We left Shrewsbury at 3.30pm, fair to say in hope rather than expectation. We took a Spurs fan with us for the occasion, all of us assuming the tie had been dead and buried during the bizarre first 20 minutes of the second half at the Lane. As we parked literally yards from the Turf as always and I gazed up at the historic ground ahead of me. I dared to dream. Could this famous old ground stage one of the greatest cup upsets of all time? Surely not and I put the thought out of my mind.
If we were to have any chance, we had to take the goals one step at a time. If we'd just looked at it and thought 'we need to beat a multi-million pound Premier League team 3-0' it was the wrong way of going about it and it seemed completely out of the question. We had to get the first goal and build from there. We had to hope we played out of our skin, that Spurs' millionaire superstars would be below par, that the fantastic swirling wind and rain would work in our favour and that the odd bounce or bit of luck rewarded us for a change.
The same XI that started the first leg was named, unsurprisingly, due to Caldwell's suspension and the skip took his place in the Sky studio with temporary Burnley fan Jeff Stelling (you could tell!) after weathering the conditions himself during a pre-match jog. Spurs gave Ben Alnwick a debut in goal and made various other changes from the first leg including starts for Defoe, Assou-Ekotto, O'Hara and Huddlestone.
An early goal seemed vital if we were to have any snippet of hope of winning the tie and we came very close when Assou-Ekotto looped a back pass above Alnwick only for the debutant to tip over. I didn't realise at the time, but handball surely? It didn't take long for Spurs to threaten though, and Defoe found space on the edge of our box only for Jensen to parry wide. Chris McCann dragged a fizzing shot wide on 22 minutes but the game was slow paced and Spurs' plan seemed only to close us down quickly and stop us playing rather than looking to kill the tie off themselves.
However, the first goal wasn't far away and it came just after the half hour mark. We were awarded a free kick more than 30 yards out to the right of the box. A good opportunity to cross I thought, let's hope Robbie can deliver. And deliver he did, only not in the way anyone was expecting. The wizard superbly curled the ball into the top corner of the net, catching Alnwick completely unawares. As has already been established, most of us would have been content with that, a 1-0 win against quality opposition with only a two goal deficit over two legs. But as the half drew to a close, no one could have expected what was to happen during the next 45 minutes and beyond.
We attacked from the off second half, immediately winning a corner, yet it was Tottenham with the first few decent chances. First Modric brilliantly found space but guided his shot over before Bale hopelessly scuffed a great chance wide. Paterson hit high and wide for us as we looked to make a game of it. What happened next was a short spell of brilliance. Wade Elliott superbly advanced into the Spurs half and played a great ball wide left to Blake, inviting him to take on the vulnerable twosome of Bentley and Gunter. Robbie jinked in and out of them twice, astoundingly, and hit the ball low across goal for McCann to tap in. It was a wonderful piece of skill from Robbie and he was having a blinder. The impossible now seemed achievable. Game on.
In a unique but brilliant way, the atmosphere had built up continually as the goals went in and now we had 20 minutes to get one more. The first ten went without much action, though there was only one team in it. Rodriguez came on with 9 minutes to go and it seemed written in the stars that he would get the third. We were by now well on top and had Spurs struggling just to boot the ball down the pitch. I knew we would score. I looked at the clock and saw there were just 4 minutes left, yet I knew we would get one and I don't know why. Despite all this, Spurs nearly won it when the ball was squared to Pavlyuchenko who, from close range, spooned his shot wide somehow. "It's our night tonight" I announced to the Tottenham fan we'd brought along. He looked more shell-shocked than the Burnley fans but definitely believed me.
We won a free kick just over half way on the touchline and, yet again, Robbie was there to stand up and be counted. Put the ball in the box, I begged, who knows? The ball curled into the box at perfect pace and I followed it in with my eyes. To my disappointment, Alnwick was underneath it and was odds on to grab it and soak up the pressure. Somehow, the ball spilled from his grasp and guess who guided it in superbly with a volley?! "Off the bench and into the history books" is a very suitable quote from the Sky commentary. All Hell broke loose in the stands and the atmosphere would have given some of the best grounds in the country a run for their money. There was only one winner now. The non-existent Spurs fans seemed to know that as much as the buzzing Clarets faithful. We continued to dominate and with a couple more minutes we'd have scored again, I'm so sure of it.
If there was any common sense then we'd have won when Halsey, who had a good game himself, blew for the end of 90 minutes. But Spurs were allowed 30 more minutes to get their away goal, a rule that is absolutely ludicrous. The first half of extra time passed comfortably and Spurs had the majority of possession, as you'd expect, but were hardly all out attack, far from it. As the clock ticked down in the second half, with most of our players struggling to move, never mind run, we were in touching distance of a major cup final. Just when I had begun planning our Wembley trip in my head, Defoe got the ball near the corner of our penalty area and knocked it inside for Pavlyuchenko. In space, he turned and hit a crisp shot towards our goal. I saw Beast get a hand to it, but it wasn't enough and the ball span into the bottom corner. The silence was remarkable in our end and I muted the Spurs fans cheers. I've never felt anything like that before, it was like a weight of hope lifting out of my heart and it hurt like Hell and felt awful, a very hard feeling to explain. I'm only 16, maybe I was getting ahead of myself, but I knew everyone else had the same feeling. In my mind I was walking down Wembley Way in my Burnley shirt. When the goal went in that thought disappeared far, far out of reach. The silence spoke volumes.
I hardly noticed when Defoe swept in their second. But what followed seconds after was special. Three sides of the ground stood and applauded their Claret and Blue heroes who had battled so well and looked to have achieved the impossible. Woodgate noticed this and paid his tribute by clapping back, increasing my respect for him as a footballer and person in general. He's a passionate, Northern lad who knows an atmosphere when he sees one.
The hurt was there to see at the final whistle. Our boys just sat or stood there and emotions took over, particularly for the more experienced trio of Jensen, Robbie and Alexander. Spurs sheepishly limped into the final, but gave the feeling they were almost embarrassed to do so, which you can't blame them for. Every player wants to play at Wembley, every fan wants to watch their team there. Everyone at our club was feeling the same thing, but there remained a feeling of togetherness and pride felt by every Claret, it really was a strange mix of emotion.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Owen Coyle and all of his staff for everything so far this season. The players have also been fantastic, on Wednesday they were all heroes: Blake led the way, but Paterson and Eagles ran their way into the ground, McCann, Gudjonsson and Elliott ran the midfield against so called 'better' players while Alexander, Carlisle, Duff, Kalvenes and Jensen were heroes at the back. Jordan, too, was having a blinder before his injury. Special mention for Jay Rod too, who played with purpose and passion during his time on the pitch. Keep at it, lads. If there's any justice, that thought I had of myself and other Clarets on Wembley Way will become a reality in May.
Some undermine the Carling Cup, maybe because of 'big 4' clubs playing weakened teams or the tiny amount of prize money in comparison with the FA Cup, but what we witnessed on Wednesday night was a proper English cup tie in a fantastic cup, the finale to a marvellous cup run that we will never forget. We couldn't see it out and that's football, but we all witnessed something very special on Wednesday 21st January and we shouldn't ever forget that. That word comes up again: pride, and that shouldn't go away in a hurry.