What happened last season?
We got promoted via the "poor man's" route, the Play Offs - what a weird way
to end a weird season, the biggest day out for us "more mature" fans
certainly since we played Real Madrid in the Cup Winners Cup more than 30
years previously, and the biggest day for the club since April 1927 when
Wales went to Wembley for the day.... what a party we had in May, after
witnessing a goal 5 minutes from the end of extra time. The beer seemed to
obliterate from our minds the pretty facile football we'd witnessed over the
preceding 9 months. How we managed to make the play offs in the first place
still bemuses many of us. We have a solid enough defence, which nevertheless
always seemed to have the capacity to make stupid mistakes; a solid enough
midfield that had little if any invention; and workmanlike, solid forwards
who never seemed to score many goals. Apart from one man that is, pint sized
Robert Earnshaw who in the middle of all this mediocrity managed to break
every major individual club goal scoring record going. Many of the goals
were sheer genius, out of nothing, others were tap ins because he managed to
get in the right place at the right time to profit from the labours of those
workmanlike players around him.
Whilst Earnshaw rightfully received all the plaudits, many of us purists
drool over the skills of Centre Back Daniel Gabbidon, who earlier last
season in a Wales shirt had Del Piero and co "in his pocket" for 90 minutes,
and made those watching Nesta, Cannavaro and Panucci in the opposition team
think hard about who the £30m + rated Centre back on the pitch was. Soon
after the Wales v Italy game in October, Gabbi got injured at Barnsley in a
Division 2 match and only re-appeared for the last handful of games - the
fact that we only conceded 2 goals in those last 5 games playing against top
4 sides Crewe, Wigan, Bristol City twice, and QPR in the final says a lot
about where our season might have gone wrong...
So on the pitch, Earnie, Gabbi and the final run in apart, there wasn't much
to get excited about - one of the most boring, flairless and passionless
City sides we've seen in many a year - they were just about good enough, in
the (very) final reckoning, to scrape up to Division One for the first time
in almost two decades.
Off the pitch though, with Sam Hammam around, nothing is ever quiet! At
long last, the rugby obsessed media in Wales is finally having to at least
doff its cap to the round ball game. This is predominantly due to the long
overdue success that Sparky Hughes has bought, with the help of Messrs
Giggs, Hartson, Bellamy, Davies - and Gabbidon, Earnshaw and Weston - to the
national side, but Uncle Sam has also ensured that the long months in
between international matches are also generating enough (positive) press
stories about football that we can no longer be treated by the Welsh media
as an afterthought to our egg chasing brethren.
We have hopes of a new stadium in Cardiff (sadly, those of you visiting us
this season will still have to suffer the "Victorian charms" of Ninian Park!), we have quality players joining us on decent wages with decent
pedigrees, and kids can once again wear club colours on the streets of the
City with confidence - things are looking up! Over the last couple of
decades, we've had a pretty bad reputation for the behaviour of elements of
our support - I'll always maintain it's a very small minority, as the vast
majority of us have had a great laugh and a few beers with the locals over
the years from Scarborough to Southend, from Carlisle to Cambridge - and
even from Bristol to Swansea (honestly!) - but I'd tentatively suggest that
over the past season, things showed a remarkable upturn. The silent majority
no longer seem to tolerate the oikish behaviour of a small number. The club
are speaking out, but more importantly, actively undertaking a number of
initiatives to improve the experience of football with Cardiff for fans of
both sides, and the slow trend is definitely for the better - fingers
crossed the trend remains in the same direction for the coming season.
So there - how did I manage to write so much about one of the most
forgettable seasons in Cardiff's recent history ??!!
What's going to happen next season?
See above - without significant team strengthening, we will struggle in the
First Division this season. Earnshaw and Gabbidon are the only two beacons
of class in the side. People talk about the goalie, Alexander, about Weston,
Boland, Kavanagh and Peter Thorne, who may just about be good enough for
Division 1. So far, with a fortnight to go to the start of the season, we've
added two players to the squad (Robinson and Vidmar), both of whom will
bring experience - but how much hunger for success, and how much energy for
the greater demands of Division One football? The general consensus is that
we're still a minimum of three class players short of even competing in this
division - a defender, a midfielder and a forward - and unless this is
rectified sooner rather than later, we could be in for a very rude awakening
The bookies have us down to finish solid mid table - the realists amongst
say that any placing in the lower teens (17th to 19th) would be a good
result for us. After 20 years in the wilderness of the lower leagues, we'd
like at least one season back in the big time - I suspect that will come
down entirely to how deep Uncle Sam is willing to dig into his pockets.
Whatever happens, many of us diehards are just as concerned that we end up
making new friends in Division 1 as opposed to more enemies, which is a sad
legacy of the last couple of decades of our existence.
Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
Not too close to the ground! There are plenty of nice suburbs in Cardiff,
just off the motorway there are loads of pubs where a pleasant drink can be
enjoyed before and after the game. The City Centre is generally well policed
on match days, so anyone wanting a quiet drink there only needs to follow
police advice. Sadly, despite my optimism earlier, Cardiff still isn't a
particularly welcoming place for away fans.
What's the nearest railway station?
Cardiff Central is about 15-20 minutes walk from the ground, less than a
fiver in a taxi. Buses and local trains run from the Central station to
outside the ground.
Where is the best place to park?
There is an official car park opposite the ground, which usually has
allocated room for away fans. Otherwise, there is plenty of street parking
in every direction - but be careful of the local idiots. Whilst more and
more away colours were seen walking to the ground with the locals last
season, a welcome move in the right direction, it's still not like most
football grounds yet, I'm afraid.
||Black Sabbath (it's heaven and hell)
(as in Frank Spencer, love 'im)
||Love 'im (see above)
Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
"I can't believe i've just taken 5 mins to answer these questions but what else do you do pre-season?"
"It's Sunday evening and I'm pissed"
"i sincerely hope we sign a couple more players before aug 9th so our first xi is different to the one ive given you nice boring mid table season please"
"I haven't really got a garden - but if you get the tinnies, we'll still drink em ! Does Elton
John still play for Watford ?"
"I wasn't really happy but I clapped anyway"
"My local butcher looks like Mo the Barman from the Simpsons"