Taking my Cardiff away.   12 comments

I have loved Cardiff City ever since I stepped onto the Bob Bank Terrace for the first time as a 14 year old. They have given me moments of pure joy and many more of deep despair. At times it has been painful and at times it has been brilliant. Since 2008 I have seen my team reach both domestic cup finals, coming incredibly close to beating Liverpool in the Carling Cup final in February. Wembley Stadium is nothing more than a dream to most football fans, I have been there to support my team four times. While I felt immense pride in seeing Cardiff compete at this level, many of the greatest moments are not those that resulted in glory. Seeing the Bluebirds win away for the first time at Wolves after my first eight away games ended in defeat.  A Willo Flood winner at Elland Road in the 84th minute in the last game before my friend moved to France. The euphoric reception to Eddie Johnson scoring his first goal for the club. Michael Chopra scoring the finest hat-trick I have ever seen against Leicester. Witnessing Craig Bellamy drop down to the Championship in his prime to play for his hometown club. Paul Parry scoring a late goal away at Gillingham in the penultimate game of the season to avoid relegation, and a couple of late winners against Swansea City from Chopra and Bellamy. These are all memories that did not take place in the Premier League or the presentation of a trophy, yet just writing them brought a smile to my face as I am sure it did for many of those reading this who witnessed these moments.

I never imagined a day I would be ashamed of Cardiff City. No matter how many times I saw them lose (and it was a lot) and however many end of season collapses, playoff defeats and calamitous performances (such as blowing a 4 – 0 lead to Peterborough), I have always been proud to be a bluebird. Even the rapid ascent of Swansea City from League Two fodder to a fairly strong Premiership side has done nothing to dent my pride to call myself a Cardiff fan. Poor home form at the end of last season meant we slipped into 6th place, only confirming a playoff place on the last day of the season with a victory at Crystal Palace. This meant the small squad of Cardiff City would have to overcome West Ham United, a squad packed full of Premiership standard players. The Cardiff City of 11/12 had upset the odds so many times that I retained some faith we could pull off a shock. Despite a 2  – 0 defeat in the home leg and being comprehensively outplayed, I still traveled to Upton Park with hope that we could pull off a footballing shock even greater than Adrian Chiles continued employment. There was to be no Hollywood ending to the season, and West Ham cruised to Wembley in style before securing promotion a few weeks later.

Despite the 5 – 0 aggregate defeat, the game has come to feel like a happy memory. Despite being clearly outclassed on the pitch, the away support was truly brilliant, uniting together as one to support a hopeless cause. A year earlier as we had been beaten 3 – 0 by Reading the pitch was bombarded with objects, chants called for Dave Jones to leave and many players were turned on for heavy criticism. Despite West Ham being a heavier defeat than that cold night in May, the team was met with nothing but praise for their performances. While there was some disappointment that we had completed our hat-trick of playoff defeats and therefore got to keep the Championship forever, the main feeling was excitement for next season. Malky Mackay had worked wonders with limited time to work on his squad, and I for one felt extremely confident that Cardiff would finally be able to go one better and get promotion. This enthusiasm lasted as long as it took me to walk out of the stadium and back to the coach. Rumours had broken on the internet that the football club would be ‘rebranded’ by our Malaysian owners. This would involve changing the colour of the home kit to red, and creating a new badge with the bluebird replaced with a dragon. The purpose of this was to market Cardiff City to the Asian market. The Asian market which already loves Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and pretty much any other side which is successful. Manchester City recently visited China and Malaysia as part of their pre-season and were warmly welcomed by the locals.

Five years ago nobody would have cared about Manchester City. Not because they had a blue kit, but simply because they weren’t very good. The worldwide market is simply not interested in a team that doesn’t win anything, why would they be? As much as I admired the Cardiff City squad last season and was delighted by the campaign, it is difficult to imagine the streets of Kuala Lumpur being lined with rubbish bags stacked full of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shirts as the locals proudly pose in their new Rudy Gestede strip.

The initial reaction from the majority of fans was one of anger and complete disbelief. It soon became clear that this was far more than the average messageboard rumour, this was something being seriously considered. The outcry against the proposed move spread beyond Cardiff City fans on social media, with Welsh Assembly members speaking out against it and SV Austria Salzburg displaying a ‘Keep Cardiff Blue’ banner at one of their games. This has since been replicated by fans of many other clubs from around Europe and beyond.

The reaction to the proposal forced the Malaysians into a statement. They announced on the official website that they had been considering the rebrand, but it was now withdrawn, and would not be taking place.

This seemed to be the end of it, however a few weeks later the unthinkable had indeed happened. Cardiff City were no longer blue. The bluebird was not quite gone altogether from the badge, but it was relegated to a very much insignificant place behind the large red dragon. The badge has changed before while I have been a supporter. Club crests evolve over time for most clubs and I can accept that. However what was produced to go on the kit for this season was nothing like an evolution. The crest of a football club should inspire pride. A focal point of the club for fans to unite under. The hastily put together crest of Cardiff City produces nothing more than embarrassment and shame.  I understand that I am in a small minority by boycotting the club, nor would I ever encourage others to boycott. It is a personal decision that can only be made for yourself, but I would be very surprised if any Cardiff City fan can look at the image below without feeling a tinge of sadness.

