Tribute to ‘idol of South Wales’ and Jay

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When he stepped out on to the Wembley turf on Wednesday evening as a late sub for Andy Carroll, amazingly, in spite of the fact that the club has been in existence since 1899, Jay Bothroyd became the first Cardiff player ever to represent England while still playing for the Bluebirds.

Others, of course, have played for England but not while still playing for the Bluebirds - eg in recent times, Robbie Fowler.

Again, the famous Bluebirds’ 1927 FA Cup winning team against the Arsenal included a most accomplished Englishman - Billy Hardy. Billy was clearly a very interesting character.

He began his career at Bedlington, his home town club, then moved to Scotland to play for Hearts. Then followed by a one-year spell at Stockport County before he was persuaded to move to Cardiff for a fee of £25 (which incidentally was paid by manager Fred Stewart) in part because Hardy's father was a sea captain (was he a descendent of the famous Captain Hardy from Nelson's Battle of Trafalgar? I don't know) who used to call regularly at Cardiff docks.

At the City his career flourished. Having joined the club when they were playing in the Southern League he was an ever present for the next decade before Cardiff joined Football League in 1920.Interestingly, first ever match in the Football League was against his former side Stockport County and he was the club's only ever-present player in the 1920-21 season.

Hardy also continued to be an ever-present in the following decade for the Bluebirds, including both their FA Cup Final appearances in 1925 and 1927.

Instantly recognisable - he was stocky and practically bald from an early age - he played his last game for Cardiff City in March 1932 at the age of 41 having played 585 first team games.

Despite being an Englishman playing in Wales, Hardy's long career with Cardiff established him as a hero in the town, being described by a local newspaper as ‘the idol of all South Wales’.

Such was his popularity that when he appeared on a newsreel shown in Cardiff cinemas, the audience cheered for ten minutes.

However, in spite of his unquestioned ability, Hardy was never selected for the England national team and it was often suggested he was denied an international cap because he played for a Welsh team.

It is this last point I wish now to examine. Accusations of bias from English selectors against players from Welsh teams is nothing new, and such things are clearly difficult to prove.

My own thoughts are that if any bias has existed, it has not been a deliberate one. However what sometimes does happen is that those operating in one part of the country can subconsciously see things in a certain way that then subsequently leads to players being overlooked. I'm not sure why this happens - but it does appear to be the case.

To illustrate this point. On Thursday morning I eagerly went through three or mainstream media reports of the England-France game , specifically to see what the consensus was on Jay's brief appearance. I was most taken aback to see in none of these was Jay Bothroyd even mentioned. All mentioned the new ‘debutants’, Andy Carroll, Kieran Gibbs and Jordan Henderson, but no Jay Bothroyd.

So, maybe there have there been other Cardiff players who should have played before him, maybe there haven't been, but just for the record - many congratulations Jay, you are now in the history books, and hopefully there will be many more caps in the future!

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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