Joe Cole: Stars still love Wembley… showpeice hasn't lost shine for us
00:02 GMT, 5 May 2012
Trophy life: Cole, who won two FA
Cups with Chelsea and also played
for Liverpool, expects a classic battle
between his old clubs
The FA Cup Final has undergone lots of changes in recent years but it remains the game all players want to be involved in.
I have been fortunate to experience all the big finals but, believe me, nothing compares to a day at Wembley.
It is the best stadium in the world and, when you walk into it, it takes your breath away. It is in those first few moments that you realise you are not involved in an ordinary game.
Clubs nowadays rarely deviate from their normal routine before a final. It is not like when I was growing up and you would hear about teams going away for four or five days before the match and staying in a hotel for the build-up. Now it is simply business as usual.
You will do the same things that you have done all season on the training ground, then head away on the Friday night for the last preparations.
When you get up in the morning again, it is a routine of breakfast and maybe a walk to loosen up. In some ways, though, it is a shame it has become like this.
One thing I'll always remember from my childhood is that you associated the FA Cup Final with fun. No fuss is made about what kind of suits the players will be wearing and nobody makes a cup final song.
In training: Chelsea are put through their paces ahead of today's clash
Given half a chance, I know plenty of lads in the current squad who would love to have done what Suggs did with Chelsea in 1994 or what Liverpool did with the Anfield Rap in 1988.
John Terry, for instance, fancies himself as a singer, while Jamie Carragher is partial to a bit of Neil Diamond. Imagine that! It is a pity that we have gone away from those traditions, as it is sad the coaches from each team no longer go down Wembley Way.
Captain: Terry will lead the Blues out at Wembley
Driving up to the old stadium and seeing thousands of supporters must have been such a special feeling but now you just get whisked straight in.
Once you get inside the stadium is when the occasion really starts to build. When you go out on to the pitch, the first thing that hits you is the noise. It is unique, so different from what you are accustomed to hearing before Barclays Premier League games. There are horns blaring, fans get to their seats earlier and you can feel the expectation.The stadium hums with excitement and that is when, for some, nerves really begin to kick in.
You tend to see more players go down with cramp in an FA Cup final than any other match and that is because you use up so much nervous energy in the first couple of hours inside the ground. The pitch is also huge and late on in a game it can really take its toll.
The team who tend to win are usually the ones who keep their nerve but, when you look at the two sides today, composure is the one thing they both have in abundance.
Players like JT and Carra, Stevie Gerrard and Frank Lampard, Pepe Reina and Petr Cech have seen this all many times before. The big-game players and big characters do not crumble in this atmosphere and it will be a fascinating game to watch.
It has the potential to be a classic and, hopefully, that will be the case. As for the feeling at the final whistle, it is incomparable. The losers are desolate, the winners exultant – and it is those emotions that show the FA Cup final is out on its own.