The saddest part of the whole saga has nothing to do with what colour the team plays in or what is represented on the shirt. The fanbase has been torn apart, coming to a head when a small group of fans disgracefully interrupted a meeting of the ‘Keep Cardiff Blue’ group to issue severe threats. Fans who plan to show opposition to these changes were told “If anyone has a blue banner, I will ******* bury them” amongst  other threats which promised that anyone who showed dissent to the changes would “get it”. Insults and threats have been dished out on social media and the various messageboards ever since the rebrand was announced, but coming to a peaceful meeting to make death threats is a completely different level to any form of internet arguing. The fact is you could post a video of a puppy curing world hunger and providing the winning lottery numbers and someone on the internet would criticise you for it. I personally have received strong criticism and threats from various sources on the internet for my stance on the rebrand, it is something that has to be accepted if you are going to have an opinion on the internet. This was totally different and completely unacceptable. Grown men shouting threats of violence to a room that contained women and children, just for wanting to watch their football team play in their traditional colours. To be a Cardiff City fan is to be close to last place in the football popularity contest. Many English football fans hate us for being a Welsh club in “their” league, while to list all the reasons the other Welsh clubs dislike us would take up another 2000 words. Upon meeting a new person, tell them you support Cardiff City and they’ll probably either run away in fear or accuse you of doing extremely illegal things with sheep. I have found that this almost universal dislike makes the bond between Cardiff City fans stronger. If you see a Cardiff City fan anywhere in the world, a quick ayatollah creates an instant friendship. On a trip to New York last year I happened to be wearing my Cardiff City scarf at an ice hockey game between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. Two Cardiff City fans came running towards me frantically doing the ayatollah and chanting bluebirds, leaving two rather annoyed girlfriends trailing in their wake. This special unity between our supporters has been torn apart by the bitterly divisive rebranding, and at the moment it seems unclear if these wounds will ever be healed. If you support the rebrand or not, people threatening others over their opinion has to be unacceptable, whichever side of the red/blue debate it comes from.

I already intended to boycott Cardiff City ever since the farcical meeting with the club which can be read about in detail here. If I had not already made this decision, it would have been made for me by the events at the Keep Cardiff Blue meeting. Everything I love about Cardiff City has been taken away, to the point where I don’t even recognise them as the club I have given the last decade of my life to.  I deeply hope that one day I will feel a connection with the club I love once more, but for the 2012/13 season at least I am walking away. The chant which inspired the name of this website states “please don’t take my Cardiff away”. Sadly, that is exactly what has happened.  Last season I attended every friendly and 51 of our competitive games. Yesterday Cardiff City played against Cheltenham Town in our second pre-season game, I didn’t even check the score. I have no doubt I will receive further stick for this article and my stance on Cardiff City, but I am one of many fans who simply cannot face going to watch the team I loved. Many more will continue to watch the team, but with less ‘fire and passion’ than they previously had. The state of modern football is a very sorry one indeed, and Cardiff City Football Club join MK Dons as a shining example of the tragic vandalism against the game that has taken place in recent years.

 

 

Footnote – Due to walking away from Cardiff City, I held a charity auction on eBay for which football team  I would go to watch for the following season. This was eventually won by Tottenham Hotspur after bids from Besiktas, Seattle Sounders, West Coast Warriors of Australia, Glasgow Rangers, New York Red Bulls, Club América and dozens across Britain. The final total raised was £845, which will be shared between Ty Hafan and Help for Heroes. This website will remain live, but match reports and other articles on Cardiff City will not return until the rebrand is reversed. I would like to thank everyone who has read my reports over the last year and for all the comments both positive and negative that have helped me improve as a writer. Forever a bluebird – Ben. 

Posted August 1, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

Cardiff City season ticket refund meeting – 27/06/12   166 comments

A meeting took place at Cardiff City Stadium from 6pm – 8pm on the 27th June for all fans who requested a refund on their season tickets. Many fans were initially turned away from the meeting by security, despite producing e-mails from Alan Whiteley showing they were invited. After some discussion with security staff outside the stadium, myself and three others who had initially been denied access were allowed in. I believe some other fans were turned away and not allowed entry.

The meeting was held in a large room on the first floor of the stadium, with five members of staff initially present alongside security personnel. These five people were as follows:

Alan Whiteley – Chief Executive

Malky Mackay – Manager

Wayne Nash – Stadium Manager

Barrie McAuliffe – Media Manager

Julian Jenkins – Premier Club Representative.

The meeting began with Alan Whiteley making a pre-prepared statement. Recording was not permitted, but I have taken notes and due to my journalism and shorthand training all quotes are as close to 100% accurate as is possible without recording.

Whiteley: “By 2004 due to the spending of Sam Hammam, we had a total debt of £24,000,000. By 2007 with the Peter Ridsdale effect this had slightly been reduced, but by the time we played Blackpool in the 2010 playoff final the club was effectively bust and close to being wound up by HMRC. At this stage Vincent Tan put £6,000,000 into the club to help deal with short term problems, this did not address any of the long term debts owed to Langston (Sam Hammam) or PMG (Paul Guy).

By 2012, Vincent Tan had put in a total of £35,000,000 to pay off all trade debts. This includes player wages, transfer fees and other running costs, but does not include any of these aforementioned historic debts. Alan Whiteley then went on to say that by the time we got to the West Ham playoff games the club had three options to go forward. These were:

“1. Stay the same as we were and continue to lose money while attempting to gain promotion.

