Football

Bluebirds need to shake off last season’s disappointment

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A new season beckons, and with it new challenges. In 1925 Fred Keenor led Cardiff City to Wembley for their first FA Cup Final. Nerves got to the Bluebirds on the day. They lost 1-0 to...yes, our season's first opponents, Sheffield United.

After the FA Cup Final match, undaunted by the disappointment of losing, Keenor had the confidence and belief to say: "Just because we lost in our very first Cup Final, I don't think there is any cause to get down in the mouth.

"I can say here and now that one day soon our followers can be sure that Cardiff City will bring that cup to Wales." Two years later that prediction was fulfilled and the FA Cup famously came to Wales as Cardiff defeated Arsenal 1-0.

This season, having lost in the play-off final to Blackpool, Cardiff are hoping to go one better than the 1927 heroes, by achieving their goal one year after final disappointment, not two.

Success in any sphere rarely comes instantaneously. Hard work, patience, disappointments and inevitably a few tears must lie somewhere along the way. If one looks back at the lead-up to those two FA Cup appearances in 1925 and 1927, one can see a Cardiff team little by little making progress.

Formed only in 1899 from humble beginnings, the club had by the onset of World War I risen to the dizzy heights of 3rd place in the Southern League. Two years after the cessation of hostilities in 1918 the club, as the strongest team in Wales, was invited to join the Football League Second Division.

Come 30 August 1920, Cardiff plays its first ever Football League match at Ninian Park - an inconspicuous 0-0 draw against Clapton Orient. Five days later, their first ever league victory - a 3-0 win against Stockport County.

The team's now beginning to show distinct signs of class. Promotion to the top flight soon follows as other signs of life begin to appear - a semi final appearance in the 1921 FA Cup, attendances ever increasing and a 4th place in their first season in the First Division.

A poor start to the 1923-24 season ends with heartache, inches away from winning the title - losing only on a marginally inferior goal difference to Huddersfield Town.

They go into the last day of the season one point head of Huddersfield needing only to beat Birmingham to clinch a first ever title. It ends 0-0 and includes a missed Cardiff penalty. Tears in the dressing room? They'd have been shed by the bucketful that afternoon.

Then onto 1925 - the FA Cup Final defeat to Sheffield Utd. More tears no doubt. 1926-27 sees them 14th in the League, but also then the crowning glory, FA Cup Winners in that folk-lore victory over the Arsenal.

It was ever the case - sometimes two steps forward one step back. Disappointments and successes - all part and parcel of the life of a football club. One thing is clear though - discernible trends could be observed. And to my mind these are the best telescopes we have to look into the future.

And what of the current class for the 2010-11 season? The club, the players, the manager, the fans live with the disappointment of the Blackpool defeat still fresh in our minds.

Likewise, the Cardiff boys of the 1920s had their own inner battles to overcome, but overcome them they did. And so what of the coming season, what prospects?

Yes there are clouds overhead - there's no denying the finances look precarious, but the blue skies are there too - recent years have seen definite progress - improving positions in the league, a new stadium, a still strong and generally loyal fan base, the FA Cup Final, the Blackpool play-off final, defeats yes in both these latter two, but steady progress there has been, without a shadow of doubt. And it is this steady trend that invites optimism and hope.

This year, as has often been the case in recent years, there are no obvious favourites to my mind for the Championship. The season will no doubt be an interesting one.

I believe we have as good a chance as any of teams to gain at least a play-off place. Our chances of achieving this are probably higher than most.

But whatever success or failure comes the club's way, I've no doubt that the Duke of Wellington's comment after Waterloo: "It has been a damned nice thing (nice in its original sense of "uncertain") - the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life" won't be far off the mark as an assessment of how the season will pan out. Let battle commence!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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Topics:
Football
Championship
Cardiff City

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