Saturday 19th April 2015
Cardiff City 0-0 Millwall
Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff.
[ENGLISH PYRAMID WARNING: The match report and blog entry below is based on a football match that occurred in the English Pyramid, in Wales]
It’s been a long season at the Cardiff City Stadium, a very long and frustrating season to say the least, and there were few people in the stadium this afternoon who were happier to see the end of Cardiff City’s disappointing SkyBet Championship campaign than myself.
The two years that separates the joyous April 2013 night when we celebrated a 0-0 draw with Charlton Athletic that made our promotion to the Premier League a certainty and this fairly lacklustre non-event against a side who had already been condemned to League 1 months ago seemed like decades.
There are rumours filtering out of some of the more high-profile Cardiff City message boards that as few as 3,200 supporters have chosen to renew their season tickets for next season, based on the club having around 18,000 season ticket holders at the moment.
It seems like a dramatic figure and there will be some natural wastage as this Summer marked the end of the infamous “Golden Ticket” debacle. A large portion of those 18,000 season ticket holders were enticed to purchase their season ticket on a 5 year deal back in the days of Peter Ridsdale’s helm at the club.
Ridsdale offered fans a price freeze season ticket for the next 5 seasons if they committed to buying their season tickets early, citing that the club would use the funds to spend big in the upcoming January transfer window.
Fans renewed by their thousands, but the funds never made it into the transfer kitty.
So it was always inevitable that a couple of thousand season ticket holders who had been paying about £229 for a season ticket would naturally cancel theirs when this scheme came to and end. Fans were now being asked to purchase season tickets at the ‘usual’ price, which would almost double the cost for a lot of these supporters.
Added to this is the relative malaise that seems to have gripped the club in the last season. Gone are the heady days of Malky Mackay’s well assembled team of hard working and skilled team players, replaced by the seemingly clueless Russell Slade, whose team selections quite often make little sense, made up of a squad of Championship journeymen looking for one last shot at the Premier League.
My love for the club hasn’t stopped in any way but I, like so many others, have lost touch with the Cardiff City I’ve come to love over the 25 years I’ve supported the club. Gone are the days when you felt you actually meant something to the club, gone are the days when you felt like you and the players were one, each on the quest for the goal of Premier League football.
I’ve since learned that Premier League football means nothing if you lose your identity along the way.
People say that Vincent Tan made a bold and brave move in reverting Cardiff City back to their rightful colours of blue. I agree, considering the nature of the colour change it’s an absolutely phenomenal turnaround that took guts, bravery and tenacity to carry out.
However, so many events that should have been some of the greatest moments of my life felt robbed from me due to Mr. Tan’s decision three years ago.
The night we won promotion to the Premier League against Charlton should have been one of those. The afternoon we were awarded the Championship trophy for winning the league should also have been one of those. Added to these are some of the more memorable games in our brief stint in the Premier League, the stunning win against Manchester City, the last minute draw against Manchester United, the beautifully sweet derby victory against Swansea City, even our defeat against Newcastle that made formal our relegation back to the second tier of English football.
All of these occasions were marred by the fact we were playing in a red shirt, dictated by the strange ‘red means good luck’ theory held by our owner Mr. Tan.
I fully expect any current season ticket holder to slam me for turning my back on the club and I fully respect any views like this. It’s a personal decision not to renew my season ticket. One that took an awful long time to make, probably the whole of this season if I’m honest.
I’ll always support the club and will always love the club, regardless. I’ll probably end up going down the club in the Summer, buying the new blue home shirt with a relatively decent bluebird on the crest. I’ll probably go to whatever home friendly they arrange and I’ll probably find myself travelling to a few of their away friendlies.
I’ll still go to the odd home game next season and I’ll probably go to more away games than I have for a few years, the atmosphere at away games is always different and is always ten times better than what we’ve come to experience at the Cardiff City Stadium. Away games for me, remind me of the Ninian Park days – loud crowds, intimidating atmospheres, people you’ve never met before hugging you when we score. It’s something I miss dearly.
There was one last game to endure this season, a game I’d promised myself I’d attend – being the last Cardiff City game I attend on a season ticket for an indefinite period of time. A seemingly meaningless game against the already relegated Blackpool United.