2. Retrench and restructure the club. (Player sales such as we saw when Robert Earnshaw/Graham Kavanagh etc left the club)

3. Move on and push forward”

At this time the board went to Vincent Tan to give him these options. Vincent Tan wants the club to be a “sustainable Premiership club, to ensure he gets his money back”.  The club also want to finish in the top two this season and avoid the lottery of the playoffs. It was at this stage than Alan Whiteley made the first of several claims that I find to be astounding. He stated that if we wanted to break even next season, the ticket price for every fan in the ground would have to rise by £25. If we wanted to make money, the price of each ticket would have to rise by £75. He confirmed that this was on a game by game basis, and not on the season ticket price. This was working with an average attendance of 22,000 people.  This means that in total, to make money next season the club would have to make an extra £1,650,000 for every home match. He confirmed that Vincent Tan would only back the club with the changes to the kit and badge.

At this stage many of the people in attendance began to ask questions. One fan asked Alan Whiteley if Vincent Tan had presented to the board his plan for making additional money in the Asian market. Alan Whiteley confirmed that they “had no idea” where the additional revenue was going to come from. When asked if Vincent Tan had presented them with a business plan, it was confirmed that he had not. Alan Whiteley told the fan “I could show you a 40 page dossier and you still wouldn’t be happy”.  When the fan responded that “but you don’t have one, do you?” he had no response.

Alan Whiteley insisted that there was no way we could raise additional funds through local sources, and that looking further afield was the only option the club had. Vincent Tan presented the board with the rebranding proposal in early April. Alan Whiteley declared that the local members of the board “understood the passion for blue and were not particularly enamored with the decision.” He said that at this stage they had three options. Accept the rebrand, negotiate or refuse and look for additional funding sources.  Due to the rebranding proposal “commercially making sense” they accepted the decision without negotiation.

Alan Whiteley then listed the advantages and disadvantages of the rebrand.

Advantages – Financial stability, strengthen the team and create a platform and go forward to reach the Premiership.

Disadvantages – Supporter anger.

When asked how the board felt that playing in red would help improve the team or improve merchandise sales, he had no answer.

He then looked to address a number of the criticisms that the club has faced over the last few weeks. He said that the main criticism he had had from fans was “a lack of consultation with the fans about the proposed changes”. He said that he felt that this criticism was wrong. This was met with widespread disbelief from the fans present, laughter and several disapproving comments. Alan Whiteley became visibly flustered by this reaction and said “It is impossible for us to ask 18,000 people a question” and “Nothing I can say about it will change your mind anyway”. He said if they had asked 18,000 fans and 12,000 had said they wanted to remain in blue and with a bluebird badge, the 6,000 people that would have gone for it would still have to be strongly considered.  A fan then remarked that if a poll was done of every season ticket holder if they wanted to play in blue with a bluebird badge, all of them would say yes. Alan Whiteley remarked that it was “impossible to know that for sure” and that that was only our opinion.

Moving on, he denied the club had become a laughing stock and that scaremongering had not taken place with the initial statement put out by Dato Chan. This was again strongly derided by those in the room, and it looked as if Alan Whiteley hardly believed the words he was saying himself. He denied that the option was ever “red or dead” and stated that the Malaysians had never been in danger of walking away. When he was questioned about comments made by Steve Borley on Twitter which had suggested otherwise, he was unable to provide an answer. He said that the money was only on offer with the rebrand, and that Vincent Tan was not prepared to invest money without these changes. It was at this stage where a number of worrying comments began to emerge.

Alan Whiteley stated that the additional money would initially go into the club as debt. Far from the club being debt free, the debt is actually going to increase as a result of this rebrand. He was asked if he though the rebranding would work in Asia and bring in additional money, he responded “I don’t know, I am not an Asian”. This once again resulted in anger from the crowd, no questions were being answered properly and it was extremely frustrating to try and get a straight answer. Whiteley stated that “Vincent Tan has not put in black and white where he thinks the money will come from, he just believes he can do it”. He then stated that it was “irrelevant if the rebranding worked or not, because it was Vincent Tans money being risked and not that of the club”. When asked if they had questioned Vincent Tan at all on this issue by a fan, he replied “If you want to buy out Vincent Tan and keep the club blue we will be delighted” but confirmed they had not looked for any additional financing from anyone other than the Malaysians. After referring to 2012 being the year of the dragon in China, one fan asked if we would “have had a rat on the badge if it had been the year of the rat?”. There was no answer.

Alan Whiteley then announced that three possible deals had been offered to Langston (Sam Hammam). These were:

1 – £8,000,000 payable within 30 days.

2 – £10,000,000, with £3,000,000 payable now and the rest at the end of the season.

3 – £13,000,000, with £8,000,000 payable this year and an additional £5,000,000 if Cardiff City got promoted to the Premiership.

He confirmed that Langston had not yet responded to this offer, and the debt was not paid off or any closer to being paid off. It was at this stage that Alan Whiteley confirmed that Sam Hammam would be welcome to take up a life presidency of the club if he wanted such a title, and would be welcome to attend any games he liked. A number of people voiced objections to this, especially as the club had spent the first 20 minutes of the meeting stating how the majority of the debt was Sam Hammams fault. Many people felt that the idea of giving Hammam such a title was a further insult to the fans, and would be even worse than changing the shirt colour to many fans. Despite heavy opposition to the return of Hammam, it seems very likely that the settling of the debt would involve Hammam returning to the club in at least some form, even if the position held no real power. A fan said that the very idea of Hammam being allowed through the gates of Cardiff City Stadium was an insult, with many of those in attendance applauding this statement.

