality the final whistle went seconds later. To us it felt like days. "This is when they score" was the thought that wouldn't be dismissed, even when we had the ball. Let's face it though, we're no strangers to Fergie time - 96 minutes anyone?
As it turned out, none of that football fan pessimism mattered. We beat United at Wembley, and the prize? For the first time in our lives my cousins and I might see City lift a trophy.
Come on City, do it for my Gran!
Carmel O'Grady is a senior producer on the Victoria Derbyshire programme