Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Stadium Saga - Episode 501

"Mum, is that supposed to be City's new ground?"
"Ask your grandad son, he was your age when they first talked about it"

It's hard in these parts to know if "Lost" is that two year series about people stranded on an island or Cardiff City's four year quest for the stadium. Whichever it is, we're forever waiting for the end of the thing with diminishing interest and excitement.

It would seem today is more promising than most. If rumours are true, a second anchor tenant is signed, if the council are announcing the news then that would give it more credence that the interminable ones from the club then it appears on the surface to be a breakthrough and progress.

If these m/b rumours are correct, this should trigger a release of funs to the club to hopefully make stadium delivery more viable (but maybe not the £10-£15M of income Sam once promised would also become immediately available to spend on the team eh folks?).

That can only be positive so let's be happy but I'd suggest remaining guarded. There will still be "ifs and buts" and scenarios to overcome, we're still not truly there yet. It's not signed, sealed and delivered and there's still no start date but, clearly, all parties appear happy enough with developments to do this.

Let's just hope therefore that it's definitely not another premature announcement with a media fanfare and tease but no delivery and follow up, we've been taunted by them for far too long to tolerate anymore.

For that reason alone, I suspect the club and council aren't fully in-tune with the mood of the public, many of whom will probably act with a relative sense of relief and wonder why the excitement this time. For far too many people, they've heard enough of the talk. The wonder and excitement can only happen when these announcements and talk stop and the physical work commences.

We're having a fantastic season on the pitch, it would make it an outstanding season if we can also see real action and development off it too. Good Luck to all involved at City.

Finally, if, as someone implied here last night, there are JCB's outside Parc Nin, well don't forget we've got Millwall down here tonight. ;>)

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Another win, another job well done.

Saturday, January 21st, 3pm kick-off
Championship @ Walkers Stadium

Fryatt 41

Jerome 13, Koumas 56

Attendance: 20,140

Away support: 1,250 approx.

Police Support: An OTT 400 plus a few horses - money well spent, I think not

Weather: Appropriate it was "crisp" considering we were playing at Walker's Stadium, blinding low sun for much of game

Leciester - brilliant at booing, ironically cheering subs and chanting for the manager to go
City - brilliant all afternoon

What a brilliant afternoon. For only the second time this season, Cardiff City put together back-to-back Championship victories with a hard-earned but, with greater quality and purposeful goal attempts, a certainly deserved superb 2-1 victory at Leicester City's Walker's Stadium. It sent the Bluebirds flying nearer a play-off berth and The Foxes into a right hole. Despite the hunting ban, they're firmly looking at a relegation dogfight.

Cardiff scored superb goals early in each half, Cameron Jerome's towering header rounding off a fantastic move whilst Jason Koumas mastery of the dead ball rarely better than his whipped winner in the second half, a piece of skill that the very best free-kick specialists would have been proud to claim.

Matty Fryatt, on his home debut, equalised in the first half as Leicester recovered from the early setback and applied immense pressure. Going behing again at the same stage of the second half, they huffed, puffed and tried again, ending the match with five forwards but City were resolute this time and close to recording a more resounding victory as the very best chances came our way. This was one to be proud about.

For the first time this season, I turned a City away fixture into a weekender. Friday day and night was spent in Birmingham, a city that's changed so much. Great in the daytime for the shoppers these days and excellent by night too, thoroughly enjoyed. Some excellent bars/clubs and if a Wetherspoon's near you in selling Whisky Ale this coming week, enjoy some but drink it at your peril. That was a demon brew. It all meant whilst other fans were making the 150 mile two to three hour trip, I had a leisurely 45 minute outing up the M6/M69 only.

Ugh! - A few whisky ales and I
think I'm a natural pole dancer!!!!

The first inkling the policing was going to be larger and heavier than normal was arriving in the centre and seeing 5 police vans, 4 hired mini buses, 2 van loads of police horses and the full range of police uniform, clothing and riot gear - there must have been a January Sale at Top Cop. One pub with a dozen City fans only had 40 coppers outside, another street with a few bars with full or fluorescent jackets and mounted horses seemed to be going up and down every city centre street. The only question is why? They weren't unfriendly but it was intimidating. Maybe they feared problems, maybe it's the reputation thing but, even by usual Cardiff City awayday standards, this looked ridiculous.

Not particularly wanting to be part of that show, we found an excellent O'Neill's (excellent that is until they decided to show rugby instead of the early Everton v Arsenal game, I thought this only happened back home) and then a superb real ale bar, The Globe. The beers were wonderful, the locals were weird but what the hell!

Walker's Stadium is far a distance form the centre as Ninian Park in Cardiff. Situated not far from the National Space Centre (Naive 1 - I never knew we had one) and the city jail which looked as grand as a castle (Naive 2 - was it ever one?), the stadium although not the highest is iundoubtedly mpressive as you approach it.

It is a one-tier bowl-shaped fully enclosed stadium holding about 40,000 and, to me, it is deceiving. It was only half full but it didn't look like a 20,000 crowd inside, perhaps the deception as much to do with the quietness and lack of atmosphere from the home support. For City, not only did we have to contend with an unhealthy number of police and stewards but a clampdown on membership card checks. Nobody could get in without a pass, those who didn't have them (like myself) had to go to a hut to be verified and get a sticker put on our tickets and those who weren't strictly members seemed to manage to blag their way in somehow. Again, why so much security?

Inside, it's a great away section with good catering (but no bar!), a bookie with many winning their "Jerome 1st goalscorer" bet at 5/1 and a good view. We were housed in one of the corners with netting separating us from home fans on both sides. The sun was blinding us (the LCFC programmes became sun visors to most City fans) for a good hour as it fell behind the stand directly opposite us and then it went cold. In with the City fans today was '80's Bluebird hero Dave Bennett who lives locally and seemed to have been a guest of a City fan (how did he get in with no membership card then?). Good to see old players still watch us, even better when they're in with us.