When asked why Langston should accept any of the three offers on the table when they would be entitled to far more money in three years, Whiteley shrugged and said it was “up to them”.

At this stage, perhaps sensing the mood turning, Alan Whiteley invited Malky Mackay to speak to the crowd on football related issues only.  When asked if he was happy with the transfer budget for the following season he stated “Satisfied? You always want more. But I have a better amount to work with than last season, and I will spend every penny if I find a suitable player”. He then commented “I need every supporter I can get. We know that this team represents the local area and the local community and I understand the tradition of the club. I get both sides of the argument and can see where you are coming from, but I also see where these guys are coming from (points to other club officials). “

He commented that we had tried to sign three players in January, with bids of £3,000,000 for Marvin Sordell, £2,000,000 for Matt Phillips and a bid for Craig Noone that he did not give a value too. He commented that only five teams had used January well, and these were Tottenham, Everton, Swansea, West Ham and Reading. He said he did not care if every fan in the stadium chanted Bluebirds or Dragons and that any peaceful demonstration of blue would not effect his team. He was then asked if he thought Celtic would change colours for money, he didn’t answer but commented that he thought Rangers would play in red if the same deal was offered to them.

Transfers were then discussed. He said there had been no contact with Craig Bellamy. I asked him if the Malaysian players we had had on trial were his choice or forced upon him, he answered “They contacted us asking if we could take them on trial. It is very difficult to get a work permit for a Malaysian player. We were never going to sign them”. He also indicated that Kenny Miller, Peter Whittingham and Joe Mason would have had to have left the club if we did not agree to turn red, however this was not confirmed and he did not indicate if there had been bids.

Malky Mackay then left the meeting, after thanking supporters and saying that if we were there next season or not, he understood the situation. He was thanked by fans for his work last season, receiving a round of applause as he left the room.

I felt sorry for Malky Mackay for being forced to attend such a meeting. It was clear the club felt that criticism would be kept to a minimum if he was present, as if he respected by a huge majority of supporters. Once he had left the room, the questioning of those still present increased.

The conversation turned to why Vincent Tan and Dato Chan had decided to reverse their decision despite promising they would not in a statement only weeks before. They downplayed the impact of the Supporters Trust poll, and stated that the Wales Online poll was a better reflection of fans views. When it was pointed out that fans of rival clubs could vote on this poll, while everyone who is a part of the Supporters Trust is clearly a Cardiff City fan he had no response.  A fan then said “If Vincent Tan really believes in the rebranding, shouldn’t he be here to discuss it with us rather than forcing you to be here?” Alan Whiteley was stumped by this and Julian Jenkins jumped in. “Ignoring my job for a moment, I’m sat here as a fan. I’ve been here for the bad times such as Alan Durban and some of the poor players we have signed. I’m not passionate about the colour of Cardiff City. None of us know what will happen with the rebrand, but it was made with the best interest of the club in mind at the time.” When asked what would happen if Vincent Tan got bored and pulled out he said nobody knew what would happen, but he expected it would be similar to Darlington, Rangers or Portsmouth.

He confirmed that Vince Alm had been told about the rebrand and had been asked not to tell anybody about it. Vince was seen as being representative of the majority of fans views.  Someone asked if they agreed that Vincent Tan was blackmailing the club with his demands, and Whiteley responded “It’s not blackmail, it’s offering money with certain conditions”. When it was pointed out that that is pretty much exactly what blackmail is he looked embarrassed and did not respond.  Julian Jenkins stated that his best day supporting Cardiff was Scunthorpe in 1993 and asked what colour we had worn that day? It was then pointed out that this was an away game, and the club had got promoted while wearing blue at home.

The meeting began to wind down at this stage, with many people frustrated at the answers given and the amount of times the club had been unable to give an answer. One fan walked out after it was announced Sam Hammam would be welcome back, with others trickling out as time went by. On the issue of a refund for those who had requested their season ticket money back, Alan Whiteley stated that a decision would be made in the next ten days and that fans would be informed. He was worried that if a refund was given, many more fans would then request one. He gave the official number of refunds requested as “just over 90″ and the club was getting several letters a day, as well as a deluge of emails.

When asked how many fans in total he felt would be lost he said “I have no idea, but I accept we will lose some. I don’t want anybody to walk away and I will work hard to keep as many as possible”.  The issue of peaceful protest was raised, and Alan Whiteley stated “I don’t know” to the question of how he though Vincent Tan would react if he attended a match and was not clapped.

It was revealed that Vincent Tan had only taken a real interest in the club in the last six months, and that “he was involved in a number of big companies worldwide, Cardiff City are only a small business to him”.

Julian Jenkins then stated that more consultation would happen over next summer with fans, with a questionnaire  sent out to fans and 20 of those who filled it in being invited to a meeting at the club with five potential badges and give potential kits. He said that this would be sent to 15,000 people. I commented that Alan Whiteley had said earlier they had “no way” of contacting season ticket holders but they were now talking about sending these questions to the majority of our fans, the only answer they had was “well thats different”.

This badge which has been seen by many fans online was called a “spoof” and the club denied all responsibility. 

The final issue discussed was the proposed new training facilities. Two or three sites were being discussed, and it would take two years to get a site and plans confirmed, and then six to nine months to build them. Wayne Nash has visited several Premiership training grounds and states that we will have facilities on the level of Stoke City.

