Originally published April 14, 2003

It was a day for little guys with big hearts.

In the eyes of the adoring multitude of Southampton fans there were probably 14 heroes out there at Villa Park. Those who got to play.

But two men stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Which was quite a feat considering their stature.

Brett Ormerod for his overwhelming contribution to an inevitable if unspectacular victory over plucky Watford.

And Gordon Strachan, who has dragged this football club away from the annual dogfight against relegation and propelled them to an FA Cup Final for only the second time in living memory.

And they march into the Millennium Stadium with their passport into Europe next season rubber-stamped by yesterday's 2-1 victory.

When Mike Riley blew the final whistle and the celebrations began, you could easily have missed Strachan as he slipped quietly on to the pitch to congratulate his players.

It was in sharp contrast to the entry of the last Southampton manager to guide Saints to an FA Cup Final - Lawrie McMenemy way back in 1976.

Lawrie was larger than life when he led the celebration parade at Stamford Bridge 27 years ago.

You couldn't have two different people in size or character. Yet their achievements have the same triumphant ring about them.

They were both fashioned out of adversity.

For Saints a trip to Wembley in 1976 was a crucial part of the healing process of their relegation from the top flight in 1974.

For modern-day Saints, the sun has come out again after years under clouds of uncertainty as they have fought to clung on to Premiership status.

So strong is the feelgood factor about town right now that the thundercalp of noise which greeted the Southampton team at Villa Park late yesterday afternoon sounded more like a battle cry.

It was full-throated and confident. I doubt there were many if any in the 20,000 red and white throng who doubted that Saints would win the day.

It looked such a foregone conclusion against Watford, a team of moderate standing from the First Division, that you feared someone might tear the script up and that it might become a bit of banana skin for the Premiership side.

Watford's bright and breezy start suggested they weren't quite the pushovers that people expected. But once Saints began to get the measure of the lively ball and the swirling wind, they exerted an influence which unsettled and eventually broke the Watford resistance.

It has to be said, the football was largely forgettable.

But the result was momentous and not in serious doubt from the moment Anders Svensson and Chris Marsden cleverely opened up Watford's weaker right flank and Brett Ormerod headed home.

If Watford had a mountain to climb at 0-0 the gradient had suddenly got a whole lot steeper.

After weathering an early second half surge, Saints appeared to be cantering and a strange lull of acceptance that the job had already been done and dusted settled over the famous old ground until Ormerod upped the tempo again and forced the second goal.

You got the feeling that Saints could bring out the champagne and crackers, spread a tablecloth in their goalmouth and celebrate there and then.

But the tension which you normally associate with semi-finals suddenly returned with a vengeance and Marcus Gayle produced a goal from nowhere with barely two minutes left.

Suddeny, Watford looked like a team who believed in themselves.

But they woke up to that fact far too late for it to matter.

The goal had provided a twist in the tail, but nothing more.

Strachan's side had again proved they are a difficult side to beat and again they had just done enough.

But they know, deep down, they will have to play a lot better in the big one. Gordon Strachan knows that, and so do the players.

But for the moment at least, the result was all that mattered yesterday.