City End - Fun in the sun

City would have travelled with some confidence. With Loovens still injured and Whitley serving the final game of his latest ban and no transfer activity in the week (the club not yet ridding themselves of Phil Mulryne or Andy Campbell), City made one change from the side that burned Burnley last weekend with Willie Boland dropped to the bench and Ricardo Scimeca put in the engine room with Joe Ledley. The starting line-up was therefore Alexander, Weston-Cox-Purse-Barker, Ardley-Scimeca-Ledley-Koumas, Thompson-Jerome. Subs were Margetson-Boland-Cooper-Mulrune-Ndumbu Nsungu.

Think back to those dark days with the poor Lennie Lawrence's under-performers last season and that's Leicester City under Craig Levein this season. There's a theory that if his side hadn't recovered from a 2-0 deficit to incredibly knock Spurs out of the F.A. Cup a fortnight ago, he might not have a job now. His side are in the bottom three, they've now lost 5 Championship games in succession and collected only two of the last 27 points available. Quite appalling.

They looked short on confidence and ideas against Cardiff but they're certainly a far better outfit than the painfully limited Crewe and Brighton, the strugglers that are Plymouth, the novices of Sheffield Wednesday and the recovering but still troubled Millwall. The manager and players have to take a deep look at themselves for the mess they've somehow got themselves in.

Their side looked strong enough on paper. The lanky ex-Scottish Celtic keeper Rab Douglas between the posts, a back line of Stearman-McCarthy-Nils Eric Johansson-Maybury, Smith-Kisnorbo-Williams-Hughes in midfield (Ryan Smith on a season's loan from Arsenal and Steven Hughes an ex-Rangers team mate and good friend of City's Steve Thompson) and Deep Freeze (Mark DeVries) and home debutant Matty Fryatt (signed last week from Walsall for £750k) up front.

With a pumping p.a. blaring out a rocked out version of the fox hunt, they were up for it and had the first chance as DeVries, a powerful forward who caused trouble all afternoon, forced himself between Pursey and Coxy but shot straight at Alexander. Then it was all City.

Pressure was building as Cardiff attacked towards us. An Ardley cross was snuffed out, another put behind, the resulting corner caused trouble, Jerome was taken down and then, from a flowing move and good link play between Weston and Ardley, the former's cross was met on the full by Thompson but his good effort on the turn flew over.

The next attack, a minute later, was lethal. Leicester tried to break into City's half, Chris Barker dispossessed and instinctively switched play to the right with a superb pass that sent Neil Ardley away in acres of space, he got the ball by the touchline and sent over a most fantastic cross that CAMERON JEROME met on the full and guided an outstanding header of power, purpose and direction into Douglas' top right, the keeper had no chance. It went absolutely mental in the City end, Jerome charged over to celebrate with us, Ardley took a bow. 13 minutes, 1-0 and we looked well on the way with Jerome's 15th of the season, 4 in his last 5 and 13th in the Championship making him joint leading scorer with Dave Kitson, many of whose goals have been penalties.

City celebrate 1st goal with us

The Cardiff section were in brilliant form and had already been baiting the home support. Now one ahead, it was time for the repertoire. "Easy, easy", "1-0 to the sheepshaggers", "Leicester is a library", "There's only one Jerome" and many many more. To our left, a section of 100 Leicester fans seemed to be the only ones trying to back their side but with only one chant, "Stand up and support your team" which they continued ad nauseum. Their fans didn't respond and sat, ours did and stood!

On the pitch, there was a sea change. At 1-0 ahead, we seemed to relax and take our foot off the pedal in a game in which we appeared to have total control. Leicester, meantime, were fighting and fighting hard. In no time, they appeared to have total dominance in midfield and we were penned back living on our nerves with big challenges, desperate clearances and, also, in pure comedy as Leicester's shooting was so wayward that it simply provided catching practice for their fans high up in the stand. Each one cheered loudly by us. City's only escape saw Thompson test Douglas but it was one-way traffic.

Cardiff needed half-time and sorting out. It had become a slog in which our midfield were struggling and you felt it needed the "dog" of Willie Boland as Ledley struggled, Scimeca seemed to allow the game to pass him by and Koumas cut an anonymous figure. Five minutes before the interval, disaster.

A scrappy move that characterised many of Leicester's desparate looking attacks in which City didn't help themselves with some head tennis inside their area instead of belting the ball away, Cox headed weakly, it was returned with interest from a Leicester head and Alexander let himself down with poor reactions somehow allowing MATTY FRYATT to jump over him and nod the ball goalwards, the ball being ruled over the line despite Darren Purse's acrobatic clearence. Like Jerome, it was Fryatt's 15th of the term but the other 14 for the 19 yr old came with Walsall a division lower. A minute later, Alexander made amends as Leicester cut through us but he did well to stop Fryatt's low shot. A half that had started so promising finished so worrying.

Half-time: LEICESTER 1 CITY 1

City returned to more terrific support as they came back out, the boys in full backing for the team and enjoying the occasion. However the next shout was to give our lot a wake up as Leicester got through us again, one shot was blocked, Fryatt's deflected follow up seemed destined to go top corner until Neil Alexander rescued City with a miraculous clawed one handed save at the last gasp.

This time, City responded as Ardley sent over a couple of crosses and a couple of corners whilst Jerome tried his luck from 20 yards but fired over. Twice, Jason Koumas, now showing signs of coming to life, also ran at Leicester defenders but was denied free-kicks but it was third time lucky when he was nudged aside on a 25 yard run just outside the area on the left.

A full 25 yards out at a difficult angle, probably not his best side, but what followed was majesty from King Koumas. The obvious shot was to curl around the wall for the nearest top corner but in the knowledge Douglas would almost certainly get there. Anything else from his position would have been beyond any Championship player, average or very good, but Koumas is outstanding and the best without equal. His free-kick was a screamer, over the wall, swinging across and away from Douglas, his full-length dive in utter despair as KOUMAS delivered to absolute perfection into the opposite top corner. Truly stunning, completely unstoppable, a genius at work and boy, didn't we love it. Koumas' 10th, each one exceptional.

At 2-1 ahead, City were in no mood to mess it up again. Once more, Leicester hit us with everything and came at us with force but, this time, to a man, City stood firm, blocked and defended everything and when opportunity arose, counter-attacked with menace. They always looked composed, the older heads out there showing their experience.

