By Rich Jones
With four Premier League titles, over 400 professional appearances and 10 England caps, there is no denying Ray Parlour had a glittering career.
But it was right here in Cardiff that “The Romford Pele” enjoyed one of his finest moments on a football pitch.
The score was 0-0 in the FA Cup Final as Arsenal faced Chelsea on May 4, 2002 when Parlour collected a through ball from Sylvain Wiltord in his stride and burst into the Chelsea half.
He checked back and, 25 yards from goal, curled a beautiful effort into the top corner and past the outstretched hand of Carlo Cudicini.
It was the moment of magic needed to bring the biggest game in English football to life and paved the way for a 2-0 win for the Gunners after Freddie Ljungberg sealed the deal 10 minutes later.
And Parlour has recalled how finding the back of the net in front of the Arsenal end in the Welsh capital was one of the highlights of his career.
“We came up against Chelsea, who were a very good side at that time and it was a tough game,” Parlour said.
“Up against us we had Frank Lampard and Emmanuel Petit, who used to play for Arsenal, in the middle of the park.
“We had a good battle in there with me and Patrick Viera, and it was a tough game to play in.
“In the 70th minute I scored the first goal. David Seaman made a couple of good saves to keep us in it just beforehand, then I managed to get the first goal to put us ahead and Freddie Ljungberg put us two up not long afterwards.
“It was a great feeling, especially for me to score a goal in a Cup Final. Growing up as a kid I obviously watched every single Cup Final, I loved the build-up and just to play in one was a dream come true really.
“To score a goal in one was one of the highlights of my career, and luckily enough I scored at the right end with the Arsenal fans at that end.
“The atmosphere was amazing that day, and then we went back the following year and won it again against Southampton.
“That wasn’t the greatest game, but we got the job done and that spell was really successful for Arsenal as I was coming towards the end of my career there.”
Parlour played in three FA Cup Finals at the Millennium Stadium, twice lifting the famous Cup.
They were on the losing side against Liverpool in 2001 but responded to win the trophy twice in succession, defeating Southampton 12 months after Parlour’s Chelsea heroics.
It is easy to see why he has such fond memories of the Welsh capital, where he won two of his four FA Cup winners’ medals.
“It’s a great stadium, the Millennium Stadium,” he added.
“The Cup Final obviously moved in there when Wembley closed down, and it was a great place to play and a top venue.
“The first time we played there was not too memorable because we lost to Liverpool. We were 1-0 up then Michael Owen came on and scored two goals.
“We should have had a penalty which wasn’t given and changed the game, so that was a bad result for us and a big disappointment.
“But we got back to the Millennium Stadium for the FA Cup Final the following year and to win it was a great response.”