Just a handfull of current Prem clubs have to date failed to get their clutches on the famous old trophy. If anything encapsulates the howling at the moon frustration so familiar to every fan of Fulham, it is our inglorious record of under-achievement in this particular competition. For those who feel we always come up short when it matters, let me tell you this particular tick got under our skin as far back as 1907. This saw the first of four semi-final defeats before we finally graced Wembley with our one and only final appearance to date in 1975.
Back in the Edwardian era and our early days as a league club, we'd done the hard part by eliminating both Manchester Clubs before getting our bottom smacked by Newcastle in the semis. In the mid 30's we again fell at the final hurdle, to Sheffield United, a side we beat home and away that season in the league.
Older fans still going to the Cottage today well remember two further doses of heartache in the modern era. We met Manchester United in the semis of 1958, two months after the Munich air disaster. Although there was a division between us that Fulham side was packed with talent, orchestrated by the maestro with the No.10 on his back Johnny Haynes. It went to two games. We had the better of the first one, a 2-2 draw, then lost a pulsating replay 3-5 at Highbury when our elastic and excellent keeper of that era Tony Macedo made a couple of unfortunate errors.
But the real kick in the teeth came along in 62. Now elevated to the top flight I was a schoolboy spectator as we rode our luck through the early rounds with home ties against lesser sides on heavy midwinter pitches, and should probably have gone out to Blackburn at home in round 6. We came back from two down and won the replay at Ewood Park. Standing between us and a mouthwatering showdown with the Double winning 'Glory Glory Spurs' side at Wembley were Burnley, themselves a formidable outfit at the time, the title champions of 1960.
We were all over them at Villa Park and went ahead on 15 minutes. Guess what? Fulham just couldn't convert their superiority into a second killer goal. Our centre forward Maurice Cook was denied a nailed on penalty after going round keeper Blacklaw, and a Cook header was incorrectly ruled out. I well remember Brian Lawler years later in print saying as Burnley jogged out of the box preparing to take the free kick he asked to ref what he'd blown for. "Their man was pushing you." Lawler admitted he hadn't even made contact and the goal should have stood. Needless to say Fulham lost the replay 1-2 and the FA got their dream finalists between the league's two biggest clubs.
Well we finally made that longed for trip up Wembley Way in 1975, but there was no fairytale ending to that year's prodigious cup run - a record that stands forever, since replays must now be decided on the night. It wasn't a great day out in truth. Fulham played to nothing like their potential, the Hammers were not much better, and two sloppy goals punctured 50,000 black and white balloons.
So when does our turn finally come around? We kicked into the competition a year ago by smashing six past Peterborough. Only to give it up in feeble fashion at home to Bolton in Round 5, and with the field wide open after a number of big clubs went out. Yeh, we could have been a contender...That's Fulham for you. Let nobody underestimate Saturday's visitors. Charlton will be up in the Championship for next season and they'll be cheered on all the way by 7,000 fans, having snapped up their full allocation. Unlike Hughes a year ago, Jol says he's planning to pitch in his strongest team. Respect.
The beauty of the Cup is we all just know there are plenty of banana skins out there waiting to embarrass the big boys. Me, I'm just going to take it a round at a time and treat it philosophically. We've still got a deal of work to do first in the league to make sure we're not meeting Charlton next season on equal terms...Perish the thought. After the Arsenal result, let's please get out there and make class count.
As to my picture at the head of this page. That could well be me somewhere in that crowd, except we always stood on the Hammersmith End, me on a little orange box my Dad carried in under his arm. And I did draw the line at wearing my school cap to the football! It was bobble hat, scarf and rosette, along with an ear-shattering rattle...so don't upset me 'cause I still have it. I promise to post a piccie of me in full garb if we get to the Final.
COYW! Enjoy the game Twitter@fulhamphil