At the back, the hero was Darren Purse who won every header that came his way, every header under challenge, a few headers that he had no right to win and headers that he seemed to be nowhere near when he jumped. When he didn't win a head, he was belting balls away into Row ZZ. Neil Cox wasn't far behind, he may lack pace but his football brain more than makes up for it, his positioning and awareness always seemed to be spot on.

City were dealt two quick blows as Rhys Weston and Steven Thompson disappeared within a couple of minutes of each other with 25 minutes remaining, Weston seemingly with a slight pull, Thompson the result of a knock helping out deep inside City's own penalty area. Neal Ardley took over Weston's role, Boland and Cooper came on as Cardiff switched to 4-5-1.

By now, Jason Koumas was producing his best. Some of his touches, flicks and runs were breath-taking, each relieving pressure. At times, it was like watching a one man masterclass. I particularly enjoyed his flick on the outside of his boot deep in his own half, spin and turn around a Leicester attacker and coming away with the ball, showboater!

Another showboater, but not very good at it, was Leicester's Ryan Smith. By the way he strutted around, you could see why he came from the Arsene Wenger set up but his three corner kicks in front of us were all awful. All weak chips, one couldn't beat the first man, another straight to Alexander and the third easily headed away. Being so close, meant we could give him verbals before he took them and thank him afterwards for his naffness.

Ryan Smith - oops he did it again
Another corner effed up, lovely.
With Leicester getting desperate, we could finally laugh at them. An attempt to take a quick throw with a spare ball ended when their ball boy sent the original ball back on the pitch, the retake was ruined too as the spare ball came back on again, one of their players - Hughes - then threw the ball away in disgust and stared out the ball boy. A poor cross went straight to Alexander, producing 15,000 very loud boos as the quiet lot were now an impatient lot. A huge booming chant of "Levein Out, Levein Out" rang out, I joined in with that one. Then the biggest cheer of the afternoon as Leicester made a double sub for the final 15 but I'm still working out if they were cheering the two came or ironic cheering for the two they were taking off. As it was, Leicester now had 5 attackers on the pitch.

They tried, they pushed hard but City's resoluteness combined with the home side's lack of quality in the final third meant it counted for nothing, Alexander have no saves to make, a couple of crosses to take, that was it.

Indeed, the only side who looked like scoring late on were Cardiff. Douglas saved a Koumas 25 yarder from another great run, then after Jerome was sent clear by an outstanding Koumas pass, he delayed his shot a fraction too long, Douglas stopped and the ball was scrambled away as Ledley ran in looking certain to score. Finally, Douglas produced a great stop after Ledley had superbly made space for himself, latched onto a Cooper through ball and hit a fantastic angled drive.

Leicester's only effort at goal in a very tense ending came in the final minute of the three added on but Elvis Hammond sent it way over goal, Elvis' shot certainly left the building. Uh-Uh!

A brilliant, brilliant afternoon. A double over Leicester in the Championship and a day to savour. Under pressure, we showed our work ethic. Everyone played their part, City battled and scrapped, they showed their nerve. When attacking, we showed quality and two sublime goals that deserve to win any game.

It took some time to get away and, along exit roads, there were still large groups of police as much as a mile or tow away from the ground, quite incredible. The win however made the journey home seem short but very sweet. Listening to radio phone-ins with fans moaning about their teams and managers, including more than a few Leicester fans, makes you realise this really is a great and proud time to be a Cardiff City follower. The football may not always be magic but the boys have been outstanding and even though we don't know how they can maintain a play-off challenge, they're doing exactly that. All credit to Dave Jones and his players.

It's a win that lifted City to 7th, leapfrogging Wolves, but still 2 points behind the play-off sides who look increasingly hard to catch as Leeds are 10 points ahead of us, Watford are 8 points ahead, Palace are 4 points clear with 2 games in hand and Preston are two points clear with a game in hand and unbeaten in 19. We need to maintain a winning run to overhaul them but we're now 5 points ahead of 10th. A great achievement.

With an away training trip in Portugal and no game next weekend due to our F.A. Cup exit, next up is Millwall at home on January 31st, immediately after the transfer window has closed. On a personal note, I hope our goalscorers this weekend are still here to play in that game because, let's face it, while it's a team game, Koumas and Jerome are the key difference between City being 7th and not 17th in this season's Championship. They give us a quality in and around the penalty that others, Leicester included, have to dream about.

Tickets: £46
Programme: £ 3
Leicester Fanzine: £ 2
Food/Drink: £20
Hotel: £60
Petrol: £35
Car Parking: £ 5
Total for game: £166 (costs are for two)

Total for season-to-date: £2,184

Tuesday, January 17, 2006



Contrary to popular belief, it's not the first time that the Football Echo (the pink'un) has ceased production, The Echo pulled the plug on it in the early '90's before rediscovering an appetite but I doubt we'll ever see it again.

This type of paper has had its day without doubt but I do think Western Mail and Echo are tending to overlook its own part in the demise of this publication, it's not insignificant.

Here's what their version of events doesn't tell you;

1. Nearly all its Football Echo City content were re-hashes of what had already been published in The Echo during the week, there was rarely anything new to read, it just said it differently.

2. Its cover price had risen to a ridiculous 50p.

3. The Echo had long ceased advance publicising the Football Echo in the daily paper, something they used to do quite heavily.

4. They stopped selling it around the pubs.

5. They delivered to a quarter or less of newsagents in the past year. I know only two newsagents in Barry who were selling it this year for example.

Goodye Football Echo. At least it signed off in style with a big home win for Cardiff City and a big home stuffing for Cardiff Rugby, I like that.

For me, the writing was on the wall when my weekly column stopped. ;>)

Saturday, January 14th, 3pm kick-off
Championship @ Ninian Park

Thompson 58, 60 Koumas 63


Attendance: 10,872
Burnley support: 200 approx.
Weather: Bright, sunny and mild for mid-January
Atmosphere: Very good today, lots of singing from all parts of ground

CARDIFF CITY powered past Burnley with a three goal in five minute second half blitz to continue their yo-yo ways. A dream debut double in two minutes by Steven Thompson instantly followed by a Jason Koumas header blew away the Clarets from a previously awful, tedious but even game.

