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Welsh Rabbit

”The land of my fathers. My fathers can have it.”

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), Welsh poet. 




Saturday 15th February 2015 FA Cup with Budweiser k.o.:- 3.00pm
5th Round

Cardiff City                                                           1
Fraizer Campbell 27,
Wigan Athletic                                                    2
Chris McCann 18,
Ben Watson 41,
referee:- M. Atkinson                                  attendance:- 17,123


This was a journey I wasn’t too sure I’d be able to complete! The last few weeks – and especially last week – have seen pretty horrendous weather, with heavy rains and driving winds and most of it has hit the South-West and Wales! I planned to drive to Cheltenham and entrain there for Grangetown via Cardiff Central and half way to Cheltenham, I began to have reservations about the rail service. In the event, the rail journey down to Cardiff went well enough, although the route taken meant a change at Bristol Parkway. The day was pretty fine with some clouds, but plenty of sunshine, too.


i had visited Cardiff City only once before and that was at their previous home, Ninian Park (Saturday 7th March 1971 Football League Division II, Cardiff City 4 Carlisle United 0 – attendance:- 22,502). Warboys scored all four goals and all in the first thirty minutes! I couldn’t see where the original Ninian Park had stood, but I did find a fine example of a Board School – Ninian Primary School (see above and below), with its dour facade and, if you study the name board, you will see the wide degree of multiculturalism, something never envisaged by the 1902 Education Act.


I had chosen the match because City of Cardiff Stadium is the second to last of all the league grounds that I have to visit. I knew I wouldn’t get in for a Barclays Premier League match, so I chose to visit for a home FA Cup tie. Tickets were advertised at £15 and £5 for OAPs. It really annoys me when I book one of these tickets and they add on a £1 “Event Booking Fee” and then slap on an extra “Transaction Option” of fifty pence!. I know that it is still comparatively cheap, but it is the way that the average fan is just taken for a ride and fleeced of additional cash which really cannot be justified!


Having got my ticket, I espied a hostelry – “The Sand Martin”, I think it was called and close by the stadium. When I got to the entrance, two burly bouncers barred the way and enquired if I realised that in order to get a drink … I would also need to purchase a meal. When I heard that they had a carvery on offer, I accepted and for a tenner, I enjoyed a slap up carvery meal and a pint and repaired to the stadium in hearty good cheer.


Needless to say, that was soon shattered. There were no team sheets (programmes were £3). Team sheets were available, but only on level 4 where the hospitality was situated and I wasn’t going to be allowed to go and get one and certainly no-one was going to get one for me! They did publicise the teams on the giant screens inside the ground, but only the teams out on the field. The named substitutes weren’t mentioned. “You can come and get one after the game,” I was told, fat lot of use it would be by then! Another steward even suggested that I write to the club and that they ‘might’ send me one.


The stadium was a fairly standard tin box with seats and could probably hold up to about thirty thousand spectators. It was pretty soulless, though, and although it was over half full, there were huge gaps of unfilled seats. Before the match, “Men of Harlech” blared out over the loudspeakers and the words were showing on the giant screens, but hardly any of the home fans took any notice. The only atmosphere came from the couple of thousand or so Wigan fans who were perched high in one corner of the ground. Their team had been members of The Northern Premier League, the last time I came to see Cardiff City! Cardiff City have recently changed their colours, and club logo, from blue to red (I have included a copy of the original logo at the top). This is to fit in with the owner’s strong far eastern connections. It was interesting to see how many fans were still wearing blue hats and scarves, and that all the seats in the stadium were still blue!


Cardiff had the better players and the better team. I was particularly impressed with Matts Møller Dæhli, whom Ole Gunnar Solksjaer brought with him from Molde, but who had spent a couple of recent years at Manchester United. He had vision and was difficult to dispossess and he linked up well with Wilfrid Zaha, on loan from Manchester United. Wigan Athletic were the more rugged and the more determined and despite ceding the territorial advantage, they were worthy victors over their Barclays Premier League opponents. Cardiff frequently seemed like rabbits caught in the headlights, whilst Wigan were organised in defence and quick on the counter. Last seasons cup winners are still in the tournament, much to the delight of the travelling faithful!

The journey back was not quite so straightforward. There were rumours on Cardiff station of fallen trees blocking the line between Gloucester and Cheltenham. There was some suggestion that we might have to catch the Hereford train and disembark at Lydney where  a bus would be laid on to Gloucester (and presumably an onward bus to Cheltenham). In the event, after an hour or so’s wait, I managed to board a London service to Bristol Parkway and then a Cross-Country service direct to Cheltenham. From there, it was a hundred or so miles drive back to Northamptonshire, accomplished in a little under two hours.

Matches this season:- 142   new grounds:- 99

Matches this year:- 23    new grounds:-  13


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