The first post-war season saw Cardiff become champions of the Third Division (South) and they continued to climb as we began to struggle. They achieved Division One as the 195os began and they played us during most seasons of that decade, with a gap year when they were relegated 12 months before us.
Then came the Sixties and fortunes appeared to reverse, but only for a while, which brings us to the Seventies and Pete Sixsmith‘s chance to remember some inauspicious meetings and one great day:
The Bluebirds, back in their traditional blue kit rather than that red aberration that Vincent Tan insisted on a few years ago, are not a team that I have seen a great deal of over the years. There has only been one clash at the Stadium in the top league (of which more later). All of their other visits to Roker and the Stadium have been at Level 2 – and some have been very much to their advantage.
I missed the game when they drew 3-3 in the 63-64 promotion season, a game which saw Ivor Allchurch score a hat trick for the Bluebirds and also saw the great John Charles line up opposite the great Charlie Hurley. Someone once asked the King “Who was the best centre forward you ever played against?” “John Charles” came the reply. “And the best centre half?” I am sure you have already guessed the answer…..
As a Leeds lad, albeit a devotee of rugby league, Charles appeared on my radar as he vied with Lewis Jones as the biggest personality in Leeds sport. His in laws lived on the Middleton estate, as did my maternal grandparents and when on leave from Juventus after his transfer from United, he stayed with them. I saw him in the garden one day and he gave me a photograph of him in his Juve strip and signed it. It would be worth a few bob now, no doubt.
By 1971, we had slipped back into the Second Division, a league that City were very familiar with. The Second Coming of Alan Brown had not been a great success and we were struggling. Gates were dreadful (only 11,566 turned up for this game), there was rancour in the air and we were about to sell our best player before the transfer deadline.
All this led to a series of disasters on the field as Brown struggled to put together a team that was at least competitive. He believed in young players and there were plenty on show in this game, alongside a number of the stalwarts of the promotion team. What there wasn’t were quality signings with only Ian Porterfield and Gordon Harris having cost a fee.
We lined up thus;
Jimmy Montgomery; Cec Irwin, Colin Todd, Richie Pitt, Martin Harvey; Brian Chambers, Bobby Kerr, Gordon Harris, Ian Porterfield; Billy Hughes, Dennis Tueart. Sub; Bobby Park.
Our visitors were;
Jim Eadie; Dave Carver, Gary Bell, Bobby Woodruff, Don Murray, Leighton Phillips, Ian Gibson, Brian Clark, Alan Warboys, Nigel Rees, Peter King sub John Parsons.
There are a couple of interesting names there. Brian Clark was a player I admired, a quick, strong striker who went down in Cardiff City folklore a month later when he headed home a Nigel Rees cross to give them a 1-0 home win over Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners Cup Quarter Final (never mind that they lost the second leg 2-0 in the Bernabeu). Ian Gibson had been a clever inside forward at Middlesbrough and Coventry and continued to be so at Ninian Park, while Leighton Phillips was a quality centre half who moved on to Aston Villa and had a good career in the top flight.
They were far too good for us on the 13th February, taking apart a toothless and feeble Sunderland side 4-0.
Clark scored the first, Cec contributed an own goal, sub Parsons got the third in the second half and Gibson rubbed it in in the last minute. The sparse crowd booed the team off and shuffled out of Roker to coaches, cars and pubs to lament the situation that a once proud club now found itself in.
That situation got worse a couple of days later when Colin Todd, the one quality player in that XI, was sold to Derby County for the sum of £175,000 – at the time, a record fee between two British clubs. Of that money, not a penny was invested in new players. We signed nobody before the deadline and nobody the season after, although we had recruited Dick Malone and David Watson before Todd was sold. Both were injured for this fiasco.
The graffiti that adorned the Fulwell End wall, proclaiming “Todd was Godd” (sic), was allowed to fade as he went on to have a fine career in the top league and he was always given a generous round of applause when he returned to Roker. He was as good a defender as I have seen in a red and white shirt and a real tribute to Charlie Ferguson and the youth system that brought through him, Colin Suggett, Mick McGiven, Bobby Park, Bobby Kerr, Richie Pitt, Billy Hughes, Dennis Tueart and Jackie Ashurst – all players who did well for us and/or made money for the club.
I was a student at the time and living in Halls of Residence just off Ryhope Road in the days when we were given a grant to go onto higher education. I probably went back to the College Refectory for my tea, went back to my room to sulk and then trooped over to the college bar to be met by Jack The One Legged Barman who had given up on the team after Relegation Mark 1 in 1958. Several pints of Starbrite Bitter or if I was feeling flush, William Younger’s Tartan. Later I no doubt staggered back to my cell and fell asleep after promising myself that I would do some college work the next day. I undoubtedly didn’t.
Since then, City have been a bit of a thorn in our side. They halted our promotion charge in 1979 by winning 2-1 at Roker, this coming four days after we had smashed Sheffield United 6-2 to go top of the league. Even Ronnie Moore scored that day!! Eleven years ago as the Keane Revolution was stuttering a bit, two goals from Michael Chopra did for us keeping us firmly in mid table. The last time we met them was in their only Premier League season, one that ended ignominiously for them with relegation and ended successfully for us as we pulled off the finest of our Great Escapes.
We were on the up after a point at Manchester City and a win at Chelsea and 45,856 turned up to see if we could achieve what would have been only our fourth home win of the season. City were in disarray; Malkie McKay had left and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer had been appointed but he had struggled. When they arrived at Sunderland, they looked like dead men walking…
The teams that day were;
Vito Mannone; Santiago Vergini, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Marcos Alonso; Seb Larsson, Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback, Adam Johnson; Connor Wickham, Fabio Borini.
Subs; Oscar Ustari, Liam Bridcutt (for Colback) Craig Gardener (for Johnson) Emmanuelle Giaccherini (for Larsson), Phil Bardsley, Jozy Altidore, Ignacio Scocco
Looking at that squad, you can see why we are in such a financial mess…..
David Marshall; Kevin Theophile-Catherine, Gary Medel, Steven Caulker Juan Torres Ruiz, Fabio De Silva; Don Cowie, Jordan Mutch, Peter Whittingham, Matts Moehler Daehli
Subs; Joe Lewis, Ben Turner, Declan John, Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Wilfried Zaha (for Cowie), Craig Bellamy (for Campbell), Kenwynne Jones (for Fabio)
We gained revenge for the events of 43 years ago as we reversed the score line in a performance which was as good as any we have produced in the last three years. Two goals from Connor Wickham, a Fabio Borini penalty which led to Ruiz being sent off and an exquisite finish by Giaccherini, saw us home and just about kept us up.
A win at Old Trafford the following week and a midweek victory over West Bromwich Albion sent us into the summer with renewed optimism.
That optimism increased when we signed an almost current England international from Manchester City by the name of Jack Rodwell. Things were on the up…….