It was that strange a game. Take away that goal blitz which included Jerome almost adding a 4th and it offered nothing apart from a possible cure for insomniacs. The first half, despite quite a few contenders, was probably the worst 45 minutes of entertainment and quality seen at Ninian Park all season. What must have been a half-time rollicking worked again as City came back refreshed, began applying pressure and then smashed down Burnley's defensive door with those goals, the second and third were crackers, before normal service resumed as City dominated the rest of the game by closing it out comfortably.

However this was a good win, a big win and a very solid performance too which certainly sent everyone home smiling and happy (all except Victor anyway). Neil Alexander, if allowed, would have been able to draw up his weekly shopping list, pay bills and call a few mates so he had something to do for the afternoon.

Cardiff and Burnley are totally different towns/cities but they seem close in other ways. Both from industrial regions, both are trying to regain former glories that are a long way in the past and there's currently little to choose between their current status.

Both clubs have excellent managers, both have to get by with very limited squads and a nucleus of just 18 players, crowd sizes are similar and whilst both sets of fans were fearful of a relegation battle last summer, they have instead been pleasantly surprised to see their sides near the play-offs instead. Both have a striker grabbing the headlines. For Jerome at City, read Akinbiyi at Burnley, both have 12 goals. They started the afternoon just one point apart and two places apart.

Extra WD40 was needed at Ninian Park this week as the entry/exit door had a through workout. Out went Tony Warner for £100k to Fulham after a lengthy loan spell there, Joe Royle sees something in Alan Lee than City fans haven't and paid upto £150k for him, Toni Koskela's off to Greece (maybe for the John Travolta role?) whilst Michael Ricketts sloped off back to Leeds since the last league game twelve days ago. If he drives like he moves on the pitch, he's probably still getting there. Three of those players were very well paid, good luck to them all, it's true to say none will be particularly missed.

In came two strikers with the wonderfully named Congolese, Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu (call me Nsungu) coming on a Bosman from Darlington, initially until the end of the season, at the start of the week. On Thursday, in came Steven Thompson (nicknamed the Tomohawk by Ali on the tannoy) from Rangers for £200k and then on Friday afternoon, utility player Riccardo Scimeca arrived on emergency loan from "our feeder club" West Brom pending completion of a medical and permanently signing on a free next week. It effectively didn't cost us in fees, it may not cost extra in wages yet but Dave Jones appears to have greatly strengthened the squad and team. An excellent weeks work by DJ.

Only Thompson started and there was reshuffling too as Glenn Loovens and Paul Parry are currently injured whilst Jeff Whitley started a 2 match ban after 10 yellow cards giving call ups to Willie Boland (now recovered from injury himself) and Neil Cox. City went with Alexander, Weston-Cox-Purse-Barker, Koumas-Ledley-Boland-Ardley, Jerome-Thompson. Subs were Margetson-Cooper-Mulryne-Nsungu-Scimeca.

Burnley are having an excellent season. They started the day in 8th but, like City, have struggled just recently. They had collected just 1 point from the previous 9 and whilst City lost 2-1 in the F.A. Cup at Arsenal last weekend, The Clarets went out by the same score at Derby.

They were another side who came with the intent of frustrating Cardiff and hoping to pinch a goal along the way as they started 4-5-1, that one Ade Akinbiyi being as isolated as any lone frontman could be. Their side were the Big Dane Brian Jensen in goals, defence were Thomas-McGreal-Sinclair-Harley, a midfield five of James O'Connor-Hyde-McCann-Gareth O'Connor-Elliott and Akinbiyi. Wayne Thomas and James O'Connor are better known to City fans from their time at Stoke and battles of old, Frank Sinclair and Jon Harley at the back used to be regarded as Chelsea heroes by their fans .. then the money arrived! Akinbiyi seems to be Sheffield United's target since City declined their £2M offer for Cameron Jerome.

On a bright, mild day with spaces around the ground, a slightly better looking crowd than the 10,872 was announced. Even so, for those of us who really care about this club and want it to do well regardless of personalities and politics, it's so disappointing that we can find 7,000 "loyal diehard" fans to go to Highbury and could have sold it twice over at least but struggle to break 10,000 at home in a season when we're doing very well thank you.

Most opposing sides key tactic against City is to stop Koumas playing by fair or foul means. Burnley took it to a new dimension by hacking him down within two seconds of kick off. Good work! Add in a good Neil Alexander save from a low Jon Harley driven free-kick on the edge of the box and Steve Thompson showing signs of what was to turn with a clever chest down and shot after turning with his back to goal and those three moments describe the entire first half highlights.

It really was that dreadful, no fluent football by either side, passes that went astray, balls hoofed around, nobody able to impose themselves and influence the game. Koumas was never in it, Jerome was having a quiet day and Thompson was getting a hard introduction being muscled and barged at every given opportunity. Burnley, with Akinbiyi stranded on his own but commendably working hard, caused no trouble other than the free-kick. I entertained myself by either admiring the Burnley fans in fancy dress (Bertie Bassett looked good) and watching our saubs warm up with Scimica doing the ayatollah on request but having to teach a very confused Ndumbu-Nsungu. There was no shortage of effort but just nothing whatsoever to admire.

It was rank bad, nothing more to be said except the Grange End fence, the last one of the 92 clubs, was chopped down to a much smaller version anyone could hop over. City got a lot of publicity out of it but with 18 coppers (count them) now in the middle and the usual array of stewards, it's hardly cost effective.

Half-time: CITY 0 BURNLEY 0

Half-time entertainment was different, wasn't it? The Dirty Sanchez crew came on the pitch filming a piece for the next series. Pritchard, Pancho, Dainton and Dan all went to the Grange End in their club shirts. All you need to know is that Pritchard is a Bluebird and Pancho is a Jack, the latter getting almighty abuse but giving the ayatollah back to the Grange.

Once there, they recreated a skit form the first series where they undressed to jockstraps, stood on the goalline facing the crowd in a defensive wall and allowed others to take pot shots at them. Unfortunately, some of the piledrivers had real venom but lacked direction, more efforts hit the back of the net than the back of the boys. Fortunately, when they hit target, it was nearly always Pancho The Jack who got it, best one right in the flesh of the back above the hips by a Burnley sub. The boys however it as the Grange End sang, "turn round and face the ball".