The meeting concluded at this stage, with seemingly everyone in attendance unconvinced by the clubs argument and still demanding a refund. Further meetings are planned in the future with fans.

If you have any further questions that you feel I may know the answer to, feel free to leave a comment below and I will answer you if I know the answer. I personally have decided to boycott all future home games and all merchandise from the club until we return to blue.

Posted June 27, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

A city divided.   9 comments

One of the things I love about being a football fan is the sense of unity. At Wembley when Ben Turner scored the equaliser with seconds remaining against Liverpool, it didn’t matter if you were stood next to your best friend or a total stranger, the reaction was the same. I have made several lifelong friends from traveling to away fixtures and meeting the same people wherever Cardiff City may play. We live in different parts of Wales, do different jobs and have different beliefs, but Cardiff City unites us.  While most of the country sleeps, the away football fan wakes up at 5am on a Saturday morning to travel to Middlesbrough, and takes days off work for a midweek away trip to Yorkshire. Despite the level of commitment it takes, the effort a fan puts in to watch their team is not a chore or an inconvenience.  It’s because they want to do it, because the feeling of walking out of an away ground victorious is like no other. Cardiff City are undoubtedly responsible for some of the best and happiest moments of my life.  Last season was a fantastic one, with a squad, staff and fanbase united like I had never seen before. Liverpool won the cup and we were soundly beaten by West Ham in the playoffs, but the spirit around Cardiff City was worth more than if we had formed an independent country and won the World Cup.

Football is not all about success, the motto of SV Austria Salzburg when they reformed after being bought out and rebranded by the energy drink company Red Bull was “never changed passion for glory”. Sadly, this is exactly what Cardiff City is doing. If winning was the only thing that mattered, the entire country would support Manchester City, after spells as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea fans in recent years. Sure, we’ve all dreamed about what it would be like to win the league and have probably won our various clubs the Champions League on the Xbox a couple of times. People will point to other companies that have rebranded and gone on to success, but a football club is not like any other business. If Kellogg’s announced they were changing Frosties boxes yellow I wouldn’t boycott the cereal, nor would I change my local pub just because someone painted it a different colour. A football club is not the plaything of a marketing man, who three years ago did not know the club even existed. Just weeks ago, the club promised it would not be changing the kit or the badge in a statement. Yesterday it announced the new kit and badge, while promising the “name and heart” would never change. How can we trust this statement after being lied too so recently? You only have to look at Wimbledon and MK Dons to see what can be done to a football club when they are allowed to be treated as a toy and a ‘brand’. I am not suggesting that the Malaysians will move the club in a few years time to become Kuala Lumpur Dragons FC or similar, but questions must be asked as to how far they are prepared to pander to the Asian market, while ignoring the wishes of many local supporters who do not care if the clubs plays in the Premiership or the Conference, they just love watching the Bluebirds.

It does not help that not only were fans lied to about the change, the new badge looks as if it was designed in five minutes by a blind chimp, and not even a blind chimp that was good at art. I’ve included my artists impression of it below.

Even if you are fully behind the idea of the rebrand, I cannot imagine there is a single Cardiff City fan who likes the new badge, unless they reside in a padded room in a facility for the completely and utterly bonkers.

Opposition to the rebranding is by no means universal, many people have fallen in line with the plans after being blackmailed by the original statement put out. The statement was worded in such a way that the current Cardiff City was days away from being liquidated, while wearing a red shirt would make a magical football fairy turn the whole of Asia into Cardiff City fans. The truth is that to win fans in Asia, a team has to be successful. Chelsea, Real Madrid, Man City and Barcelona, some of the best teams in the world. Also some of the most popular teams in Asia. Yes, Liverpool and Manchester United who play in red are well represented, but would they be so if the only thing they had won in Europe was the Algarve Cup like Cardiff City?

If turning red was the key to success, 2012 has a funny way of showing it.

English Premiership – Manchester City (blue)

English FA Cup – Chelsea (blue)

Champions League – Chelsea (blue)

Serie A – Juventus (black and white)

Italian Cup – Napoli (blue)

Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund (yellow)

German Cup – Borussia Dortmund (yellow)

French Premiership – Montpellier (blue and orange)

Dutch Eredivisie – Ajax (white)

I also searched for Barnsley, Crewe Alexandra, Wrexham and Rotherham supporters clubs in Asia, surprisingly there were no results. A colour can not make a club successful by itself. Put Lionel Messi in a blue shirt up against Emile Heskey in a red one and it doesn’t take a genius to work out which one will score more goals. What a colour can do however, is cause massive divisions within a city and a fanbase.

Facebook, Twitter and the Cardiff City messageboards have been ripped apart by the discussions. I’ve argued with people I considered good friends because they disagree with my stance, while the comments section on yesterdays article was also full of arguing. The ticket office at the club handled over 60 calls yesterday from fans searching for a refund on season tickets, while many others have cancelled finance plans and written letters to the club announcing their desire for a refund. I will also be without a season ticket for the next campaign, despite traveling to 51 games last season and holding a season ticket while I was studying in Leeds a few years ago. I am a relative newcomer to the club compared to some of the long standing fans who feel alienated from the football club they were so proud to call their own. Phil Stead, the inventor of the ayatollah, is one of those who shares my feelings and there are many more who have been going for 20 or 30 years who will not return until the club is back in blue.

