My Team & I: Cardiff City

By David Walker


Twitter: @freebetsite

Why Cardiff City?

Growing up in South Wales the majority of football “fans” at school preferred to support the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and even Leeds United. Only a minority supported the Bluebirds when we were in football’s lowest tier during the 1990s and I am proud to say I was one of them. My Facebook newsfeed is full of praise and support for the team from old school friends who wouldn’t have been seen dead at Ninian Park all those years ago, preferring to get their football fix from “Match of the Day” rather than actually attending a game.

A friend who had supported Cardiff for a number of seasons would often talk passionately about the team and matches and I finally went with him and his family to my first match on Saturday 5 November 1994. Our opponents that afternoon were Brighton & Hove Albion and there were plenty of fireworks on the pitch. Talismanic striker Phil Stant scored twice and even defender Lee Baddely got in on the act in a convincing 3-0 victory. After that match I was hooked and naively thought every weekend at Ninian Park would be so glorious.

That season I also remember Birmingham bringing a huge travelling support when they beat us 1-0 and Brentford, from the capital city of England, were seen to be a “big club” in the bottom division. They had names and squad numbers on the backs of their shirts before it became compulsory in 1999. They beat us 3-2 that afternoon in one of many home defeats I have seen over the years.

Fortunately, times have changed for better.

Favourite Player

At Cardiff, I have seen the very best and very worst in terms of what professional football has had to offer over the years but the player who I still have a great fondness for is Peter Thorne. He arrived at the club when Sam Hammam first started waving his chequebook about and joined from Stoke for a club record £1.7 million.

Unfortunately, Thorne was hampered by injury during his time at Cardiff but when he played, he was magnificent. The 2002/03 season saw a prolific strike partnership blossom with Robert Earnshaw and produced 52 goals with Thorne getting 16 of them.


That season culminated in City’s promotion to the Championship via the play-offs. Sure, it was Andy Campbell who scored the winner at the Millennium Stadium but it was Thorne who got us there in the first place. In the first leg of the semi final in the pouring rain, Thorne headed Cardiff in front against third-placed Bristol City. It proved to be enough as the second leg ended goalless at Ashton Gate.

He played to the tune of “Peter Thorne is magic, he wears a magic hat…” which was always sung enthusiastically and appreciatively by the City supporters and it was a sad day when the increasingly injured Thorne departed to Norwich City at the end of the 2004/05 season.

Favourite Game?

It would be obvious to choose the Play Off final in 2003 or the FA Cup final in 2008. But, I am going to travel back to the end of the 1995/96 season for a fairly meaningless match against “local rivals” Hereford United.

We finished the season 22nd out of 24 in the bottom tier of English football while Hereford finished in the play-off places. My recollection of the match is a bit hazy but I remember it was a game that had everything in terms of excitement.

City blew a 2 goal lead but managed to win the match 3-2 in the end. Tony Philliskirk, a contender for my all-time favourite player and one too delicate and skilful to have lumps kicked out of him by third division cloggers each week, scored directly off a free kick and also smashed a half-volley in off the underside of the bar. My rose-tinted spectacles wants to believe it was close to the halfway line when he shot, but in reality it was more likely the 25 to 30 yard mark. Veteran striker Steve White also missed a late, late penalty for Hereford to draw the match 3-3 just add some more gloss to the result.

Times were that bad at Cardiff, we signed White on a free transfer after Hereford failed to win promotion. He was 37-years-old at the time but the fact he’d scored 29 league goals that season, the top scorer in all four divisions, meant I was genuinely excited by his arrival.

Favourite Kit

My favourite City kit has to be from the 1993/94 season. The iconic mottled blue kit emblazoned with the “South Wales Echo” sponsor was what City wore when I first took an interest in them. The players wore it when they beat Premier League side Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round.

Worst Thing About Being a Cardiff Fan?

Cardiff still have a bad reputation despite being awarded “Family Club of the Year” by the Football League last year. Also, it still baffles me at the level of non-interest in Cardiff from so-called football supporters in South Wales.

I can see why people did not want to support the club when barely surviving at the bottom of the Football League but these days we are a good team pushing for promotion to the Premier League in front of 23,000 fans in a state-of-the-art stadium. All a far cry from the days when a couple of thousand hardy souls would turn up to watch the side get turned over by Cambridge United.

There are way too many armchair fans in Wales who proclaim to “support” teams like Manchester United or Liverpool despite having no affinity with those clubs whatsoever. We even have local idiots wearing Leeds or Aston Villa shirts claiming Cardiff are “shit”. Well, at least the Bluebirds provoke an opinion, I suppose.

Funniest Moment?

Maybe not “funny” as such but there is one moment that sticks in my mind regarding USA striker Eddie Johnson. He joined us on loan from Fulham in the 2008/09 season and came with a big reputation. This was a player, remember, who Benfica were prepared to pay $5 million for in 2005 which would have been a record transfer fee for a footballer coming out of MLS.

Unfortunately, Eddie simply wasn’t a very good player. He tried his hardest which endeared him to the City fans but he struggled to make an impact on the pitch. In his twentieth appearance for City he finally scored his first goal against Doncaster but it was his second for the club against Derby which will always stick in my mind.

As per usual, Johnson came on as a substitute and the “USA! USA!” chants echoed around the ground without any real expectation. But, with City 3-0 up at this stage, Eddie charged down a poor Derby clearance, outpaced the defence and coolly finished past the outrushing goalkeeper. It was moment of real quality from Johnson and the stadium erupted with cries of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” I’ve never known such wholehearted support for such a poor player as there was for Johnson that season.

In true Eddie fashion, he went on to score an own goal at the end of the match for a final score of 4-1. Poignantly, that was the last goal ever scored under the floodlights at Ninian Park before City moved to their new stadium across the road.

Favourite Moment?

Several stick out such as Jason Koumas making his first appearance in a City shirt back in the 2005/06 season – he scored within three minutes of coming off the substitutes bench to equalise against Leeds United. The League One play off semi final against Bristol City and going on to beat QPR in the final of the 2002/03 season to win promotion to the Championship. Beating Leicester City on penalties in the Championship play off semi final in 2010 was also a memorable night.

Ultimately, my favourite moment has to be reaching the FA Cup final in 2008. Sure, we didn’t play particularly well on the day and were beaten by Portsmouth but since I started supporting City back in the early 1990s I never dreamed I’d see the club in the FA Cup final in my lifetime.

Hopefully it won’t be the last.

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