It was as funny as anything to watch but best moment for many came as the boys left the field, now with their shirts on again, as Pritchard wrestled off Pancho's Swansea shirt and danced on it on the pitch and then two stewards charged on and slammed the Jack to the floor. A quality laugh all round, there's a lot to be said for stupidity.

The atmosphere, considering the dreadful opening 45 minutes, had been pretty good but as the teams came back out, it raised another notch and was excellent with all parts of the ground singing out.

The first chance fell to Burnley, Akinbiyi doing very well hooking a ball going behind him but arcing it over the bar but City were now starting to put moves together and had Burnley pushed right back. You felt something may came soon but nobody expected the avalanche.

58 minutes - a nice flowing move down the right, as Burnley scrambled away, City won second ball, Willie Boland sent a high hanging ball from the touchline to the penalty spot, Jensen charged out and made a pig's ear jumping over Jerome and then spilling the ball. It ran loose and STEVEN THOMPSON had a simple chance but still made it look easy as he turned the ball into the unguarded net between two defenders. The Tomohawk had struck, the crowd looked anxiously to see if the ref would allow it as goalkeepers often get away with their own recklessness but it was a goal. Thompson ran to the Grange, was jumped on by Jerome, riotous stuff.

No sooner had we settled down than, 60 minutes, City were putting together another flowing move down the right, Koumas being the orchestrator. Again, the ball broke loose but fell to a City shirt with Jerome wide this time who dinked a ball to THOMPSON on the edge of the area. His technique and finishing were both fantastic and lethal and he trapped the ball dead, spun and aimed a shot with superb power and precision high into the corner that the diving frame of Jensen could get nowhere near it. That was brilliance.

Then Cardiff-bus like, nothing for ages and then three at once. 63 minutes, Koumas striding from midfield looking dangerous like no other player can at this level. He glided by some Burnley players and found Ardley who took one step to control, another to side-step a marker and then hit a left-footed inswinger form the right which found JASON KOUMAS' head and his technique was outstanding too as he nodded downwards into the corner form 12 yards into the only spot where Jensen couldn't save for his 9th City goal. 3-0, unbelievable.

A minute after that it was almost 4-0 as Koumas took the ball from his own half, accelerated away from Burnley players and he looked set to go all the way but instead fed Jerome who stepped inside the last defender and hit a low lopping shot that beat Jensen comfortably but missed the far corner by a fraction.

And that was it. City were in total control for the final 25 minutes but without even looking like adding to their tally and they were given no concerns in Neil Alexander's quest for his 9th Championship clean sheet of the season.

The crowd sung them home though and cheered as the new subs came on and new heroes went off. Riccy Scimeca replaced Steve Thompson for the final 15, a player who'd scored three all season for Rangers netted two on his City debut. Kevin Cooper replaced Darren Purse for the final 6 minutes with Scimeca showing he's utility by changing from midfield to central defence after Purse comically run into Akinbiyi when not seeing him running back and knocking himself out. Nsungu was blooded in the final minute only with JK going off to a big reception.

No better way to recover from a four goal away defeat at Reading than with a three goal home win next league outing. League-wise, City are up and down too. Up the table one week, down it the next. Victory moved City in the forties, their haul of 41 points put them into 8th, three points off the play-offs and a two point gap over a clutch of clubs behind us. As a fellow start of season pessimist remarked in Sloper Road afterwards, we also only need 9 more points to stay up.

City's only other games this month are at Leicester next weekend and home to Millwall midweek on the 31st, both opponents in the bottom three. Wouldn't it be nice if we could finally get a run going again including back-to-back wins. This is a perfect chance, if City can take, we can be right back in the thick of the play-off action going into February.

Now that would be something else, it may even attract those who had no problem wanting to shell out £35 for Highbury but complain about Ninian prices and all manner of other excuses, you just never know.

Ticket: £20
Programme: Sold Out ... yet again!
Food/Drink: £12
Transport to/from game: £4

Total for game: £36

Total for season-to-date: £2,018
*Total includes £17 spent midweek in the club shop on gifts

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Carmarthen Town 2 Cardiff City 1

It's a familiar story ... City go away to a Welsh League side with a weakened side who should still be good enough to win and go out of the most worthless, pointless football competiton with a whimper.

The FAW Premier Trophy rolls away from City once more
Who bloody cares?

The pitch was poor and so was the weather but poorest of all was the game itself.

As well as blooding youngsters like Curtis McDonald and Joe Jacobson as well as local sqaud players who never seem to get any nearer the first team sqaud (I'm talking Danny Parslow, Byron Anthony and Stuart Fleetwood), City included the likes of Phil Mulryne, Andrea Ferretti and Jermaine Darlington. Also in attack was new signing, the Congolese Ndumbu-Nsungo.

Carmarthen were more Kairdiff than Cardiff. Managed by by ex-schoolpal and good old Grangetown boy Mark Jones, their side included three ex-City players in Martyn Giles, Danny Thomas and Kevin Evans while others like Nathan Cotterill hail from the area.

For the reocrd, City were ahead in 5 minutes through Byron Anthony turning home a corner amd they crusied for half-hour missing further chances through Ferretti and Nsumbu-Ndungu especially but were behind by the interval as poor defence allowed Thomas to turn home from close range after a corss was lost and then Cotterill lobbed from 15 yards.

Second half was desparate but City missed half chances and were denied a penalty but never really threatened to recover. The competition I couldn't care less about but it's disappointing to see nobody take their opportunity. It affirms City have the flimisest of squads with nobody outside the main body of 16 or so players. The kids showed promise, Curtis McDonald particularly caught they eye, the older young pros must be wondering if they have a future and the older pros should realise they haven't. Phil Mulryne is set to join Millwall, I hope they didn't watch him.

The best desision I made all season was not to bother going to the game, a rare wise choice by myself as TV highlights alone were cringey enough.
Alan Lee, Lee Lee
Ain't It Time
You Left City?

Lee waves goodbye to City fans

So another chapter in the City "we're richer than Barcelona and we can spend what we like" fantasy came to a close as Alan Lee (£850,000 from Ipswich plus approx £1M in wages) was sold today to Ipswich for £100k - we did very well to get that

Injuries didn’t help him to a certain extent and good luck to him with The Horses (seems appropriate he's gone there) but it must good news and progress for the club that Alan Lee is leaving Cardiff City.