Those on the red side at the argument insist that “It’s still Cardiff City” and that to oppose the change is to support the death of the club. The truth is, take away the identity of a football club and it may as well be dead already. The amount I have spent on Cardiff City could have sent me all over the world rather than all over Northern England, but that is the choice I made and a choice I was more than happy with while I still believed in Cardiff City. The saddest part of this whole situation is the fact that our fans are at each others throats, as will no doubt be displayed with the comments on this article also. It’s only going to get worse, and I can imagine serious infighting at games next season as feelings and emotions boil over. One post on the Cardiff City messageboard said a “hitlist” had been drawn up of fans who had shown opposition to the changes, and as much as he backtracked it was clear what his intention had been. To intimidate and bully his fellow supporters. I will not be at home games while Cardiff City play in red, but I intend to attend the Forest Green Rovers pre-season fixture to watch my team for the last time for however long it takes for the Bluebirds to return to blue, or a phoenix club  in the style of AFC Wimbledon and FCUM to be formed. Cardiff City may well play in blue with a bluebird badge again one day in the future, but will the fans ever be united again? At this present moment, it seems difficult to answer that question in a positive fashion. Red or blue, what should be an exciting time for the football club has become one of sadness and upheaval. 06/06/2012 may go down in history as the day they took our Cardiff away. The memories of my best days following Cardiff City will never be forgotten, 0 – 2 Middlesbrough, 0 – 4 Leeds, the Leicester semi-final win on penalties, 0 – 6 at Bristol City, the Carling Cup final, the two late winners against Swansea City and many more. I only hope that myself and other fans who feel disillusioned by the change are one day able to return and make new memories.

Yesterday I went to Cardiff City Stadium and left my blue scarf with ‘The Bluebirds’ written on it tied up next to the main entrance and celebrated our history and tradition in my own way.

I look forward to the day I return to watch Cardiff City play in blue.

Posted June 7, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

Selling the soul of Cardiff City.   19 comments

The months between football seasons are meant to be a time for optimism. Fans discuss how the new striker they’ve signed from the Mexican Third Division is bound to score 35 goals this season at least, while three academy players will burst onto the scene and play like Lionel Messi crossed with Pele and Peter Thorne.

Cardiff City had a brilliant campaign last season and fans should have been awash with anticipation and excitement for what was to come. The playoffs had ended in a disappointing 5 – 0 beating from West Ham, but there was every reason to be optimistic about what was to come. The optimism for next season was soon shattered by news that broke before the fans that had traveled to Upton Park had even made it back to the coaches with the news of the ‘rebranding’ to red. My initial views from the time can be found here .

An immediate and overwhelming outcry against the changes meant the plans were scrapped just two days later. A statement from the club from TG stated “In the light of the vociferous opposition by a number of the fans to the proposals being considered as expressed directly to our local management and through various media and other outlets, we will not proceed with the proposed change of colour and logo and the team will continue to play in blue at home for the next season with the current badge.” The statement can be found in full here  and I have also screen captured it, should it ‘mysteriously’ vanish from the website in the near future.

I have seen Cardiff City do some inexplicable things over the past few years. Warren Feeney signing on a long term contract, Stephen Bywater being allowed to play professional football and Alan Shearer being approached for the managerial position. All of these fade into insignificance when compared to the crass vandalism that is being undertaken against the traditions and history of our football club.

Cardiff City have played in blue for over 100 years and spent the majority of those years with a bluebird on their shirts. This is going to be thrown away because a man who didn’t know Cardiff City existed five years ago thinks we should play in red. Worse still, anyone who dares to speak out against the desecration of the football club is turned upon. The scare tactics and threatening undertone of the original statement has done the job it was intended to do, and forced many people into believing that the red dragon is the only way Cardiff City can survive.

Austria Salzburg tried to help us. The story of Red Bull Salzburg is one that is all too similar to ours, and they displayed the following banner at a home game.  I’ve edited a profanity out of the banner for this site, a link to the original picture will be in the comments.

Further support came from FC Zbrojovka Brno of the Czech Republic. Again, unedited picture will be in the comments section.

The saddest part of this whole saga is that it has taken people from Austria and the Czech Republic to show their defiance to this proposed plans. We have done nothing about it, and allowed the soul of our football club to be sold in the pursuit of commercial profit. By myself I can do nothing to stop the changes, nor do I expect the football club to care about my opinion. What I can do is stand up for my own beliefs, and I will not attend a Cardiff City home fixture or purchase any official merchandise while the team plays in red at home without a bluebird on its chest. I have been a season ticket holder for many seasons, including a year where I traveled to 90% of matches while living in Leeds. The majority of the money I have earned in my life has been spent on Cardiff City, and countless hours and thousands of miles spent following the club I love. Vincent Tan has proved, as if it was ever in doubt, that loyalty in football is a one way street.

Not everyone will share this opinion, and I have never claimed to speak for anyone other than myself. Many will accept, even welcome the changes and I won’t think less of any of the friends I have made watching the team for doing so. But it is not for me. Cardiff City have become the new MK Dons, and the latest example of how little fans matter in modern football.

This website was named after my favourite Cardiff City song. The one which contains the line “please don’t take my Cardiff away”. Well, it just happened. History will show that Vincent Tan came to sell our soul, and we did nothing about it. You were my Cardiff, my only Cardiff, you made me happy, when skies were grey, you never noticed, how much I loved you, and then you took, my Cardiff away.

