That football is a cruel, unforgiving beast is depressingly true at the best of times. Factor in a cup semi-final, outplaying your more illustrious opponents for 127 minutes before conceding, not one, but two wholly undeserved goals to see your dreams of a first Cup final for decades - it's enough to drive even the most stable personality to despair. Even if you are on the winning team.
Tonight's 6-4 aggregrate win against Burnley was less a case of daylight - or moonlit - robbery, more one of the greatest, shameful heists in the history of British football. This evening, in a pulsating Turf Moor, we didn't just steal our way to the final, we made off with Burnley's most prized possessions, before sleeping with his wife, nabbing his job and scratching his brand new car. All of this in front of the a local copper, and we still got away red handed. It was that cheeky, that embarrassingly undeserved.
Under Martin Jol we had a inferior squad with twice the spirit. Harry Redknapp has been blessed with twice the technical ability, and half as many players willing to roll their sleeves up and get the job done. Instead they rolled up to Turf Moor thinking it would be stroll in the park. But instead of a pleasant walk into the finals they found themselves in the middle of the Somme, miles from home, facing an extremely well drilled and motivated enemy against which we had no answer.
On this evidence, if he needed any more proof, Redknapp has a mammoth task ahead to keep us in the Premier League. If a fairly strong side cannot motivate themselves enough to hold on to a 4-1 lead against a side from the Championship - and I mean no disrespect - then the future is very bleak indeed. A time of transition it may be (when isn't it) but that doesn't excuse players who should be fighting to get the managers attention to produce a performance devoid of merit or fight.
So, for what it's worth, I'd like to personally apologise to every single Burnley fan in the country, to all those who are still feeling numb, still at a loss to explain why, or to those who, like me, are baffled by a system by which away goals only count after extra time. I'm sure I speak for many others as well. You're team deserved better, you deserved better. But that, as they say, is football.
In the end class shone through the mud, but only just. As extra time wore on, Burnley's lions tired and began to cede possession and the momentum shifted, unjustly, but unsurprising, given that the likes of Robbie Blake and Chris Eagles had given everything, where as most of those in lilywhite had given very little. The strange thing was that, sitting there watching this complete farce, I never got the feeling we were going out. Even when Jay Rodriguez bagged the equaliser, something told me that it wasn't over, even if there was nothing to suggest otherwise.
It should be added that our efforts were not helped by Harry's questionable decision to hand a debut to goalkeeper Ben Alnwick. A choice which may reflect Redknapp's own complacency. Surely, given that Cesar has played in a Champions League final and has played hundreds more games than the former Sunderland stopper, he would have been the safer option on a cold, wet night in Lancashire. Instead Alnwick had endured a nightmare, ensuring he is unlikely to see a quick return to first team action.
So we limp on to face Manchester United in the final. On this evidence we'll be absolutely slaughtered, but then again, as has been demonstrated so strikingly tonight, football rarely plays out like it's supposed to.
Alnwick - 3 - An awful debut, sign Cudicini NOW!
Gunter - 4 - Lacked match sharpness.
Woodgate - 5 - Not given a moments rest
Dawson - 5 - Good block to deny chance.
Assou-Ekotto - 3 - could not cope with Blake and nearly scored comic OG
Bentley - 3 - Harry read the riot act, he obviously wasn't listening.
Zokora - 4 - Started ok, faded quickly. No pressing.
Huddlestone - 3 - Totally ineffective.
O'Hara - 4 - Ditto
Modric - 4 - Not built for a wet evening in Lancashire.
Defoe - 6 - No service but toiled well enough. Took goal well.
Bale - 4 - Totally lacking in confidence, scuffed shot wide.
Pavlyuchenko - 5 - Woeful until his goal which he took well.
Taarabt - 5 - So much skill but shooting from 45 yards at that point in the match makes him an idiot.