How cruel an irony was it that the two sides who contested one of the most entertaining Championship Play-Offs in recent times would meet in an absolutely meaningless contest at the end of a season only five years later, with the earlier victors on a one way trip down to the Vanarama Conference whilst their opponents finish only six or so places higher.
Heavy criticism has been made of Russell Slade’s decision not to blood in young players following the rest of the season being made a non-event by the club becoming safe from relegation a handful of games ago.
A lot of the guys we have stood with for years shared a similar belief to me, that from the moment we were safe from relegation we should have started playing the lineup that was likely to start the first game of next year’s campaign, recalling the likes of Declan John, Tommy O’Sullivan, Ben Nugent and Rhys Healey to give them some proper first team experience in preparation for next year.
It’s always amazed me how Declan John was guaranteed a place in the starting lineup for so long in our Premier League campaign, yet he barely got a look in during what little time he did spend with the club in the Championship.
As for the game? The game was a largely pedestrian affair between two sides who were already mentally (and arguably physically) on the beach.
An impeccably observed minute silence to show respect for the 56 lives lost in the dreadful Bradford City fire of 1985 was a touching moment.
An initial exchange of chances for both sides was interrupted by an opening goal from Cardiff’s Joe Mason, a player who must surely fancy his chances of making a slot in the starting lineup his own next season. Mason was able to stab home his effort at the second effort after a fumble by ex-City goalkeeper Elliot Parish.
On the half hour mark, Aron Gunnarsson beat his marker and ran into the box with intent. He was brought down by Blackpool’s Henry Cameron and the referee pointed to the spot.
With regular penalty taker Peter Whittingham out for the rest of season with a calf muscle tear, transfer window signing Eoin Doyle stepped up the spot and made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Parish the wrong way and giving the Bluebirds a 2-0 lead going into the half time interval.
Within two minutes of the interval, pantomime villain and ex-Swansea City player Andrea Orlandi cut through the Bluebirds midfield, weaving around four or five players before slotting the ball home beautifully into the bottom left corner of the goal, leaving David Marshall helpless.
Neither side looked to trouble the other side for large portions of the second half and neither keeper was really tested for the remainder of the game.
With a quarter of an hour of the game left to play, Miles Addison seemed to aggressively barge Joe Mason off the ball and the Bluebirds were awarded a second penalty.
A bit of a discussion took place about the penalty. Eoin Doyle immediately grabbed the ball, looking to add to his earlier penalty however a couple of players staked their claim on the penalty. I suggested to the guy who sits directly behind me, Nathan, a loud natured guys from Ebbw Vale, that David Marshall should step up and take the penalty.
Think about it? If David Marshall were to step up and take the penalty and convert it, given all the banter in recent years. Then the whole season could essentially be glossed over. Think about it? This season wouldn’t be remembered as the year Russell Slade was terrible, or Peter Whittingham failed to impress, or we loaned out some of our best players before the end of the season! It would be the year that David Marshall stepped up to the spot and scored a penalty.
I started fantasizing and I joked with Nathan that Marshall should take the penalty and start the run up from his own penalty area! Nathan tried starting a chant and within ten seconds there was a sizable and very audible section of the crowd begging for the goalkeeper to step up and take the penalty.
Eoin Doyle stepped up and slotted home again to give the City side a comfortable 3-1 lead. Ironic chants of “Russell Slade is a tactical genius!” erupted from behind me in the stand.
The game slowed down to a snail’s pace in the closing minutes, with only a Peter Clarke scrambled effort in the 93rd minute making the score 3-2 with seconds to go.
And that just about ended the Cardiff City 2014/15 season for me. The team came out for a brief ‘lap of honour’ to applaud the fans for their support. Russell Slade chose not to follow his players around the pitch after fairly loud and audible “Slade Out!” chant by some sections of the Cardiff City support.
I thought I was being witty when a guy near me let out the chant, I said to him “You’re right mate. They’ve been shit since that Christmas song. Talk about a one hit wonder!”. I think the joke was lost on him.
I cheer myself up on the walk back to the car with a 99 Flake with strawberry sauce.
My Man of the Match: Myself, for the brilliantly under-appreciated Slade gag.