South Africa memory spurs De Jong
Netherlands international Nigel de Jong has never forgotten the feeling of devastation he experienced when he watched Spain lift the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ trophy, and he has no intention of suffering similar pain at Wembley next month in the FA Cup final.
The combative Dutchman admits, the FA Cup cannot compare to the FIFA World Cup final in terms of prestige or global attention. However, the emotions that come with success and failure are exactly the same. His memories of that agonising night in Johannesburg, when the Netherlands fell to an Andres Iniesta strike, are too fresh to countenance a repeat.
"I don't want to experience that feeling anymore," said De Jong. "The World Cup is a bigger stage than the FA Cup, but the feeling of losing and being second is the same. No one remembers who came second. We have to be aware of that.
"The feeling I had when I watched Spain lifting the trophy will certainly drive me on. Can you imagine how bad it is to watch the opposition go to collect the cup? You can only stand there and watch it slipping by. I have kept that at the back of my head ever since."
De Jong's knowledge of Manchester City's history was patchy before he agreed to join the Eastlands outfit from Hamburg just over two years ago. Although, he has done some research since then and is acutely aware the Blues will tackle Stoke City at Wembley on 14 May bidding to end 35 long years without a trophy. De Jong would not have to spend much time trawling through the archives to discover one of the most obvious sub-plots to the game.
In 1999, within a few days of Manchester United completing a treble, which City have denied them this season, the Blues had completed an impressive salvage mission of their own, hauling themselves back from two goals down to beat Gillingham in the second division play-off final. Tony Pulis was manager of the Gills that day and he will stand in the opposition dugout again, trying to deny City the trophy their fans crave so badly.
"Before I signed I didn't know much about Manchester City," De Jong said. "But I did my research. I saw the history of the club and how committed the fans are. They are trying to support their team to success.
"It makes you realise that if you win a trophy, it will be fantastic for the club and the supporters. Obviously, the history is a big part of the club. We are trying to change history in the last few games."
De Jong joined a line of players reaffirming one win over United, albeit a rather large one, should not be overblown. However, he accepts the triumph will inject an additional dose of self-belief that will be vital over the hazardous final few weeks of the campaign.
"The belief has always been there," he said. "We have had our ups and downs, which is normal for a team that has to progress and has to gel. But we also needed the final push to shove us forward. I hope this last push will make what we are all committed to finally happen."