Posted June 6, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

European Championship classic moments 1992 – 2008   1 comment

After last weeks European Championship preview, this week I have created some of the most famous moments from the last five tournaments, between 1992 – 2008. See how many you recognise…

Posted May 27, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

Euro 2012 – Illustrated preview for all 16 teams.   14 comments

With no Cardiff City action on the field for a few months, I have decided to cover the Poland and Ukraine European Championships to feed my addiction to drawing stickmen footballers. At the end of each round of fixtures I’ll be rounding up the best of the action in Microsoft Paint form, as well as reports on the later stages of the tournament and the England games, as they’ll probably be hilarious.

 

GROUP A

 

Prediction – Russia win the group, Poland through in second.

 

GROUP B

 

Prediction – Germany through as group winners, Netherlands second place.

 

GROUP C

 

 

 

Prediction – Spain through as group winners, Croatia second place.

 

GROUP D

 

Prediction – Sweden through as group winners, England second place.

 

By failing to call up any Cardiff City players England almost certainly won’t win, but the media circus around the team will cause plenty of entertainment anyway. Plus we’ll get to watch some penalty shootouts that don’t involve Cardiff for once. My overall prediction for tournament winners is Germany, but it should be a great championship in a tournament which is arguably more exciting than the World Cup due to having far more competitive games with no teams just there to make up the numbers. My only hope is Croatia don’t do well and I don’t have to draw their shirt again…

Posted May 23, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

End of season report.   3 comments

In the interests of fairness, I have only included players who made 10 appearances or more. I don’t generally like doing player ratings due to the inevitable “OH MY GOD, YOU DIDN’T GIVE MCNAUGHTON 10? BUT HE HAS SILVER HAIR AND A FUNNY SONG!!!” comments, but this is my view on the performance of our squad and manager in the 11/12 season. And no, I am not changing McNaughton’s mark.

Goalkeepers:

David Marshall – 8/10 – A wobbly start in the first 5 or 6 games was soon put behind him and he went on to have another excellent season. Marshall is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the division, with his kicking the only area of real concern. I don’t expect Malky Mackay to look to replace him and he should be our number one again next season.

Tom Heaton – 8/10 – Unlucky to be behind a goalkeeper of the quality of Marshall. Never let us down when called into the team and his Carling Cup heroics will never be forgotten. Penalty save from Steven Gerrard meant we dared to dream of winning the cup. Will leave the club for first team football in the summer and wish him the very best wherever he goes.

Defenders:

Andrew Taylor 7/10 – Brought solidity and consistency to a position we struggled with badly last season. Likes to get forward and has supplied a good amount of goals through his crossing. Still questions as to his defensive capabilities against the better teams, but a far better option than anyone else in the squad and does the attacking job required of him by Malky well.

Mark Hudson 8.5/10 – The captain and leader of Cardiff City, Hudson has recovered from his poor first season at the club to become a truly vital part of the side. His defensive partnership with Turner is the best in years and there can be few better in the league. Turned 30 this season but can still be a big part of the side for a few more seasons. Can often be seen lifting other players who are tiring or have made a mistake, and is not afraid to go mental when the other players around him need a telling off. He gets a bonus .5 points simply for ‘that’ goal against Derby.

Ben Turner 9/10 - My player of the season and one of several superb signings from Malky Mackay. Rock solid at the back and chipped in with a couple of goals as well. Has settled in fantastically during his first season and scored the most memorable goal in our recent history. Potential to become a Cardiff legend and I can certainly see him as a future captain. He is also the best passer of the ball we have had in defence for some time, a pleasant change from the panic whenever the next player on the list gets the ball at his feet…

Kevin McNaughton 4.5/10 – Comfortably the worst season the long serving fullback has had since joining the club in 2006. He is so popular that criticising him has become almost blasphemous, but he has been disappointing for almost the entire season. His passing has always been poor but has declined further this season and his positioning has been at fault for several goals. Also scored one of the most calamitous own goals for many years against Hull City. Has been an excellent servant to the club but I think his time as a top Championship fullback is over. I do not believe Kevin McNaughton will ever be part of a side which gets promotion to the Premiership.

Anthony Gerrard – I was always told if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. With that in mind -

Darcy Blake – 7/10 – Not used enough for my liking, would have preferred to see him in the team than McNaughton. Always did well when he was required, including some solid performances towards the end of the season and a great showing away at Middlesbrough. I expect him to leave for first team football but hope he stays.

Midfielders:

Peter Whittingham 9/10 – He does what he wants, and apparently what he wants is another season as one of the very best players in the Football League. He tailed off in the last couple of games, but he lead the charts in both goals and assists. Indeed, he created or scored 38% of all our Championship goals. He started every league game, and with our cup run ended up playing 51 times.  A genius with a football and would have had a perfect rating if not for a month or so where he was off the boil.

Don Cowie 7.5/10 – Started the season very well and was one of our main goal threats in the opening stages. The goals dried up but his workrate remained top class throughout the season. He was another player to play a lot of games, starting 43 in the league and 7 in the various cups. He contributed to 14 goals, a 50/50 split between assists and goals. This included a last second equaliser in our game against Huddersfield in the early rounds of the cup on the way to Wembley. Malky is not the only member of the Mackay family to rate him highly, his young daughter proudly wearing a Don Cowie shirt on the end of season lap of honour. Malky has probably earned enough to be able to afford another £40 shirt, but I can’t see Cowie leaving the club in a hurry.