He never did it for us, he never looked like doing it for us. Likeable and a good bloke some say but he wasn’t here for that. A poor player and very poor value.

He missed games due to injury, he missed most simply because he wasn't good enough. Just 47 league starts here in more than two and a half season - only 10 goals in 86 league games.
His only goals in the last year – that’s 47 Alan Lee games starting or as sub – were against Mighty Brighton home and away. That’s it and this is when he seemed to be trying harder and got fit. Assists were so very few too.

When he was out of the side last season, he appeared to get quite unfit. When in it, he rarely threatened to score and do anything in or around the penalty area. He couldn’t hold the up the ball and only really showed an aptitude for running the channels. Yet, Brian Kerr picked him for Irish international squads through all that. If Ipswich or Joe Royle see any different or better from him, then good luck to him but I’d be genuinely shocked.

£100k for Alan Lee? Not good value for City measured against what we paid but fantastic value measured against what we’ve seen.

Best Wishes to Alan of course but, in all honesty, it's not a departure to mourn. That's the shame of it all.

In other news, with Lee gone and Ricketts back at Leeds, two new strikers arrive in Seven Thompson of Rangers (upto £200k) and Guylain Ndumbu-Nsunguhas (free, Bosman) from Darlington. More wheeling and dealing is expected with Andy Campbell apparently soon to have his contract paid up, Phil Mulrynbe off to Millwall by all accounts and Sheffield United rumoured to be offering £2M for Cameron Jerome. Interesting days in Sloper Road.

Sunday, January 08, 2006



1pm kick-off
F.A. Cup Round Three @ Highbury

Pires 7, 17

Jerome 89

Attendance: 36,552
City support: 6,700 approx.
Weather: Grey, cold, sleety Atmosphere:
Big game for City - big booming vocal support
Not so big game for Arsenal - often quiet at home, quieter still today

CARDIFF CITY, the only team to take the F.A. Cup out of England, lost to Arsenal, the last team to take the F.A. Cup out of Wales, but should reflect on their Highbury Third Round display with much pride and credit.

From an Arsenal view, the game was decided inside 17 minutes as a classy Robert Pires double with lightning speed build ups had City on the ropes. The Gunners were then able to cruise in a lower gear and, at times, gave Cardiff a passing and movement lesson to which we can only hope to aspire.

However the Bluebirds deserve plenty of plaudits for the way our patched up side never gave up, showed tremendous spirit and resilience, almost grabbed a shocked lead inside 30 seconds and recovered to take the game to Arsenal as best they could.

By final whistle, City had put more efforts on target than the hosts, grabbed a late Jerome consolation to send us wild and even came within a whisker of grabbing a dramatic equaliser with the final action of the game. All this as almost 7,000 travelling fans backed them all the way and provided a raucous ovation. We could never match Arsenal's silky skills and pace, most of the Premiership can't do that either, but City more than compensated in sheer willpower and effort. Well done lads, you did us proud and made it a day to smile about.

This was a day anticipated from the moment the draw was made but, unlike our last major outings from the Principality to big stadiums with Wales in San Siro or then Old Trafford, this one didn't disappoint. Up at 5am in Barry, meet up at 6:30am and away by 7am in one of three coaches at The Lansdowne for the 1pm kick-off, it was a long day. Forty-five coaches of varying quality headed to Narf London along with two train football specials, fans on other normal services, plenty going by car and a few flying in from various places too hoping that fine newspaper - The Daily Sport - would be accurate with their headline proclaiming "Arse Fear Cam Shafting" - it tickled us anyway..

The M4 was thankfully quiet. Our only delay was waiting for Amanda to have a toilet stop in the services (would you use the coach toilets after 50 men before you?) but what was she doing in there for so long?

It was cold and we hit snow by Berkshire as the coach singing went to Bluebird gold with "In 1927 in the Merry Month of May" (even though we know it was April really), "Tiptoe Through The Grange End" and, of course, "Bertie Mee talking to Bill Shankly" who'd not heard of the North Bank Highbury but was well informed about the Cardiff aggro ... allegedly.

Arriving in London, snow was heavier in bursts and there was evidence of upton an inch falling as we travelled around the North Circular but it was only on roofs. We saw the new Wembley stadium arch stand out against the heavy grey skies and then we arrived in London and down Holloway Road but being dropped by Drayton Park just before 11 by the scheduled City pubs.

The area is hardly exclusive, quite drab and decrepit. It was more akin to Splott or Riverside and same goes for the pubs available to us. One impressive, awesome sight, was Arsenal's new ground - the Emirates Stadium - just 300 yards or so from Highbury which looked simply fantastic.

With thousands of City fans emerging on a handful of pubs, the area was way too congested. Fans spilled onto the freezing streets and the option became to try and fight your way to the bar, queue for ages and pay £3 a pint and go to the off licence and grab a tinnie for £1, the "off-ie" have never had it so good! A few of us went in search of less crowded pubs and settled on the Holloway Road where we had warmth, plenty of seats and even games of draughts to play. Lovely!

We headed to Highbury. In its 93rd and final year before mostly being converted to apartments and the pitch into a luxury garden, it's still highly impressive inside and outside. Stewards made a half-hearted attempt to undertake a Membership card check, they forgot their laptops and were easy to by-pass. A futile exercise.

The structure is excellent. I like how it's in a residential area, some away entrances/
exits come out between houses. Inside, you see a classic ground with which we're so familiar, usually on our television screens than in the flesh. Traditional stands but modernised.

The North Bank, a big home end behind one goal facing the Clock End where City fans cut an impressive sight with hospitality boxes above us probably vibrating to our noise levels. The jumbotron in the corner between us and the East Stand also had a countdown clock showing Highbury closes in 121 days and so whatever it was hours, minutes and seconds. The West Stand is a double-decker affair, City in a downstairs section with low roofs and pillars along the way - it was just like being at Ninian in there!

Team news starting with City and what may be the Championship's smallest squad were down to absolute barebones and inadequate cover on the bench for their toughest challenge. Paul Parry and Willie Boland were injured, Michael Ricketts has (for now maybe) gone back to Leeds, West Brom refused our season loan talisman Koumas to play and Alan Lee was on the bench pending the likely formalities of his transfer to Ipswich are being completed.

