THIS week, the media and everybody in general has been talking about the sad passing of Prince Philip.

Because I spent time as a guardsman at Buckingham Palace doing national service, one or two have asked me, did I ever meet him?

But my biggest memory of meeting Prince Philip was when we got to the cup final at Wembley. The guest of honour on the day was Her Majesty the Queen, who didn’t come down on the pitch beforehand when the teams lined up, but Prince Philip did on her behalf.

So he was obviously a good humoured man. But I, as a guardsman, heard the other side of it when he gave me a little bit of a telling off when I stood on guard one evening. But I think it was his sense of humour again!

But what a career, what a wonderful husband and family man. This weekend the whole world will pay tribute and rightly so.

The other talking point of course in our area is cup, cup, cup. Wembley, again.

In our day, the semi-finals were played on neutral grounds. The four teams left in were Derby and Manchester United, both in the First Division, ourselves in the Second Division and Crystal Palace in the Third.

Everyone wanted to play Palace of course, and that’s how the draw came out. Us versus them at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s ground.

The buzz around the town was getting too loud. I remember a football friend of mine ringing me up during the week to wish me well and he asked where we were going. I never thought of going anywhere to be fair, as Chelsea’s ground was basically only up the road.

But I took his advice and he recommended a quiet little hotel out in the Surrey area. I’d never heard of it before, but it was perfect and it had a large green area where we could do our training, so we didn’t have to go to a football ground anywhere. The media had no idea where we were and they were of course all in London so concentrated on Crystal Palace.

Their manager was the late Malcolm Allison and his number two, a young Terry Venables. Malcolm loved dealing with the media and we couldn’t wait to get the papers every day to see what he’d said about us.

I remember him saying something like they were working their socks off every day whilst Lawrie and his lads were resting with their feet up down somewhere in the woods in sunny Surrey.

He was a real character. And in the film interviews, which are coming out shortly about the ‘76 team, one of the players remembered how the two team buses were both approaching Stamford Bridge together.

I said to the driver ‘hey, get past them, get past them’, so we could get into the ground first. He took a chance, annoying the police escort, but as we went by, one of our players, I think it was Mel Blyth, said ‘look at that’. And we looked through the window it was Malcolm with a large sheepskin-type coat on and a huge fedora on.

As we went by, they were looking at us, all the team, laughing their heads off and we carried this on when we all got on the pitch as he still had the fedora on, which helped by being totally relaxed.

The game finished up with a fairly easy win, once our early tensions were released with a goal unusually scored by Paul Gilchrist. And then we were totally relaxed when we were awarded a penalty. David Peach, as I’ve said before, scored more penalties than most, which put us through comfortably 2-0.

Ralph will possibly have a different sort of week, but unfortunately on Monday he and all the players admitted they did not perform in the right way and got really hammered at West Brom.

I suppose it appeared that the players had taken their foot off the pedal. But to be fair they probably think, and rightly so in some ways, we’re not going to be relegated, so let’s not get injured and let’s get on with the cup.

Having said that, if we play every remaining league game like we did at West Brom, we could be joining the bottom two. But I don’t think so and I’m positive Ralph will make sure this doesn’t happen.

So the good thing that will come out of a bad performance is everyone will put their hands up and admit it was wrong and they will come out fighting much stronger and hopefully get the result we want.

Unlike our semi-final, which was against a lower division team, we this week are against one of the better teams in the league and we all know previous results against them haven’t been too good. But this is a great opportunity to show how much the team has improved since the last fixtures.

So whilst the whole world will rightly be watching the funeral of Prince Philip on TV on Saturday, the day after, certainly the Southampton and Leicester areas will be watching the semi-final.

Let’s hope we then make it to the final stage, when every year the whole football world switches on.

Good luck Ralph and your team.