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Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 16:15 UK

Rodrigues' deja vu Cardiff dream

By Peter Shuttleworth

Peter Rodrigues hopes he is a good FA Cup final omen for Cardiff City.

Peter Rodrigues (right) leads Southampton's 1976 FA Cup celebrations
Peter Rodrigues (right) is one of seven Welshmen to lift the FA Cup
Rodrigues is the penultimate second division captain to lift the famous old trophy - and he is from Cardiff.

The former Welsh international defender led Southampton to a memorable Wembley triumph against the mighty Manchester United in 1976 in one of the greatest FA Cup final shocks in the competition's 136-year history.

And the fact Rodrigues skippered the Saints, Cardiff's opponents Portsmouth's bitter south coast rivals, could encourage the Bluebirds to believe history is on their side.

"Our heroics of 1976 is living proof that with enough belief and hard work, dreams are made in the FA Cup," said Rodrigues.

"We did it and there's no reason why Cardiff can't do likewise. It will be tough but nothing is impossible."

Southampton's win over Manchester United 32 years ago is one of the eight occasions when a team from the second tier of English football has been crowned FA Cup champions.

"The underdog coming up trumps against all the odds certainly captures the public's imagination," said Rodrigues.

"But going into the United game we had a quiet confidence, an unerring belief that we could win.

PETER RODRIGUES
Date of Birth: 21 January, 1944
Born: Canton, Cardiff
Position: Full-back
Clubs: Cardiff City, Leicester City, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton
International honours: 40 Wales caps
Did you know?: Rodrigues' daughter sold his FA Cup winners medal at auction for 10,200 in 2004.

"They were outstanding in the semi-final to beat Derby and were a cracking side but we had some experienced former internationals like myself, Peter Osgood, Jim McCalliog and Mick Channon who knew what we had to do.

"That coupled with a sprinkle of hungry youngsters desperate to show their quality on the biggest stage proved a formidable and winning formula."

Rodrigues actually sees many similarities between his Saints side of '76 and Cardiff's class of 2008.

"Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Trevor Sinclair, Stephen McPhail and even Robbie Fowler's presence means Cardiff's squad have players with big-game experience.

"There are guys there that have played in World Cups, European Championships, Champions League and Premier League games on a regular basis.

"Cardiff also have some smashing younger players such as Joe Ledley, Aaron Ramsey and Roger Johnson who have been linked with moves to the Premier League. They'll who want to show the world that their hype is justified."

Rodrigues can recall lifting the cup aloft like it was yesterday, a complete contrasting emotion to the pain he felt seven years earlier when his Leicester City side lost to Manchester City in the 1969 final.

"I was still quite young in '69 and everything passed me by," recalled Rodrigues. "I can't remember much about '69 except missing an open goal and the hurt of losing.

WELSH FA CUP WINNING CAPTAINS
Kevin Ratcliffe (top right) celebrates Everton's 1984 FA Cup final win with Peter Reid, Neville Southall and Graham Sharpe
1901: Jack Jones
(Tottenham v Crystal Palace)
1904: Billy Meredith
(Man City v Bolton Wanderers)
1927: Fred Keenor
(Cardiff City v Arsenal)
1956: Roy Paul
(Man City v Birmingham City)
1968: Graeme Williams
(West Brom v Everton)
1976: Peter Rodrigues
(Southampton v Manchester Utd)
1984:Kevin Ratcliffe
(Everton v Watford)

"I was fortunate enough to be given a second chance in '76 where I made a conscious effort to take everything in as I knew it could be my last chance of tasting such an occasion.

"And so it proved as I retired due to a persistent knee injury the following season.

"I remember everything about '76.

"As a kid, I loved the Brazilian style of football and that day we wore yellow and blue shirts like Brazil. And when the Brazilians score, they jump all over the scorer so when Stokes scored, I ran 40 yards to get to Bobby and flew over the top of him - for that moment I was like a Brazilian!

"My knees were trembling when the final whistle went as I became overwhelmed with emotion and adrenalin alone carried me up the Wembley steps as I was physically shattered.

"I can remember walking towards Her Majesty The Queen to get the cup and she said 'congratulations, well done.' All I was thinking was 'just give me the cup!'

"Turning to the Southampton fans to show them the cup was the greatest moment of my life."

Rodrigues' true underdog story will give Cardiff belief that fantasy can become reality against Portsmouth at Wembley on 17 May.

Cardiff, like Southampton in 1976, had lacked the league consistency to push for promotion to the top-flight but their players can endear themselves to an international audience with a 90 minutes of their lives in north London next week.

"The reason we won the cup was because we were all good buddies," said Rodrigues.

"My advice to the Cardiff lads is to believe and enjoy the day. I just hope I'm a good omen for the Cardiff boys and they can do themselves proud because this proud Cardiff boy is living proof that miracles do happen in the FA Cup."


see also
Cardiff saviours
13 May 08 |  FA Cup
Meet City's FA Cup slickers
03 Apr 08 |  Championship


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