Having opted for a long striker in Cameron Jerome and decided to employ Neil Cox to help as a third centre-back with defensive duties, team selection was as easy as could be given we had no other options. City went with Alexander, Weston-Loovens-Cox-Purse-Barker, Ardley-Ledley-Whitley-Cooper, Jerome. Subs included three players who appear to have no future and little involvement with the team in Darlington, Mulryne, Koskela alongside Lee (leaving next week) and Margetson (told he will not get a new contract this summer).

Three Welshmen and two foreigners in our 16 but contrast that to Arsene's Arsenal featuring 15 foreigner's and Kerrea Gilbert, a young right side defender getting a rare outing, being the only Englishman and Brit. With Champions League not resuming for a while, their Premier League challenge over for the season and, as defending F.A. Cup holders, Wenger rested the likes of Sol Campbell, Thierry Henry and Jans Lehman but it was still a stronger than normal side for a cup game against lower opposition.

They lined up with Almunia, Lauren-Senderos-Djourou-Gilbert, Pires-Silva-Flamini-Reyes, Bergkamp-Van Persie. Subs were Poom, Hleb, Larsson, Lupoli, Owusu-Abeyie, By my reckoning, that's 3 Dutch, 2 Franch, 2 Spaniards and 1 each from Cameroon, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Estonia, Italy, Sweden, Belarus and England. Top marks to Peter Karaoke for having a go at Denis Bergkamp for being German until City fans around him reminded him that he was Dutch. An easy mistake to make, I'm sure eh Pete?

Of 18 British teams to visit Highbury since March 2005, Chelsea won there and Manchester United had got two nil-nil draws. Everyone else had lost, most by a couple of goals at least. Thirteen of the visitors had failed to score. Not quite Mission Impossible but as good as. For City do so well speaks volumes for Dave Jones and his players.

It was jam packed in the City end, naturally, my seat was taken by someone else standing in front of it. It was so crammed, neither they or I could move anywhere else and a few of us stood diagonally to catch the action.

As both sides came out, City got a brilliant reception as they came to applaud us, the fans singing, "we want our trophy back, we want our trophy back". City were in all blue, Arsenal in that less-than-appealing red wine kit they're using to commemorate their final Highbury season but worst fashion faux pas went to their keeper, Almunia, in a mismatched orange shirt and red shorts. It looked like he got his kit from a sports shop bargain bin.

Most of us thought City would be ok for the first two minutes but were worried about the other 88. Those fears were proved as it took Arsenal all of 7 minutes to get in front but not before an almighty let off in the first 30 seconds as Ardley placed a ball over central defence, Jerome beat the onrushing Alumnia, his flick cleared the keeper but also went over the goal. A slighter touch and it would have been the most amazing start.

Other than that, City were wholehearted and committed, they weren't nervous in that respect but definitely paid Arsenal too much respect from the start and, notwithstanding the home side's incredible pace and movement, they were not getting in with big challenges.

The home team's passing, Bergkamp being its heartbeat, was fantastic. Whilst City and Championship sides tend to be deliberate, slow and put in a lot of passes going nowhere in particular, this was the exact opposite. The two goals were perfect illustrations of the type of football we just don't come across at our level but which enabled Arsenal to grab that early stranglehold on the game.

7 minutes - ball in City's half and Arsenal started a move that seemed to involve everyone except their keeper with the outstanding Bergkamp being the key influence with one touch passes across, inside and back around City players. Once centre of goal, Bergkamp fed Reyes who ran at our central defence but once they got to him, he switched the ball right to PIRES whose pace and ghosting run found him unmarked as he fired across Neil Alexander and inside his far corner. He had a look of arrogance about him as if to suggest, that was too easy. It was too because they make it easy and we don't come across football like that.

City competed and battled, giving as good as they got and possibly having more possession but not doing much with it until Arsenal again showed us what a simple, beautiful game it is. The second goal was even classier.

17 minutes - Robin Van Persie, Looven's mate who grew up two streets apart in Holland, was on the right in his own half, turned and slipped a couple of challenges and there was Denis Bergkamp running through the middle making himself available. Van Persie rolled it to him, Bergkamp fed it wide to PIRES who had overlapped everyone and his finish was very similar to the first goal, straight across Alexander.

Home fans chanted "easy, easy, easy" and coming off the back of that 5-1 pasting at Reading, there's no doubt we were fearing the very worst at this stage. However City got to half-time without any further damage inflicted and very few problems. A couple of corners faced, the central defence winning challenges and Alexander having to watch one effort from Senderos go wide was the extent of it. For City, a couple of corners won came to nought but Jerome won a header from an Ardley free-kick which looped harmlessly over but could have caused trouble.

Phillippe Senderos was booked early for a foul on Ledley but City had Loovens and Whitley carded before the interval. Whitley's seemed harsh as he tangled with Reyes, he was more the defender than aggressor but his was the 3rd time that the ref had spoken with him. More seriously, it was also his 10th booking of the season and so a two match ban beckons.

It was easy enough for Arsenal and, with little meaningful action, City fans concentrated on signing a repertoire to a hushed Gunners support instead including "Highbury is a library", "You're French and you know you are", "Two up and you still don't sing" and with gestures, "Do the ayatollah" and "Let's all do the Seaman" amongst others. It was enjoyable despite the scoreline.

Half-time: ARSENAL 2 CARDIFF 0

With the Clock End bursting at the seams with City fans, I sneaked around and watched the second half in the West Stand. It was almost as full there and we had to stand in aisles but everyone was on their feet including Cameron Jerome's and Joe Ledley's relatives just by me. City came back out with a different attitude where they denied Arsenal time and space to concentrate on their own strengths instead. Their organisation and resilience saw them win the second half doing themselves an immense amount of good.

City probably had more possession than the home side and the game was played out mostly in front of the Clock End with City attacking that way. Arsenal were still comfortable enough but City's effort was commendable.

Indeed, Cardiff had encountered just three moments of slight concern all half. Van Persie was the main threat as he flicked a header from a corner onto the topside of the bar and then made Alexander save well with a 20 yard angled drive, Reyes put another effort just wide but that was pretty much it. One of their subs, Owusu-Abeyie, went on a couple of terrifying runs with unbelievable pace, City snuffed out an end product but it was terrific to watch someone go like that. How fast was he?

