Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.So I’m here. The Cardiff City Stadium. It’s about half past one. Wife has dropped me off. I’m still ten.
There is a small crowd by the players entrance. Cardiff City players are signing copies of the match programme. They go in. Soon the West Ham coach arrives. One of the first people to get out is the manager Manuel Pellegrini with a look that suggests he wasn’t comfortable with the journey and moves swiftly into the players entrance. Then there is a pause, then another bunch of players emerge. Then another pause and a final group get out.
That’s the back of West Ham captain’s Mark Noble’s head going into the Players Entrance. I can sure take a picture
I go to the gift store just to buy a few things for daughter and the matchday programme for myself. Their third strip ( a thing I hate. Just another way to fleece the fans) is on sale for £10. I was tempted to buy one for her as well but thought better of it. Until this year you would have thought it just the luminous colour of motorway maintenance which is bad enough. Now it would be also mistaken for right wing protesters in Britain and would be liable to have you attacked by French gendarmerie as part of the gilets jaune .
Eventually I get inside. I walk to my block. Past the betting kiosks and screens showing the early match Crystal Palace vs Brighton and make my way to my seat.
The players come onto the pitch. the West Ham fans are in the next block to me and sing Bubbles the theme song. Unquestionably the most realistic of all football anthems. Nothing says the agony of being a fan than the line “Fortune’s always hiding. I’ve looked everywhere”.
It would appear though that the Cardiff City DJ was ready for them. The moment Bubbles was finished immediately Men Of Harlech comes on the tannoy. Most of the crowd (including me – remember I’m a quiet hammer surrounded by Bluebirds) stand up. When that finishes the West Ham block begins singing God Save The Queen and then shouting “Engerland”. Whatever the next ninety minutes or so was going to be a lesson in diplomacy was not one of them.
The West Ham block is to the left of this photo
It was noticeable that there were some (not many) empty seats in the stadium. Mainly though for the most expensive seats contrary to what I thought earlier. My suspicion was that they were season tickets who decided to watch Scotland vs Wales which was being played at roughly the same time. However the ground was mainly full showing again that the awe of the international rugby game is not what it was, though still powerful.
|The match begins|
It was the fourth minute, the fourth minute you understand when Hoilett scored a goal at the near post. Cardiff City were ahead. Whatever I expected from this game Cardiff City scoring that early was not one of them.
Of course I clapped alongside the Bluebirds surrounding me but to misquote Smokey Robinson if you took a good look at my face you’d see a smile that looked out of place.
“YOU’RE GOING DOWN. YOU’RE GOING DOWN. YOU’RE GOING DOOOWN” chants the West Ham block of fans. Whether true or not only time will tell but timing wise it smacked of sour grapes.
“ONE NIL AND YOU STILL CAN’T SING”
This goaded the guy in front of me to stand up, swear, give the finger and say things that google would ban me for. The bit I was bothered with was the standing up, given that he was spoiling my view of the game. He moved from his spot during the game. But late in the second half a group of stewards took him forcibly away from where he’d moved to.
And throughout the first half Cardiff City showed an energy and commitment seemingly absent from the last few games. In contrast West Ham only seemed to get their bearings in the last few minutes.
I had begun to notice that the guy sitting next to me was also a quiet West Ham fan amongst the Bluebirds. Clapping at the very rare West Ham attacks on the Cardiff goal. Thankfully for him not so loud as to be truly noticeable by the Welsh around him.
One-nil then to Cardiff City at the first half.
Come the second half , early in the second half, Cardiff City score again. Camarasa edging the ball passed the West Ham goalkeeper Fabianski (booed constantly – being ex Swansea City – worth noting though he stopped it being three nil soon after).
The Cardiff City fans truly began singing now. “YOU’RE GOING DOWN (etc) ” was said in response again, as was bubbles. But we all really knew whose afternoon it was then.
West Ham were disappointing. They really only had two real chances. The most dramatic bring the Declan Rice shot that hit the post. Cardiff City had the greater passion. They had a purpose.
|A disappointingly rare second half attack from West Ham|
Perhaps Pellegrini had underestimated the Cardiff manager Neil Warnock (whose book when manager of QPR I’ve chatted about in this blog). What was clear was that Warnock had done his homework. He was the one who earned his wages this afternoon.
Two nil then is how the match ended. I came into the ground a ten year old boy. I existed back to my fifty five year old self. Disappointed as I am Cardiff were the better team and genuinely as I said in my previous post I hope they hang on in the Premier League. This result, as the music from the Bee Gees confirmed as I went out, that they were staying alive.
Some people later asked me whether at least I was happy to have seen the game anyway.
Of course not.
My team lost.
Until the next time.