The Millennium Stadium buggered my mobile
We set off with such anticipation and excitement just before ten o'clock, Derek's car loaded with enough food and drink and sweets and bickies to keep us going for a week. We managed not to start eating and drinking, oh, till we were well up Highgate West Hill. That's one street away.
There were five of us - me, my neighbours Derek and Sue, their nephew Jim and niece Sita - all mad Spurs fans, all fully expecting Spurs to stuff Blackburn Rovers. We were the favourites, the better team, higher in the league, been playing so well, just think of how we hammered Chelsea.
Sue, probably the most fanatical, insisted on having her Spurs scarf trailing from the window. It's what you do, when going by car, to a cup final. Derek was a bit worried. His car is an expensive BMW and he didn't want any Blackburn hooligans taking a kick at it. Derek, I said, we're in Bishops Avenue, Hampstead's millionaire's row. They wouldn't recognise a Spurs scarf if they met it in their caviar.
Over my long football-following life, I can't remember going by car to an away game. Even when I reported matches, I went by train. Going to Wembley, I always drove to Finchley Road, then got the Tube. Coming back a sneaky way, I could do it in 45 minutes, home in time to watch the match again on TV. But who wants to go to Wembley? What a dump.
I was so looking forward to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. People have raved about it, said it's an experience in itself. It's good that a national event should be spread around the nation, not limited to London.
On the M4, we played guessing games with points for spotting Eddie Stobart lorries, Spurs scarves, stretch limos. We must have passed about a dozen limos, mostly white, but some black, packed with Spurs fans. Where do they get the money from? They looked so sleek, immaculate, imposing, exclusive, except when they had a piss-stop on the hard shoulder and all these scruffy Spurs fans stood in a line hanging out their scruffy cocks. Didn't see anyone mooning. We agreed that would be worth ten points.
Oh the camaraderie of going to a big match, for all classes, all ages, all sexes. It's what binds us together, innit? Once we got near the Severn Bridge, we met the Blackburn hordes coming down the M5, then the traffic and rain got worse, but did we moan, did we heckers. We were going to witness a great victory, supporting our heroes in the flesh, into Europe, not like those pathetic stay-at-homes sitting by the telly.
We ignored the "park and ride" directions, one for Spurs fans, one for Blackburn, reckoning it would take hours afterwards to queue for the bus, so we worked our way round Cardiff and parked just 15 minutes from the ground in a side street. We had our lunch, or what was left of it, in the car.
The first glimpse of the Millennium Stadium was most impressive, but then we got directed back across the river to the entrance for Spurs fans. One of the things about cup finals is the communal spirit, both sets of fans being so pleased to be there. Mingling happily, walking down Wembley Way, all together, concentrated the excitement, heightened the atmosphere. Here, it was split, diffused.
Inside, the staircases and corridors were just as concretey and nasty and smelly as Wembley. I wasted half an hour queuing for a programme, as they ran out twice. Then the queues for the lav were enormous, with no proper system. The stadium itself was brilliant: uninterrupted views, lots of space, good seats at £39, cheaper than Wembley. The roof was closed, the noise deafening.
But the game, oh god, don't talk about it. Good to watch at home, I suppose, as there were lots of chances, but from the beginning, Spurs seemed out of sorts, lumpen, leaden, disorganised. Our so-called stars, such as Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton, did nothing, couldn't even pass properly. We all groaned when we saw Ben Thatcher was playing, but he was our best defender. It was like going back two years, to George Graham's team. The fluency had gone. Was it over-confidence? More like worry, knowing how much it mattered. Hoddle had failed to relax them, and had passed on his own tension.
I tried to ring my son Jake at half-time on my mobile, just to show off that I was in the Millennium Stadium, but it said "call barred". It's true I haven't used it for a year, just as I never use my e-mail address or the internet, though I have both, somewhere in this house, so no one can say I'm out of touch.
The big screen in the stadium was useless, nowhere as good as the one at White Hart Lane. It was unable to give us any playbacks, so a black mark to the Millennium. Probably just as well. It would only have prolonged the agony.
It was hell coming back, so miserable, four hours of anticlimax. We listened to 606 on Radio 5 Live. Every Spurs fan rang in to say the same - "Gutted" - except for one who made it even clearer: "Me guts are hanging out."
Alan Green criticised the Spurs fans for leaving at once, before the medal ceremony, but he didn't know how let-down we felt. All that way, all that expense, all that rain, all that traffic, eating too much chocolate (which I hate), all that queuing (which I don't do in normal life), that lousy screen, crowded lavs, rotten Millennium Stadium, yes, I blame it for buggering up my mobile.
We didn't get back till ten at night. A whole day out of my life, 12 hours bloody wasted, down the drain. Bring back Wembley. At least that got the agony over with quickly.