However Cardiff certainly had their moments. Jerome snatched a fiurst time effort wide, a scramble that Arsenal struggled to deal with saw Barker head over the crowd and Purse miss flicking home as he stretched out having got behind their defence by a fraction. City won corners and pressed hard.

Their was controversy as Senderos could have seen his second yellow card for a foul on Jerome charging forward. He was lucky with that but luckier still when he purposely threw his hands up as Whitley went for a volley, the ball hit his hands. It should have been a penalty, it would have been most weekends, but I guess it was too much to expect one at Highbury against Arsenal.

Changes were made, one enforced and one being a last throw of the dice. Midway through the half, Glenn Loovens in whom City are currently unable to agree a permanent transfer from Feyernood as they argue over a fee, went off injured apparently with a hamstring pull that may keep him out for some time. Toni Koskela came on in midfield as City re-shuffled the pack only his 3rd City appearance, the other two being substitute appearances last season. Alan Lee replaced Kevin Cooper for the final 5 minutes.

Still City kept coming, with the crowd baying them forward. Cameron Jerome showed why he's rated as he beat an offside trap, tore down the right and cut across the box for Kevin Cooper but his goalbound effort was blocked for a corner as it deflected off a defender having to throw himself in the way. Then came our closest moment as Barker hit a diagonal 30 yard ball which Neil Ardley superbly touched first time over a defender for Jeff Whitley to show equally superb technique to hit a 20 yard drive that Almunia just finger-tipped away at full stretch.

With time running out, it looked as if the game was dead but City got a deserved consolation and set up a tense finale. Good work again by Jerome won a corner which Ardley sent over, Cox flicked on, CAMERON JEROME was first to react and turn on goal, a combination of keeper and defender tried to keep it out but the ref ruled that the ball was over the line. No goals in 7 for CJ but now he's netted in 3 successive games, that was his 14th of the season. City fans went mental celebrating a goal at Highbury, a rare event for any team so why not?

It left about 4 minutes playing time including added time and, boy, were Arsenal fans and team alike tense and nervous during that spell, who'd have thought that before kick-off (and, more so, after 17 minutes)? Again, they showed their quality. City and all Championship sides would probably try to win a throw, pass to the keeper, belt it downfield or run a channel to get it to a corner and keep it there. Not Arsenal, they played two or three minutes of keep ball passing it though and around City who couldn't get near them - they probably put 20 to 30 passes together before we had a sniff.

The added time was also disrupted by two City idiots who let us all down inside the ground. One allegedly threw a coin at Almunia before the goal and, I believe, was arrested. Another came on from the Arsenal end, from near the dugouts, ayatollahing all the way to the Clock End to confront Almunia. There was a nervous moment when you wondered what he was going to do as he confronted the keeper but it was just verbals then he was arrested too. Hope you're proud of yourself boys, hope you're banned for life, your club doesn't need you.

As play resumed, City launched one last attack down the left, the ball broke loose for us, Barker fired the ball over, Ledley flicked on with his head and there was Whitley and Lee both closing in on Almunia. The keeper charged out to get there first but dropped the ball and I honestly thought we were going to stroke it home but he showed fantastic recovery reactions to smother the ball at the second attempt falling as Whitley aimed his boot and accidentally gave him a kick which he milked slightly. As the game restarted, that was the final action.

After all that, we were just a fraction away from an equaliser but what a terrific second half effort by City. The Arsenal support were slightly relieved but, for all City's efforts, it was a relatively routine victory for them but, all things considered, City should be very proud of their effort against all odds. Alan Lee was first over to applaud us, seemed to be more of a goodbye wave, the rest followed a minute later and congratulating Arsenal and then each other. I'm not sure if anyone truly shone for City but nobody let us down and they all more than played their part. For all our deficiencies, nobody can ever side this team are not triers.

It completed a personal hat-trick. Three visits to Highbury to watch Cardiff City in cup games and I've always come home seeing us fall to a plucky 2-1 defeat! Maybe we'll go one better at Emirates, I just hope it's not 20 years before we get to go there.

The trip home was excellent. It took a while for our coach to get away but we stopped for a while in an Irish bar in Slough and sang all the way back from there to South Wales. My voice is hoarse, others lost theirs before we got back. I'm under instructions from Lloydey to mention he whitewashed me 3-0 playing pool on the mobile phone but that doesn't count, does it? Highlight had to be Roger from The Lansdowne singing on Do Re Mi on the mic. The coach veered and he completely disappeared from view as he fell down the inside steps - recreating DelBoy at the bar in Fools and Horses. Brilliant! How's your bruising Rog? And why did we spend so much time singing Spongebob Squarepants?

Back home about 8:30 - that was a bloody long and knackering day but I enjoyed it from first to last. Now back to real business, Burnley at home next week. New faces seem to be on the way, some may well be gone? It's never dull with City, is it?

Tickets (2): £70
Programme: Sold Out - I thought that only happened at Ninian!
Food/Drink: £45
Coach (x2): £34
Car to/from coach: £ 4
All costs were for two today

Total for game: £163

Total for season-to-date: £1,965

Monday, January 02, 2006



Easy trip down the M4, flew over the Severn Bridge and, in not ime, there it was ... (Rhys) Weston Super-Mare!

Instead of watching the Mighty Mighty Bluebirds, I spied the Newport County team coach going alongside me into Weston. They lost.

Meantime, great game of footie on the beach. Ok, I don't have my pace anymore and am carrying more than a few excess pounds but my touch is still there and my finishing was immaculate, asa deadly as my half-time Ninian Park kick.

Only two downsides to the visit, the pier is closed until next month and I was held up at the Severn Bridge coming home by heavy traffic, mainly bloody Cardiff City fans coming back from Reading, miserable looking bunch, the lot of'em!

Anyone would think, like me, they hadn't been lucky enough to buy a ticket before our allocation had sold out so missed the game themselves instead of being privileged enough to see it. After all, they didn't have to slum it in Wurzle-land as an alternative, I did.

Ah well, my loss! :>)

For the record, City were slaughtered 5-1 by runaway leaders Reading. We were awful, they were fantastic, one of those days. I was lucky enough to miss the game!!