Aron Gunnarsson 9/10 – The kind of midfield player we have missed in recent years, the Icelander has been a driving force who allows those around him to play more freely. He scored five times and also had five direct assists, although several more goals were created from his long throws which he would not be awarded the official assist for. Another signing from Coventry along with Ben Turner, I am a big fan of Gunnarsson and believe him to be an essential part of next seasons push for promotion. Malky has to be applauded for the amount of young talent he has brought in to the side.

Filip Kiss 7/10 – The young Slovakian has quickly gained a reputation for his strong midfield play and perhaps more importantly, being utterly insane. He would slide tackle Bambi’s mum if he felt it would help the team, and probably even if he didn’t. Filip Kiss is a dangerous man. I would have used him in the team more, and not just because I’d be too scared to drop him. Certainly has a part to play and I believe he will be a success over the coming years at Cardiff City.

Craig Conway 6/10 – The only traditional winger in the squad, he scored 5 goals and had 7 assists in all competitions. He started the season very well, but was another one who lost his way after the opening games. He had a long spell either playing poorly or not in the team at all, an inspired performance against Portsmouth aside he was very quiet in the middle stage of the season. He returned towards the end and was showing promising signs of getting back to his form at the start of the campaign, only for his season to be ended by a nasty injury sustained against Watford. Not a great season by any means, but we will should retain him unless Malky signs three better wingers.

Stephen McPhail 10/10 – If he had been available all season I believe we would have finished at least three positions higher in the table. Came back into the side and helped us make the playoffs when all had previously seemed lost. Has put most modern footballers to shame by fighting against a potentially life threatening illness with bravery and quiet dignity. I only hope he is able to continue playing for the club and we have not seen the last of him at Cardiff City Stadium. If we were ever to get promoted or win a competition while he is at the club, he should certainly be the man to lift the trophy.

Liam Lawrence 8/10 – Lawrence seems to divide opinion with Cardiff fans, I for one think he is a good player with one of the best deliveries at the club.  Only here for a short time on loan from Portsmouth but was involved in some  important moments on the way to the playoffs. Financially crippled Portsmouth will need to unload him and I would be very pleased if he became a full time Bluebird.

Joe Ralls 6.5/10 – Scored the most incredible debut goal I can remember a Cardiff player scoring. If he had had a similar impact in every game he played he’d be playing for Barcelona next season, but sadly he faded away after the ridiculously good start. McPhail returning to the team limited his chances at the end of the season, but the youngster will have learnt a lot from his time in the first team and the 14 appearances he made alongside established Championship talent. With a full pre-season with the first team to come, he could be an important figure next season.

Forwards:

Kenny Miller 6.5/10 – Scored against West Ham on his debut and got a fine double against Southampton soon after. It looked as if Miller would go on to score plenty of goals over the course of the season, but the goals dried up for him and it was a season of struggle. Many people would give Miller a lower mark,  however I feel he does have a role to play in the team and would be happy to see him next season. He works very hard for the side, but needs a targetman striker to work alongside him if he is to really be successful. There is no excusing some of his poor finishing, but give him the support he needs next season and watch him go.

Joe Mason 9.5/10 – Expected to only play a supporting role behind Miller and Earnshaw, Mason has instead been one of the stars of the season. Displaying excellent technique and coolness under pressure, he is the calmest finisher I can ever remember to pull on a Cardiff City shirt. Played most of the season in an advanced attacking midfield role, but has also done well as a striker when forced to play that role due to injuries to others. Signed a new long term contract but will surely be in the Premiership soon with or without us. The sky really is the limit.

Rudy Gestede 6.5/10 – I am still unsure as to how Rudy Gestede’s career in football will go. Still very young, he displays plenty of promise but also has his fair share of weaknesses. His heading has the same level of directional awareness as a drunk walking back to a hotel in a strange city at 3am, while he has missed a large part of the season through injury. He memorably created Kenny Millers West Ham winner, but did not have an assist for the rest of the season. Despite these negative points there is plenty of good things about him, and plenty of time to approve. I expect him to still be at the club next season but to be behind at least 3 other strikers. He is a very popular and likable player, will be become a top one? The jury is out on how successful Rudy will be but if he doesn’t make it it will certainly not be down to a lack of enthusiasm and commitment.

Robert Earnshaw 4.5/10 – No signing excited the fans more, just as no player disappointed more over the course of the season. Initially used in a 4 – 4 – 2 with Kenny Miller he enjoyed some success and scored a couple of goals, including one on his home return against Bristol City. The pair struggled to play together however, and after the success of 4 – 5 – 1 against Blackpool Earnshaw never got an extended run in the team again, often failing to make the bench. Everyone wanted the return of a legitimate legend to be a success, sadly it has been even less successful than the return of Jason Koumas last season. It’s hard to imagine Earnshaw will be at the club next season, a sad ending.

Manager:

Malky Mackay – 9/10 – A fantastic first season for Mackay, beating all expectations as we made the Carling Cup final and reached the Championship playoffs in what was expected to be a season of consolidation. On the list of appearances for the season, Malky signed eight out of the top eleven which shows just how much work he had to do when he came in. None of his signings can be classed as failures, while Ben Turner, Aron Gunnarsson and Joe Mason in particular have been fantastic purchases. Mackay has not been flawless, he probably regrets playing 4 – 5 – 1 at home against many of the weaker sides resulting in draws and his squad did not have enough wingers. Despite these criticisms, I believe Malky has done far more than could have been expected of him in his first campaign in charge and he will go on to be the man to get us promoted.

Posted May 16, 2012 by Ben Dudley in General articles

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