I may have seen Cardiff City before this game. I have a very hazy dream-like memory of sitting on the back wall of the old Bob Bank and leaving early to hear cheers ring out as City scored. But this is the first official sighting of the team that would come to play such a significant and underserving part of my life.
It was 1976. Crystal Palace had Malcolm Allison and his fedora hat, and Cardiff City had a new glamourous signing from Australia.
Six foot two,
Eyes of Blue
Adrian Alston’s after you
City were three matches into a nine match unbeaten run that saw them gain promotion from Division Three that year. It’s funny, I think everybody starts watching their club during a successful season. Whether it was 75/76, 82/83, 92/3, or the promotion years at the start of this century, City’s followers come in waves, and this was my year. In fact, it was my week.A few days after this visit to Selhurst Park I was among the 35,549 crowd which saw us beat Hereford. This massive crowd was prompted by Malcolm Allison’s assertion that City could not break the 20,000 mark. There’s nothing like a “small-club” accusation to rally the South Wales public.
Allison was a celebrity in those days of Brian Moore and On the Ball. And I dare say that his presence was one of the reasons that my Uncle Glenn decided to take his 9 year old nephew to his first game, driving all the way from Gilfach Goch to Croydon. It was like going to see a film star in charge of a football team.
We arrived late, I remember that. I remember turning a corner on a terraced street a seeing the huge looming stands in front of us. Wow! It felt like we were going into the Colleseum in Rome.
And then through the only entrance that was still open for latecomers. We were so late that we didn’t need to pay. Up the dark steps of the stand and a glimpse of daylight above the crowds in front of us. But all I could see was the backs of people, crushed together; some of the 25,603 that made up the attendance that day. We were in amongst the home fans at the side of the pitch.
Some kindly home supporters found me a box, or a crate. I climbed up and I saw it. I saw the sight that would stay in my memory for the next thirty years, the sight that would shape my life around this game.
As the action was taking place on the bright, lush green turf of Selhurst Park, to my left behind the goal I saw a thousand blue, yellow and white scarves, being twirled above the heads of a thousand Cardiff City supporters. I was gobsmacked then, and I still am. So this was football as an away supporter…
We all agree, Cardiff City are magic
City won 1-0. Adrian Alston scored. Cardiff were so dominant that a local newspaper described it as a “1-0 massacre”. I remember my Uncle and I celebrating alone in a crowd of thousands of Londoners. But all around were smiling faces and a pat on the back. It wasn’t just about hooliganism in the seventies.
Ohhh, Willie Willie,
Willie Willie Willie Willie An-der-son
I still don’t know why my Uncle Glenn took me to that game, and I never will now. We didn’t travel to another away game together for 17 years, until 1994, when we saw City lose 4-0 at Stockport. That was the last time I saw him. A few months later he was dead, aged 49, killed in a car crash in Saudi Arabia. These are the bonds that tie us to our clubs.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Cardiff City (Alston) Att: 25,603
Healey, Dwyer, Pethard, Campbell, England, Larmour, Sayer, Livermore, Evans, Alston, Anderson.