FA Cup final preview
Cardiff and Portsmouth hope for fitting finale
By Peter Fraser. Last Updated: 21/05/08 5:13pm
Strikers Kanu and Hasselbaink are set to start
Cardiff City and Portsmouth meet at Wembley on Saturday to contest the 127th FA Cup final, a match which can be seen live on Sky Sports 1.
Cardiff City v Portsmouth
Sky Sports 1 & HD1
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This season the Football Association's flagship competition has thrown up more shocks, upsets and spectacles than even a soap opera scriber with a taste for the dramatic could concoct.
As Cardiff and Pompey prepare to cross swords at the home of English football, hopes are high for a fitting finale to a fabulous year for the world's oldest and most illustrious knock-out tournament.
It has been suggested that the infamous magic of the FA Cup has been buried six feet under for many-a-year following the 13-season monopoly of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
But this weekend's final has sparked flashbacks to yesteryear as plucky Championship underdogs Cardiff prepare to do battle with Premier League opponents and popular favourites Pompey.
Non-league Havant & Waterlooville's fourth round exploits at Anfield will sit fondly in the memory, while giant-killers Barnsley eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea earns recognition, but if Cardiff manager Dave Jones is the man with his hands on the silverware come Saturday evening that would deservedly be hailed as the greater achievement.
The Bluebirds have accounted for Chasetown, Hereford, Wolves, Middlesbrough and semi-final opponents Barnsley on their way and Jones will now be calling on his Welsh club to produce one last effort in a bid to replicate the 1927 victory which forced the FA to rename the English Cup.
Jones has named wily striking veteran Robbie Fowler, who has sampled previous cup final heartbreak and joy with Liverpool in 1996 and 2001 respectively, in his initial 18-man squad as he looks to secure every possible weapon in his arsenal.
Fowler has not played for five months following hip surgery and doubts exist about his fitness, but the former England international has travelled with the club.
Fellow forward Paul Parry came through his return from a hamstring problem against Barnsley a fortnight ago and will partner Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in attack, while highly-rated winger Joe Ledley could be making his last appearance before a summer transfer.
Pompey boss Harry Redknapp, though, will have no room for nostalgia as he prepares for a first FA Cup final appearance in more than 40 years as a player and a manager.
Redknapp has more than done his bit for the renaissance of the competition as, having already steered Pompey to successes against Ipswich, Plymouth and Preston, his South Coast outfit notched another of this term's great upsets with a stunning 1-0 quarter-final victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Few could therefore begrudge Redknapp a chance for glory and Pompey - who have lifted the cup once before in 1939 - undoubtedly deserve their final place following a comfortable defeat of domestic second tier winners West Brom in the last four.
Cup-tied striker Jermain Defoe will continue to be absent, but goalkeeper David James (calf) and skipper Sol Campbell (hamstring) are fit to return.
Nwankwo Kanu looks certain to lead the attack, possibly with Nigerian compatriot John Utaka on the wing or on-loan Milan Baros as chief support despite no goals for the Czech Republic international in 15 appearances.
Another striker, David Nugent, should be fit to join the squad after a groin strain, while Papa Bouba Diop sweats on a midfield place after being left out in the Premier League last week against Fulham.
The FA Cup final
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan thinks FA Cup-winning manager Roberto Martinez will still be at the club next season.
David James is desperate to finish on the winning side at the third time of asking in an FA Cup final.
Dave Jones has declared that FA Cup final opponent Harry Redknapp deserved to be made England manager.